STEM Beat

Aldo Leopold Distinguished Lecture Series


In 2018-2019, hundreds of students, faculty, and members of the community attended lectures focused on our relationship with the natural world. This was the first year of the Aldo Leopold Distinguished Lecture Series. The success of the series is thanks in large part to the diverse range of faculty and staff that worked on the committee to bring a variety of lecturers from different fields and backgrounds to the University of Northern Iowa.  

One member of the committee is Eric O’Brien, Director of Sustainability at UNI. The position of Director of Sustainability exists at an intersection between campus operations and campus community. For example, while O’Brien does not operate the campus recycling program, he is the touchstone for fielding calls about it and anything else related to the environment. “So I'm the one that is identifying some of these opportunities within our operations so that we're able to change that students, faculty, staff want to see,” he explains.

Poster for the 2018-2018 Leopold Series - On the Sixth Extinction - An evening with Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Elizabeth Kolbert.

O’Brien’s job also involves organizing students on sustainability related projects. The Sustainability Office oversees the Green Fund, which is managed by students. A large part of the job involves instilling a culture of sustainability on campus, and the Aldo Leopold Distinguished Lecture Series is a part of that.

O’Brien explained, “We have speakers coming to campus all the time and there are some themes that can develop through that. But we don't do a very good job of tying them together. One group will bring in one speaker, another group might have something else planned that might overlap, and neither one of them has any idea that the other one is doing that work.”  The series was created to build upon what was already going on across campus and to look at a broad theme of sustainability throughout the year and, if possible provide a connection between efforts.

After that, the idea was to get together a group of different people to expand the reach of the program, and part of O’Brien’s job was to find those people and bring them to the table.

“That's how we ended up with the core planning team. All of us have different roles and skills and strengths that we bring to the table, and that's been one of the real successes of it,” he said.

Lecturers for the 2018-2019 school year included Dr. Jennifer Lowry, Elizabeth Kolbert, Dr. Karen Oberhauser, David Archambault II, Bob Inglis, and Terry Tempest Williams.   Each speaker was supported through multiple diverse partnerships across campus and within the Cedar Valley.  These included The Tallgrass Prairie Center, First-Year Cornerstone, the North American review, and the Roy J. Carver Charitable trust.  Each lecture in the series is documented on the series website with suggested pre– or companion readings so that faculty, students, and the public can extend their experience with each lecturer.

The committee is ready to announce two of the planned speakers for the 2019-2020 school year: Katharine Hayhoe and Justin Brice Guariglia.

Standing with Tribes Poster from 2018-2019 Leopold Lecture Series.Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist who works at Texas Tech University. O’Brien explained that a lot of Hayhoe’s work relates to the way that people talk about climate change. “She's one of our big speakers. Another perspective that she comes from is that she is an evangelical Christian. She does a lot of work talking to faith based communities about why it's important for churches to not necessarily stand on the sideline when it comes to environmental issues. It's an interesting perspective that we haven't had here on campus and I'm really excited to bring that.”

Justin Brice Guariglia is an artist and environmental activist. He is well-known for his public, large-scale projects that attract attention to ecological issues. “This is a really unique perspective that we're talking a about a lot more now. There have been a lot of people that have focused on the science, but his art is all about changing people's perceptions just by those visual displays that he's presenting,” O’Brien says.

O’Brien would like students and faculty to know that the committee is open to accepting suggestions for future lecture series speakers. He would also like to emphasize that these lectures are for students and faculty of all fields of study, not just environmental science. His hope is that the lecture series will continue for many years to come.

Learn more about last year’s lecture series speakers and about future speakers at: https://guides.lib.uni.edu/leopold-lectures.

Brooke Wiese, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 07-12-19

Fun and Friends


Have you ever built and programmed your own robot?  Strolled through prairie grasses taller than you are and created a puppet to represent your favorite flower or animal?  Designed your own fabric pattern or 3-D statue?  Tested your own DNA?  If the answer is no, then you must not have attended the UNI STEM Camps.  Each camp brings together a small number of campers with similar interests with camp directors and UNI students for 3-days to a week of fun, friendship, and skill building.  

UNI STEM Camps are fun & friends with a side of confidence!

Now is the time to register for the 2019 Camp Sessions.  Click here to learn more abut the sessions:

Fashion & STEM: A Perfect Fit
Introduction to Robotics
Panther Park - A 3D Design, 3D Printing, & Virtual Reality Experience
Intermediate Robotics 
Panther Park - A 3D Design, 3D Printing, & Virtual Reality Experience - For Girls!
Telling the Tallgrass Prairie Story through Expressive Arts - NEW
Biotech Camp: Tools of the Trade - NEW

UNI STEM camps offer local youth an opportunity to visit campus and participate in themed science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics activities with peers under the supervision of undergraduate camp counselors and experienced adult mentors.  Campers make friends while gaining new skills and building confidence in STEM areas.  The majority of past campers sign up for our camps in order to learn about a topic/skill of interest to them.  That is correct, they come to camp to LEARN!  And a majority of our campers also leave camp agreeing that the camp experience helped them feel more confident that they can do a STEM career.

Learn more about how UNI STEM Camps impact local youth in the 2018 Report.

Marcy Seavey, UNI STEM Coordinator
Posted: 06-06-19

UNI Junior Wins Goldwater Scholarship


Congratulations to Joseph Tibbs! Joseph is a UNI junior who is double majoring in physics and biochemistry. This year, he was one of less than 500 students across the United States who were awarded the Goldwater Scholarship in Science and Mathematics. The scholarship is nationally competitive, its purpose is to encourage talented students to pursue careers in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. It is the preeminent scholarship of in these fields.

We interviewed Joseph in 2017, when he was already heavily involved in research and a wide variety of activities on campus. Learn more about him and his experience at UNI in the pdf below.

Brooke Wiese, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 05-02-19

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