A couple of drinks, some munchies and spirited discussion about an unlikely topic, “3D Printing: Living Tissue to Human Organ.” That was the recipe for the kick-off of a new panel series in downtown Hartford sponsored by UConn and the UConn Foundation aimed at facilitating conversations between science experts and the public. The “UConn Science Salon” series, taking place at downtown restaurants, is a precursor of the type of programming that is expected to pop up around the city when the UConn Hartford Campus takes up residence in the former Hartford Times building two years from now, just down the road from Front Street, where the June 4 event was held at Nix.
The next event in the series, “SciFi Meets Reality,” will be held in Hartford on Sept. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m., at a location to be determined.
University Communications science writer Kim Krieger says UConn Science Salon series gives attendees easy access to top scientists and experts and “raise the profile of UConn research in a friendly, stylish way. The purpose of the program is to enhance public discourse at the intersection of science and culture,” she told UConn Today. “Sure, people can read about research and technological developments, or watch some talking head opine about it on television. But how often does the average citizen get to ask a scientist a question?”
The initiative is not unique, but it is new for UConn, and Hartford.
“The goal is to share exciting developments in technologies through an engaging and interactive format,” UConn Provost Mun Choi. “The insights from leading experts will lead to a greater understanding of the role of science and technology in our society.”
Science cafés are held all over the world, according to sciencecafes.org, a site run by NOVA as a resource for those interested in hosting or attending such events. The events, which have been around for about a decade, are typically casual gatherings held in places like coffeehouses, pubs, and libraries, and are focused on facilitating discussions about science. In Connecticut, New Haven and Branford have seen science cafés.
“These are not long lectures with a passive audience listening to an expert,” the site points out. “Rather, they are dynamic, two-way interactions between a scientist and the public. In this way, the public feels empowered to learn, and the scientist speaker gains valuable perspective on his or her own work.”
Provost Choi adds that attendees will see how “UConn is playing a critical role in advancing science and engineering in areas such as genomics, manufacturing, and sustainability,” UConn Today reported. The June discussion focused on state-of-the-art initiatives in 3D printing and the potential for the technology – also known as additive manufacturing – particularly in the field of health care.
Panelists at the inaugural event, attended by about 120 alumni, faculty, staff and members of the public, were Anson Ma, a UConn assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; Richard Langlois, a UConn economics professor; Dr. John Geibel, vice chairman of the Department of Surgery and director of surgical research at Yale University School of Medicine, who leads one of seven global teams competing to create a viable regenerative or bioengineered liver; and Dale Kutnick, senior vice president emeritus and distinguished analyst at the technology research firm Gartner Inc. Lakshmi S. Nair – UConn assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering – moderated the discussion.
Tickets for the events are $15 and can be purchased at UConnAlumni.com/ScienceSalon. Drinks are extra.
(UConn photos by Peter Morenus)