Seven Years of Science Pub

What do you get when three scientists and a group of curious like-minded people walk into a bar? If the pub is the Salt hill in Lebanon, then you have a good chance of being right if your answer is Science Pub.

This monthly event has been running regularly for the past seven years and has seen Dartmouth faculty from almost every field of science research, and a sprinkling of humanities faculty, gather to share their perspectives on topics as diverse as Music, Genetics, Black Holes, and Beer, with several in between.

Begun in 2012, Science Pub is the brainchild of Earth Sciences professor Robert (Bob) Hawley and retired Director of the Office of Science and Technology Outreach, Nancy Serrell. Knowing his application for NASA New Investigators Program grant would require a substantial outreach component, Hawley approached Serrell for some ideas that would move beyond him talking about his own research. “I knew the grant was looking for more than just me talking about the specifics of ABC,” recalls Hawley, “and I wanted to explore something that would engage the public in many fields of science, not just mine.”

Serrell suggested taking a look at the Science Café idea, a community movement that had taken root in Europe and was opening doors to public science engagement, even for people who were initially not that interested in science. There are no long lectures and the conversation is jargon-free, so anyone curious about learning something new can participate. There is no pre-requisite for attendance, no club membership, and you don’t have to be a scientist. Hawley jumped at the idea, and his successful proposal funded the first three years of what became Science Pub.

The first Science Pub was held at Murphy’s in Hanover, but quickly reached capacity and the location switched to Salt hill pub in Lebanon, where it’s a regular feature. Held on the last or second to last Thursday of the month from September through April with a break in December, the crowd gathers early, sometimes up to an hour before it begins at 6pm, to be sure of a good seat and to have supper and a pint with friends beforehand. Indeed, many people come as much for the enjoyment of sharing a meal with friends and the opportunity to meet new folk, as they do for the chance to learn about science research at Dartmouth.

True to its roots, the event opens with the panelists introducing their research as it relates to the main topic before chatting with guests and answering questions in small groups as they move about the room. The Science Pub team makes sure all the tables are visited before drawing the panelists back to the front to take questions from the floor. The event has recently been recorded for podcasts under the name Steaming Piles of Science, created by graduate student Savannah Dunn who, along with fellow student Jessica Desimone, are essential to the Science Pub team who help make sure that, even without funding, the show goes on.

The next Science Pub will be held on Thursday, February 28 from 6pm, in a new venue at the Salt hill location in West Lebanon, the topic will be Quantum Tech and Application. If you’re free and fancy a pint, why not come over and join in the conversation?
We'll be back in Lebanon in March for the Science of Addiction.