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.





Nerd Nite No. 57: Estuarine History! H.P. Lovecraft! Thundercats!

It’s Nerd Nite time again! And, oh man, what a great one we have for you!

The specifics:

“Lovecraft: A Life of Terror” by Daniel Sanford

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is one of the most influential writers of horror fiction in the 20th century, with his works inspiring games, movies, and other writers. The Cthulhu mythos today is one of the most recognized geek icons, but who was the man behind these stories? Find out who H.P. Lovecraft was, why his work still resonates with people today, and where it can be found in popular culture.

Bio: Daniel Sanford is a systems administrator and former librarian. No evidence has ever been found that the was involved in the Area 51 sightings, or alien abductions. As a lifelong fan of science fiction he can be found discussing the effectiveness of imaginary technologies at your local pub.


“Up Your Estuary: A Journey of Historical Proportions Along the Delaware River” by Hal Taylor

Who found the Delaware River…and who named it? What is an oily fish good for? Did anything worthwhile ever come out of Camden, New Jersey? These and other burning questions will be answered during this illustrated symposium. You’ll meet the earliest explorers of the Delaware Valley, some of its most famous, infamous and colorful inhabitants, and visit various locations along 300 miles of riverfront and 400 years of history.

BIO: Hal Taylor has been a graphic artist for over 30 years, spending much of the lastfour of them researching, writing and creating artwork for his book “The Illustrated Delaware River: The History of a Great American River”. Trained as a typographer, Hal began developing his own custom lettering and logo designs and has developed over seven different original type designs which are available at a variety of online sources including and He has also been an instructor of typography and graphic design at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“Hear the Roar: The Living Nightmare of Thundercats LIVE!” by Jon Vigile

Through its 60+ year life span, The Philadelphia Civic Center and Convention Hall played host to all kinds of people and events. Before the Spectrum was constructed in South Philadelphia or the Convention Center took up residence in Chinatown, the Civic Center was hosting the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, The Beatles, Pope John Paul II and Smokin’ Joe Frasier. For one weekend in 1987, the Civic Center hosted Thundercats LIVE!, a stage show so forgettable that it barely exists on the Internet … and as we are all painfully aware of the fact that EVERYTHING exists on the Internet.

Bio: Jon Vigile works in the healthcare information technology field and just so happens to be a pop culture specialist and collector of all things plastic. He is the editor, which is your destination for nerd news, nostalgia and colorful metaphors. If it were a thing he would be a court certified expert in Big Trouble in Little China, and thanks to his daughters knows far too much about My Little Pony than he likes to admit in public.

With Music by The Means

Wednesday, February 3rd. 7:30 pm., $5
(Doors open at 4, we recommend arriving early to ensure you get a good seat).
Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19125

Be There And Be Square, Yo.

Nerd Nite No. 56: Books Made from Skin, Bubble Boy, Planes and Chiptune Music!

It’s our first Nerd Nite of 2016! YAY!

Show starts at 7:30; cover is $5. Here’s what we have in store:

Beth Lander, Librarian & Archivisit for the College of Physicians of Philadelphia/Mutter Museum, with “”The Skin She Lived In”

Chris Cummins, Pop Culture enthusiast & Archie Comic Historian, with “The Tragic Story Of The Boy In The Plastic Bubble”

Mike Ceriello, Boeing Engineer, with “Blowing Hot Air: The Science of Wind Tunnels”

Plus, chiptune music by Kris Keyser!

We will see you tonight at Frankford Hall (1210 Frankford Ave. Phila., PA 19125). As always, we recommend arriving early to get a good seat.