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Science With Your Tea?
By Meg Torbert

At the mid-November "College Tea" in Parsons Hall, Bill Hersman, professor of nuclear physics, grabs a butter cookie and pours himself a steaming cup. But unlike a proper English tea, there's no silver tea service or white gloves to be found. Hersman's "teacup" is, in fact, made out of paper, his gloves—tucked in the pocket of his trenchcoat—are brown leather, and his invitation arrived by e-mail.

The goal, after all, of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences' weekly tea is not a lesson in etiquette but a chance for the college community—faculty, students, researchers and staff—to meet and talk casually about science.

"We've both been on campus 20 years, and this is the first time we've had an intellectual discussion of this duration," notes Hersman, as he chats with Dr. Virendra K. Mathur, professor of chemical engineering, whose posters on the removal of sulfur dioxide from power plant emissions are this week's research on display.

Now in their third year, the teas began as an experiment by the college to mix a social occasion with an educational opportunity. Eric Esposito '00, a computer science major, is a frequent patron. "I get to talk to teachers I've had in the past and learn a little something," he says. And, he adds with a smile, "There's free cookies, too."

Mark Leuschner '92G, assistant research professor of physics, confesses he attends the teas because he's "completely ignorant of what other people are doing." Tea and cookies may help to take a bite out of this kind of academic isolation.

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