By Paige Wearmouth
The Women in Science speaker series hosted an assistant professor from Catholic University’s Biomedical Engineering department for a lecture about skin and the sense of touch, on Wednesday, March 9th at the Busboys and Poets restaurant on Monroe Street.
Sahana N. Kukke Ph. D, the speaker of the event, works in Catholic University’s neuromotor control lab, and is a cofounder of the Neuroscience minor, which was recently established in the department of Psychology. Kukke said that in particular, supporting women in science is very important to her and is important to society as a whole.
“We would be wasting half of the world’s intelligence if we didn’t have women in science,” Kukke said. “It’s sort of a requirement, I think, for society.”
The lecture, Making Sense of Our Senses: Exploring Touch, included lessons Kukke has taught in her graduate level Biomedical Engineering class, Neural Control of Movement. Kukke aimed to make the information she presented accessible and understandable for all members of the audience, regardless of their knowledge of the topic.
With the help of pictures and diagrams, Kukke presented information about many different parts of skin and the four types of receptors that create the sense of touch. According to Kukke, these receptors, which are termed “mechanareceptors,” are each used to perceive different types of feelings.
In order to demonstrate the stimulation of these mechanareceptors, Kukke brought an element of interaction to her presentation. The audience, which filled every table in a room at Busboys and Poets, was instructed to play with children’s toys that were provided at each seat. Later in the presentation, Kukke passed around paperclips and small plastic cards to the audience. These were used to demonstrate the way the touch of an object to different parts of the body feels different due to varying concentrations of mechanareceptors in the skin.
Many of Kukke’s students attended her lecture. She wanted to give them the opportunity to learn the material in a different setting and from a different teaching perspective.
Jeff Banagan, a junior Psychology major with a focus in Neuroscience, is currently taking Kukke’s course, Neural Control of Movement. He found the lecture to be a helpful review.
“It was helpful in the sense that it was interactive, which allowed us to better incorporate what we learned in class,” Banagan said. “In class we look at more of the types of stimuli that are responsive to specific mechanareceptors.”
Kukke said that the Women in Science speaker series offers a “broad array” of topics in science, since each speaker is a woman from a different field. Kukke also said that she would like to participate in more events advocating for women in science.