Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good

All Majors & Minors

Ben Allwein

Senior Parlee Center Fellow

I am a Parlee Center Fellow because science without purpose is not truly science at all. I consider the disparity and lack of understanding between those few who carry out the science and those most affected by the outcome of scientists’ discoveries and understanding to be one of the great injustices I’ve faced within my lifetime. That we do not provide the necessary tools for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or gender, to become a scientist (if they want to) or, moreover, accessibility to understand the body of scientific work which has the power to affect lives on a global scale is, to me, deeply unsettling.

 

My service work with underserved populations as part of the Ursinus Bonner Program informs and drives my advocacy work with the Parlee Center because I’ve observed firsthand the consequences of scientific neglect. People, especially impoverished people, who feel as though they have no business learning about science will never be able to fully understand the deep roots that exist between our everyday lives and the science that goes on around us all the time. It is my ultimate hope that by teaching, volunteering, and effectively connecting with people that I might be able to show others why science is so important, relevant, and worth caring about.

 

My Major / Minor / Campus Organizations

Major in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology -  Minor in Physics  - Bonner Leader, UCARE Service Fellow, College Communications Photographer

 

My Research

I do research in the Cameron Lab, where we study a version of invariably fatal neurodegenerative diseases called “transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.” In cows, this disease is called “Mad Cow Disease”; in humans, it is “Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.” In the interest of not contracting deadly neurodegenerative diseases, we use baker’s yeast as a model organism in which study the class of molecular proteinaceous anomalies which underlie the TSEs, a unique class of protein called “prions.” Prions are wildly complicated misfolded proteins which propagate by converting exponential numbers of copies of the same (genetically identical) protein to form large, destructive conglomerates that cause myriad problems within the cell. My work looks specifically at how these individual proteins aggregate and convert each other to the misfolded clumps that define mammalian and yeast prion phenomena.

 I successfully completed my Summer Fellows project on what I’ve described above, with plans to present my summer work at the Haverford Undergraduate Science Research Symposium on September 24th.

 

 

My Favorite Parlee Center Events

My favorite Parlee Center event was a visit and talk from the science writer Amanda Gefter on her book, “Tresspassing on Einstein’s Lawn.” In her book she describes her deep-rooted interest in physics and her rise to international journalistic accolade among the physics community. I look up to her because though she has no formal academic background in the subject, Amanda Gefter has become extraordinarily well-versed in the deepest questions concerning the origin and ultimate fate of the universe and on contemporary cosmological physics research. Her book is written for a general audience and though her expertise in physics journalism is immediately obvious, she is an excellent communicator capable of making available to everyone a field which has been historically accessible to only a select few people.

My favorite events:

 

  • Tyrone Hayes: “From Silent Spring to Silent Night: A Tale of Toads and Men”
  • Kevin Hill: “The Unbiased Truth about Marijuana”
  • Amanda Gefter: “Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn”

 

My Parlee Center Fellow Courses

MSC-256 (Decoding Science); EDUC-210 (Foundations of Education); PHIL-240 (Ethics)

 

Life After Ursinus

After my time at Ursinus, I plan on going to graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in the field of molecular biophysics. From there I hope to become a professor and educate college students on issues pertaining to  civic engagement, scientific access, and, of course, the physical sciences. 

Life After Ursinus

I’m deeply interested in disparities of science education and equal opportunity. In the future I hope to become a professor and to help shape the next generation of medical professionals, scientists, and scientifically-minded individuals.