Science Café

Explore science through Carleton University’s popular Science Cafés, held twice a month during the fall and winter terms at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library at 1049 Bank Street (at Aylmer Ave in Old Ottawa South). Each café begins at 6:30 p.m. with a 20-minute talk by a scientist followed by a 40-minute open question and answer period.

Come and join us for a lively discussion around a scientific issue of the day. Be prepared to be informed, engaged and even amused, as our professors share their scientific discoveries with you. All are welcome.

For more information, please contact the Faculty of Science by email at odscienceatcarleton [dot] ca or by telephone at 613-520-4388.

View the archives

Fall 2017

Wednesday, September 27

Where do insects go in the winter?


Heath MacMillan, Department of Biology


I’m sorry to say it, but winter is coming! As the cold weather approaches we will get our coats and hats out of the storage bin and make sure our homes are well insulated. For us humans, staying alive in winter is a matter of staying warm by producing and retaining heat. Insects, however are ectotherms, meaning their body temperature follows the temperature of their surroundings, so staying warm simply isn’t an option. When the air is -30°C, the insect is -30°C! But how can they possibly survive that, and where are they spending those cold winter days? Insects represent more than 75% of animal species on our planet, so we can’t expect them all to deal with winter in the same way. I will introduce you to the many ways that insects survive the cold. While some make like retirees and travel enormous distances to escape the cold, others can adjust their physiology to prepare for winter in a hibernation-like state called diapause. Some have even evolved fascinating ways of avoiding or surviving being frozen solid. Understanding the ways insects accomplish these incredible feats can lead to important advancements in a range of areas, such as predicting how climate change will affect insect pests, or even how to cryopreserve delicate human organs for transplant.

Wednesday, October 11

New Eyes on the Universe: A guided tour of the SNOLAB exhibit

Andrew Erlandson, PhD candidate, Department of Physics


Location: Fenn Lounge, Residence Commons, Carleton University; 6:30 p.m.

Experience the travelling exhibit showcasing the science of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) and SNOLAB with guide Andrew Erlandson. A doctoral candidate in Carleton’s Department of Physics, Andrew works closely with Dr. Mark Boulay on DEAP – a SNOLAB experiment which searches for dark matter, one of the Universe’s biggest mysteries. Andrew will help explain the connections between neutrinos, dark matter, and the rest of the universe based on his first-hand experience in the field. Through SNOLAB’s research, both past and present, we have never been closer to seeing the big picture. This exhibit will take you on a journey from the depths of the Earth to the far reaches of the cosmos guided by your own personal physicist.

Wednesday, November 8

A big future for small science: the promise and challenge of nanotechnology

Maria DeRosa, Department of Chemistry


Nanotechnology is all about making, measuring, and manipulating unimaginably small things – materials and devices a million times smaller than a millimeter. From our smart phones to our sporting equipment, from our clothing to our sunscreens, nanotechnology is being incorporated in products that are all around us that we might use every day. This lecture will provide an introduction to nanoscience and nanotechnology with some information about how the fundamental properties of materials change when they are on the nanoscale. The science behind new nano-enabled products will be explored. Bionanotechnology, which draws inspiration from nature, will be examined. The potential risks and benefits of nanotechnology will also be discussed.


Wednesday, November 22

Protein communications within a cell; what makes a cell “tick”?

Ashkan Golshani, Department of Biology


Proteins are the macromolecules responsible for the majority of biological functions in a living cell.  For this purpose proteins need to communicate with each other. They do so by physically interacting (binding) with one another and forming transient or lasting complexes. The mechanisms of this communication have been the subject of vigorous investigations over the years. Understanding the basis of these communications can help us better understand the biology of a living cell. That is, we can better realize what makes the cell behave as a “living system”. Over the past decade, my laboratory in collaboration with others, have shown that some of these interactions are mediated by simple codes on the proteins. These codes can help us predict the interaction among proteins and how to perhaps modify them for specific purposes.