Events_Grand Canyon

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society


Events and important dates for Sigma Xi at ASU.

Spring Semester (2016):

Spring Banquet: Friday, May 6, 6:00-8:00 at the Moxy hotel on Rural Rd (1333 S Rural Rd Tempe 85281)

Dr. Jane Buikstra, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

TITLE: Mummies of the Ancient Andes

Our discussion will center upon the scientific investigation of mummies via seven case studies that explore knowledge gained from the study of ancient South American mummies. We begin with the earliest prepared mummies in the world, the Chinchorro, and end with Inka examples. Both methods of mummification and knowledge captured in the course of study are considered. Latest news on the history of ancient tuberculosis in the Americas will be presented.


Spring luncheon and lecture: Thursday, April 7, 2016, 12:00-2:00 pm at Macayo's Depot Cantina, 300 S. Ash Ave, Tempe

Dr. Kim Hill, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, ASU

TITLE: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness

Of the 8 million Eukaryotic species on the planet, Homo sapiens is an outlier by several measures. How did we evolve to be so different? What are the critical characters that have led us so far away from the other great apes? How can we account for the evolution of those characteristics?

Fall Semester (2015):

Fall luncheon and lecture: Wednesday, October, 2015, 12:00-2:00 pm at Macayo's Depot Cantina, 300 S. Ash Ave, Tempe

Dr. Arial Anbar, School of Earth and Space Exploration, School of Molecular Sciences, ASU

TITLE: The Breath of Life – Oxygen in Earth’s Atmosphere and the Search for Life Beyond

Earth’s atmosphere is remarkable among the planets in our Solar System for its high concentration of molecular oxygen (O2), which makes this planet habitable for humans. This abundance of O2 is indisputably a signature of O2-producing photosynthesis – and hence of life. Therefore, the search for life on planets outside our Solar System understandably focuses on looking for evidence of O2. However, for half its history – before the Great Oxidation Event that began ~ 2.4 billion years ago – Earth’s atmosphere was nearly devoid of O2. Accumulating evidence suggests that this was the case even though O2 was already being produced by photosynthesis. Why? What controls the abundance of O2 in the atmosphere? And how does our understanding of Earth’s atmospheric O2 inform our use of this gas as a signature of life on other worlds? Frontier research on these topics will be presented.

Spring Semester (2015):

Spring Banquet: Friday, May 1, 6:00 at the Four Points Sheraton

Dr. Kaye Reed, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Title: Finding the earliest representative of the genus Homo: Adventures at the Ledi-Geraru research site in the Afar of Ethiopia

The lower Awash valley has yielded an incredible number of Australopithecus specimens from 3.8-2.95 Ma (Woranso-Mille, Hadar, Dikika), lithic tool evidence at 2.6 Ma (Gona), and recent recovery of early Homo at 2.8 Ma. The new evidence of Homo, other mammalian fossils, and changing habitats from the Ledi-Geraru fills a significant temporal gap in the fossil record of Africa. The importance of the new hominin finding is in the transitional nature of its morphological features, and the fact that it is a representative member of a population that was possibly affected climate driven habitat change.

For information about attending please contact:


Spring luncheon and lecture: Thursday, April 2, 2015, 12:00-2:00 pm at ASU Tempe Campus (MU225)

Title: Three Mysteries: My Search for Aztec Families and Communities

My excavations of three Aztec sites near Cuernavaca, Mexico, have revealed a surprising side of this ancient Native American culture. Instead of digging temples, tombs, and palaces, I applied a new kind of archaeology and excavated houses and trash heaps to uncover the daily lives and social conditions of the Aztec people. Two popular images of the Aztecs—as sacrificial maniacs, and as downtrodden exploited serfs—find no support in the realm of domestic life. Instead, my excavations reveal an inventive and prosperous people who forged successful communities. I will describe excavations at three sites: a city (Yautepec), a town (Cuexcomate), and a village (Capilco). These communities showed resilience to conquest by the Aztec Empire. Their success can be explained by three factors: (1) intensive agriculture and effective use of local resources; (2) development of flexible social institutions under local control; and (3) participation in extensive market networks. Although successful and sustainable for more than four centuries, these communities could not withstand the impact of the Spanish conquest, and they fell apart soon after 1521.

Fall Semester (2014):

Fall luncheon and lecture: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 12:00-2:00 pm at Monti's La Casa Vieja

Title: Why be nice? Cooperation among wild chimpanzees.

Dr. Ian Gilby, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Humans cooperate more often, in more contexts, and with more partners than any other vertebrate. While anthropologists, behavioral ecologists and psychologists have made considerable headway comparing the cooperative capacities of humans and other taxa, a greater understanding of why wild primates cooperate leads to a clearer picture of the selective pressures that early humans faced. I study the adaptive value of cooperation in the contexts of hunting, territory defense, coalitionary aggression and social bonds among wild chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania and Kibale National Park, Uganda. My analysis of more than 70 years of behavioral, spatial, genetic and hormonal data from these sites, coupled with my own field observations highlight the importance of simple, ecological explanations for cooperation that hinge on immediate, selfish benefits. I argue that while chimpanzees exhibit a wide range of cooperative abilities, cognitively complex mechanisms involving delayed, social benefits explain only a small proportion of the cooperation observed in the wild. Therefore, the degree of dependence upon such mechanisms in humans evolved after our lineage split from the great apes.


Previous Events:

Spring Semester (2014):

Spring Banquet: Friday, May 2, 6:00 at the Four Points Sheraton

Title: An Experimental Psychologist Goes to the Dogs

Dr. Clive Wynne, Department of Psychology, ASU

Man’s “best friend” is also one of his most intriguing riddles. Do dogs really understand us as well as we think they do? Where do their skills in exploiting people come from? I shall report simple studies that my students and I have carried out on dogs and hand-reared wolves that have led to a novel understanding of these ubiquitous animals. Along the way, I have also learned of the advantages that befall the scientist who picks as his study material something that appeals greatly to many people.

Spring luncheon and lecture: Thursday, April 3, 2014, 12:00-1:30 pm at Monti's La Casa Vieja

Title: What is so hard about artificial tactile sensation?

Dr. Stephen Helms Tillery, School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering.

Dr. Helms Tillery endeavors to understand the intricacies of neural control of real arm movement and to address crucial bioengineering issues in the design of neuro-electronic hybrid systems. The main thrust of his research is cortical interfaces for neuroprosthetics, in particular, the abilities and limitations that come about due to neural plasticity and adaption, and investigation into how tactile information can be input back into the central nervous system. Dr. Helms Tillery is also interested in the basal ganglia, a set of forebrain nuclei that are associated with motor disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s chorea. He is using the systems and techniques developed for neuroprosthetics to study the basic physiology and pathophysiology of these structures.

Fall Semester (2013):

Fall Luncheon and Lecture: Thursday, November 14, 2013, 12:00-1:30 pm at Monti's La Casa Vieja, 1 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe

Title: Balancing Immune Diversity versus Immune Protection

Dr. Joeseph Blattman,

BioDesign Institute, Arizona State University.

Abstract:The immune system must balance diversity in immune populations, in order to recognize virtually any pathogen, with maintenance of sufficient precursor cells for any given pathogen in order to mount protective responses. Quantitatively defining this balance between diversity and protection has been problematic, in large part due to the lack of methods for quantitating total immunoreceptor diversity including pairing between heterodimeric T and B cell receptor proteins. We have developed novel DNA origami nanostructures that can be transfected into T cells to ligate and protect both TCRa and TCRb mRNA, and after re-isolation, can be used as a template for a dual-primer reverse transcription reaction to provide input material for Illumina deep sequencing and obtain linked sequence information for both TCR chains from individual cells within polyclonal T cell populations, and thereby provide a first estimate of total TCR diversity.  


Spring Semester (2013):

Spring Banquet: May 3, 2013 at the Mesa Marriott Hotel on Centennial Way in Mesa, Arizona. Cocktails are available at 6:00 and dinner begins at 7:00.

The speaker will be Dr. Joan Silk, School of Human Evolution and Social Change at ASU.

Title: What are friends for? The view from the field.


Spring Luncheon and Lecture: Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rewiring Microbes and Making Redox Enzymes Run Backwards: Applications of Electrochemistry to Microbiology for Energy Applications.

Dr. Anne Jones,

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, ASU.

Abstract:Redox reactions are at the core of bioenergetic transformations, and creating new electron transfer pathways or exploiting existing redox catalysts in novel settings is essential to the development of biologically based alternative energy pathways. This talk will start by describing new electrochemical techniques to probe the mechanisms of redox enzymes. Applications to a number of bioenergetically relevant enzymes such as photosynthetic proteins and hydrogen generating enzymes will then be presented.

Location: Monti's La Casa Vieja (12:00-1:30)