STEM Café: Is social media frying your brain?

STEM Cafe logo: Feed your mind!NIU’s STEM Café for June promises a lively debate on the good, the bad, and the ugly of social networking.

“This is Your Brain on Social Networking” will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 28, at Taxco Restaurant in Sycamore. Biologist Melissa Scotti and educational technologist Kristen Brynteson will discuss what’s new on social media and the brain.

Sponsored by NIU STEM Outreach, which delivers off-campus programs and on-campus activities designed to increase science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) literacy, this monthly event is free and open to the public.

STEM Cafes originated in Europe, where they are called Café Scientifique. These events are designed as fun, casual gatherings where adults can eat, drink and chat with STEM professionals about current topics in science.

Food and drinks are available for purchase at host restaurants.

Similar Café Scientifique events have attracted large audiences across the country and world, said Judith Dymond of NIU Outreach, who is coordinating the NIU STEM Cafés.

“The events are fun,” Dymond said, “but they have a purpose, too, in helping to demystify science and technology and raise scientific literacy.”

Scotti and Brynteson will deliver a 30-minute talk followed by an hour-long question-and-answer session.
Scotti received her Ph.D. in biology at Indiana University, Bloomington, with a focus on physiology and behavior. She is conducting grant-related research at NIU.

Scotti says she will address “whether Facebook depression is real, whether social networking is a useful tool for introverted teens, and whether social networking affects the psychological state.”

Social media logosBrynteson is an NIU doctoral candidate who explores how online communities can be used for learning.

“When you mention Facebook or Twitter, most people have an immediate reaction. They love it, they hate it or they just don’t get it,” Brynteson said. “I want to help people understand what social media and networking are and how they change us, especially the way we connect and interact with one another.”

“Our STEM Outreach has been highly successful with students across the region. Through STEM Cafes we are engaging adults in friendly conversations with NIU STEM scientists on the latest scientific issues,” said Patricia Sievert, NIU STEM Outreach director. “The first STEM Café in May on pseudo-science attracted more than 50 adults, who enjoyed the discussion and Taxco’s cuisine.”

NIU’s STEM Café for July – “The Trouble with Asian Carp,” with expert Vic Santucci from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources – is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, at Tapa La Luna restaurant in DeKalb.

For more information, call (815) 753-4751 or email jdymond@niu.edu.

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