Past Event

Café Society: Scientific (Il)literacy & Democracy

This week Café Society very excited to co-host speakers with Project Exploration at the locations listed below.

Teaching intelligent design in public schools, costs and risks of the latest prescription drug for cholesterol, cloning and stem cell research, global warming, drilling in Alaska and reliance on foreign oil, herbal supplements and acupressure therapies, the morning after pill availability over-the-counter… science is at the heart of family, community, national, and international decisions.

While many are interested in the myriad of advances and debates around us, do we understand them? Do we know enough to discern science from pseudoscience? Does the general public have sufficient knowledge of basic facts, concepts, and vocabulary to participate in public discourse on all of the issues that affect our future?

Scientific issues underlie many of our national and local policy decisions. Do we have the knowledge and understanding to ask the right questions? Who should participate in decisions related to medicine, health, technology, genetics, or the environment? As we have past the era of nonpartisan science, what barriers to scientific understanding undermine our ability to take part in the democratic process? What would facilitate a deeper understanding?

Join us at Café Society this week to explore the relevance of scientific literacy to at 21st century democracy.

Suggested Readings:


* 7:30 p.m., Intelligentsia Coffee, Liam Heneghan, Co-Director, Institute for Nature and Culture, DePaul University


* 10 a.m., Buzz Cafe, Judith S. Lederman, Director of Teacher Education, Department of Mathematics and Science Education, Illinois Institute of Technology

* 12:30 p.m., Chicago Cultural Center-Randolph Street Café, Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director & Co-Founder, Project Exploration

* 7 p.m., Pause, Richard P. Barbiero, Senior Environmental Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency, Adjunct Professor, Loyola University


* 7 p.m., Caffe De Luca, Richard P. Barbiero, Senior Environmental Scientist, Computer Sciences Corporation & Senior Instructor, Loyola University-Chicago

* 7 p.m., Valois, Myla Patterson, Post-Doctoral Associate, Department of Pharmacology, University of Illinois at Chicago

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More About Project Exploration & Our Guest Speakers

Project Exploration was co-founded in 1999 by paleontologist Paul Sereno and educator Gabrielle Lyon as a nonprofit science education organization dedicated to making science accessible to the public-especially minority youth and girls-through personalized experiences with science and scientists.

Project Exploration specifically works to:

  • Create opportunities for meaningful interactions between science and the public-especially populations least likely to have direct access to science;
  • Equip minority youth and girls with the inspiration and tools to transform their lives by offering opportunities to interact with scientists, as well as hands-on experiences with the wonders of science; and
  • Connect students, teachers, and families with authentic science and practicing scientists in order to support lifelong learning, equal access to opportunity, and scientific literacy.

For more information visit or call 773.834.7614.

Richard P. Barbiero has a Ph.D. in limnology (the study of lakes) and currently works on the ecology of the Great Lakes for the EPA, he also teaches at Loyola University Chicago. Prior to moving to Chicago, he was at the National University of Ireland at Galway studying the Irish ‘Great Lakes’. Additionally, he has worked as a limnologist for the U.S. Army in Mississippi and as a Tribal Limnologist for the Klamath Tribe in eastern Oregon, and has taught in the Environmental Science school at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

Liam Heneghan, Professor of Environmental Science Co-Director, Institute for Nature and Culture, DePaul University, is an ecosystem ecologist currently working at DePaul University where he is a Professor in the Environmental Science Program. His research has included studies on the impact of acid rain on soil foodwebs in Europe, and on inter-biome comparisons of decomposition and nutrient dynamics in forested ecosystems in North American and in the tropics. Recently, Heneghan and his students at DePaul have been examining the impacts of invasive species on nutrient cycling and soil organisms in Midwestern woodlands. Heneghan is co-chair of the Science Team with Chicago Wilderness.

Judith Sweeney Lederman is the Director of Teacher Education in the Department of Mathematics and Science Education at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Dr. Lederman’s experience with informal education includes her work as Curator of Education at the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium in Providence, RI. She presents and publishes nationally and internationally on the teaching and learning of science in both formal and informal settings and has co-authored an elementary science teaching methods text. She has served on the Board of Directors of the National Science Teachers Association and is currently President of the Council for Elementary Science International.

Gabrielle Lyon is the cofounder and executive director of Project Exploration, where she combines social justice activism with a passion for informal science education. She earned her bachelors and masters’ degrees in history from the University of Chicago, and is working on a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her honors include representing the International Association of Educators for World Peace as a delegate to the United Nations in Geneva, and addressing the U.N. Subcommittee on Human Rights on “The Prevention of Racism and the Protection of Minorities.” In 1995, she discovered the predatory dinosaur Deltadromeus. Gabrielle is co-creator of the Project Exploration exhibits “The Science of SuperCroc” and “GIANTS: African Dinosaurs.”

Myla M. Patterson, Post-Doctoral Associate, Department of Pharmacology, University of Illinois at Chicago, received her Doctorate in Biomedical Science from Meharry Medical College, located in Nashville. Dr. Patterson’s research focused on mechanisms associated with cardiovascular disease. Dr. Patterson has served two consecutive terms as Vice-President of the Graduate Student Association (GSA), volunteered as a graduate student mentor and tutor, and was a National Science Foundation GK-12 Teaching Fellow. One of her fondest memories is working as teaching fellow, where she taught hands-on inquiry based science labs to middle school students. Dr. Patterson believes that diversifying the field of biotechnology will make us far more effective in the fighting against world disease and health disparities.

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For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.