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.

Altering nature with gene drives—We can. But should we?

James P. Collins

Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment, Arizona State University

Wednesday, 08 May 2019

Cramer 382

Portland State University

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Recent advances in the technology of gene editing are revolutionizing our ability to modify organisms genetically. In particular, the CRISPR/Cas9 technology makes it easier and cheaper to alter precisely an organism’s genome. These advances sharpen the debate around when and even whether we should develop and use new technologies to manipulate genomes. For example, imagine a proposal to develop a genome editing technology designed to reduce the size of mosquito populations that transmit pathogens that infect humans. But what if the research proposal is designed to drive mosquito populations or even species extinct? The ethical implications of altering genomes for the purpose of extinction are greater than the implications of just population reduction. This presentation will cover some of the exciting science surrounding modern gene editing along with cautionary thoughts raised by this provocative ability to edit life.


Professor Collins’s B.S. is from Manhattan College and his Ph.D. is from the University of Michigan. He studies host-pathogen biology and its relationship to the decline and extinction of species, the intellectual and institutional factors that have shaped Ecology's development as a discipline, as well as Ecological Ethics. Dr. Collins was chair of ASU’s Biology Department, Director of the Population Biology and Physiological Ecology program at NSF, and head of the Biological Sciences Directorate at NSF. He is a Fellow of AAAS, a Fellow of the Association for Women in Science, and Past President of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Professor Collins served as chair of the Board of Directors for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. He is currently chair of the Board on Life Sciences of the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Dr. Collins is the author of numerous peer reviewed papers and book chapters and co-author with Martha Crump of Extinction in Our Times: Global Amphibian Decline.

Save these dates!

27 Apr 2019: TEDx talk by Nandini Ranganathan at Keller Auditorium.

8 May 2019: as part of PSU's Research Week, James P. Collins, Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer and Professor of Natural History and the Environment, Arizona State University, will speak on Altering nature with gene drives—We can. But should we?

19 May 2019: The Future of Our Oceans, 2:30 - 6:30 pm, PSU Viking Pavilion.

28 May 2019: Chapter annual meeting, details will follow.

18-21 Jun 2019: AAAS Pacific Division / Sigma Xi NW/SW annual conference, Ashland, Oregon.

14-17 Nov 2019: Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference, Madison, Wisconsin.

15th Annual SX-CW Student Research Presentations

16 November 2018

Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette Chapter held its fifteenth annual Symposium of poster papers by undergraduate and graduate students in the sciences, social sciences, mathematics, and engineering on Friday 16 November 2018, 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.

38 student research posters were reviewed by 22 judges, and 18 cash prizes for best poster presentation were awarded, including a special award to a high school student. The primary student authors were affiliated with 3 local academic institutions (PSU, UP, OHSU); in other years, students at Concordia, George Fox, and Linfield also exhibited their research. 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.

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 2019. The following local students recently earned GIARs for their projects. Each of them also received a modest supplemental grant from our chapter.

Madeline Lewis, Cell biology / biochemistry: Uncovering small RNAs in Streptococcus mutans, an agent of dental caries. Advisor: Rahul Raghavan, Portland State University.

Scott Kiel, Climate Science: Moss as a Human Health Biomonitor: a calibration study linking moss heavy metal accumulation and human exposure. Advisor: Todd Rosenstiel, Portland State University.

The Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research (GIAR) program has funded research by undergraduate and graduate students since 1922. Of the 810 proposals received by the 1 Oct 2018 deadline, grants were earned by 97 applicants from 6 countries, including 17 undergraduate students, 24 master’s students, and 56 doctoral candidates. Collectively, the students received $87,696.

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 who are members.

June 2018: the Chapter provided partial travel support for three students to present their research at the Sigma Xi NW/SW + AAAS Pacific Division Student Research Conference, at Cal State Pomona. Brie Tripp won first prize in the Pacific Division's Education Section; Tetiana Korzun won an honorable mention in the Cell and Molecular Biology Section; and Emmanuel Abdul found the Conference "very enriching and a tremendous opportunity to learn what other people are doing. It certainly was an eye-opener and a great learning experience for me as I gained insight into possible applications of my work on Vertically aligned polymer nanostructures functionalized by magnetron sputtering. Sigma Xi made the experience and professional networking with fellow growing scientists possible for me and for this, I am very grateful."

Brie Tripp lecturing at AAASPD/SX meeting

Tetiana Korzun with poster at AAASPD/SX meeting

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 at Sigma Xi Atlanta meeting, November 2016

Anh Ngo won the Graduate Student award in Cell Biology and Biochemistry at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting in Atlanta, November 2016, for her 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 at AAASPD/SX San Diego meeting, June 2016, with Jon Clark

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 presentation: Epigenetic 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 Travel Awards.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Columbia-Willamette-Chapter-of-Sigma-Xi/123968660978608