Nerd Nite No. 61: Plant Intelligence, Macrophages, and Park Ranger Life. Plus SKELETOR!

It’s time for another Nerd Nite! Here’s what we have planned for you:

Sophia Seifert, “Plant Intelligence”

Plants are the oldest and most massive organisms on earth. However, our chlorophyll-filled friends are able to do much more than just grow big and old: they can communicate, share, and even remember. We will explore some of the amazing things that the earliest land-dwellers can do and, in the process, challenge what it means to be intelligent.

BIO: Sophia has spent the better part of the last decade as a science teacher in Philadelphia’s public and charter schools. While in the classroom, she wrote and delivered an interdisciplinary middle school curriculum called Science and Society that explored everything from the neuroscience of mindfulness to (you guessed it) organic gardening and food security. These days, Sophia works at the Philadelphia School Partnership supporting collaboration between schools and at Penn Graduate School of Education training new science teachers.

Ritama Gupta, “White Blood Cells and Red Blood Cells : A Love Story”

A type of white blood cell called Macrophages have long been revered in the scientific world as superhuman defenders of the body. They eat up germs that invade us and keep us healthy. But recent research reveals a new identity for these cells. Macrophages are also essential for red blood cells, the cells that carry oxygen in your body. We dug deeper and looked into the genome of these cells. Turns out the genes are telling an interesting story, and we’re listening.

BIO: Ritama is currently pursuing her PhD in Immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University. She recently moved with her lab to the department of Hematology of the Children’s hospital of Philadelphia at University of Pennsylvania. A lot of her research is primarily on mice, investigating hematological disorders and sequencing the RNA of macrophages in these disorders. She always has her ear out for interesting hematological findings, and she will most definitely swap fun science stories for beer and some good old cider.

Tom Bryan, “Hey Mr. Ranger!”

Pennsylvania Park Ranger Tom Bryan will discuss how to become a ranger, various aspects of the job, and provide lots of anecdotes of daily life on duty.

BIO: Tom Bryan has worked as a ranger for 10 years at the federal and county levels.  He began his career as a visitor use assistant at Hopewell Furnace and Valley Forge national historic sites.  He is currently working for Montgomery County Parks, Trails and Historic sites as a Ranger. He holds current lethal weapons, boating, outdoor education, FEMA and wildland firefighting certifications.

Plus: Entertainment (and evil!) from returning Nerd Nite favorite SKELETOR!

Doors open at 4pm. Show at 7:30pm. We recommend you get there early to ensure getting a good seat!

Wednesday, June 1st
Frankford Hall
1210 Frankford Avenue


Nerd Nite No. 60: Microbes, Political Campaign Memorabilia, Star Wars Collecting

It’s time for another Nerd Nite! Here’s what we have lined up for May:

“Governing Our Guts: On Food And Policing Microbes” by Nicole Welk-Joerger

Current research has suggested we need to think more about the microscopic creatures living inside of us, since they are the ones ultimately determining our weight, and health.  We’ll touch a bit upon this and take one step further – looking at how farmers are worried about the food of our food to better feed *their* microbes.  Get ready for some new meta-relations and meta-language to talk about our food system, and may the fork be with you.
Bio: Nicole Welk-Joerger is currently pursuing her PhD degree in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.  She looks historically and ethnographically at developments in animal nutrition science, spending a lot of time with veterinarians, farmers, and cows.

“A Chicken in Every Pot, and Campaign Memorabilia in Every Garage: The Eerily Relevant History of Presidential Campaigns” by Ben Leach

Presidential campaigns are known for a trail of broken promises and nasty mudslinging, but in the aftermath of our electoral process, centuries worth of souvenirs commemorating the eventual winners and losers of the country’s most important popularity contest have accumulated in the homes of our ancestors. It may not be fun to watch endless coverage of an election today, but for many collectors, these pinback buttons, ribbons, posters, and other artifacts tell a colorful tale about the kind of marketing required to get someone elected to the highest office in the country. Ben Leach, the Ralph Nader of Nerd Nite Philly, takes you through the truly outrageous presidential campaigns of yore and tells their story through images of 100 percent authentic artifacts that may help put the insanity that is the 2016 presidential race into proper historical context.

Bio: Ben Leach is a New Jersey-based science and medical writer. However, he is also a collector of the eclectic and unusual, especially if it’s something that relates to his childhood from the 1980s and 1990s. He has been a published author on collectibles since he was 19, with work appearing in Lee’s Toy Review, Toyfare, and Currently, he operates a website dedicated to antiques and collectibles with his family called The Collector Gene (


“A Star Wars Collecting Overview At Lightspeed” by Paul Harrison

May the Fourth Be With You today with this special presentation in which Star Wars expert Paul Harrison discusses collecting all things related to a galaxy far, far away.

Bio: Paul Harrison is the co-owner of and the co-author of Steven Sansweet’s The Ultimate Action Figure Collection.

Plus! Music by They Might Be Giants cover act James K. Folk.

The details:

Wednesday, April 4th.

Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Avenue in the heart of Fishtown.


7:30pm/doors open at 4pm. We recommend you get there early to ensure that you snag a seat.


Nerd Nite: Philadelphia Science Festival Edition: What It Means To Be Human

The Philadelphia Science Festival and Philly Nerd Nite team up to consider the perennial question of what it means to be human. Join us and some local researchers as we examine this inquiry from a scientific perspective by looking at exciting developments in anthropology, morphology, psychology, neuroscience, and robotics, including brain enhancements, and how robots learn. Though we won’t promise any definitive conclusions, you’re guaranteed to walk away feeling slightly more evolved at the end of the night!

Event Speakers include:
Paul Mitchell, Penn Museum: “Incomplete Evolution: How Culture Made (And Makes) Us Human”
David Yaden, University of Pennsylvania: “The Science of Transcendence”
Matt Zucker, Ph.D., Swarthmore College: ” How Can Robots Tell Us What It Means To Be Human?”

Plus a very special performance from F. Omar Telan: “A Litany on the Death of My Body”

PLEASE NOTE: Tickets are not available online for this event and will be sold at the door for $5! For more information, please visit:

Venue opens at 4:30 pm, Program beings at 7:30 pm. We recommend you get there as soon as possible to ensure that you get a seat.

This event is part of the Philadelphia Science Festival, a citywide celebration of all things science. Learn more:

Plus! Next Wednesday, May 4th is our regular Nerd Nite at Frankford Hall, featuring the following talks:

“Presidential Campaigns Through the Ages” By pop culture historian/Nerd Nite favorite Ben Leach

“May the Fourth Be With You” By Star Wars expert Paul Harrison

And one more talk TBA plus music by James K. Polk!

Nerd Nite No 59: Hydrography, Drosophila, and Mitochondria! Music by Pat Finnerty!

Yo Nerds! Remember to get to this great event early if you want seats, as it’s first come first serve! $5 cover gets you in to hear these talks:

Arindam Basu: “Of head, body, limbs and wings: Lessons learned from the fruit flies.”

Have you ever wondered why we have one head, two feet and two arms or how some babies are born with two heads and four arms? It is all about how those specific genes that produce specific proteins throughout our development. And guess what! We know a lot about us from what goes on within the fruit flies.. Yes, those annoying little flies on our bananas, oranges and grapefruit can substitute humans in research labs. Don’t kill ’em coz the more you know about them, the more you will know about yourself!

BIO: Arindam Basu finished his PhD at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore India and came to UPenn and joined Dr. Michael Atchison’s lab as a postdoc. In the past few years his research has focused on understanding how YY1 facilitates DNA binding by Polycomb group proteins. Later on his focus became long range DNA interaction and chromosome looping during different stages of B cell development.

Suraiya Haroon: “Mitochondria disease: From worms to humans”

The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. When they become dysfunctional, they disrupt bioenergetics and this is felt most severely by high-energy consuming cells: neurons and muscles. In fact, dysfunctional mitochondria are known to cause various neuromuscular diseases in humans. These have been studied in mice but therapies have been difficult to come by. We have developed a worm model that allows us to study the disease (by essentially racing them!) and conduct rapid experiments. Thus far, we have identified exciting new avenues of therapy.

BIO: Suraiya Haroon is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after traversing the field of genetics in Berkeley and Madison. She is a lover of all model organisms, specially yeast, fruitflies, frogs, mice and now worms. Suraiya is always willing to rant about science in exchange for beer, whiskey, cheese or dried meats.

And Laura Guertin: “The Search for Captain America Began with Surveying the Ocean Floor!”

When Captain America crashed the Hydra bomber in the Arctic, how did Howard Stark begin the search? It started on the ocean floor, with hydrographic surveying. Learn how we map our oceans and use existing charts to help with navigation.

BIO: Laura Guertin, or “Dr. G” as her students refer to her, is a marine geologist and teaches at Penn State Brandywine. She is a passionate educator that cares deeply about increasing the scientific literacy of students pursuing non-science degrees. Dr. G loves the outdoors, visiting natural National Parks, geocaching/Earthcaching, and is a #NASASocial alum. Find her on Twitter @guertin and on the web at

Plus local musician Pat Finnerty playing during intermission!

The details:

Wednesday, April 6th.

Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Avenue in the heart of Fishtown.


7:30pm/doors open at 4pm. We recommend you get there early to ensure that you snag a seat.


Nerd Nite No 58: Stem Cell Science, OpenStreetsPHL, and Dr. Mario, Plus Music by Victoria Watts!

Hello! It’s just about time for our next Nerd Nite. And oh, what a lineup we have for you:

Ken Zaret, What’s the Big Deal About Stem Cells?

These tiny cells that were once a taboo topic will soon make a big impact on modern day healthcare, and you should get familiar with them. In this edition of Nerd Nite, Dr. Ken Zaret, Director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, will take you through the basics of stem cells and the new technologies that can help us cure diseases, how cells from your own skin can be used to make all kinds of new tissues, and a recent discovery in his lab that’s making a big wave in the early detection of cancer.

Bio: Kenneth S. Zaret, Ph.D. is the Joseph Leidy Professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. He is also the Director of UPenn’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Zaret did his graduate work on yeast genetics with Dr. Fred Sherman in the Department of Radiation Biology and Biophysics at the University of Rochester and his postdoctoral work on steroid hormone regulation with Dr. Keith Yamamoto in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco.

Nate HommellTalking Open Streets PHL

Most of us are surrounded by poorly served public spaces. How many of us think of streets as public spaces? University City District has developed a series of Placemaking devices fitting under the category “Tactical Urbanism” which we use to gradually improve a block or blocks and get people to care about their public spaces and most importantly, use them! Open Streets PHL strives to remind everyone that our streets are public spaces and there should be multiple Open Streets events each year to further emphasize this.  But how? This talk will introduce (or further explain) the topics to you and detail how we plan to make them happen. I will describe the necessary advocacy work, the outreach, the marketing and media and the need for non-profit status so that we can fundraise! Its not just an event, you have to become an organization.

Bio: Nate Hommel, Director of Planning and Design at University City District, and External Communication Director at OpenStreetsPHL.

Glen Tickle, My Crippling Pill Addiction: A Dr. Mario Story

Glen Tickle is a Dr. Mario virtuoso and is currently in the process of setting the world record for the game. He will talk about his history with the game, the psychology of people who set world records, and why he’s so freaking good at stacking colored pills.

Bio: Glen Tickle is a comedian and writer who focuses primarily on jokes about his daughter, science, and his very dumb (very real) name. He has written for Pretending to be on TV, The Flighty Ducks, and Lexington Compost, but is proudest of his work on a series of jokes for his daughter’s toy robot Mr. Toyboto.

Plus! Music by returning Nerd Nite favorite Victoria Watts.

This is going to be a great one, so you aren’t going to want to miss it.

The details:

Wednesday, March 2nd.

Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Avenue in the heart of Fishtown.


7:30pm/doors open at 4pm. We recommend you get there early to ensure that you snag a seat.