Science & Technology

Brave New World: USU's Science Unwrapped Goes Virtual Friday, Sept. 25

By Mary-Ann Muffoletto |

Science Unwrapped returns Friday, Sept. 25, with 'Meme Menace,' featuring speaker Nick Flann, associate professor in USU’s Department of Computer Science. The talk is broadcast at 7 p.m. via AggieCast. All are welcome.

A funny thing happened on the way to presenting Science Unwrapped’s 2020-21 “Brave New World” series. That’s funny-strange, not funny-humorous.

We’ll get back to that story, but what YOU need to know is the Utah State University College of Science’s popular public outreach program returns Friday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m. online via AggieCast. Featured speaker is USU computer scientist Nick Flann, who presents, “Meme Menace: How Disinformation Spreads on Social Media.”

“What a time we’re living in and how different circumstances appear than just six months ago,” says Greg Podgorski, Science Unwrapped chair and associate dean in the College of Science. “What hasn’t changed is our college’s excitement about bringing you science learning fun.”

In Fall 2019, when the Science Unwrapped Committee, comprised of faculty members representing diverse scientific disciplines, planned the 2020-21 series, no one was thinking of behind-the-wheel nasal swabs, the mid-17th century origins of the word “quarantine” or repeatedly uttering, “You’re on mute.”

“The 90th anniversary of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian classic, “Brave New World,” is approaching and we thought it would be ‘fun’ to explore some ominous themes of science in society,” Podgorski says. “Little did we know some of these topics would be all-too-real.”

Yet, the committee pressed on.

“We planned a fascinating series with a range of dynamic speakers,” Podgorski says. “Our topics range from privacy and security in a world of big data to genetic engineering, medical ethics and, yes, vaccine development. You’ll definitely find these topics timely and, we hope, thought-provoking.”

As always, Science Unwrapped’s free monthly presentations will include a talk, a question-and-answer period and learning activities.

“Interaction is a hallmark of Science Unwrapped,” Podgorski says. “The point of Science Unwrapped is to, after all, ‘unwrap’ or demystify science by allowing our guests to ask lots of questions of scientists and talk with them about their work.”

Things are different this year, for sure, but the committee is striving to retain the program’s interactive elements for inquiring minds of all ages.

“Our presentations will begin with a recorded talk via AggieCast, followed by a live, online Q&A session,” Podgorski says. “We’ll also have video learning activities on our website, prepared by our student, faculty, staff and community volunteers, for our guests to enjoy from home.”

The schedule for Science Unwrapped’s 2020-21 “Brave New World” series is:

  • Friday, Sept. 25: “Meme Menace: How Disinformation Spreads on Social Media,” Nick Flann, computer scientist
  • Friday, Oct. 23: “Cyber Security,” team from Idaho National Laboratory
  • Friday, Nov. 13: To be announced
  • Friday, Jan. 22: “Vaccine Fears,” Thayne Sweeten, neurobiologist
  • Friday, Feb. 19: “Genetic Engineering,” Ryan Jackson, biochemist
  • Friday, March 19: “Surveillance: Privacy vs. Public Safety,” Jeanie Johnson, political scientist
  • Friday, April 16: “Medical Ethics,” Andy Anderson, human physiologist and medical ethicist

For more information, call 435-797-3517, visit the Science Unwrapped website or view the ‘Science Unwrapped at USU’ Facebook page.

Science Unwrapped, the USU College of Science's public outreach program, kicks off its 2020-21 'Brave New World’ series at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 25 via AggieCast. Featured speaker is computer scientist Nick Flann, who presents ‘Meme Menace.’


Mary-Ann Muffoletto
Public Relations Specialist
College of Science


Greg Podgorski
Associate Dean for Undergraduates, Science Unwrapped Chair
College of Science

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