Public Science Cafe

Education’s Ecology knows no bounds. Experience and engagement are primary but vicarious glimpses into the work of scientists is not only enlightening but may be motivational. At least it can provide insight about the thinking that goes into good science. Public Science Cafes are a path that anyone can follow.

Science on Tap in Ashland WI has been a longstanding and enormous success by almost any standard. This has been amazing to witness from both near and far. The beginning was the result of a conversation with Mary Kay Bates, a microbiologist who grew up in Ashland, left for Madison and returned to Duluth with her husband, UMD Professor, Paul Bates, PhD. Science On Tap would not have happened but for her vision and leadership.

My meeting Mary Kay was certainly serendipitous. Her father Dr. Joe Koehler (MD) was a neighbor and friend of Dr. Fred Tidstrom (DDS) with whom I collaborated on an economic development initiative supporting innovation. Fred and I arranged, through the Wisconsin Technology Council, for a small group of high school students to visit the University Research Park in Madison and tour several companies there including Mirus Bio where Mary Kay was working with cutting edge molecular biology. Mirus Bio was a collaborative brain-child of Dr. Jim Hagstrom (PhD), another Ashland HS graduate. About a year later, after moving to Dulth, Mary Kay told me about her engagement with Science On Tap in Madison. We both agreed that the South Shore Brewery in Ashland would be a perfect venue. The brewery’s entrepreneur Bo Belanger enthusiastically agreed and the first presentation happened in March 2011 featuring Dr. Randy Lehr (PhD) then of Northland College in Ashland. Jim Hagstrom was the second speaker a month later and the rest is history.

It now strikes me as worthwhile to consider finding a location in Minneapolis and/or St. Paul that would fill the bill for a similar venture here. The specification for a venue would include a Tap Room with sandwiches and a semi-isolated space, suitable AV for presenters, and perhaps voice amplification. This may also be a potential for creation of some public access programming and a training opportunity for aspirants for careers in video production. This would entail dealing with sound equipment for both the speaker and for questioners.

It will now be possible to follow a topic-line established in Ashland as a guide for recruiting speakers in Minneapolis from the ranks of UMN and Private College faculty and graduate students as well as talented and enthusiastic high school teachers. I’ll be looking for collaborators so if you are interested, call soon (218) 348-3325 or email me.