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Meet A Scientist

April 28 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Scientists are visiting Eugene Science Center! Meet scientists from our community, learn about their exciting research, and ask questions!

Join us on Sunday, April 28th to meet our Scientists of the Month: Julia Widom, Danielle Benoit, Rocky Penick, and Ally Kuznia!

Included with general admission, free for ESC members.

About this month’s scientists:

Julia Widom (she/her) grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and earned her B.A. in Chemistry from Northwestern University in 2009. She did her graduate work at the University of Oregon in the lab of Andy Marcus, earning her Ph.D. in 2013. Her research utilized fluorescence-detected multidimensional spectroscopy to study the conformations of porphyrins and nucleic acids. From 2014 to 2018, she worked as a postdoc in the lab of Nils Walter at the University of Michigan, where she used single-molecule fluorescence methods to study RNA folding. She returned to UO as a faculty member in the Physical Chemistry division in September, 2018. Her lab works at the interface of physical chemistry and molecular biology, using ultrafast and single-molecule spectroscopy to study RNA structure and dynamics. She is a member of the Oregon Center for Optical, Molecular and Quantum Science and an associate member of the Institute for Molecular Biology. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, hiking and baking fancy cakes.

Danielle Benoit – The Benoit Laboratory for Therapeutic Biomaterials specializes in the rational design of polymeric materials for regenerative medicine and drug delivery applications. Our work has provided insights into the translation of tissue engineering strategies for bone allograft repair, development of pH-responsive nanoparticles for nucleic acid and small molecule delivery, novel targeting strategies for bone-specific delivery of therapeutics, and, the focus here, development of microphysiological systems (MPS). Poly(ethylene glycol)(PEG)-based hydrogels can be engineered to control tissue morphogenesis, differentiation, and tissue evolution to develop MPS for mechanistic and drug screening studies. Leveraging these microenvironments together with unique microbubble array technology, we have developed salivary gland tissue mimetics (SGm) to identify novel drug candidates that protect the salivary gland from off-target effects of ionizing radiation. Additionally, we have exploited the knowledge gained from the SGm technology to develop a physiologically relevant model of the outer blood retina barrier (oBRB). Development of these MPS models will be a focus together with current experiments utilizing microfluidic chambers to enable co-integration of perfused vasculature and innervation to realize more robust tissue mimetics.

Rocky Penick (they/them) is a third year graduate student and doctoral candidate in the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Oregon. Rocky was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and earned degrees in both Psychology and Biology from Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. Rocky’s current research focuses on the auditory cortex. Rocky uses two-photon microscopy to take videos of fluorescent mouse brain cells in the auditory cortex while they communicate with each other. This research aims to answer questions like: In what patterns do groups of brain cells communicate? Do the patterns in which cells communicate change over time? How do these patterns change due to diseases of the brain, like Alzheimer’s Disease? How do these changing patterns affect the way that cells respond to stimuli, like sounds?

Ally Kuznia (she/her) received her B.S. in psychology from North Dakota State University in 2020 and is now a 4th year doctoral student at the University of Oregon in the UO Learning Lab. Ally is specifically interested in how babies learn words over time and is working on projects to understand how what infants see, hear, and do, in their everyday lives impacts what they learn and remember from their experiences. Outside the lab, Ally enjoys coaching figure skating with the Eugene Figure Skating Club and taking her dog on hikes all over Oregon.


April 28
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
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Eugene Science Center


Eugene Science Center
2300 Leo Harris Pkwy
Eugene, OR 97401 United States
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