Nerdin About Pod: Güt for your Health

A new episode of the Nerdin’ About Pod drops tomorrow with Desiree Neilsen, Rd. Episode here.

Open any social media app, and you’re bound to be bombarded with ads and images of “wellness”. But can our health be hyped by adding or removing a single food? What’s the science behind gluten and could a sprinkle of something special support your thyroid? Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietician, is here to debunk some diet myths and share how taking a more holistic approach rather than subscribing to the latest fad will be more beneficial to our health. A transcript of the episode can be found here:

Find Desiree on her website or on Instagram @desireenielsenrd

Check out Desiree’s podcast The Allsorts Podcast, which covers nutrition science with a roster of very cool guests.

Or try some recipes from Desiree’s cookbook “Eat More Plants” for nutrition-packed plant goodness.

Also mentioned in this episode: Ask an Astronomer with Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn and the Maintenance Phase podcast.

Nerdin’ About Season 3 Launches October 6th

The Nerdin’ About Podcast is back with Season 3! This season we are bringing you ten more conversations with scientists, creators, policy nerds, wildlife detectives, and storytellers. We’ll also be bringing back one of our favourite aspect of in-person events: GIVEAWAYS!

Follow @NerdNIteYVR on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for updates on episodes and to participate in this season’s giveaways.

A big thank you to all of you in the Nerd Herd who have continued to support Nerd Nite by listening to the pod. We’re so grateful to you and this community!

Art by Armin Mortazavi

Nerdin’ About Live

It’s been over one year since Nerd Nite Vancouver cancelled their last show in March 2020. But as the saying goes: one door closes and another socially distanced door opens, as the event has turned into a podcast. Now in its second season, Nerdin’ About features conversations with scientists, artists, educators, creators, and overall pretty amazing people about their work and interests.

Join us live for a gathering of three guests from Season 1. Dr. Sam Yammine aka Science Sam from our very first episode on communicating about COVID-19, Pramodh Senarath Yapa from episode 8 on superfluids and helium, and Kim Senklip Harvey from episode 9 an Indigenous storyteller on decolonizing theatre.

We’ll get updates on their work, share what we’ve been nerding out about lately, and you’ll be able to ask questions. Most of all we’ll be doing what Nerd Nite has always been about – learning together and building community!

When: May 12th 2021 @ 6 – 7PM PST

Where: The Interwebs – Link to be shared to registered participants

Tickets: Eventbrite

In lieu of a ticket, if you are able we ask that you donate what you can to the BC Cancer Foundation (or your local organization). This request is made in support of our friend, colleague, and Nerdin’ About Season 2 guest Dr. Greg Bole who has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.


Dr. Samantha Yammine (she/her) is a neuroscientist and science communicator. Samantha earned her PhD from the University of Toronto studying stem cells and the brain. Over the past year Samantha has been communicating about COVID-19 using social media. Sam is also a co-founder of Science is a Drag, and helped launch #ScienceUpFirst, a social media movement to counter misinformation around COVID-19.

Kim Senklip Harvey (she/her) is a proud Syilx and Tsilhqot’in and is an Indigenous Theorist and Cultural Evolutionist. Kim is interested in Indigenous artistic works dismantling and troubling colonial systems and honouring artistic epistemologies confronting imperial art practice whilst contributing to present day cultural creations. Especially those activating and nourishing Indigenous power by centering joy, Indigenous love and sovereign creative processes. She has a particular focus on the resurgence of Indigenous Matriarchal led methodologies and stories with emancipatory journeys. Kim has her Master in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria.

Pramodh Senarath Yapa (he/him) is a Theoretical Condensed Matter Physicist and PhD student. Pramodh studies the properties of matter when it is cooled to near absolute zero, and explores how quantum mechanics leads to the formation of new states of matter. In 2019, Pramodh was chosen as the winner of the Dance Your PhD competition sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his swing-dancing rendition of electron behaviour, “Superconductivity: The Musical!”.

Introducing “Nerdin’ About”, a Nerd Nite Vancouver Pod

Nerd Herd Assemble (Remotely)!!

Although we may all be apart (a minimum of 2m apart to be exact) we are still in this together! We’ve been wanting to start a Nerd Nite Vancouver podcast for a while to catch up with past speakers and connect with more amazing nerds everywhere. Introducing the Nerd Nite Vancouver Podcast: “Nerdin’ About”.

We’ve got questions, and nerds have answers! Fuelled by a curiosity to understand the world around us – from the critters beneath our feet to the far reaches of the galaxy – Nerdin’ About is a podcast where passionate nerds tell us about their research, their interests, and what they’ve been Nerdin’ About lately. A spin-off of Nerd Nite Vancouver, Nerdin’ About is here to explore these questions with you. Listen to episodes of Nerdin’ About on podbean or anywhere you get your podcasts. You can also find transcripts of each episode on our website.

Is there a past speaker you’d love to hear from again? Anyone you think we should interview? Slide on into our DMs and let us know.

We miss you! Be well nerds.

Nerd Nite v51: The Speculum, Pufferfish, and the Language Behind Insults

Have you ever heard a phrase and wondered – where the heck did that come from? What’s the history behind this? For example, have you been telling people they’re a “shoo-in” thinking it’s referring to shoes? Nerd Nite co-boss Kaylee certainly has. It turns out that this phrase actually originated from horse racing in the 1920s, where a horse was urged on to win by “shooing” it, often referring specifically to cases where a race was fixed so that all the horse needed to do was be waved across the finish line. Today, the term is used to refer to those who are well liked or destined to win, and we think we’ve got three shoo-in talks for you this coming March 18th! Join us to learn about the history of the speculum, the language behind insults. And round it all off with some beautiful images and fun facts about pufferfish!

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday February 26th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

Music by: DJ Burger


1. The History of the Speculum

Jacqueline Seppelt

Most people who have visited a gynaecologist have met the vaginal speculum, the duck-billed medical instrument used to hold open the vagina during a pelvic exam. Today, the speculum is used to diagnose, treat, and take swabs from the cervix and vagina. Most individuals would agree that these medical examinations are pretty awkward and go on without any sexual tension. However, that wasn’t the case when the vaginal speculum was reintroduced to modern medicine during the 19th-century. The vaginal speculum has a dramatic history filled with sexual accusations and questionable professional integrity. This history continues to have implications on the people behind the vaginas it meets today.

Bio: Jacqueline is an undergraduate student pursuing her BA in Sociology at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include sexuality, gender inequality, and women’s health. She also enjoys learning about the vagina, and applying her sociological lens to the social issues surrounding reproductive and sexual health. Jacqueline is by no means an expert on the vaginal speculum, but she worked very hard on a research paper about it and would like to share it with the world outside of academia.


2. The Fascinating world of… Pufferfish

Amy Liu 

The pufferfish might be considered an overlooked fish… But watch out- the pufferfish can inflate up to three times their size and is considered the second most poisonous vertebrate on Earth, and yet, its flesh is considered a delicacy in certain parts of the world. Here’s a lesser known fact: Pufferfish are very curious and intelligent. They can be taught tricks, learn to memorize different shapes and patterns, and recognize their owners. They have also made their names both in culture and science, from ingredients in the infamous Haitian Zombie Powder to being the first vertebrate to have their whole genomes sequenced (Completed 4 years before humans!). Their relatives include the great Mola mola, the spiny porcupinefish, and the interestingly shaped boxfish. Learning about the fascinating world of Pufferfish helps understand the diversity of these amazing animals, and the challenges they are facing.

Bio: Amy Liu (she/they) is a self-proclaimed pufferfish (family Tetraodontiformes) enthusiast, and a masters student studying fish genetics at The University of British Columbia. Always drawn to the fascinating fishy science, Amy has worked closely with both fish and people at the Vancouver Aquarium, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, Parks Canada, and local aquarium stores. If there was a happy place on earth for them, it would be going back to snorkel in Belize, happily swimming with the puffers in the blue ocean.


3. F*ckpuffins and sh*tgibbons: the secret life of new swearwords

Anne-Michelle Tessier

By the time you’re an adult, you’ve had decades of experience with your native language’s words and sound patterns, and you can use that amazingly fine-tuned linguistic experience to perform advanced tasks like inventing new obscene insults for your least favorite people on the internet. As it turns out, English-speaking people have fairly consistent intuitions about which swear words sounds best — but those intuitions rely on our unconscious knowledge of English, and they come from a variety of cognitive sources and biases. What are those sources and biases? Where do they come from? And why is it so satisfying to call someone a sh*tgibbon? … The science of linguistics has answers, and there’s a lot of terrific obscenity along the way.

Bio: Anne-Michelle Tessier just joined the UBC Linguistics faculty in 2019. She received her BA from McGill University and her Ph.D. from UMass Amherst; she has also held professorships at the University of Alberta, the University of Michigan and Simon Fraser. Most of her work focuses on how children learn to sound like native speakers of their language(s) — e.g. why they sometimes say ‘lellow pitchiks’ instead of ‘yellow pictures’ — but sh*tgibbons are one of her favorite professional hobbies.

Nerd Nite v.50 Space Poop, Movie Making, and Our Drinking Water

Nerd Nite Vancouver is a lot like the sugar molecule sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide meaning that it is made up of two molecules – glucose and fructose. Your Nerd Nite hosts are much the same – while they’re both nerd molecules, they’re passionate about very different things but are stuck together by the glycosidic bond that is Nerd Nite. And that sweet little bond has now existed for 6 years! So, we’ll be celebrating our 6 year Nerdiversary and 50th event with a little sugar! Joining us for our anniversary show are three amazing nerds, who will be talking about water, space poop, and film making. Celebrate your 50th with us and bring your sweet tooth (teeth?).

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday February 26th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

Music by: DJ Burger


1.  “Astroplastic: From Colon to Colony” aka Plastic from Space Poop

Alina Kunitskaya

Waste management and the development of on-site manufacturing capabilities are two major challenges for future manned missions to Mars. To address both challenges, “Astroplastic” process was developed to turn astronauts’ fecal waste into bioplastic using genetically engineered bacteria. The produced bioplastic could be used to 3D print tools for astronauts. This talk will explore why recycling of waste and providing on-site manufacturing capabilities will be crucial for long-duration human spaceflight and how the “Astroplastic” project aims to address these challenges. The speaker will share personal experiences of conducting space-related research including experiencing microgravity on a parabolic flight (aka “Vomit Comet”) and making a poop simulant based on a recipe from NASA.

Bio: Since high school, Alina’s dream has been to become an astronaut. With no clear career path to becoming an astronaut, Alina has focused on finding a field she is passionate about and striving to excel in that field. She graduated with a BSc in Chemical Engineering with Biomedical Engineering specialization from the University of Calgary. Her passion for solving space exploration challenges led to her involvement in developing a process to recycle astronauts’ fecal waste into 3D-printable bioplastics, developing and flying a scientific payload in microgravity, developing an oxygen production process on Mars, and completing a simulated sub-orbital spaceflight in a centrifuge-based flight simulator to help scientists examine the physiological and psychological impacts of g-forces associated with spaceflight. Alina is currently pursuing a MASc degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of British Columbia focusing on bioprocess development for cell-based therapies with a goal of completing a PhD in this discipline. Learn more about her projects at and by following her on Twitter at @akunitsk.

2. “The Why, What and How of Movie-Making”

Ed Douglas

Bio: Ed Douglas is a videogame developer and filmmaker from Vancouver, BC, with passion for sci-fi and an obsession with astrophysics. He’s worked on some great game series like Mass Effect and Need for Speed, and some terrible movies like “Lightning: Bolts of Destruction” (where killer lightning chases our heroes while scientists come to the rescue), and “Belly of the Beast” (where Steven Seagal chases his career straight into the direct-to-DVD bin). After ambling around the world telling stories with companies like EA and Ubisoft, he’s back in BC refocusing back on film & TV.”

3. A User’s Guide to Water in Vancouver

Alan Shapiro 

What exactly is (and isn’t) in your tap water? How does bottled water compare? Why do we keep hearing about boil water advisories, lead contamination, and chemicals with multiple syllable names, and what does it all mean for you? In this talk, Alan will explore all these topics, as well as the age-old question: “How long does it take to boil a cup of water by shouting at it?”

Bio: Alan Shapiro is a water, sustainability, and science communication professional who spends much of his time thinking and drinking water. Alan is the co-founder of Science Slam Canada and Scientific Communications Manager at STEMCELL Technologies. He is an instructor at SFU and BCIT and an advisor for Toronto’s Climate Ventures Earth Tech incubator.

Nerd Nite v. 49: Waterslides, Oil Tankers, and Predator-Prey Relationships

When you were young, did you spend your summers zooming down waterslides? We remember days where our calves ached from climbing stairs, and sore bums from well… you know. And, if you were like us, you also stared at those slides and thought “How are these things made? And, is it going to disassemble while I’m on it?”. Today, we spend more of our summer days staring out at the oil tankers lining the shore, or watching seagulls dive down to retrieve waste left behind by tourists on Granville Island, but we maintain that curiousity about the things around us! So, splash into a New Year with us to learn about all three: waterslides, oil tankers, and predator-prey relationships.

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday January 22nd; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

Music by: DJ Burger

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1. Ecology

Zachary Sherker 

An array of opportunistic foragers (e.g. brown trout, Caspian terns, double-crested cormorants, common mergansers, river otters, mink, Pacific harbour seals) are suspected of preying on salmon smolts in rivers and estuaries during their outmigration from natal streams. These predators may account, in part, for the poor survival to adulthood in Salish Sea salmon populations. However, there is another piscivore predator that has been left off the list of usual suspects-the Pacific great blue heron. We investigated the role that herons may be playing in the decline of salmon by estimating rates of mortality caused by herons on wild and hatchery-reared smolts implanted with PIT tags in the Cowichan River, Big Qualicum River, and Capilano River from 2008-2018. We scanned under the nests at local heron rookeries (within 35 km of the river systems) using a Biomark IS1001 mobile array and recovered over 1,200 smolt tags in fecal remains under the nests, representing annual minimum predation estimates of 1-3% in all rivers. The distribution and timing of tag depositions under the nests indicated that most herons take part in salmon smolt predation and that consumption takes place during the chick-rearing phase of the breeding season. Predation occurred primarily in the lower river or upper estuary and was highest in years of critically low river flow. Smaller salmon smolts were significantly more susceptible to heron predation in all systems and predation rates were comparable between wild and hatchery-reared smolts. Recovering so many tags at heron rookeries was not expected and indicates that blue herons are a major predator of wild and hatchery-reared juvenile salmon. The location of heron rookeries relative to salmon bearing rivers is likely a good predictor of the impact on local salmon runs, and a potential means to assess coast-wide effects of great blue herons on salmon recovery.

Bio: Zachary is completing an MSc at UBC investigating freshwater and estuarine predation on juvenile salmon during their out-migration from natal rivers and works as a part-time contract biologist in the lower mainland. Prior to coming out west, Zach completed an interdisciplinary BSc in Aquatic Resources and Biology at St. F.X. University in Antigonish, N.S. During his undergraduate degree, Zach ran field and lab experiments to explore predator-induced phenotypic plasticity in intertidal blue mussels exposed to the waterborne cues of a drilling predator snail. He also conducted biological surveys on lobster fishing boats and worked as a fisheries observer for the offshore commercial snow crab fleet.

2. Waterslides

Shane Jensen

You may have enjoyed waterslides around Vancouver or West Edmonton Mall. However, you’ll only find the best ones in larger or warmer cities.

This talk will cover some of the basics required to be a good waterslide tester, some aspects of waterslide design, and recommendations for how to enjoy a world-class waterpark experience.

Bio: Shane is a professional mechanical engineer whose career transitioned from submarine designer to waterslide tester. He is currently a product manager for waterslides at WhiteWater West.

3. Oil Tankers 101

Kayla Glynn 

When you hear tankers, what comes to mind? Oil tankers are a hot topic in Vancouver. They’re in the news all the time and everyone has an opinion on how safe they are, or what risks they pose. However, many don’t know the basics. Get the facts. Learn the information you need to be informed and join the conversation on marine safety.

Bio: Kayla is an ocean enthusiast. She earned her Masters in Marine Management at Dalhousie University, studying compensation for environmental damage caused by ship-source oil spills. Passionate about sharing her knowledge of the ocean with others, Kayla’s shifted her focus to the realm of science communication to help more people foster a deeper relationship with science and the ocean. Kayla now works as a producer at The Story Collider, a non-profit dedicated to sharing true, personal stories about science, where she hosts live storytelling events and leads workshops on behalf of the organization. Follow her at @kaylamayglynn and catch her live on the Story Collider stage on February 11th, 2020!

Nerd Nite Solstice Spectacular

With only one month left in 2019, it’s time to celebrate Nerd Nites past. Join us for our 3rd annual Solstice Spectacular – a night of shenanigans, sasquatch and science! We’ve invited all of 2019’s Nerd Nite speakers to join us and we’re hoping you’ll join in too! Come and mingle, grab a drink, and watch past speakers and audience members play “Powerpoint Karaoke,” where presenters are given 5 minutes to present using a slide deck they haven’t seen before. Want to play? Put your name in a hat to present and win prizes! And true to Nerd Nite tradition, this Solstice will feature special guest speaker Jay Ingram (host of Discovery Channel’s ‘Daily Planet’, CBC’s ‘Quirks and Quarks’, and author of the book series ‘The Science of Why?) who will be delving into the complex science of the impacts of climate change on the sasquatch. THESE ARE THE BIG QUESTIONS EVERYONE!

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday December 18th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

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Nerd Nite v.48 Geo Mapping, Dinosaur Dentistry, and the Future of Work

Hold onto your butts everyone because we’re back with a stellar lineup of talks about dinosaur dentition, post-prison consultation, and lake sonar mapping on November 20th. Fun fact: on this same day in 1889, Edwin Hubble was born. Hubble contributed to the Hubble-Lamaitre Law that implies that the universe is expanding (EXPANDING INTO WHAT screams Kaylee) and discovered that all those clouds of space dust were actually galaxies past the Milky Way. And while Hubble has a NASA telescope named after him, and his birthdate is listed in “Celebrity Birthdays on November 20th”, someone who receives far less attention (and who is not famously known as an asshole) is Henrietta Leavitt. Leavitt has been described as “the woman who gave us a universal ruler” and whose work was foundational to Hubble’s discovery of galaxies. While working as one of many data-crunching “computers” at Harvard University, she also used star brightness and variability of that brightness to determine a star’s distance from earth. It’s her observation and calculations which allowed us to convert our view of the night sky from 2D to 3D. So, this Nerd Nite, let’s raise a glass (or two) to a woman whose work was largely overlooked, learn about other novel work being done across disciplines, and take an extra moment or two to look up at the stars.

Hosted by: Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday November 20th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

Music by: DJ Birthday


Beyond the Shallows: Bathymetric Mapping in the Sea to Sky

Dr. Steve Quane

When visiting some of the most spectacular places in the Sea to Sky region, modern Instagram culture tends to both figuratively and literally stop near the water’s edge. The local, blue and green glacial lakes are transfixing in their surficial beauty, inviting thought and contemplation about the natural spaces they comprise. Nonetheless, many hikers at these magical geological places find themselves battling overcrowded parking lots and hiking many kilometers on overwhelmed, trash-littered trails, only to snap a picture on an over-photographed log before scurrying back to phone service to hit “share” on their post-worthy adventure. Certainly, these lakes must posses something deeper and more meaningful beneath the surface? I will present my work on sonar mapping the bathymetry of a few local celebrity lakes and perhaps over-pontificate on whether a deeper understanding of the natural world can help us curate a local landscape under siege.

Bio: Steve has a PhD from the University of British Columbia where he studied experimental volcanology. After a three-year teaching gig at Colorado College, Steve washed up as a Geology Professor at Quest University in Squamish. An avid volcano enthusiast, Steve has been researching the formation of and resulting natural hazards created by the stunning glacio-volcanic landscapes in the Sea to Sky region. He is also a founding member of the Sea to Sky Fire and Ice GeoPark Steering Committee. Steve will likely be the only local running the trails towards, and skiing the slopes of, Mt. Garibaldi during its next eruption.

Dinosaur Dentistry

Dr. Kirsten Brink

One of the most impressive features of dinosaurs are their vicious-looking teeth. In this presentation, Kirstin blends together her knowledge of the fossil record of dinosaurs and her current research in dentistry to address the age-old question: Did dinosaurs get dental cavities? Join her on a journey to understand how we interpret dinosaur diets from fossil remains, how dinosaur teeth compare to human teeth, and the importance of flossing.

Bio: Kirstin received her PhD in vertebrate palaeontology from the University of Toronto. She is currently working as a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Dentistry at UBC, studying the evolution and development of lizard teeth. When not in the lab, you can find Kirstin holding a glass of wine or holding binoculars and staring at birds.

Experts Behind Bars: What Former Prisoners Can Teach Us About the Future of Work

Dr. Ray Hsu

When I first learned about former prisoners becoming consultants for white collar criminals who were entering prison, I had been teaching writing in prisons for the better part of three years. I was also on the verge of becoming a professor and I was already having doubt about the role of the university in a grander scheme of things. And I wasn’t alone: on online communities where academics gathered, I was noticing people abuzz about consulting as a path beyond academia. As more and more people flee the constraints of organizations–academic, corporate, institutional–the more the ranks of “consultants” grow.

In this talk, I argue that “consulting” is an emergent and rapidly growing category that is both legible and within reach for conceptual weaponization against the prison–university–industrial complex. What, I ask, can post-prison consulting teach us about the nature of expert knowledge labour beyond institutions and the potential for a class consciousness that is both enabled by capitalism and, potentially, aimed to “disrupt” it?

Bio: Dr. Ray Hsu is cofounder of Foxlab (, where empowers consultants to build out their expertise into expert businesses. He is also author of two award-winning books of poetry and served as Faculty Supervisor of the UBC Emerging Media Lab, where he worked on virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. He has taught creative practice at the Banff Centre, SFU’s The Writers Studio, UBC’s Creative Writing program, as well as in a United States prison, where he taught for the better part of three years.

Nerd Nite v.47: Neuroscience, Queer Storytelling, Crystal Meth Crisis

Fall is upon us. It’s time to bust out your hipster beanie, wait extra-long in a coffee line while everyone orders a pumpkin spiced latte, and crunch through the fallen leaves while wondering: what’s up with these leaves changing colour? It turns out that colour change is driven by less daylight. The green pigment chlorophyll, which starts the process of photosynthesis, breaks down. In the summer chlorophyll is replenished, but in the fall the veins bringing water and nutrients to the leaves close off and so when the chlorophyll breaks down and isn’t regenerated, the green pigments fade. This allows the yellow and orange pigments that were already in the leaf to become the stars of the show. But wait… what about the reds? Unlike the orange and yellow pigments, the red pigments form during the fall. With the closing of the veins, the sugars that are normally transferred from leaf to tree branches get trapped in the leaf. These sugars react with other chemicals to form red pigments – more sugars trapped in the leaves = brighter reds! So while leaves change colour and then peace-out with less daylight, at Nerd Nite we’re embracing those cooling fall nights with another line up of amazing speakers who will teach us about neuroscience, overcoming stigma around crystal meth use, and queer storytelling.

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Wednesday October 16th; Doors @ 7, show starts @ 7:30

Tickets: Eventbrite

Co-Hosted by: Michael Unger

Special guest host: Shanda Leer

Poster by: Armin Mortazavi

DJ: Grant Francis Minor – DJ Burger


1. The Struggles of Being a Socially Awkward Adolescent Rat

Travis Hodges

Social experiences are very important during adolescence, such that disrupting those experiences results in lasting changes in social behaviour and in specific brain regions. Compared to other age groups, the adolescent brain is also the most susceptible to social stressors. In adolescent rats, I altered their social experiences by changing their cage partners every day for a little over two weeks (similar to moving a child to a new school several times or through foster homes several times during adolescence) and this resulted in the rats becoming socially awkward with their adolescent peers and then with their adult peers when they became adults. I will talk about why rats are cute, the similarities between adolescent rats and adolescent humans, how socially awkward behaviours caused by stress in adolescence manifest in adulthood, and what systems in the brain are involved in social awkwardness. Our past social experiences have already molded how we act as adults, but hopefully these findings will stress the importance of providing coping strategies to current and future adolescents in stressful social situations.

Bio: Travis received a PhD in Psychology with training in Behavioural Neuroscience from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. Travis now works as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Liisa Galea at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC. Travis’s research projects have always focused on the sex-specific impact of stress on the brain from early-life to adulthood. A main focus of his PhD was determining what changes in the brain result in social awkwardness after social stress in adolescence and in a rat model. Travis’s research at UBC focuses on the brain regions involved in negative cognitive biases or pessimism, and how stress and altering the amount of new born neurons in the brain affect negative cognitive biases in males vs. females and in adolescents vs. adults using rodent models. Travis is a member of the Women’s Health Research Cluster (WHRC) and a committee member of the Cluster’s Trainee Presentation series. The WHRC Trainee Presentation Series aims to get young researchers to present research that focuses on women’s health and form connections with other researchers and the rest of the community. When he is not in the lab, Travis is a huge fan of watching horrible movies, singing at karaoke, and dancing away life’s stressors.


2. From Forest Nymph to Limp Wrist: The Art of Queer Storytelling

David Cutting

Enjoy this weird and wonderful presentation that explores the genesis of queer identity through embracing pop culture and, hopefully, inspires you to seek out and absorb your queer friends’ own stories.

Bio: David Cutting is a local drag performer, producer and creative. Their Drag persona Dust can be caught hosting Commercial Drag, a Bi weekly drag show and Yuk it up Sis a monthlyish Drag Comedy Show at Yuk Yuks Comedy Club.

You can follow David at @unicornriverchild


3. Let’s Talk About Vancouver’s Crystal Meth Crisis

Lisa Allyn

When I say “there’s a drug crisis in Vancouver,” does crystal meth come to mind? I’ve come to realize that few people outside the bubble of healthcare, social services, and law enforcement appreciate the extent and urgency of the gigantic decade-long crystal meth crisis in our city. It’s fascinating and shocking. Why aren’t we urgently working on solutions to a huge problem that for a decade has been in plain sight, has ended and damaged countless lives, and drains our limited public resources? Let’s start breaking bad habits – it’s time to talk openly about Meth. Is it really blue? Why do users use it? What are the impacts & scale of the crisis? How does meth use relate to trauma, shame, stigma and wealth inequality? We’ll go over concrete steps we can all take toward healing the devastations of crystal meth use in our communities, including practical tips for being better neighbours and allies.

Bio:  Lisa Allyn is a brain, behaviour, and trauma nerd who works in rehabilitation and recovery with substance users in Downtown Vancouver. She is trained as an occupational therapist. OTs specialize in providing interventions (tools, strategies, equipment, supports) for all kinds of functional deficits (eg. challenges putting on clothing, writing a budget, driving a car, playing hockey).