Cheers to Science

March 4, 2018 - Elaine D. Briseno, Albuquerque Journal

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday in February and the back room of O’Niell’s bar on Central Avenue is almost standing room only.

But people aren’t there for happy hour. They aren’t there to see their favorite band. The more than 50 people have come in the name of science.

This particular Thursday the topic is about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted by the United Nations in July 2017. Greg Mello, the executive director and co-founder of the Los Alamos Study Group, delivered the talk. The Study Group’s purpose includes nuclear disarmament.

The talk is one of many that has been taking place since 2012 as part of the Science on Tap series that was the brainchild of University of New Mexico staff member Heather Armstrong. The talks feature a wide range of topics from mammals that grow in pouches, to treating cardiovascular disease, the evolution of human sexuality, the moon landings and cyber security. The events are geared toward the 21 and over crowd.

Armstrong is currently the administrator for the computer science department. She said about seven or eight years ago she attended a similar event at a bar in Portland and was excited about the response.

“It was wildly successful,” she said. “They had a line around the corner in the drizzly rain.”

Armstrong returned to Albuquerque determined to start something similar here. She said a bar setting makes science more inviting and accessible to the public.

“There’s something about the idea of being in a bar,” she said. “It becomes a cool thing to do. It makes it social instead of educational.”

The 30- to 45-minute talks are a collaboration with ¡Explora! and the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, which help find speakers and suggest topics. Science on Tap takes place the first Thursday of every month in August through November and February through May, to coincide with UNM’s schedule.

Cheryl Brozena, a graphic designer for the chemical and biological engineering, and nuclear engineering departments at UNM, helps run the events. She said speakers are asked to present their topic in a way a layman can understand and to leave at least 15 minutes for questions.

“The big thing is we ask them not to use a lot of power point slides,” she said. “What we want is a conversation and not a lecture.”

Armstrong said the crowd sizes range from 20 to 70 people and she is continuously surprised at the new faces she sees at each presentation.

She said the group also makes a special effort to highlight women in science and tech fields. The topics are chosen about a month in advance.

If you go
WHAT: Science on Tap
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. first Thursday of the month
WHERE: O’Niell’s Pub, 4310 Central SE

INFORMATION: Visit or contact Cheryl Brozena at