STEM Tavern @ Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers

What makes a talk about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) even more entertaining? Why, beer of course! Join our monthly STEM Tavern that features a fascinating science presentation plus good beer. For each beer sold at STEM Tavern, Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers will make a donation to the museum! A food truck may also be on hand and you are always welcome to bring your own food.

Join us on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 5:30 pm at Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers (523 Shenandoah Ave.). Talks start at 6 pm!

If you would like to receive a reminder on the day of each STEM Tavern, please let us know!
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If you are interested in presenting at one of our STEM Tavern events, you can contact Sarah Van Zele at svanzele@smwv.org or 540.342.5718.


September 12: Rana Ashkar “Playing Hide-and-Seek with Neutrons”

Neutron scattering is a powerful technique for exploring the structure and motions of matter on the nanoscale. Neutrons are unique in their sensitivity to atomic isotopes, e.g. Hydrogen vs. its heavier isotope Deuterium. This allows us to create molecular-level scenarios where we can control which nanoscale features of a sample to highlight and which to make completely invisible to neutrons. In this talk, Dr. Ashkar will discuss the history of neutron-related discoveries and some of the fascinating implementations of neutron isotope sensitivity in studies of soft materials which are fundamental to our lives, from materials that will shape the future of human technology; e.g. polymer composites and actuators, to those responsible for our basic existence; e.g. the membranes of our very cells.

Rana Ashkar is an assistant professor of Physics at Virginia Tech. Prior to her current appointment, she held a Clifford G. Shull Fellowship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, preceded by a joint postdoctoral scholarship at NIST and the University of Maryland at College Park. Prof. Ashkar completed her graduate studies at Indiana University and was the recipient of the 2014 Esther L. Kinsley doctoral dissertation award. Her research focuses on nanoscale structures and dynamics in soft matter, with specific emphasis on polymeric systems and biomimetic lipid membranes. Among the many approaches that she uses in her research, she is particularly interested in the applications of x-ray and neutron scattering techniques to resolve collective molecular structures/motions that are critical to the technological and biological applications of soft materials. Beside her scholarly achievements, Prof. Ashkar is committed to diversity and inclusion in STEM fields. She was the founder and first chairperson of the “Women in Neutrons Sciences” committee at ORNL, was an active member on several committees including the Advisory Board of the “Women In Science Program” at Indiana University, and is currently a member of the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics.


October 10: Available

Please contact Sarah Van Zele at  svanzele@smwv.org or 540.342.5718 if you are interested in presenting on this date.


November 14:  Mitch Allen “The new energizer bunny: peptide treatment keeps our heart’s batteries going, and going, and going…”


December 12: Available

Please contact Sarah Van Zele at  svanzele@smwv.org or 540.342.5718 if you are interested in presenting on this date.