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

22 Jun 2022, 6:30 pm: Sigma Xi C-W Annual Meeting and End-of-Year Celebration at Karam Penthouse.

Other science/engineering events

Genetics and Its Applications: From Ancient DNA to Gene Therapy

Amelia Ahern-Rindell

Biology Department, University of Portland

Wednesday 27 April 2022, 7:30 pm PDT

The online lecture is free and open to the public;

link: https://pdx.zoom.us/j/85789523218

The genetics discipline has grown exponentially over the last 30 years. Where and when it will slow down is anyone’s guess. This talk will discuss two examples of how advances in genetics can provide knowledge and understanding. One example pertains to my career-long work characterizing a fatal, inherited disorder of an animal model, a sheep variant of GM1 Gangliosidosis. The second example pertains to a recent exploration of the secrets of ancient DNA (aDNA) locked away in human bones excavated from graves in the Roman ruins of Mallorca, Spain. Genetics allows us to answer questions not only about our natural world, but to also delve into the bioethics of how we apply what we learn with humanity, dignity, and integrity.

Amelia Ahern-Rindell, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Portland. She received her B.S. degree in Biology/Genetics from the University of Illinois and earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Cell Biology/Genetics from Washington State University. She was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Molecular Genetics at the University of California, San Diego for 4 years before beginning her career as a Teacher-Scholar. In 1992, she received a tenure-track appointment in the Zoology Department at Weber State University and in 1997, she became a faculty member in the Biology Department at UP. She teaches courses in Cell and Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Evolution. She has taught for her university’s Study Abroad Program in Salzburg and London, and in the Science Core program on campus to non-science majors. She is involved in biology curriculum modernization and assessment, especially in the area of undergraduate research and scholarship. She has an active research program in which she collaborates with students. She has mentored over 100 research students and has won several national, regional, and UP awards recognizing her scholarship and mentoring of her student collaborators. Her research includes the cellular and molecular characterization of a fatal human genetic disorder, using an animal model; an international collaboration involving analysis of ancient human DNA; and research on bioethics and professional ethics.

[Full abstract and bio]

The Creative Species: Imagination and Collaboration in Human Evolution

Agustín Fuentes

Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer

Wednesday 04 May 2022, 4:00 pm PDT

The online lecture is free and open to the public;
link: https://pdx.zoom.us/j/81560149197

Over the last two million years, the human lineage went from a group of small, fangless, clawless, naked bipedal ape-like beings to the makers of stone tools, the controllers of fire, and the producers of cave art. They later became the constructors of towns, cities and empires, ultimately becoming a core force in the global ecosystem. How did this happen? Our ancestors collaborated to deal with the challenges the world threw at them. We have a cocktail of creativity and collaboration that is unique to our species—no other species has ever been able to do so well—and it has propelled the development of our bodies, minds, and cultures, both for good and for bad. We are first and foremost the species singularly distinguished and shaped by creativity.

Agustín Fuentes is a Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. His books include Race, Monogamy, and other lies they told you: busting myths about human nature (U of California), Conversations on Human Nature(s) (Routledge), The Creative Spark: how imagination made humans exceptional (Dutton), and Why We Believe: evolution and the human way of being (Yale).

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.

As part of Women’s History Month, Sigma Xi announces the establishment of the Linda H. Mantel Next Generation Women's Leadership Award. The award will include a $2,500 honorarium and be 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.

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 31 March 2022 (extended). 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.