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UNMC Science Café

UNMC Science Cafe

Public Health Community Advisory – “Science Cafés” are events that take place in casual settings such as pubs and coffeehouses, are open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic. Science Cafés represent a grassroots movement, exist all over the world and can vary from place to place. Even the names of Science Cafés vary, including Science on Tap, Science Pub, Ask a Scientist, and Café Sci.” 1

In Nebraska, Science Café is a free educational event sponsored by UNMC and other groups to increase the population’s science literacy. Hosted by UNMC and the Nebraska Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, Science Cafés are held the first Tuesday of each month in Omaha and a few times a year in Lincoln. A small volunteer committee of diverse disciplines plan the schedule and invite the speakers. Science Cafés provide an opportunity for everyone (21 and older) to have a face-to-face conversation with a scientist about current science topics. A science café’s casual meeting place, plain language, and inclusive conversation foster a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for people with no science background to participate. Each meeting is organized around an interesting topic of conversation. The guest scientist gives a brief presentation followed by a question and answer period. 2

In 2008, the Mini Medical School Community program through UNMC was discontinued. UNMC identified a need for community education and engagement about science-related topics. Bob Bartee, Vice Chancellor for External Affairs, convened a small group of faculty and staff to brainstorm potential ways to meet this need. Kacie Gerard, Public Relations, presented the Science Café concept, which she had learned about at a conference. Kacie Gerard, and Linda Sather, College of Nursing, were then tasked with the creation of a work group to plan and implement the Science Café concept. This workgroup has participants from the College of Public Health, Allied Health, College of Nursing, College of Dentistry, just to name a few.

Since 2009, this work group has met to plan the Science Café events in Omaha, and Lincoln. In Omaha, the music and entertainment venue, the Slowdown, graciously donates space each month for the Science Café to have speakers and question and answer sessions. Nebraskans for Life Saving Cures provides free pizza for the first 50 attendees for the Omaha cafes. The Slowdown accommodates a full house during the Science Cafés (100-200 people). In 2009, the Science Café through UNMC has expanded to holding events in Lincoln, NE at venues such as red9, the Marriott, Brewsky’s, and now Vega. The Lincoln Science Cafes are typically held every two to three months, and like the Omaha Cafes, food is provided for the first 50 attendees.

Over the past five years the Science Café program has had a variety of speakers and topics. Below are a few from Public Health:

  • Ali Khan, M.D., Dean, College of Public Health, UNMC; “Ebola”
  • Shawn Gibbs, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Department of Environmental, Agricultural & Occupational Health in the College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center; “Environmental Hazards”
  •  Kendra Schmid, Ph.D., Assistant professor of biostatistics in the UNMC College of Public Health; “The Science of Attractiveness”

This article was written by Rachel Fortney, Kacie Gerard, Linda Sather, and Denise H. Britigan.



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