Open Science Café

Interdisciplinary Student Leadership Program

Photo of Open Science Cafe about RFID

RFID: Living with an Internet of Things was one of two Open Science Cafes delivered in 2015.

To celebrate five years of bringing the campus and community together at Cal Poly Science Café, Kennedy Library launched a new initiative, Open Science Cafe, in 2014.

Open Science Cafe empowers students to design an informal learning experience for the Cal Poly community with the researcher, professional or artist of their choice. Students work closely with a mentor at the library to gain program design experience from start to finish. Often a faculty mentor will also be closely involved. The program can relate to any discipline; it doesn’t have to be about science. Students are awarded a generous program budget and $500 for their leadership.

How would you describe your experience in one word?

Fulfilling. – Robert Garlinghouse (IE ’15)

Educational. – Nasim Delavari (MCRO ’15)


What have you learned?

This experience has heightened my knowledge of leadership, project management, communication, and collaboration. – Ali Albiani (Art and Design ’14)

Read more first-hand accounts from student leaders on our blog and watch interviews with featured experts on our Vimeo.

Proposals and Process

Check back in fall 2015 to apply!


A winning grant proposal is selected by a panel of judges who are looking for:

1) creativity and thoughtfulness — What kind of informal learning experience do you envision? What would you want your community to understand about this expert and his or her world? In other words, what are the possibilities for going beyond a lecture or talk to make the program a Learn by Doing experience?

2) feasibility and planning — Have you researched speaking fees? Is your selected expert inclusive or divisive? How might you compel people to attend and participate?

We welcome applications from students at every college and in every discipline. Experiential, interactive event designs are encouraged. Proposals must reflect the context of an academic library and be appropriate for an inclusive learning community.

After reviewing proposals, the judges will meet with selected students to discuss their ideas.

  • Applications will be accepted from individual students only.
  • You must be a Cal Poly student during spring quarter 2016.
  • We reserve the right not to select a recipient.

What is Cal Poly Science Café?
It’s a fun series that brings the campus and community together for interdisciplinary Learn by Doing experiences. They last about an hour and can cover any topic, not just those relating to science. Ideally, they are hands-on. See what we’ve done on Vimeo and join us on Facebook.

Where and when does Cal Poly Science Café happen?
It is usually held in the Robert E. Kennedy Library, on the second floor, near Julian’s. We’ve found the best time to hold the events is on a Thursday, 11:00AM-12:30PM, but there is some flexibility.

How does Open Science Cafe work?
You will be empowered by a library team and generous budget to bring your vision to life as the leader of your own Cal Poly Science Café. The budget is designed to cover event expenses like speaker fees, workshop materials, travel arrangements and food. All expenses are reviewed, approved and processed by the library. Any budget not spent will be returned to library funds. Students will also receive a $500 stipend for their leadership.

Do you write me a check?
No. We set aside a budget for you to spend on creating your dream event. We will process the expenses. Your stipend will be processed through Financial Aid and be applied to your Cal Poly account.

Who typically plans Cal Poly Science Café?
Karen Lauritsen, the communications and public programs coordinator, together with a team. She’ll be your mentor. You can learn more about planning your own science cafe event in this presentation.

How do I apply?
Via online application. You must be a Cal Poly student during spring quarter 2016, when your event will be held. We reserve the right not to select an award recipient.

What do I get out of this?
In addition to the support, infrastructure and budget to make your vision a reality, the hands-on experience of making a program happen from start to finish will be valuable in your professional life. There will be lots of documentation of your collaboration that will look great on your resume. Of course, there is also the $500 stipend.

Can I work with friends?
Applications will be accepted from individual students only, but we understand that you may be working with a team.


Questions? Contact Karen Lauritsen. Want to support this program? You can with an annual gift.

2015: Two Open Science Cafes!

Open Science Cafe on appropriate technologies

Nasim Delavari with Lonny Grafman (2015).

Nasim Delavari (MCRO ’15) hosted Appropriate Technologies, Near and Far to create a model experience of the co-design community process with Lonny Grafman, founder of Appropedia.

Robert Garlinghouse (IE ’15), in partnership with the RFID Technology Alliance Club and Dr. Tali Freed, brought Mark Roberti, a leader in the RFID industry, for a conversation about Living with an Internet of Things.

2014: Inaugural Open Science Cafe!

Ali Albiani (Art+Design, 14), in collaboration with Professor Charmaine Martinez, designed an experience with Steve Duenes, the graphics director for The New York Times: How to Use Data and Design to Tell Stories.

Read more about Ali’s experience planning and leading the first ever Open Science Cafe on our blog.