New speaker series explores scientific controversy and certainty

MONACA, Pa. — Is DNA a reliable forensic tool? Will Shell’s arrival help or hurt Beaver County? How much should we worry about Zika virus?

These are a few of the questions Penn State Beaver’s new “Science Series” will try to answer this spring.

The series, co-sponsored by the Brodhead Cultural Center and Academic Affairs, brings three experts to campus to talk about science and how it impacts our world. The series is spun out of a spring honors class that examines science in the news — topics like cloning, stem cell therapy and climate change — to determine just how accurately each of those issues has been portrayed.

“We have all of these things around us that we believe are rooted in science,” said biology professor Cassandra Miller-Butterworth, “but the question is — how rooted in science?”

The class is designed to teach students more about how science affects lives, shapes world views and impacts the future, and the speaker series will do the same for the campus and community.

All sessions are free and open to the public.

March 29:

12:15 p.m., 121 Laboratory Classroom Building

Peter Hudson, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at University Park, will describe the latest discoveries about emerging diseases, the identities of those who are responsible for the transmission of these diseases, and the strategies that scientists are developing in order to control them. He will present the latest research revelations about why some of these diseases are spreading and threatening populations even in America.

April 7:

12:15 p.m., 121 Laboratory Classroom Building

Mark W. Perlin, chief scientific and executive officer of Cybergenetics in Pittsburgh, a DNA testing company that specializes in DNA collected at crime scenes, will present the applications, challenges and potential pitfalls of DNA fingerprinting. See his interview on the same topic in The Atlantic.

April 14:

12:15 p.m., Student Union Building Lodge

Jennifer Baka, assistant professor in the Department of Geography at University Park, will discuss scientific controversies around fracking. She and her students study shale development in the United States, with particular emphasis on hydraulic fracturing as well as the potential impacts of the Shell ethane cracker.


April Johnston

Public Relations Director, Penn State Beaver

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