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.

With great regret, we note the recent passing of Peter Abrahams, a longtime member of the Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette Chapter's Board of Directors, serving as our Recording Secretary and organizer of our annual series of public lectures. Peter was a Reed graduate, astronomer, master carpenter, artist, and sculptor. He was a frequent volunteer and contributor to the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory at Portland State University. He was best known as a historian of telescopes, binoculars, and optical instruments. He will long be remembered and sorely missed.

Peter Abrahams

We also miss Chris Mooers, oceanographer, colleague, and member of the Chapter Board from 2009 to 2013, who died recently.

We congratulate Tamara Phillips-Richards, Chapter Secretary, on the Bowles Lectureship Award she'll receive at the University of North Carolina on 7 May. "The Bowles Award is given annually to honor a distinguished researcher who has made significant contributions to our understanding of the causes, prevention and/or treatment of alcoholism and alcohol abuse.  Your remarkable research discoveries on the genetic dissection of behavioral traits associated with risk for the development of alcoholism and drug abuse are noted.  Your discoveries include brain and behavioral mechanisms of alcohol, nicotine, and methamphetamine addiction including acute and chronic effects associated with drug reward, behavioral sensitivity, and neuroadaptation."

Brooke D. Simmons
Einstein Fellow
Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences
University of California - San Diego

Monday, 7 May 2018, 7:00 pm
Mediatheque (1st Floor)
Pacific Northwest College of Art
511 NW Broadway, Portland, OR 97209

The lecture is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored with Pacific Northwest College of Art's Make + Think + Code program.

It has become clear over the last decades that super-massive black holes coevolve
with the galaxies that surround them. But just how has this growth and co-evolution taken place over 8 billion years? Using Hubble Space Telescope and Sloan Digital Sky Survey data, Dr. Simmons identified galaxies that have had a completely calm history, yet have black hole masses of up to 107 solar masses. They appear consistent with the relation between black hole mass and total galaxy mass, a relation derived from elliptical galaxies with a history including mergers. This indicates that the fundamental cause of the galaxy-black hole connection may not be the same as the main driver of the structural evolution of galactic baryons. In this talk, Dr. Simmons will also demonstrate the Zooniverse project builder, based on the Galaxy Zoo project which contributed to her research findings - a highly cited project that mobilizes the public to visually classify galaxies.

Dr. Brooke Simmons is currently an Einstein Fellow at the UCSD Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. Prior to that she worked as a Postdoc in Astrophysics at Oxford as a core founding member of the Galaxy Zoo project - one of the original web-based citizen science projects that led to the Zooniverse ecosystem that we have today. Her Ph.D. is from Yale University and her research has been focused on galaxy evolution and the co-evolution of supermassive black holes with their host galaxies. In addition to her core research in astrophysics, Dr. Simmons has played an active role in public engagement in the sciences, giving numerous public lectures and contributing to citizen science projects.

Save these dates!

16-30 April 2018: Sigma Xi online Student Research Showcase.

31 May 2018: Chapter annual end-of-year event.

12-15 Jun 2018: AAAS Pacific Division / Sigma Xi NW/SW Annual Meeting, Cal Poly, Pomona CA.

16 Nov 2018: 15th annual Sigma Xi-Columbia-Willamette Student Research Symposium, Portland OR.

Columbia-Willamette has won Sigma Xi's Chapter of Excellence award, recognizing exceptional activity and innovative programming.

14th Annual SX-CW Student Research Presentations

14 November 2017

Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette Chapter held its fourteenth annual Symposium of poster papers by undergraduate and graduate students in the sciences, social sciences, mathematics, and engineering on Tuesday 14 November 2017, 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.

The event is generously sponsored by PSU's Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships. This year, 60 student research posters were reviewed by 26 judges, and 27 cash prizes for best poster presentation were awarded. The primary student authors were affiliated with 3 local academic institutions (PSU, UP, OHSU). 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.
The next Symposium is Friday 16 November 2018.

Sigma Xi holds a worldwide competition for research grants to students in March and October every year. The next deadline to apply for a grant is 15 Mar 2018. The following local students recently earned GIARs for their projects. Each of them also received a modest supplemental grant from our chapter.

Tetiana Korzun, Chemistry:  Effects of Vaping on Ocular Health: Analysis of Selected Alcohols, Acids and Their Derivatives as Major, Yet Underestimated E-cigarette Vapor Toxicants. Advisor: Robert M. Strongin, Portland State University. (October 2017 competition)

Brian Wendel, Cell Biology / Biochemistry, Portland State University: Determining the mechanism by which DNA replication completes. (October 2016 competition)

Adam Baz, Conservation Biology, Portland State University: Habitat use and minimum area requirements of woodpeckers in an urban landscape. (March 2016 competition)

Caitlin Maraist, Ecology, Portland State University: Effects of endophytic fungi on sexual effort and chemical cues of the dioecious moss, Ceratodon Purpureus. (October 2015 competition)

Jess Millar, Cell Biology/Biochemistry, Portland State University: Horizontally acquired tRNA facilitates adaptation to an extreme environment. (October 2015 competition)

Previous GIARs have been earned by students at Portland State University, University of Portland, Washington State University Vancouver, and Willamette University. We encourage students at all academic institutions in the Portland area to apply. Membership in Sigma Xi isn't required, but 75% of the grants are reserved for student members and advisees of faculty members.

In the Fall 2016 cycle, Sigma Xi awarded 115 grants totaling $91,205 to students in four countries: 20 undergrads, 28 master's students, and 67 doctoral candidates. These amounted to 17.7% of the 651 applications received. More grants could be awarded in future cycles if more support is received. 

Fall 2017: Raluca Gosman, undergrad student in biology, presented her work at the Sigma Xi NW/SW + AAAS Pacific Division Annual Meeting at the University of Hawaii, and wrote: "This conference was a fantastic learning experience for me as I got helpful feedback from the oral presentation I gave about my work with Y-Chromosomal Short Tandem Repeat Analysis. Although I did not get as many results as I would have wanted, I felt encouraged that I was on the right track to keep trying, keep perfecting my techniques, and trust the scientific method of trial and error. Because a large portion of my project is yet to be completed, the interest my audience had in the final outcomes gave me new motivation to work hard and obtain results this coming year."

Anh Ngo
 won the Graduate Student award in Cell Biology and Biochemistry at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting in Atlanta, November 2016, for he
r poster presentation: Utility of a low-volume imaging assay to assess the granular phenotype and activity of neonatal platelets. She's a grad student at Oregon Health & Science University.

Srikar Rao Darmakkolla, who also presented his research at the Atlanta meeting, wrote: "I learned many things from this conference...key note lectures are my all time favorite... Unlike other conferences, this gave us great opportunity to mingle and improve our network."
Amie Romney won the first-place award in Cell and Molecular Biology, plus the President's Award, at the Sigma
 Xi NW/SW + AAAS Pacific Division Annual Meeting, San Diego, in June 2016, for her poster presentationEpigenetic regulation of alternative developmental trajectories in an annual killifish. She's a PhD student in biology at Portland State University, and she's pictured at left with her former undergraduate advisor, Jon Clark, who attended the meeting as Sigma Xi Northwest Regional Director.
Quoting Amie, "I had an amazing experience at the 2016 AAASPD conference in San Diego. Through my newly-formed connections with Sigma XI, I was introduced to many wonderful people. Everyone there demonstrated genuine support for young researchers in scientific practice as well as career development. I would have never had such an opportunity to build a network of professional contacts. Thank you to everyone who made the trip possible for me!"
The Chapter provided partial travel support for the above students, and others, to present their research. Similar awards earned earlier by local students at regional and national Sigma Xi meetings are listed in Student Awards.


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