You have something in common with all humans, with the planet they inhabit, and with the universe housing it all: evolution.
Each of these things started out as something not quite the same as it is today. In labs and classrooms across the Case Western Reserve University campus, interdisciplinary research and collaboration is evolving as well.
Founded in 2008, the Institute for the Science of Origins (ISO) has succeeded in bringing the world-class research done at CWRU to the greater Cleveland community. The Institute is a part of the Origins Alliance, an interdisciplinary team of faculty members that examines the origin and evolution of everything from the universe to cognition to microorganisms.
To help bring science to the public, the ISO has partnered with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) for the Origins Science Scholars (OSS) program.
The OSS program allows community members to interact with each other as well as professionals in fields dealing with all kinds of origins. Each Wednesday from March 28 to May 8, OSS talks will take place either on the CWRU campus or in one of the CMNH auditoriums. Each talk will be followed by dinner and open discussion.
The first three lectures for this spring’s set are collectively titled “Atoms, Quarks, and Strings: The origins and foundations of matter,” and will feature talks by Glenn Starkman, director of the Institute for the Science of Origins and physics professor on campus, as well as Cyrus Taylor, another physics professor and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Although the intricacies of the concepts discussed may be foreign to many attendees, “we make sure it is accessible to the audience,” said Starkman. Speakers avoid technical jargon and make sure that the talks can be well understood by educated laypeople.
“The audience includes retired astronomy professors but also businessmen,” Starkman said. Undergraduate and graduate students are always welcome to attend OSS talks and other ISO events as well.
The second set of lectures will discuss “Origins of Disease and Immunity: How evolution makes us sick,” while the last lecture of the spring series is titled “On the Origin of Dogs: Barking up the evolutionary tree.”
This spring marks the fourth series of lectures hosted by ISO, and if you’re feeling disappointed at missing earlier talks, fear not. The talks from fall 2010, spring 2011, and fall 2011 were taped in their entirety and put online for viewing anytime.
OSS talks recently began appearing on local television in addition to online. In January, ideastream aired three OSS lectures from fall 2011 on the WVIZ channel. Over time, WVIZ will air a different set of past lectures for the public to enjoy from the comfort of their homes. In the meantime, the fall 2011 lectures are airing Thursday nights.
Another way the ISO is reaching the eyes and ears of the Cleveland community is through public outreach. Patricia Princehouse, director of the Program in Evolutionary Biology, is the Outreach Director for ISO, and her job entails developing programs for the CWRU campus and Cleveland.
ISO also gets in touch with Clevelanders through a new program called “Life, the Universe, and Hot dogs,” a set of talks that takes place every fourth Tuesday at the Happy Dog in Gordon Square.
“The first one last month was a riot!” Princehouse said. “There were… well over 100 [people]. Young and old, trendy and geeky, neighborhood, earthy, and even a few sophisticated folks.”
Starkman was, in his own words, “the guinea pig” for the inaugural event since he was the speaker. He projected his voice to the crowded venue while a PowerPoint presentation fed snippets of supplementary information to audience members in the back who might not have been able to hear everything.
“[The slides] are like finger food for the brain, but people in front have to feel like they’ve gotten a full meal,” Starkman concluded.