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Science of sound keynote, alumnae panel kick off Science Festival Weekend

Nicholas Perna, Scifest keynote speaker

Randolph College’s 10th annual Science Festival is now underway, following a musical keynote performance and open class and an engaging panel discussion led by alumnae in science careers. The Science Festival continues this weekend with a wide variety of free, family friendly events and activities.

Students participate in a vocal exercise

Students participate in a vocal exercise

For the keynote on Thursday evening, Nicholas Perna spoke—and sang—about the science behind different types of voices and the pitches they can produce.

Perna is an assistant professor of music at Mississippi College, where he teaches vocal pedagogy and voice repertoire classes as well as music research and writing. He has garnered international attention for his research on the acoustics of the singing voice, nasality of the singing voice, and laryngeal manipulation in vocal warm-up routine.

Nicholas Perna leads students on a vocal exercise using straws.

Nicholas Perna leads students on a vocal exercise using straws.

In addition to his keynote, Perna led an open class Friday morning in Nichols Theatre, where he demonstrated his techniques to Randolph students and other Science Festival participants.

He will perform once again this Saturday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. in Wimberly Recital Hall with his wife, Mandy Spivak, in a Guest Artist Recital. Perna, who is a tenor, and Spivak, a soprano, will present an evening of German art song and Italian operatic repertoire.

On Friday afternoon, the Science Festival audience and Randolph students tuned in to a panel discussion by three of the College’s alumnae who enjoy successful careers in the sciences. Nurse practitioner Melanie Fastabend ’89, physical therapist Karen Godley ’97, and Randolph’s biology lab technician Catherine Khoo ’11 each spoke and answered questions about their work and offered advice to others who aspire to enter the field.

Women in Science panelists: Melanie Fastabend ’89, Karen Godley ’97, Catherine Khoo ’11

Women in Science panelists: Melanie Fastabend ’89, Karen Godley ’97, Catherine Khoo ’11

More events and activities scheduled this weekend include:

  • The Poetry Jam! Reading and Competition Awards will be held Friday, March 23, at 6 p.m. in Wimberly Recital Hall. Finalists in Randolph’s K-12 science-based poetry competition will share their work, and over $1,000 in prizes will be awarded to the authors of the top entries.
  • A Scientist Goes to the Movies: Geostorm will be held Friday, March 23 at 8 p.m. in Nichols Theatre. Sarah Sojka, a Randolph physics and environmental studies professor, will provide commentary on the new release of the environmental action/thriller. Free popcorn will be provided.
  • Science Day is scheduled for Saturday, March 24. This popular event features an afternoon of activities for students in grades 3-6. The Randolph College Nursery School also will host Science Day for Little Scientists for children ages 3-7. Prior registration is required for both of these events.
  • The Glow Stick Star Party begins at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, in the Winfree Observatory. Scientists of all ages will have the opportunity to look up at the stars using the telescope at the Winfree Observatory. The event will be held rain or shine, and free glow sticks and refreshments will be provided.
  • Sunday Science Exhibition for All Ages start Sunday, March 25, at noon, and drop-in activities take place in various locations across the Randolph campus. In addition to the Mini Maker Faire, robots, lasers, and local companies and organizations will be on hand with interesting scientific activities, including a lightning machine, Newtown’s Cradle, and the Non-Newtonian Fluid Pool.
  • The Junior FIRST LEGO League Expo takes place Sunday, March 25, and begins at 12:30 p.m. in Smith Memorial Building. Registration and more information is available at
  • The Science Café will take place Sunday, March 25, in the Conway Corner convenience store in Main Hall. During three sessions at 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 p.m., Randolph education students will lead hands-on activities and answer science questions from people of all ages.
  • The Science and Art Saturdays Reception will take place Sunday, March 25, at 2 p.m. in Room 415 of Martin Science Building. High school students who participated in Randolph’s free Science Saturdays program will be recognized as Science Saturday Scholars. Find more information about the program at


The Science Festival is a series of free events during March that allow the community to discover and celebrate the beauty of science and its connection to many aspects of life. The program, which has something for all ages, has grown significantly since it began in 2009, and continues to add new attractions each year.

The Randolph College Science Festival evolved from the popular Science Day, a free program offered to children in grades 3-6, which began in 2005. The popularity of the one-day Science Day, which routinely fills its registration early, led to the creation of an even bigger festival that would allow Randolph to share the beauty, fun, and relevance of science to all ages. The event has now grown to encompass multiple days. Led by the Randolph College Society of Physics Students, the Science Festival features one of the largest groups of student, faculty, and staff volunteers on campus.

Visit for the full schedule of events or to register for events.

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