Nerd Nite Becomes Popular Sydney Event

Bringing science to the people: Dr Jessica Grisham
Tuesday, 11 December, 2012
Deborah Smith

Dr Jessica Grisham, a senior lecturer in the UNSW School of Psychology, is helping bring science to Sydneysiders in a relaxed and fun atmosphere, with the establishment of a local version of the international phenomenon, Nerd Nite.

Held in a cosy, inner city café bar, and billed as “like the Discovery Channel with beer”, the monthly events attract crowds of up to 100 people with a night of humour, ideas and lively debates.

Three presenters, including two UNSW psychologists, will speak at the next Nerd Nite, to be held this Thursday, 13 December, in Surry Hills.

Dr Steve Most will discuss how emotions can influence perception, and Dr Amy Reichelt will ponder whether neuroscience can help you forget your ex.

Dr Grisham was undertaking her PhD at Boston University when Nerd Nite was founded in 2003 by a friend and colleague, Dr Chris Balakrishan. The first event was held in Boston’s Midway Café, and the concept has since spread to more than 30 cities worldwide.

When Dr Grisham set up Nerd Nite Sydney earlier this year, along with Dr Justine Rogers of the University of Sydney, she was initially curious about how large an audience it would draw. “But there are nerds coming out of the woodwork, and it is getting more popular,” she says.

The events, which have been held every month since June, are a chance for the public to hear about the latest advances from leading experts and to find out how their tax dollars are spent.

They are a fun way to dispel the notion that science is esoteric or dull, Dr Grisham says:  “The speakers are humorous and the venue is cosy. There is a great vibe.”

Academics and students also appreciate the opportunity to discuss ideas outside their areas of special interest, over a drink and pizza.

Topics related to economics, history and the arts are also included.

Thursday’s event will also feature Dr George Hobbs, a CSIRO astronomer, talking about pulsars, black holes and gravitational waves.

7pm, Café Lounge, 277 Goulburn Street, Surry Hills.