Portland Science Nights bring UO Professors to PDX Ducks

By UO student Chelsea Fullmer

In a three-part lecture series featuring UO professors, the Alumni Association’s Portland Science Nights bring together PDX Ducks for an academic and social event. With two lectures already wrapped, the third installment looks to continue to expand the minds of alumni and friends.

Starting in June, the first two sessions were huge successes, drawing crowds of almost 100 guests at the Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland. With free beer courtesy of Widmer Brothers, alumni have enjoyed hearing from UO professors about cutting-edge research and activity in their respective disciplines. 

In June, the series kicked off with a lecture by Tom Connolly titled “The Sandals That Changed the World” about the technology and geography of ancient artifacts and how they related to everything we know about native cultures in the West.

Connolly has been the director of the research division at the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History since 1986. He has done archaeological fieldwork on the northern U.S. prairie and plains (Minnesota and North Dakota), in Scotland and primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Connolly’s Northwest research spans varied geographies, including the Pacific coast, the western interior valleys, the Columbia Plateau and the Great Basin high desert. Topical research interests include hunter-gatherer-fisher societies and incipient agriculture, lithic studies, geoarchaeology, cultural resource management, fiber artifacts and basketry, and historical archaeology.

Connolly has worked extensively with archaeological museum collections, particularly ancient basketry and sandals from Oregon caves and rock shelters. Connolly’s publications include books and book-length monographs, book chapters and journal articles.

The most recent installment of the series in August was a lecture from James Brau, the Philip H. Knight Professor of Natural Science. “The Higgs Boson: How it Was Discovered and What it Tells Us About the Universe” explained the search and discovery of this elusive particle and its relation to the origin of the universe.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, having been born and raised in Tacoma, Wash., Brau graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A member of the UO physics department since 1988, he serves as director of the UO Center for High Energy Physics and leads the UO team doing research with the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. Professor Brau is also a leader in the global effort to develop and construct the next large high-energy physics collider, the International Linear Collider. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The final installment, coming up on November 20, features Greg Retallack’s lecture “Why Did the Fish Leave the Water?” discussing the environments that selected for the evolutionary transition between fish and amphibians, exploring just how we got here from the oceans. 

Retallack is a fifth-generation Australian who has been at the University of Oregon since 1981. His academic degrees are from Macquarie University and the University of New England in New South Wales, where he discovered that unusual rock layers were ancient soils. These buried and lithified soils are evidence of ancient environments on land, preserved habitats from early in the human evolutionary process and landscapes from the era when some fish evolved to become amphibians. He has published eight books and more than 200 refereed papers on fossil soils and their relevance to the evolution of life on land.

While the first two installments have passed, it is not too late to join the UOAA and PDX Ducks at the final lecture in November. To learn more and to register for the Portland Science Nights, click here.