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.

Sigma Xi events

28 Jan 2024: Chapter winetasting fundraiser, led by Scott Burns. Stay tuned for details.

17-20 Jun 2024: AAAS Pacific Division / Sigma Xi Northwest Region annual conference, University of San Diego.

Other science/engineering events

11-12 Apr 2024: Science Talk '24, Tiffany Center, Portland.

Good Vibrations: The Interplay of Music and Physics

Laurie McNeil

Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer

Department of Physics & Astronomy

University of North Carolina

Wednesday 10 May 2023, 7:00 pm PDT

Cramer Hall 150, 1721 SW Broadway

(meet at the north entrance!)

Portland State University

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Scholars and musicians from the ancient Greeks to modern times have asked questions about music: Why do we find the combination of certain pitches pleasing?  Why do two different instruments playing the same note sound different?  The answers to these questions arise from the profound connections between music and physics.  I will elucidate some principles of musical acoustics and explore how they affect the way instruments work and how we experience musical sound.  In doing so I will draw on my background as a physicist and a musician, and on my experience co-teaching a course on the subject with a professional musician.

Link to flyer with bio

Finding the good news on climate and energy

Richard Alley

Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer

Evan Pugh University Professor

Department of Geosciences

The Pennsylvania State University

Thursday 20 April 2023, 4:30 pm PDT

The online lecture is free and open to the public.


*For those interested, SX-CW is hosting an in-person viewing party for this Zoom lecture, with a reception afterward, in Cramer Hall S-17, 1721 SW Broadway, meet at the north entrance.

We enjoy great benefits from energy use, mostly from fossil fuels now, but they cause highly damaging climate changes. Very strong evidence shows that we can use this knowledge to build a larger economy in a cleaner environment with more jobs, improved health, and greater national security more consistent with the Golden Rule. Students today are part of the first generation in human history that knows with confidence that they can build a sustainable energy system, powering everyone everywhere.

Lecture flyer with bio

Lecture visuals

Katie Abrahams with Peter's quartz crystal collection

Recent chapter events

01 Dec 2022: Paul Loikith, PSU Geography, spoke engagingly on The Meteorology and Climatology of the 2021 Pacific Northwest Mega Heat Wave. 15 people attended in person and 8 attended remotely.

Following the lecture, attendees visited the display of remarkable quartz crystals, which were bequeathed to the PSU geology department by the late Peter Abrahams, who also served the CW chapter as an officer and board member. His daughter Katie shared memories of her father's fascination with these minerals.

As part of Women’s History Month, Sigma Xi announced the establishment of the Linda H. Mantel Next Generation Women's Leadership Award. The award includes a $2,500 honorarium and is awarded biennially to an early-career STEM leader who identifies as a woman. The award reflects Dr. Mantel’s legacy of service, generosity, and leadership within Sigma Xi and the research enterprise.

Linda H. Mantel  has been a Sigma Xi member since 1964. She spent 25 years at City College of the City University of New York, as a faculty member, chair of the Department of Biology, and assistant provost for Research and Graduate Studies. During this time she was a research associate in the Department of Invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History. She has served as dean of the faculty and professor of biology at Reed College, as interim vice-president for Academic Administration at Willamette University, as assistant vice-president for Technology Services at the University of Portland, and as associate research professor at Portland State University. 

Following her official retirement in 2002, Mantel joined the board of the multi-institutional Columbia-Willamette Chapter of Sigma Xi, where she served as secretary from 2004-2008, and completed 10 years as president. The chapter has won three awards for Excellence and Programs in the last eight years. Mantel joined the Sigma Xi Board as a member of the Diversity Committee in 2003, and was active as a chapter delegate to both the Northwest Region and the Multi-institutional (MI) Constituency. In 2009, Mantel was elected director of the Northwest Region and served two terms, until 2015. 

In 2022, in recognition of her distinguished service to our chapter and to the larger organization, Dr. Mantel was designated a Sigma Xi Fellow.

Sigma Xi Chapter of Excellence Award

Chapter of Excellence Awards are bestowed by Sigma Xi annually for "exceptional chapter activity, innovative programming, and true community leadership." In 2021, the Columbia-Willamette Chapter earned the first-place award; in the past 8 years, the chapter has won 3 awards for excellence or for its programs.

Sigma Xi holds a worldwide competition for research grants to students in March and October every year. The extended deadline to apply for a grant is 25 Nov 2022. New funding focuses on more grants to women and under-represented minority students.

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

Sky Button, Cell biology: Using aquatic eDNA to inform the conservation of a rare and secretive terrestrial amphibian. Mentor: Jonah Piovia-Scott, Washington State University Vancouver.

Geoff Szafranski, Ecology: Contaminant analysis of coastal mangrove ecosystems across different environmental conditions in Hawaii and Florida. Mentor: Catherine de Rivera, Portland State University.

James Frye, Physics and Astronomy: Applications of EBSD Techniques to Constrain Thermal Parameters of Ureilites During Catastrophic Collision. Mentor: Alex Ruzicka, Portland State University.

Malcolm Peavy, Systematics / Evolutionary Biology: Vitamin D exploration of the mTOR pathway in Austrofundulus Limnaeus. Mentor: Jason Podrabsky, Portland State University.

Robyn Dove, Ecology: The root-nodule microbiome: Implications for invasive legume management. Mentor: Daniel Ballhorn, Portland State University.

Rebecca Talbot, Hydrology / Geomorphology: Spatial and seasonal variations of microplastic concentrations in Oregon’s freshwater. Mentor: Heejun Chang, Portland State University. 

Amy Ehrhart, Ecology: Effects of Exposure to Coastal Wastewater Treatment Plant Effluent on Pacific Oyster Health and Survival. Mentor: Elise Granek, Portland State University.

Lara Jansen, Ecology: The Effects of Temperature, Nutrients and Non-native Fish on Harmful Algal Blooms in Mountain Lakes. Mentor: Angela Strecker, Portland State University.

Colin Wakeham,  Cell biology / biochemistry: Trophoblast glycoprotein: A novel PKCα-dependent phosphoprotein in retinal rod bipolar cells. Mentor: Catherine W Morgans, Oregon Health & Science 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, Willamette University, and Oregon Health & Science 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.

Leroy Sibanda with research poster at Madison

Megan and Nacho with poster at Sigma Xi Stem + Art & Film Festival

November 2019: Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette provided partial travel support to students Vusumuzi Leroy Sibanda, Megan Hanley, and Dr. Ignacio (Nacho) de la Higuera, enabling them to attend Sigma Xi's Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. In the Conference, Leroy won the first prize, in Chemistry-Graduate Students, for his poster, A mechanistic investigation of peptide S-nitrosation by nitric oxide moieties: implications for biological function. He also represented our chapter as delegate to the Annual Meeting, and later on the same trip, he presented his work at the NOBCChE meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.

Nacho presented his poster Crucifiction: an evolutionary story at the interface between DNA and RNA viruses. Inspired by that research, Megan and Nacho collaborated on a poster and a video at the meeting's STEM + Art & Film Festival.

June 2019: Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette was pleased to help sponsor Leroy Sibanda's attendance at the AAAS Pacific Division/Sigma Xi joint meeting in Ashland on 19 June 2019. Leroy is a Ph.D. candidate in the Simoyi research group in Portland State University's Chemistry Department, and he won the top student award in Chemistry and Biochemistry for his poster, Vasoactive hormones identified as efficient Nitric Oxide donors: implications for enhanced opioid induced antinociception. Linda Mantel wrote, "As a physiologist myself, I found the poster most enlightening and greatly appreciated Leroy's thorough explanation of the work." 

Leroy received this support from SX CW because he won a graduate first place award at our 15th Annual Student Research Symposium in November 2018.

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

Similar awards earned earlier by local students at regional and national Sigma Xi meetings are listed in Student Travel Awards.