23 September 2008

HESTEC science symposium 2008

François Therrien
The HESTEC science symposium yesterday was held yesterday, and the REU program was proud to welcome visiting mentor Dr. François Therrien.

Despite being the first talk of the morning, Dr. Therrien addressed a large audience in the Engineering auditorium, and delighted listeners with a lively and engaging story about dinosaur diversity and climate change, and how lessons learned in paleontology can inform our understanding of the current climate change crisis.

Dr. Therrien with T. rex slide
On Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, Dr. Therrien, joined by fellow paleontologist Darla Zelenitski, visited the student posters and met with the REU students and their mentors individually. They also took a few minutes with REU students in the Sue exhibit to talk a little about the skeleton. As it happened, one part of the exhibit contained a panel proclaiming that T. rex was a "super sniffer," and that the part of the T. rex brain involved with smell was almost the same size as the rest of its brain. Drs. Therrien and Zelenitski had published a paper disputing that claim earlier this year. They argued that the olfactory part of the brain was not as large as had been thought (grapefruit size) -- although it was still large relative to other meat-eating dinosaurs (strawberry sized, maybe).

It's fun to have an expert on hand...

Therrien and REU students
Front row: Amery Yang. Middle row (L to R): Jess Valdez, Stephanie Jimenez, Darla Zelenitski, François Therrien, Ashley Longoria, Ammie Ortiz, Stephanie Castellanos. Back row: Sue.

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