Posts tagged ‘Discovery U’

Why Do Ideas Fail?

Back in November, I spent a terrific day at Discovery-U, listening to some of Penn State’s faculty in science, technology, and engineering discuss their research—and, equally interesting for me, as a Liberal Arts kind of girl, why their research matters. I was really impressed that so many of the professors and researchers were able to discuss their work in a way that I understood. It was a fascinating day.

One of the talks that jumped out at me was the one given by Khanjan Mehta ’83g, director of the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship Program. It was called “The Problem With The Potential Solution,” and it addressed why technological solutions don’t always—perhaps “rarely” is a better word—make the lives of people in developing countries better. By about three minutes into the 15-minute talk, I was emailing my colleagues at the office, telling them how this talk was making me think and wondering if we could find a way to cover it in the magazine. Within two weeks, we had adapted Mehta’s talk into a piece that you’ll find in our January/February issue. We called it Why Ideas Fail, and we hope it will make you think, as well.

You can watch Mehta’s talk by clicking here for a video produced by WPSU. Discovery-U had a lot of other speakers, too, and the organizers are hoping that videos of the TED-style talks will reach an even wider audience than they did in the HUB Auditorium. For the entire Discovery-U YouTube channel, click here. And enjoy.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

December 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm 1 comment

Discovery-U: A Day to Think about Science

As challenges go, this isn’t a bad one to have. As Mike Zeman met with Penn State researchers in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math to help the prepare for the short talks they are giving Friday at Discovery-U, he had to impress upon them how important the time frame is—only 15 to 18 minutes.

That’s not easy for these researchers to hit. “They’re so passionate about what they do,” Zeman ’98, ’01g says. (You might remember Zeman from our Jan./Feb. 2013 issue — he was featured in the “Everyday People” section.)

That passion should be evident Friday at Discovery-U, a day-long event at the HUB Auditorium in which Penn State faculty and researchers—and two students—will explain and tell stories about their research. The event has TED Talk overtones—the lectures are 15 to 18 minutes long, and the researchers are being encouraged to abide by the “TED commandments,” among them “Thou shalt tell a story” and “Thou shalt not read thy speech.”

Says Zeman, who’s also the director of Science-U summer science camps: “The real bottom line is expressing why this stuff is important in the future. What are the greater, bigger picture questions that are still out there?”

The lineup—suggested by students—is terrific. It starts with Tom Mallouk, Evan Pugh professor of chemistry, talking about micro-robots and ends with Richard Alley, Evan Pugh professor of geology, who shared a Nobel Prize in science for his research on climate change, discussing “environmental science for people.”

Click here to view a PDF of the entire schedule.

This is the second such event; the first, suggested last year by the Graduate Women in Science organization, was targeted more toward “getting the Penn State name out there in a good way,” Zeman says. This year’s is also geared toward engaging students who might have an interest in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) and helping upperclassmen to consider research proposals. And still, Zeman says, getting the word out about Penn State faculty and research. The sponsors show the broad reach: Dow, the Eberly College of Science Alumni Council, and the Graduate Student Association.

They’re serious about reaching out broadly.

There are three sessions Friday in the HUB Auditorium—the first from 10:05 to 11:34, the second from 11:45 to 1:23, the third from 2 to 3:41 p.m. Each has five speakers. (Ideally, the organizers would like to have people stay for a full session, but they understand that classes and other commitments may interfere, so you’re welcome for any portion.) Plus, you can watch online at, although the website isn’t active yet. (They’re hoping some alumni tune in, as well.) And within several days of the event, they’ll post the lectures to YouTube, making them available to anyone.

They would like you to RSVP, if possible: click here to do so.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

November 4, 2013 at 3:17 pm Leave a comment

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