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Oregon Chapter Hosts ARCS All Members Conference

Posted on Saturday, October 5, 2019

Members from each of the other 14 chapters arrived in Portland in September, as the Oregon Chapter of ARCS Foundation hosted the All Members Conference (AMC) at The Nines Hotel. Sherry Lundeen, the national ARCS president, led the All Members Conference.

Speakers from ARCS Oregon partner universities wowed the conference attendees from across the country.

  • Dr. Patrick Phillips, Provost and Sr. Vice President at the University of Oregon, and an expert in ecology and evolution, was the opening keynote speaker.  He talked about his recently-graduated ARCS Scholar, Katja Kasimatis PhD, and her successful research and subsequent post-doc position, further researching evolutionary biology.  Dr. Phillips delved into his own research and focused on the biology of aging.  Dr. Phillips encouraged attendees to consider “health span” in thinking of potential life span, asking “how many of you want to live to be over 100 in the body of a 90 year-old?”  Keys to a good long health span include avoiding long-term stressful environments and, back to basics, good nutrition and sufficient exercise.   
  • Oregon State University presented a panel discussion on  “Exploring New Frontiers in Robotics.”  Speaking on the panel were  Dr. Julie Adams, Associate Director for Research at the Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems (CoRIS) Institute, Jennifer Leaf,  ARCS scholar,  and Dr. Kagan Turner, Director of CoRIS. Beyond the mechanics of developing various kinds of robots to perform a wide variety of functions, they each talked about how robots can be “intelligent” and resilient. They showed videos of robots being trained to do tasks like turning a doorknob and opening a door, with some amusing failures to perform well due to incomplete training of the robot’s computer programming.  The panel discussed the potential ethical issues raised with sophisticated training of robots to do everything from successfully playing chess, to delivering packages, to driving cars.  
  • Dr. Brian Druker, Director of the Knight Cancer Institute of Oregon Health & Science University,  told of his development of Gleevec. The drug is used to successfully treat chronic myeloid leukemia, changing it to a manageable condition as opposed to a fatal illness.  He talked about the need for persistence and conviction in research. ARCS scholar Sunil Joshi from the Druker lab attended the event, along with scholar alums Julia Maxson and Ted Braun, both cancer researchers at OHSU. 
  • Friday morning began with a tour of the Oregon National Primate Research Center.  ARCS members Nancy Haigwood, Director of the research center, and Diana Gordon, the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the center, greeted ARCS members.  Gordon explained the complex process of how research can eventually become approved medical practice. Members toured the property where Japanese Macaques and Rhesus Macaques live, play, and work. After the tours, participants heard from three panelists: Dr. Haigwood, ARCS scholar alum Mariya Shapiro, and Dr. Greg Timmel, lead veterinarian. They talked about the wide variety of research conducted at the center and the careful oversight of the health of the animals.  

 During the conference, attendees enjoyed a variety of tours, including:

  • Oregon Historical Society  - Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk welcomed the ARCS group before they toured the exhibits. 
  • Japanese Garden – Docents led tours of the heralded Japanese Garden in Washington Park. 
  • OSU Food Innovation Center – Director David Stone led a tour of the center, fielding a myriad of questions on food product development, and Oregon foods. Sarah Masoni spoke about her 20 years in the food industry and how she helps perfect product flavors. 
  • Two tours showcased the ways the Knight Cancer Research Building design enhances collaboration for researchers. 
    • One tour included a discussion by Dr. Joe Gray, cancer researcher, and his wife, Jane, breast cancer patient and ARCS member. They talked about the SMMART approach of precision oncology, treating metastatic breast cancer, guided by a broad team of experts in a variety of fields. 
    • The second tour at the Knight Cancer Research Building showcased  Dr. Elizabeth Berry, assistant professor of dermatology at the OHSU School of Medicine, who spoke about malignant melanoma.  Dr. Berry said that with today’s newer treatments, early detection can achieve a 98% survival rate. She encouraged everyone to do body scans on a regular basis.

  Two weekend tours were offered during the AMC. 

  • ARCS members enjoyed a private tour and tasting at Sokol Blosser Winery in the Dundee Hills area on Saturday. They watched grape harvest and learned why the pinot noir grape is suited to the Oregon climate. 
  • ARCS members traveled to Newport to visit the Hatfield Marine Science Center, (HMSC).  They were hosted by Dr. Bruce Mate, director of the Whale Telemetry Group in the Marine Mammal Institute, and Mary Lou Mate, ARCS member and whale research assistant.  Dr. Mate talked about the need to track whales to learn their migration routes, their feeding and birthing areas.  Dr. Mate developed the satellite imaging technology used to identify individual whales in several oceans and he shared what they have learned. Dr. Bob Cowen, Director, HMSC, spoke about the Marine Studies Initiative Building under construction and its unique tsunami escape design. Members visited the Yaquina Head lighthouse area where Bruce Mate identified a gray whale close to shore.  

Another highlight of the conference was when the ARCS Light honorees from each chapter were celebrated at a special lunch, including the Oregon ARCS Light honoree Joan Foley.

Planning for the All Members Conference was led in Oregon by Aletha Anderson, Joan Foley, Diana Gordon, and Julie Branford, and by Sherry Lundeen, the national ARCS president.  

Click HERE to see photos from the AMC.