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

24 Sep 2021: deadline for submission of abstracts for poster presentations at the Sigma Xi 2021 virtual Student Research Conference.

01 Oct 2021: deadline for submission of student proposals for Sigma Xi Grants In Aid of Research.

04 - 07 Nov Jul 2021: Sigma Xi virtual Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference.

Other science/engineering events

Wednesday 05 May 2021, 4:00 pm PST

The online lecture is free and open to the public;

link: https://pdx.zoom.us/j/84581694799

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has experienced significant growth during the past decades, thanks to advancements in software and hardware that have enabled better-than-human performance in many tasks, including highly publicized breakthroughs, such as self-driving cars or medical image analysis systems that might replace the human radiologist. Along with the speed and intensity at which the technical advancements are reaching the headlines, there are growing concerns about the social, ethical, economical, and philosophical aspects of AI, which have provided the script for many Hollywood blockbusters and successful TV series.

This talk will provide an introduction to fundamental aspects of the current state of AI to a general audience, including contemporary examples of AI in action that will broaden the participants' view of the field and allow a better understanding of its foundations, risks, applications, and implications. Along the way, we will also address some of the most frequently asked questions, such as:

    • What does it mean to say that a computer/robot exhibits intelligent behavior?

    • Are we getting closer to solving the general intelligence problem?

    • Will computers/robots replace humans, and – if so – how soon and in which areas?

Oge Marques, PhD, is Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) (Boca Raton, Florida, USA), where he is also the Advisor for the "AI in Healthcare Interest Group" in the College of Medicine. He is the author of more than 120 publications in the area of intelligent processing of visual information – which combines the fields of image processing, computer vision, (medical) image analysis, machine learning, AI, deep learning, and human visual perception –, including the textbook “Practical Image and Video Processing Using MATLAB” (Wiley-IEEE Press).

Dr. Marques is a Senior Member of both the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). He is also a Sigma Xi Distinguished Speaker, a Fellow of the Leshner Leadership Institute of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Tau Beta Pi Eminent Engineer, and a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the honor societies of Sigma Xi, Phi Kappa Phi and Upsilon Pi Epsilon.

He is actively working on the intersection between AI and Radiology with colleagues, medical professionals, researchers, and students from FAU, NIH, Stanford, and other universities and research labs in the US and abroad. He is an Associate Member of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), a Corresponding Member of the European Society of Radiology (ESR), and a Member of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) and the European Society of Medical Imaging Informatics (EuSoMII). He is currently working on the book "AI for Radiology", scheduled to appear in 2021.

Dr. Marques has more than 35 years of teaching and research experience in different countries (USA, Austria, Brazil, India, Spain, Serbia, France, and the Netherlands) and has won several teaching awards, including the Outstanding Mid-Career Teaching Award, American Society for Engineering Education - Southeastern Section (ASEE-SE) (2011), the Engineering Educator of the Year Award, The Engineers’ Council (2019), and the Excellence and Innovation in Undergraduate Teaching Award, Florida Atlantic University, three times (2018, 2011 and 2004).

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 March 2021. The following local students recently earned GIARs for their projects. Each of them also receives a modest supplemental grant from our chapter.

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.

Richard "Dick" Norman Pugh

March 8, 1940 - June 15, 2020

Two stalwart oaks

Meteoritics in Morocco 2014

Richard "Dick" Pugh, who was inducted into the Columbia-Willamette Chapter of Sigma Xi in 1987, passed peacefully in his sleep Monday afternoon June 15th. Dick was a significant leader of our Sigma Xi chapter, serving in the role of chapter President from 1994-96 and 2001-05, and on the chapter Board for most of his membership until last year. Dick was responsible for establishing an Endowment for the chapter, to which he donated every year, including in the past month. The Endowment helps to provide grants to students for participation in and research presentations at Sigma Xi and other research meetings. He was instrumental in recruiting current Board members and encouraging them to step up to lead and grow our chapter. His vast range of regional and international contacts allowed the Columbia-Willamette chapter to promote excellent research through speakers and teaching, and to recognize those researchers and teachers wherever they might practice, including the smaller communities and rural areas of the Pacific Northwest. In 2011, the chapter nominated Dick for a Sigma Xi 125th Anniversary Award, “to recognize those more established members who have demonstrated notable achievement in their field or discipline and shown loyalty and dedication to Sigma Xi during their years of membership."

Along with his Chapter activities, Dick himself made significant contributions to science. Educated with BS and MST in physical sciences at Portland State University and Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, University of Nevada - Reno, Dick's area of specialty was meteoritics. Dick was instrumental in founding the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory at Portland State University in 2003 (http://www.meteorites.pdx.edu/), for which he tracked fireball sightings, identified meteorite samples, and led outreach programs. His investigations resulted in recognition of seven new meteorite finds in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Texas and one new fall from Cambodia (Trapeang Ronoas), for which he has numerous publications co-authored with Smithsonian Institute scientists. Dick was an Invited Speaker at The Meteoritical Society's 1991 Australian Crater Expedition, sponsored by the Columbia Willamette Chapter of Sigma Xi. Sigma Xi colleague Scott Burns reports that Dick is the creative thinker who believed that the Willamette Meteorite (largest found in North America) did not land in West Linn OR from outer space. Dick asked: "Where is the huge hole that should be here from the impact?" and he observed lots of granite gravel and cobbles surrounding the site - but there is no granite in Portland. Dick developed the hypothesis that the meteorite fell on the ice in Canada during the ice ages and was transported to Portland by ice-raft (on an iceberg) in one of the many Missoula Floods - now the accepted understanding.

Dick also worked with researchers to examine the validity of the popular model for the ending of the Pleistocene—a boloid impact. He was part of an investigative team that examined a black matt deposit described by model proponents as containing elements of extra-terrestrial origin. It did not. Dick, of course, pursued it further, and found that the original results used to substantiate the model could not be replicated by any independent investigators. The fact that Dick was one of the first scientists involved in fact checking this model is impressive, and representative of Dick’s scientific capabilities.

Dick applied this same open-minded questioning to every field of science in which he worked and played, constantly on the lookout for anomalies and asking why not?- be it geology, forestry, wildlife ecology, mycology, archaeology, or animal husbandry. Colleague Alison Stenger reports that early Oregon potteries were a fascination for him. Those were a very early industry, and 19th century examples of their work are still around. Dick collaborated with other researchers on publishing their findings.

Dick's support for science motivated his establishment of the Mazamas Research Endowment to fund scientific research in the alpine environment, and for many years he participated in photo-documentation of the Emmons Glacier on Mt. Hood - now invaluable evidence of climate changes. Dick was also an active supporter of Oregon Academy of Sciences and proud member of Society of Miscellaneous Oregon Geoscientists (SMOG).

Dick's abundant curiosity, enthusiasm, and extroverted nature made him a superb science teacher - during 1968-1999 at Cleveland High School, through classes at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (including as Camp Hancock's geologist), and as an adjunct professor in Portland State University's Department of Geology. Dick inspired many students to enter careers in geology, as well as teachers through Oregon and National Science Teachers Association and Sigma Xi.

Outreach was of particular importance to Dick, who with the assistance of several NASA grants traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest and California exhibiting and explaining meteorite and geological collections (http://meteorites.pdx.edu/pubs/LPSC2011-EPO.pdf). He received the 2011 Service Award from the Meteoritical Society for outreach and informal education (Annual Meeting, Greenwich England). His teaching ability extended to every field: he was a climb leader and a Basic School Instructor for the Mazamas, for which he also served on the board and on most of the organization's operating committees between 1978 and 1992. Alison Stenger sums it up: " What comes to mind is TLC, but in [Dick's] case meaning Teacher, yet always Learning, and Coaching".

As a man who believed in sharing his talents for the good of the community, Dick served on the Oregon State Forests Advisory Committee (SFAC) from 2001-2004, the Oregon Visibility Advisory Committee from 2000-2001, and the City of Portland Oregon Urban Forestry Commission until 2012. He donated countless hours and resources with friends and colleagues to his projects of restoring Oaks Bottom, as well as maintaining the grounds of the Mazamas Clubhouse.

Dick loved life like he enjoyed his wine - especially Gewurztraminer from Anne Amie or David Hill Wineries, or a perhaps a Riesling - and he rarely missed a Scott Burns Sigma Xi wine tour. He was always the first to sign up for the SXCW Winter Winetasting Fundraiser, hosted by Chapter President Linda Mantel and supplied by Scott Burns. Sigma Xi colleague Virginia Butler remembers Dick's great passion for science and humanity. Dick's wisdom, wit, and generosity - his friendship and that twinkle in his eye - will be sorely missed by all who have had the good fortune to know him.

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.