We engage the Portland, Oregon scientific and technical community to enhance the health of the scientific research enterprise, provide opportunities for the next generation of scientists and engineers, and promote the public's understanding of science and technology. We are comprised of faculty and students from several colleges and universities in the Portland area, as well as colleagues in local business, industry, federal and state agencies, and medical centers. We focus many of our programs on enhancing the experiences of students at all levels. Many of our members are retired scientists and engineers who have relocated to the Portland area and find a community of interests through the activities of the chapter.

Searching for other Earths: the next frontier for exoplanet science

Debra Fischer
Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer
Professor of Astronomy and Geology & Geophysics
Yale University
Thursday 30 April 2015, 7:00 pm
Vollum Lecture Hall, Reed College
3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, OR 97202

One of the great successes of modern astronomy was the discovery of a Jupiter-mass planet orbiting the sunlike star, 51 Pegasi in 1995. Since then, hundreds of planets and planetary systems have been detected; however, most would not be habitable for carbon-based life as we know it. The next frontier for exoplanet science is the discovery of analogs of Earth, laden with oceans of water. The discoveries that we have already made hint that these worlds should be common and new instruments are now being designed with the required sensitivity to find them. These are discoveries that will jolt the perspective of humanity and awaken a new view of the Universe.

Debra Fischer began hunting for exoplanets in 1997 by measuring Doppler shifts in the spectra of stars. She has discovered hundreds of extrasolar planets with this technique, including the first known multiple planet system in 1999. Dr. Fischer’s analysis of stellar spectra demonstrated that gas giant planets were more likely to form around stars with a higher abundance of heavy elements and she quantified the now well-known “planet-metallicity” correlation. Dr. Fischer led an international consortium from 2003 – 2008 to carry out a search for hot Jupiters orbiting metal-rich stars; that project alone detected more than 30 new extrasolar planets. Some of these planets transit in front of their host stars, enabling a measurement of the radius and mean density of the planets and permitting an observation of the atmosphere with transmission spectroscopy. 

Dr. Fischer also speaks at 4:00 pm at Hoffman Hall, on the Portland State University campus, on "The Search for 100 Earths". Her afternoon lecture is co-sponsored by the PSU Physics Department and Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette Chapter.

Save the date!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015Chapter Annual Meeting and Banquet, with lecture by Todd RosenstielHow to Green a Continent: the surprising role of moss in engineering a warming Antarctica


Sigma Xi Student Research Symposium

16 April 2015

Ballroom, Smith Memorial Union, Portland State University


Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette Chapter held its eleventh annual Symposium of poster papers by undergraduate and graduate students in the sciences, social sciences, mathematics, and engineering on 16 April 2015, at Portland State University in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom. The posters-only Symposium is open to students affiliated with colleges and universities in the Portland area. Awards are given for the best undergraduate and graduate posters in several categories.  At the 2015 event, 35 projects were presented and 15 primary student authors received awards.  The Symposium provides practice for presentations at regional and national meetings in students’ own disciplines.  The Symposium is open to the public, and admission is free.

2015 Awards for best posters | Poster Abstracts  Photos 


Five local students won Grants-In-Aid of Research from Sigma Xi in 2014: Christine Kendrick (Portland State University), Eve Wiggins (Willamette University), Zecong Fang (Washington State University - Vancouver), Sydney Gonsalves (PSU), and Timea Deakova (PSU). Their projects, and the nature of Sigma Xi's GIAR awards, are described in Student research grants.


At Sigma Xi's Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Glendale AZ, 4-9 Nov 2014, the Chapter was well-represented by Linda Mantel (NW Regional Representative), Erik Tucker (Chapter Delegate), and five student presenters: Amy Truitt, Brittney Davidge, Adrienne Godschalx, Dierdre McAteer, and Thai Tran (top row of photos). Adrienne's research poster presentation earned a medal.
Linda Mantel, Thai Tran, Erik Tucker, Brittney Davidge, Dierdre McAteer, Adrienne Godschalx, Amy Truitt.     Adrienne receives award.


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