University News

Addiction center expands lecture series

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, October 3, 2011

With cookies, science and a raffle, the popular CAAS Rounds Lecture series is seeking further growth.

Each Friday from noon to one, the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies offers a lecture for faculty, staff, students and local public health personnel.

The lectures vary in topic, but usually explore one of the center’s three main areas of study: alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. With the purpose of educating attendees, the program hopes to expose the researchers’ latest projects in the field.

Because this goal relates specifically to CAAS, the lectures — given by speakers chosen by a CAAS committee — were at first only advertised within the center. But due to growing interest, the presentations are now open to all members of the University, as well as other communities including Lifespan — a non-profit health system affiliated with Brown — and faculty from other universities. The average turnout is between 25 and 35 people, mainly consisting of CAAS faculty and graduate and postdoctoral students from other programs.

“I am actually really excited about the turnout,” said Tamara Sequeira, assistant project director at CAAS. “We are thrilled about how we have grown from just this center, which is 100 or so people, to the school of public health and now even beyond Brown.”

The series began in summer 2010 when CAAS faculty decided there should be more collaboration within the center. “There is not a lot of cross-talk and communication. It was just a way to get people to talk about things going on,” Sequeira said.

To make the center more cohesive, the faculty hoped  to bring various professionals from Brown and the public health community together so people could learn about new research and “either make a change in whatever they’re doing or create a collaboration they may not have … been interested in,” Sequeira said.

Jessica Bendit ’12, one of the few undergraduates who has attended the lectures, said she went twice this summer while working for the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights. Though she said the target audience was probably researchers within the field, she “found them very accessible and enjoyed learning something new” that was slightly out of her area of study.

The speakers cover a variety of topics, including the effects of binge drinking on animals, the correlation between crack-cocaine and HIV and tips on how to get into graduate school or handle rejection healthfully. But according to Sequeira, no matter how technical the topic, the speakers tend to make the lectures understandable to a broader audience.

To keep the lectures relatable, the speakers are asked to use the beginning of their presentations to discuss something personal. “It could be how you got interested in your field, a particular hobby you have or pictures of you growing up,” Sequeira said.

Even apart from these informal introductions, Bendit said presentations were entertaining. “The speakers were definitely engaging because they were presenting on their own research,” she said. “They were very impassioned about what they were talking about.”

And if free dessert and scientific discussion are not enough to attract a varied audience, Sequeira said she hopes a raffle will be the ultimate selling point. As each person enters, he or she is given a raffle ticket, and the speaker draws the winner at the end of the lecture. The prizes, which have included a bookstore gift certificate and free Del’s Lemonade, “are a fun way to get people interested,” Sequeira said.

As the lectures grow in popularity, plans to reach out to undergraduates might be underway, perhaps through more posters, a website or announcements in Morning Mail, she said.