Secret Cellar hosts “Attraction: Is it just a chemical reaction?”

Ariel Reid

The Secret Cellar, a 1920s speakeasy inspired bar in downtown Kent, hosted an hour-long event on Wednesday night about how chemicals and the brain affect the feeling of love.

Heather Caldwell, a professor of biology, researches mice to study chemicals like oxytocin, the “love” hormone.

Caldwell, with the College of Arts and Sciences, put on an informal science talk called, “Attraction: Is it just a chemical reaction?” to a crowd of more than 30 students, professors and interested members of the public.

Most people in the audience, and even Caldwell herself, had some kind of stemware in-hand, illustrating the relaxed atmosphere. Drink lists were scrawled in bright chalk on the wall behind the bar. 

“It’s not going to be just attraction,” Caldwell said. “We have a little bit of lust in there, a little social bonding.”

She also joked that less PG aspects of love would be saved “for the late-night show after everyone’s had a lot to drink.”

Kim Meloy, the assistant director of marketing for the College of Arts and Sciences, had a front-row seat next to the stage area.

“The topic was interesting to a lot of the attendees and even with the different ways the content was presented in her talk,” Meloy said. “(Caldwell) mixed in humor at great points to not make things at all awkward for the audience.”

The 30 minute presentation struck a fine balance between science and humor, creating a sense of light-hearted learning, which Jim Maxwell, the marketing and PR communication specialist for the College of Arts and Sciences, said is just what the event was meant to do.

“We want to engage the public out in the community in a less formal way,” Maxwell said.

Caldwell’s presentation was not presented like a mystery novel and the crowd was not left wondering just how dependent human love is on own hormones.

“For those of you who would like to leave now, I’m going to answer the question and title of the talk,” Caldwell said. “The answer is no.”

Caldwell spent most of her time discussing love as complex and not being solely affected by one part of the brain or one chemical in the brain. In this way, the science of love and attraction was shown in a very endearing and human way.

Caldwell, after a question posed by an audience member, expounded on the scientific “marginalization” of heartbreak — and not just what it does to a person physically in terms of their brain, but how it affects them on an emotional level too and should be taken seriously.

“It was a nice departure from the standard educational lecture and yet it was informative in a fun way,” Meloy said.

This talk was the first in a series by the College of Arts and Sciences to celebrate A Year of Science. It was also part of a series of talks called Brains on Tap, which will host its next talk Friday at 6 p.m. in the Secret Cellar.

The Honors College also has its own series of talks in the Secret Cellar, called Research Uncorked, which features speakers on political science, sociology, biology and more.

Ariel Reid is the sciences reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]