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Darwin party earns national recognition for Lehigh’s Sigma Xi chapter



Assistant professor of biological sciences Sean Mullen presents at last February's award-winning Darwin’s Birthday Party.

The Lehigh University chapter of Sigma Xi’s 199th birthday celebration for Charles Darwin has earned a Sigma Xi Chapter Program Award for distinguished performance for 2007-2008.

Sigma Xi is an international, multidisciplinary research society dedicated to the advancement of science and engineering through its programs and services. The organization has chapters at nearly every major college and university and publishes the popular science magazine American Scientist.

Sigma Xi’s Program Award recognizes initiatives which address the four cornerstones of the society’s mission: honor in science and engineering, science education, science policy and the public understanding of science.

The Lehigh chapter was recognized for organizing a multidisciplinary mini-symposium “Darwin’s Birthday Party.” The event, held February 20, 2008, marked Charles Darwin’s 199th birthday with a celebration of his lasting influence on science and society.

Lehigh faculty speakers each explained Darwin’s impact on their respective fields, including assistant professor of biological sciences Sean Mullen; Ed Evenson, professor of earth and environmental sciences; Mark Bickhard, professor of philosophy; James Dearden, professor of economics; and university chaplain and professor of religion studies Lloyd Steffen. The event culminated in a birthday-cake, candle-lighting ceremony and follow-up discussion by attendees.

“The prestigious award that our chapter received was given to only five chapters out of the approximately 500 that exist,” said John Nyby, professor of biological sciences, president of the Lehigh chapter, and organizer/master of ceremonies for the event.

The event was co-sponsored by the departments of biological sciences, earth and environmental sciences, philosophy, economics, religion studies, and the Chaplain’s Office. The event was filmed and is available as a free download at the iTunes website (iTunes University, keyword: Darwin).

Sigma Xi has been a mainstay at Lehigh since the 1920s when it formed as only the 48th chapter of the now international organization. Currently about 140 full members and about 60 associate members make up the Lehigh chapter which each semester sponsors several public talks of broad and topical interest by local scientists and engineers. Last year the chapter also co-sponsored the Lehigh undergraduate research conference organized by chemistry professor Keith Schray, as well as the recent celebration and publication of a book of abstracts of graduate student research published by the Graduate Student Senate.

“In a world increasingly impacted by science and technology, the need for informed leadership in our communities and neighborhoods is great,” said Carol Beck, chair of the committee on qualifications and membership for Sigma Xi, who noted in the award letter that the Lehigh chapter is helping to create this kind of leadership.

--Tricia Long


Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2009

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