UO Science Campus Embraces Technology with Some Hesitation

Constantly advancing technology provokes response from affected members of the science department

Lauren McLean

While members of the University of Oregon science department agree that digital technology is both beneficial and necessary to their field, some science students and staff worry about the flaws of technology and wonder if it may get to a point where it is doing more harm than good.

“Digital technology definitely enhances the amount of research we’re able to complete and the findings we’re able to discover,” Shelby Giancaspro said. Giancaspro is a biology and environmental studies major. Major interests of hers include cancer research and disease control. “Science is so technology-oriented…It’s more imperative than ever if we want to get ahead of diseases that are killing people.”

While she recognizes its importance, Giancaspro does see a negative side to so much reliance on technology. “Every piece of technology has it’s flaws,” Giancaspro said. “But in the end, the way our society has developed, technology is crucial.”

Jessica Little, a biology major, also has concerns about the issue. “Technology can get to be too much,” Little said. She used the example of robots taking the jobs of humans in car industries. “I agree with technology for the purpose of discovering scientific things or enhancing the way of life, but not to run life.”

Other members of the science department agree that technology can be overwhelming. “Science is technology-driven,” Doug Brooke said. Brooke works in the environmental health and safety office in Onyx Bridge. “But people put too much reliance on their equipment…you know, equipment can be wrong too.”

Brooke sees advances in technologies as a “no-brainer.” “It keeps us moving,” Brooke said. “How can you stop it? We’re never going to go back. You can always look at the ‘good old days’ but we will never be there again.”

Environmental studies professor Peg Boulay considers the downside of technology but has more appreciation than distaste for it. “Technologies are continually shifting. Archiving and making things accessible over time can be difficult,” Boulay said.

But, Boulay said, technology has changed the way she teaches and conducts research. “New tools allow you to work more efficiently in the field and provide opportunity for innovative teaching and learning.”

Anthony Gaskill, a biology major, is enthusiastic about advances in technology as it relates to his studies. Currently he is doing research on bees, studying how they communicate with each other in order to pollinate successfully. He is following a science researcher’s experiments. “We made a little bee robot to mimic bees to test the hypothesis, and it worked,” Gaskill said.

In a different realm of digital tools, Gaskill also appreciates the use of his Kindle to buy and store his science textbooks. “It’s a lot cheaper. I rented a book on my Kindle for $35 instead of buying it for $200,” Gaskill said. “Now that I have my Kindle, I just carry this little thing around and it has all three textbooks on it.”

One positive aspect of digital technology members of the science department agree is beneficial is social media. “Students use technology to communicate with their team. For collaboration, digital media tools are fabulous and make everything much more effective,” Boulay said.

Giancaspro said that her science teachers are able to stay up to date with new findings in the study of science via social media sources. “We learned today that there’s a new species of life that is unable to be into a kingdom…Immediately it was published in Norway yesterday, and at ten o’clock this morning the teacher already had it up on her slides,” Giancaspro said. “Email and the Internet and Google have really helped us become more connected with the science field and technicians around the world.”

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Professor Peg Boulay in her office on campus

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The heart of the science campus, near Cascade Hall

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