Science lectures open to students, community; next lecture to focus on ‘Weird Weather’

Brittany Webb

Staff Writer

The first World of Science talk of the semester was held Oct. 2 at the Parkland Staerkel Planetarium, giving some students the chance for extra credit before midterms.

“Many instructors are now realizing that having their students attend our talks is beneficial and some even offer extra credit for attending,” said David Leake, planetarium director at Parkland College.

With an almost full planetarium, speaker Julie Pryde from the Champaign Urbana Department of Public Health gave a talk titled “Pandemics, Pathogens, and Prions: What Scares Public Health.”

She spoke of the recent outbreaks of mumps in the Champaign-Urbana area, the need for people to get vaccinated, and what causes public health to panic.

Pryde has been working for public health for 20 years and was appointed public health administrator by the UPHD Board of Health in 2008.

She says deciding on a topic depends on her audience, and since she knew the audience would be full of students, she wanted to get as much as she could in the hour she had to speak.

“Really what I want to do is give people a lot of information and look for some stuff they can go and read about,” said Pryde. “I want to expose them to how public health works in general, and this was in October so I thought I would do the infectious disease thing.”

Pryde said she loves to talk about public health.

“People said to me, ‘Oh those poor kids, they’re going to be in there for seven hours!’ and I told them, ‘No, I was limited to an hour,’” Pryde said.

The World of Science talks have been going on since the planetarium opened in 1987, Leake said.

“I think the planetarium should be doing something like this,” said Leake. “With all the research happening in Urbana and Champaign, why not provide an outlet where some of these researchers can talk about what they are doing.”

Leake also said he thinks the Parkland shows are a little more accessible for the general public.

“There are talks on the University of Illinois campus, of course, but I have found, with parking, car traffic and student traffic, many don’t like to venture on campus, especially at night,” Leake said.   “Parkland can be an easily-accessible, comfortable spot to link to cutting-edge science.”

Adam Bengtson, a University of Illinois junior in architecture, says coming to the talks not only engages him in some science, but also exposes him to Parkland a little bit.

“I’ve taken summer classes at Parkland, so it’s always interesting to come back to see what the school has to offer,” said Bengtson.

Leake says he hopes students realize a few things when they come out to the talks.

“Science is within reach; they can understand it,” Leake said. “Also, there’s a lot going on in town.   Some amazing research is being done locally and often you don’t hear about it unless you attend a scientific meeting.”

The lectures are open to the public, and held monthly at the planetarium. The cost is $1.

The next lecture will be held Nov. 6 and will be given by Jim Angel. It is titled “Weird Weather!” and will focus on the drought in California, flooding in Texas, and cold winters in Illinois.

More information on the World of Science lectures can be found on the Planetariums website at