News & Events

UMPI Biology professor to give “genius” talk at Maine Science Festival

University of Maine at Presque Isle Assistant Professor of Biology Scott Dobrin has been invited to give a “5-Minute Genius” talk at the upcoming Maine Science Festival, to be held March 18 to 20 in Bangor. The festival, which launched in 2015 and hosted more than 10,000 people at over 45 events during its inaugural year, provides a weekend-long celebration of science in Maine.

As one of the festival’s showcase events, the 5-Minute Genius program gives festival participants a chance to “meet the rock stars of Maine’s scientific sector as they explain their research in five minutes or less” using non-jargon terms. Each five-minute presentation is followed by a five-minute question and answer session with the audience. Dr. Dobrin will discuss bee learning—from their ability to distinguish human faces and navigate mazes—and his own bee research during his presentation, A-maze-ing Bees: Solving mazes, learning faces, and saving the honey bee.

In his lab, Dobrin studies the effect of experience on the shape of individual neurons in the brain. Using honey bees and bumble bees as model systems, the lab is exploring how physical changes in the brain lead to differences in the ability to learn. The bee brain offers a simplified system to explore how human experience alters brain structure and, ultimately, function. Undergraduate student involvement in the research is a major emphasis of the lab. All projects include paid and volunteer undergraduates who gain valuable experience in the process of science.

Last year’s 5-Minute Genius speakers included scientists from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, the University of Maine, and The Jackson Laboratory.

“I’m thrilled to present as part of the Maine Science Festival,” Dobrin said. “The Festival emphasizes the fun and creative aspects of science that will be sure to inspire the attendees.”

This year’s 5-Minute Genius program will feature seven speakers: Dr. Habib Dagher of the University of Maine, Dr. Dobrin, Dr. Vivek Kumar of The Jackson Laboratory, Dr. Susan MacKay of Cerahelix, Dr. Leif Oxburgh of Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Dr. Nicole Price of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, and Dr. Aric Rogers of Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. Kate Dickerson of the Maine Science Festival will serve as moderator. Dr. Dobrin is the only speaker from northern Maine participating. The program, the final event for this year’s Maine Science Festival, is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 20 at 3:30 p.m. at the Bangor Public Library. This event is sponsored by Emera Maine.

According to its website, the mission of the festival is to “stimulate interest in science among the general population, to heighten awareness of the impact of science on everyday life, and to demonstrate the diversity of scientific enterprise in Maine.” The Maine Science Festival is a proud member of the Science Festival Alliance. This year’s headliner is Nate Silver, statistician, best-selling author, and founder of the award-winning website FiveThirtyEight, which was acquired by ESPN in 2013. For more information about the festival, visit www.mainesciencefestival.org.