Skip to main content


ND Science Cafe makes science research come alive for South Bend residents


Notre Dame faculty and graduate students take their research from the laboratory to the South Bend, Indiana community every month in a public forum called the Science Café, thanks to the brainchild of GLOBES/IGERT trainee Mia Stephen.

Stephen explained that science cafes are live events that involve a conversation with a scientist about current topics in research and technology. They are open to everyone and take place in casual settings like pubs and coffeehouses across the country. Science cafes emphasize audience participation in the lively discussion of a topic.

Similar cafes have operated around the country for years boosted by WGBH in Boston and Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. “Generally the cafes are found in college towns. A group of grad students realized there were no cafes in the Michiana area but we have tons of expertise in this area from all the colleges and universities,” said Stephen, a co-organizer of the event along with Chris Patrick, a recent GLOBES/ND fellowship recipient.

The outreach helps advance the goals of the GLOBES-NSF graduate training program at the University of Notre Dame. “One component of the GLOBES training program is communication,” explained Stephen. “We get training on how to communicate our science to laypersons or policymakers, but in reality, we have very little opportunity to do this. We can make our work relevant and stimulating.”

The Notre Dame-South Bend Café opened in downtown South Bend in April 2009, the Year of Science, with a talk on nanotechnology by Gregory Crawford, dean of the College of Science. The venue in the form of a downtown meeting and conference space is provided by a partner organization, Notre Dame Community Relations. Since its debut, the café has hosted monthly talks on diverse topics ranging from climate change to biofuels to the genomics behind malaria. Attendance has consistently included 20 to 60 non-academic members of the community.

The Science Café conforms to the spirit and mission of the GLOBES program by fostering both community outreach and interdisciplinary interactions. Future talks are already scheduled for academic year 2010/2011. They include:

September 29, 2010: How climate change modeling works, Professor Edward Bensman
October 27, 2010: The psychology of losing a loved one, Professor Cindy Bergeman

Address Goals

The goals of the Notre Dame-South Bend Science Café are consistent with the NSF strategic learning goal of increasing scientific literacy and cultivating a broadly inclusive workforce. Its stated goals are:

1. Promote scientific interest and literacy in the South Bend community
2. Provide a community outreach opportunity to faculty and graduate students in the sciences
3. Introduce new audiences to current topics in science and engineering.

The cafe provides an ongoing forum to educate the public in an atmosphere that encourages an open dialogue between scientists and non-scientists.