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Science on Tap lectures: A beer, a hot science topic and did we mention beer?

Let’s face it. Science topics can sometimes be cold, sterile and boring.

Until you add beer and popcorn to the mix. Which is what a Portland lecture series does to make science exciting and fun. It's called Science on Tap.

Take a crowd, add, say, a professor of metabolic chemistry and a frothy IPA and you've got the basic idea behind the Science on Tap lecture series at the Clinton Street Theater.

“Science education is important for everybody, but especially adults. And my assumption is that many adults haven't had any science education since they were in high school or maybe college,” said Amanda Thomas, organizer of the lecture series through Via Productions. “We give you a beer, or you can drink a beer while you're sitting here and listen to somebody talk in regular terms without a lot of jargon.”

Thomas says the series is designed to lower the barriers that might limit people's ability to learn about science. She's been running similar lecture talks for about 10 years, the past 4 with Science on Tap.

“People want to know how to improve their lives and we give them an opportunity how to do that while they're drinking a beer and having a good time,” Thomas said. “If you can learn something cool and have a good time doing it, that information is going to stick in your brain even better than if you were forced to memorize the periodical table of elements.”

Reed College assistant professor of chemistry Kelly Chacon (cha-cone) spoke earlier this week about the role of metals in our bodies, the environment and in the fight against the superbug during her lecture.

“This was an enormous challenge because what I want to do is not get lost in the weeds,” Chacon said. “I think a lot of time science it's too easy to get bogged down by details, but I also want to be accurate.

“This actually brings us -- the public and scientist -- kind of to that same place where we can talk about science over a beer and hopefully have really good conversations.”

Participants -- a survey showed that 60 percent of past attendees were women, 40 percent men -- say it's a stress free, fun way to learn about how science affects our everyday lives in a social setting.

“I just moved to Portland last Wednesday and I was looking for something fun to do and meet people and (be) a little bit social,” said Tara.

Reeve, a high school senior, came as part of a class assignment to attend an outside-of-school lecture.

“I really enjoyed it -- I liked being able to eat popcorn as I learn about science,” she said.

Others said they enjoyed the relaxed, informal nature of the talk -- finding that line where nerdy and cool meet.

The Science on Tap lecture series will continue each month at least through April, tackling such topics as "The Physics of Everyday Life," "Inside the Feline Mind" and "Microbes and the Human Gut."

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