Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturers 2012-2013 Abstracts
Demons and Butterflies—Weather predictions and predictability theory
The concept of predictability of complex systems has fascinated scientists for centuries. In the 17th century Gottfried Leibnitz speculated that everything proceeds mathematically, and so someone who had sufficient understanding and could take into account everything, "would be a prophet and see the future in the present as in a mirror."
About a hundred years later the Marquis de Laplace dreamed of an intelligent being (an intellect, later dubbed Laplace's Demon) who knew the positions and velocities of every single atom and used Newton's equations of motion to predict the future of the entire universe.
In 1972 Edward Lorenz gave a talk on atmospheric predictability with the title "Does the flap of a butterfly's wing in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" This rhetorical and provocative question has intrigued scientists and the public ever sense, and "the butterfly effect" has come to mean chaos and lack of predictability of chaotic nonlinear systems.
Examples of successful numerical weather forecasts suggest that in some cases there is useful predictability of high-impact weather systems far beyond what classical predictability theory might suggest. In this talk I show examples that provide optimism for continuing to increase the forecast lead time of significant weather and indicate how this progress can continue.
Climate change—what, why and how do we know?
Climate has been changing ever since Earth was formed. It is changing now, more rapidly than ever, with major consequences for life on the planet. Why does climate change? Why is it changing now? How do we know what causes climate change? How much do we know about future climate, and how it will affect us? Can we do anything about it? Should we?
Weather forecasting over the ages-from folklore to science
Weather forecasting has always interested people, and has been called one of the world's oldest professions. In this talk I look at weather forecasting over the ages, and how it has changed from an art based on folklore and rules of thumb to a modern mathematical and physical based science using millions of observations from land, sea, and space.
Hurricanes, weather patterns and climate change—why a few degrees matter.
Global climate is expected to warm several degrees Celsius in the next 100 years. A few degrees does not sound like much, so why are we concerned? This talk looks at how climate change and changes in weather patterns are related, and in particular, how hurricanes may change in a warmer and wetter world.
The chemistry of Vincent van Gogh.
At the time of his suicide in 1890 the genius of Vincent van Gogh was acknowledged by only a small cadre of friends and followers. His jagged thirty-seven years had been marked by early uncertainties, interludes of luckless love affairs, wrenching episodes of self-mutilation, crises of debilitating sickness, and periods of painful striving for lofty goals. Today, his art is universally recognized. He is on everybody's list of outstanding artists and in every catalog of creative people.
Van Gogh not only had an identifiable syndrome, based on medical signs and the time-course of his illness, but his life-style directly influenced the expression and severity of symptoms, exacerbated his condition, and provoked crises. Such well-documented yet seemingly disparate factors as overindulgence in alcohol (especially as the romantic but toxic absinthe), smoking too much, malnutrition, fasting, environmental exposure, and infections all come together and support a unifying hypothesis of acute intermittent porphyria as the artist's underlying disease, from which two of his five siblings also suffered.
In this PowerPoint presentation the portrait of Vincent van Gogh is not as a mad artist, but rather as an exceptional man who suffered from an inherited metabolic disorder. He was wonderfully creative because of intelligence, talent, and hard work. He was a genius in spite of his illness not because of it.
King George III's urine and indigo blue.
"The Madness of George III" was first performed at the Royal National Theatre, London, in 1991. In dramatizing the illness of King George III (1738-1820), Alan Bennett evoked sympathy, titillation, humor — all within a milieu of power struggles. Success led to a film, that was also well received in the U.S. In the final scene two attendants remark upon their King’s return to health and observe that the royal urine which had been blue is now normal. A sentence floats overhead to inform the audience that the King suffered from porphyria, as first proposed by McAlpine and Hunter. The remarkable thing for any student of porphyria is the reference to blue because porphyric urines, after aging, are associated with red, reddish-brown, or purple pigments. However, detailed reading of the literature reveals that on two occasions specimens of bluish urine were actually registered on behalf of the King by Sir Henry Halford (1766-1844).
This PowerPoint presentation demonstrates the formation of blue pigment in aged urine as due to the excretion of abnormal amounts of indoxyl sulfate from the patient, the participation of bacterial cells in the collection vessel, and the eventual formation of indigo blue. I reproduced the observations of Sir Henry from 1811 using physiologically-reasonable concentrations of indoxyl sulfate; a common bacterium called Providencia stuartii; and porcelain crucibles to mimic chamber pots. Furthermore, a rational story for the historic blue urine follows from King George III’s suffering from acute intermittent porphyria, accompanied by episodes of severe constipation, as indicated in royal bulletins.
Frédéric Chopin was born near Warsaw, Poland, in 1810 but from 1831 lived mostly in France where he achieved international acclaim for his music in spite of a debilitating and life-shortening illness. He died in 1849 and an autopsy by Dr. Jean Cruveilhier supposedly confirmed tuberculosis of the lungs and larynx, together with cachexia, although written documentation was subsequently lost.
Chopin’s body was interred in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, except for the heart which was preserved in alcohol (cognac), sealed in a crystal urn, taken to his native Poland by his sister Ludwika, and sequestered within a pillar of the Holy Cross Church, in Warsaw.
In 1987, a novel analysis of the available information led to the suggestion of cystic fibrosis as Chopin’s congenital disease. In 2006, a group of Polish biologists not only adopted this diagnosis but attempted to justify genetic analysis on a sample of Chopin’s heart, “to deepen our knowledge about the great Polish composer, but foremost to give hope and meaning to those who nowadays suffer from genetically inherited disorders.” [To suggest that discovering a famous person with the same disease would bring understanding or solace to current patients seems to me to be a specious argument.] To date, Polish authorities have refused DNA testing on the alcohol-preserved organ.
This PowerPoint presentation will show that the clinical and pathological evidence for tuberculosis, a microbial disease, remains much more compelling than that for the genetic disease of cystic fibrosis and this surely adds to the societal and religious arguments that have been expressed against invasive interference with the relic.
Learning in Research Settings: Role of Identity Formation (P,G,S)
Training that occurs in research settings plays a critical role in controlling the way science is produced (knowledge creation) and perpetuated (knowledge transmission). Research laboratories provide specialized learning environments in terms of cooperative and collaborative learning, styles of communication, lines of authority, faculty-student and student-student interactions and knowledge creation and transmission. The everyday practices of faculty and students within these settings can promote student learning through identity formation via creation of an inclusive and supportive environment/community that enables a strong sense of self and view of oneself as a scientist or engineer. Racial and ethnic minorities and women differentially experience research settings in a manner that impacts science identity, learning outcomes and career progression. This presentation explores positioning in terms of race and gender in the laboratory and its relationship to learning using identity as a lens. Lived experiences of women of color will be addressed along with potential strategies that can be employed by faculty and institutions to enhance learning for all students.
Environmental Effects on Tissue-Engineered Cartilage (G,S)
Articular cartilage injury is a major cause of decreased mobility and can lead to osteoarthritis. Its limited ability for self-repair presents a challenge for orthopedic medicine that can potentially be met through tissue engineering approaches combining cells, bioactive molecules and material scaffolds in environments that support the regeneration of functional tissue. Critical for the success of these approaches is identification of appropriate cell sources, smart materials, and conditions to recapitulate properties of native cartilage and ensure proper integration with host tissue. We employ novel bioreactors with well-defined hydrodynamic zones to better understand the complex interplay between hydrodynamic, biochemical and biomechanical environments and their relationship to biochemical, histological, and mechanical engineered tissue properties. Our current model takes advantage of multipotent and highly proliferative mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in co-culture with primary articular chondrocytes as a source of endogenous stimuli to direct MSC differentiation, in order to improve cartilage construct properties. To elucidate the roles of critical chondrocyte-secreted paracrine factors that may drive MSC chondrogenic differentiation, relevant factors are incorporated into a novel layer-by-layer (LbL) molecule delivery device whose release profile mimics that of primary chondrocytes. Overall, our system provides a template to better understand mechanisms involved in the interplay between mechanical and biochemical stimuli in order to enable the in vitro production of engineered cartilage with clinically relevant properties and capabilities for restoring cartilage defects.
Investigation of Sickle Cell Disease using Engineering Approaches (P,G,S)
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic disorder affecting 70,000 Americans and millions globally that induces chronic inflammation and vascular dysfunction and causes multiple organ damage as a result. The pathophysiology of SCD is quite complex and involves altered interactions between blood cells and endothelial cells lining the vessel walls, altered mechanical properties of blood, blood cells and blood vessels and altered tissue properties in affected organs. We apply innovative engineering approaches and technologies to better understand conditions that contribute to vaso-occlusion, a hallmark of the disease, and the relationship between inflammation, vascular remodeling and vascular biomechanical abnormalities. Results from these studies will enable the development of new therapies and provide clinicians with therapeutic opportunities for improved management of individuals with SCD.
The Impact of Retrotransposons on Human Genome Evolution (G,S)
Their ability to move within genomes gives transposable elements an intrinsic propensity to affect genome evolution. Non-long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons— including LINE-1, Alu and SVA elements — have proliferated over the past 65 million years of primate evolution and now account for approximately one-half of the human genome. The lecture will focus on this major class of elements and discuss the many ways that they impact the human genome: from generating insertion mutations and genomic instability to altering gene expression and contributing to genetic innovation. Increasingly detailed analyses of human and other primate genomes are revealing the scale and complexity of the past and current contributions of non-LTR retrotransposons to genomic change in the primate lineage.
Mobile Elements: a Novel Source of Primate Genomic Variation (G,S)
Mobile elements belong to discrete subfamilies that can be differentiated from one another by diagnostic nucleotide substitutions. An analysis of lineage specific mobile element insertions throughout the primate order was undertaken to assess mobile element associated primate genomic diversity. Our screening of the mobile element insertion loci resulted in the recovery of a number of "young" mobile elements with different distributions throughout the primate lineage. Many of the mobile elements recovered from various human and non-human primate genomes were restricted to various parts of the primate lineage, with some elements that were polymorphic for insertion presence/absence in diverse primate genomes. Many of these loci have proven useful for elucidating human and non-human primate population relationships and for the resolution of primate phylogenetic relationships. The distribution of mobile elements throughout various primate genomes makes them useful tools for resolving non-human primate systematic relationships.
Hormones and breast cancer (P,G,S)
The “female” hormone estrogen and the cellular protein to which it binds (estrogen receptor) regulate many functions associated with the risk to develop breast cancer. Drugs that compete with estrogen for binding to its receptor (e.g., Tamoxifen/Nolvadex) or that block the body’s ability to make estrogen (e.g., Letrozole/Femara) can reduce some women’s risk of their breast cancer recurring in the future and also reduce their risk of dying from this disease. Unfortunately, not everyone receives the same magnitude of benefit from these drugs. This lecture will explore the role of estrogen in driving the biology of some breast cancer cells and how current therapies target this hormone and its receptor. Also discussed will be some of the new research technologies available that may lead to future discoveries.
Modeling resistance to hormone based therapies in breast cancer (G,S)
Approximately 70% of all newly diagnosed invasive breast cancers express the estrogen receptor. Targeting this receptor with drugs like Tamoxifen has proved effective in reducing the risks of disease recurrence and death for many women. However, some tumors that should respond do not and others that respond initially later recur. Recurrent breast cancers are very difficult to cure. This lecture will discuss our current research integrates mathematical and computational modeling to explore how breast cancers adapt their molecular signaling, and so also their cellular metabolism and regulation of subcellular functions, to survive the stresses imposed by hormone based therapies. How the insights gained from our work can lead to new approaches to treat some breast cancers will also be presented.
What can we learn about breast cancer by combining mathematics and computer science in a systems biology approach to research? (P,G,S)
The past decade has seen the advent of a series of new high-throughput technologies that now allow researchers to sequence the entire human genome and concurrently measure the expression levels of thousands of genes and proteins in specimens from human tumors. While these technologies create immense volumes of data, turning this information into knowledge requires expertise in mathematics and computer science. Incorporating expertise in these physical sciences is fundamentally changing how we approach answering questions in biology. This lecture will discuss how, in our Center for Cancer Systems Biology, we integrate mathematical and computer science tools to analyze multiple data types and build predictive models that help us to understand how breast cancer cells determine whether to live or die, or to replicate or growth arrest, in response to anticancer treatments.
Aerobiology, the final frontier for environmental engineers. How molecular biology is rapidly changing our views of the air we breathe at home, in transit, and at work (G, S)
Aerobiology, the final frontier for environmental engineers. How molecular biology is rapidly changing our views of the air we breathe at home, in transit, and at work.
While gas phase pollutants in the atmosphere (SMOG) have received much attention, the microbiology of aerosols (termed "bioaerosols") has been largely ignored in environmental engineering. Certainly, this is not consistent with the civil engineers' charter concerning water quality and public health. Industrial hygienists have traditionally characterized airborne microbes indoor, but have rarely approached aerobiology problems from an engineering perspective. This presentation will highlight how the marriage of engineering with molecular biology is exposing the true identity and distribution of microorganisms suspended in the air we breathe—that which has been sorely overlooked by generations of classical culturing, and recently been extended to outdoor environments. We are now characterizing outdoor air for the purposes of better understanding how microorganisms and other primary biological materials contribute to organic carbon loads in our atmosphere— particularly following large scale disasters.
The Demography of Academic Neighborhoods and the Emerging Culture of Missing Mentors in our Research Universities (P, G, S)
Mentors can be passive or active, and whether we realize it or not, many of us rely on a network of mentoring systems throughout our lives. Such networks are well established in our social interactions, but are not often engaged to enrich our academic training or otherwise leverage our professional goals. Nowhere is formal mentoring this more important than in the advanced technical and research training of our workforce, yet the availability of mentoring networks are perceived to be declining in our large research universities. This presentation will provide an overview of how the modern student body at large, and particularly minority students, fail to identify and approach some of the most critical decisions in their lives: deciding who to entrust with their visions, and who has the skill, availability and desire to forward them into the professional world during their graduate training. In the context of our nation's critical need for scientists and engineers, the modern challenges of finding, investing and leveraging professional mentors will be presented, as will paradigms to integrate heroes and value sets into University students' visions for the path and apex of their careers.
Photonics, Diversity and Mentoring -- Over 30 Years of Experiences and Strategies on an African-American Physicist (P,G,S)
I hope to share a career that emphasizes cutting edge research in ultrafast optical phenomena, as well as outreach to women and underrepresented minorities that began over three decades ago at AT&T Bell Laboratories. In academia for 15 years now, I have had the good fortune to continue the research tradition, where the majority of my PhD and MS students have been women and underrepresented minorities. Indeed, these students are out there, they are hungry for the experience, motivated to give their best effort, and can thrive when given supportive environments. I will touch upon professional service and research grants and the impact these entities have had on the seemingly disparate foci that exists between photonics and diversity.
Ultrafast Optical Characterization of Novel Nanoscale Materials (G,S)
Ultrafast optical phenomena refers to dynamical processes that occur in various forms of matter on the timescale of picoseconds (10-12 s, ps), femtoseconds (10-15 s, fs) and attoseconds (10-18 s, as). These phenomena are relegated to the optical domain, primarily because only lasers have been fast enough to probe many of these processes. Ultrashort pulses of light have been utilized in fundamental studies of disciplines as diverse at semiconductor physics, lightwave transmission systems and biological systems. This talk will describe several of the techniques used by ultrafast opticists to measure events on this incredibly short time scale. The talk will concentrate on the use of fs duration visible and near-infrared optical pulses to measure ultrafast optical switching in single-walled carbon nanotubes. Additionally, I will discuss the use of fs mid-infrared optical pulses to investigate the ultrafast gain dynamics of active mid-infrared semiconductor quantum cascade lasers (QCLs). These mid-infrared QCLs are fundamentally different from the traditional visible and near-infrared semiconductor lasers that are common in everyday DVD players and supermarket scanners & these differences will also be discussed.
W. R. (Bill) Klemm
Atoms of Mind. The "Ghost in the Machine" Materializes (G, P)
This lecture crystallizes Dr. Klemm's ideas about brain function as documented in his latest book of the same title. The lecture begins with an explanation of how the brain "thinks," and defines thought as either latent (memory stores) or "on-line" in the form of patterns of nerve impulses distributed in circuits and networks. Impulse activity patterns combine with the role of such phenomena as oscillation and synchronization to lead to the speaker's view of how consciousness might be produced and sustained. In the discussion of consciousness, the speaker challenges the common view that free-will is illusory. His theory for consciousness is based on a brain capability that can generate both automatic intentions and choices but also freely chosen ones. Dr. Klemm, a long-time sleep researcher, also presents his latest theory for why people dream. The speaker's wide-spectrum of research experiences enable him to participate in extensive audience questions and discussion of all aspects of brain function.
Supplementary reading: Atoms of Mind. The "Ghost in the Machine" Materializes. Springer. 2011
What Teachers Can Do to Improve Student Learning and Memory (G, S)
This lecture shares Dr. Klemm's 45 years of experience as a college professor, which has been importantly influenced by his special interest and research in memory and teaching effectiveness. The lecture begins with an explanation of the various kinds of memory and how they work. Then, the lecture explains common teaching environments and practices that actually impede efficient learning. The bulk of the lecture deals with specific teaching strategies and techniques that teachers can use to make their teaching more effective and the impact more lasting.
Supplementary reading: Thank You Brain for All You Remember. Benecton Press. Blog: http://thankyoubrain.blogspot.com
Better Grades, Less Effort (G, S)
This lecture is specifically tailored to high school and college students. It is aimed at helping them learn more effectively and to employ study strategies that will promote long-lasting memories. Dr. Klemm relates lessons he learned from his own days as a "Joe college" with many extracurricular activities, a student in an overwhelming veterinary medical curriculum, a student who completed a Ph.D. program in 2.5 years, and as a professor of biology, veterinary medical, and neuroscience students. The lecture explains 20 learning techniques in four thematic categories: lifestyle, memory principles and processes, attitude and approach, and classroom and study environment.
Supplementary reading: Better Grades, Less Effort (an e-book, priced at $2.49, available in all formats from Smashwords.com.)
Rikk G. Kvitek
Peeling Back the Blue: how we map and use 3D visualization to reveal and learn from earth's hidden seafloor landscapes. (P,G,S)
Although the global ocean is the driver of weather, a highway for marine commerce, a reservoir of vast marine resources, and our playground, we know more about distant planets than we do about the seafloor. Imagine if the next time you were standing at the ocean's edge that instead of watching crashing waves, you were able to visualize submarine canyons, underwater seamounts and ridges, and even a kelp forest teeming with marine life. The State of California has undertaken a cutting-edge project to make this possible by mapping the seafloor of all the state's waters. Rikk Kvitek will show you the first images created from this effort and share with you how this new information is already being used in a multitude of ways.
From "You've Got to Be Kidding!" to "Ah-Ha!": Hope for our oceans through insight and innovation. (P,G,S)
Need, frustration, breakthrough and surprise is a trajectory common to many enterprises, especially science, where answers are often sought beyond the "You've Got to Be Kidding!" edge of what seems possible. Indeed, it is often frustration-induced lateral thinking that brings us to those Ah-Ha! moments of insight, innovation and breakthrough. Choosing or being forced to see things differently can make all the difference. Now, with our coastal oceans and communities facing the unprecedented threats of global warming, climate change, sea level rise, acidification, pollution, storm intensification, fishery declines, coastal erosion, harmful algal blooms, and more, we are in need of Ah-Ha! insights and solutions more than ever before. Not the least of which being ways to enhance public environmental literacy. Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) has been championed for over a decade as the pursuit and use of deeper ecosystem understanding to drive effective adaptive management solutions for the sustainable use of environmental goods and services. But it is difficult to understand, let alone agree upon and manage what you cannot see. Recent advances in our ability to collect and utilize spatially explicit data for the visualization of California's marine ecosystems have sprung from and lead to surprising insights that are making EBM both possible and personal. Here I use the ambitious, multi-institutional California Seafloor Mapping Project as a case in point for how transformational technology and data are changing for the better the way the public, agencies and scientists see, manage and interact with the marine environment. Stunning imagery, basic and applied scientific collaborations and breakthroughs, enhanced public environmental literacy, critical work force development, innovative resource utilization, and effective policy and management decisions are all now flowing from this type of strategic investment in state-of-the-art marine environmental data.
Mediation of the foraging behavior, spatial distribution and ecological influence of sea otters and shorebirds by harmful algal blooms. (P,G,S)
Here I will present evidence from a series of investigations suggesting that partial predation by siphon-nipping fish may have selected for sequestration of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins (PSPT) in butter clam (Saxidomus spp.) siphons, and that once acquired, this defense mediates predation by other species (sea otters and shorebirds) thereby altering the ecological influence of these high-level predators in regions where blooms of toxic dinoflagellates occur. I will describe in greater detail testing of the general hypothesis that the foraging behavior and distribution of sea otters and shorebirds under natural conditions are mediated by benthic prey toxicity due to harmful algal blooms. Sea otters in southeast Alaska did change their foraging behavior at sites where Butter Clams (Saxidomus giganteus) were found to contain paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins (PSPT) in high concentrations. At the most toxic sites Sea Otters shifted their diet away from their primary Butter Clam prey to smaller and less abundant non-toxic species. At sites of intermediate prey toxicity some Sea Otters continued to forage on Butter Clams while discarding the most toxic body parts. In California, observed changes in shorebird feeding behavior (mainly Oystercatchers, Willets, Godwits and Whimbrels) was correlated with seasonal changes in PSPT in their primary prey, sea mussels (Mytilus californianus) and mole crabs (Emerita analoga). In rocky habitats where mussel toxicity exceeded 150mgSTX/ 100g, Oystercatchers significantly increased their consumption of limpets as well as their discard rate of mussel tissue. In sandy beach habitats where Emerita toxicity exceeded 150mgSTX/ 100g, shorebird abundance decreased significantly, while their rejection rate of Emerita prey increased significantly. We conclude that these predators reduce their exposure to PSP toxins during HAB events through a variety of behavioral responses including: changing their diet, discarding toxic prey and/or avoiding affected areas. These responses may account for the rarity of sea otter and shorebird mortality due to HAB's, and result in HAB toxins providing a refuge from predation for some prey populations.
Diandra L. Leslie-Pelecky
The Science of Speed: Faster, Stronger and Safer (P,G)
A group of racecars piloted by the best drivers in NASCAR enter Turn 4 at Chrlotte Motor Speedway going almost 200 mph. Without warning, one of the cars wiggles, and then slams into the wall. None of the cars touched, there were no engine failures, no flat tires, so what happened?
This is the question that took Professor Diandra Leslie-Pelecky from the lab to the racetrack, speeding around Texas Motor Speedway (she calls it 'research') in an effort to understand why going fast is so hard. In her quest for understanding the science of speed, she met the mechanical engineers, aerodynamicists, chemical engineers, and physicists who have become critical participants in the high-stakes world of motorsports. Even drivers without engineering degrees develop an intuitive understanding of physics, "you don't keep your job long without a working knowledge of Newton's Laws of Motion."
What she learned is that you can't win races without getting the math and science right. Here's where all the science you learned in high school (and wondered when you'd ever use) hits the road. If you've ever thought about knocking Lewis Hamilton or Jeff Gordon out of their ride, you might want to hear this talk before you make your move: without knowing the science, you're more likely to see the yellow flag than the checkered one.
Materials at 200 mph: Faster, Stronger and Safer (P,G)
The quest for speed is always accompanied by concern for safety. Materials play important roles in improving performance, but they also protect the driver. On the performance side, different racing series limit the materials used to decrease the cost of racing. When 'exotic metals' are not allowed, controlling microstructure and nanostructure are important tools in producing materials that maximize strength while minimizing weight. Compacted Graphite Iron, a cast iron in which magnesium additions produce interlocking microscale graphite reinforcements, makes engine blocks stronger and lighter. NASCAR's new car design employs an innovative polymer composite called Tegris in the aerodynamic splitter. This composite can replace significantly more expensive carbon-fiber composites in many applications.
The most important role of materials in racing is safety. Drivers wear firesuits made of polymers that carbonize (providing thermal protection) and expand (reducing oxygen availability) when heated. Technology transfer from NASA to NASCAR brought catalytic materials originally developed for space-based carbon dioxide lasers into the car to filter air for drivers during races. Although materials help cars go fast, they also help cars slow down safely important because the kinetic energy of a race car going 180 mph is nine times greater than that of a passenger car going 60 mph. Energy-absorbing foams in the cars and on the tracks direct energy dissipation away from the driver during accidents.
NASCAR fans "and there are about 75 million of them" understand that science and engineering are integral to keeping their drivers safe and helping their teams win. Their passion for racing gives us a great opportunity to share our passion for materials science and engineering with them.
Building the Perfect World: One (Very) Small Step at a Time (P,G)
Bigger may be better, but small is sensational. Nanomaterials, materials thousands of times smaller than a human hair, are rapidly expanding the realm of the possible. From smart self-cleaning materials to energy efficient lights that don't make you look pasty, nanomaterials are finding their way into consumer products from tennis rackets to face creams.
What makes nanomaterials special isn't just their size - it is that their small size produces chemical and physical properties impossible to achieve in the same material when it is big. Gold isn't even gold-colored when you make it very small. Ideas that might have seemed science fiction just a few years ago - like tiny magnets that hold anti-cancer drugs near tumors - are right around the corner.
Along with the amazing possibilities for technological advances comes the responsibility of thoroughly understanding these materials. The unexpected properties of nanomaterials mean that we are sometimes surprised by how our new creations interact with us, and the world around us. This presentation introduces the world of nanomaterials, uses some of the most fascinating materials as examples of what is possible now and what will be possible in the very near future, and examines what we are doing to ensure that we know not just what we can make, but what we should make.
Biomedical Applications of Magnetic Nanoparticles (G,S)
Nanoscale materials offer unprecedented opportunities to investigate and interact with biological systems. Magnetic nanomaterials are especially interesting due to the potential for controlling materials inside the body using an external magnetic field. Magnetically targeting chemotherapy drugs, for example, could decrease the systemic effects that make cancer treatment so debilitating.
Biomedical applications, however, impose constraints. Magnetic targeting requires large magnetic moments, but also that materials be biocompatible, and stable in air and aqueous environments. Size and surface characteristics (e.g. charge, chemical functionality) must be controlled to regulate how the nanomaterials circulate within the body and interact with different types of cells.
After a general overview of the applications of magnetic nanoparticles in medicine, I will describe our work developing multifunctional magnetic nanoparticle fluids. These materials are capable of delivering multiple hydrophobic anti-cancer drugs to specific locations, as well as enhancing magnetic resonance imaging of the affected area. In this formulation, the drugs partition in the hydrophobic portion of a double-layer surfactant, which improves drug loading and release, while the outer layer of the surfactant improves the circulation time in the body. I will then describe our use of inert-gas condensation into liquids to produce increased magnetic moment nanoparticles that will improve the magnetic targeting capability, and our efforts to understand the mechanisms by which surfactants change magnetic properties.
Paul E. Minnis
Mysteries or Lessons: Archaeology of the Ancient Southwest (P,G,S)
The spectacular ruins of the North American Southwest have often been viewed as a mystery to be revealed through archaeology. This dehumanizes the ancient past. Rather, a focus on archaeology as an approach to document and understand the creative solutions developed by prehistoric people offers important lessons and strategies for dealing with our dynamic and uncertain future.
Specifically, the indigenous people of the North American Sothwest had to deal with climate variation, and the challenges of finding sustainable lifeways. Examples from Ancestoral Pueblo (Anasazi), Hohokam, and northern Mexico illustrates their struggles and accomplishments.
Indigenous Humans and History in Ecology (P,G)
These is a common image that indigenous peoples do/did not affect their environments. Modern ethnobiological research clearly documents the astonishingly complex and diverse ways people are active participants with the environments. Anthropogenic ecology, therefore, is a critical topic for understanding historical ecology. Consideration of the ecological affects of tarditional humanity makes us reconsider whether human environmental effects are "good" or "bad."
Utilitarian Archaeology: "Mining" the Past for the Future (S)
Archaeologists strive to provide narratives about the past, the more detailed the narrative, the better. There are a variety of types of narratives including those more scientific and those with a more humanities orientation.
Can archaeology contribute to solving practical problems facing humanity how and in the forseeable futures? These problems include: increased environmental degradation, developing sufficient and sustainable economies, and reducing pathological social relationships, among others.
Archaeological narratives can provide compelling and powerful lessons about how human cope with problems. However, lessons from archaeological records are not the only way for archaeology to contribute. In fact, they usually suffer from two problems.
I outline a complimentary approach, "Utilitarian Archaeology," which can minimize the problems with with a narrative based archaeology.
Develop of regional System in the North American Southwest (P,G,S)
The rich and profoundly deep prehistory of the North American Sotuhwest (U.S. Southwest and northwestern Mexico), provides dramatic example of the development of societies with leaders, intense interaction among many interdependent communities, and long distance relationships.
The historical development of two such systems, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico, will be compared. This comparison clearly demonstrated the multiple pathways to social and political complexity.
Dennis K. Norman
American Indian Health: A History of Disparities (P,G,S)
This lecture will focus on the history of Native American health, starting with pre-colonization anecdotes, early colonial status, the movement to reservations and the evolving relationship with the national government in responding to its trust relationship with native Nation and their health care. While the early history with colonial settlements was characterized by a massive loss of life due to infectious disease and wars, subsequent health disparities have positioned American Indians at the top of the US population in terms of overall mortality and poor health outcomes. A review of current American Indian status in terms of population, location, identity identification will provide the back-drop for examining the current Indian Health Service, the rise of Tribal health services and the various challenges concerning diabetes, obesity, chronic illnesses, suicide and substance abuse. Factors will be discussed about pipeline issues that make it difficult for American Indians youth to attain education and professional training to address these issues without significant assistance from non-Native caregivers.
Twenty Years of Nation Building in Higher Education (P,G,S)
The process of constructive University collaborations with American Indian communities and organizations respecting sovereignty, culture and the joint building of new knowledge and problem solving will be discussed. The backdrop of these discussions will focus on a twenty year history of Nation Building Projects supported by the Harvard University Native American Program and taught by Harvard faculty under the auspices of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Graduate School of Education. Nation Building projects are undertaken at the request of Native communities. The "Nation Building" strategy, by which an increasing number of Native communities have set about reclaiming powers of self-determination, strengthening their cultures, and developing their economies. A small piece of this movement has been the establishment of new models for respectful and mutually collaborative relations between universities and American Indian/Alaskan Native communities and organizations. For universities to maintain their positions as the major social institutions for educating future citizens, professionals and leaders to deal with the challenges of multiculturalism and globalization they must reconsider and expand their base of knowledge. Our experience with more than 120 Nation Building projects over the last dozen years suggests that the tenets of Nation Building can provide a strategy for expanding and diversifying universities' perspectives of knowledge in a multicultural world, while actually producing something useful requested by Native communities. The content range of project requests is diverse, ranging across public administration, education, health, economic development, environmental protection, resource management, culture and social welfare. The exchange of knowledge flows both directions during the communications, site visits and supervision by the professors, enriching Harvard students, clients, and faculty.
Gregory M. Paoli
Key Themes from the NRC Report, Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment (P, G, S)
In 2009, a committee of the National Research Council released a report entitled, Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment. In reaching its conclusions, the committee reviewed the state of the art of risk assessment, with a focus on the mandate of US Environmental Protection Agency. This lecture, given by a member of the committee, explains the recommendations for improving both the technical basis for risk assessment, as well as the utility of risk assessment. Three areas of focus will be the application of the value-of-information methods, the recommended framework for risk-based decision-making and the recommendations related to harmonization of the approach to dose-response characterization for cancer and non-cancer outcomes. Finally, a look ahead to the future of risk assessment will be offered, considering the technological changes that may enable a very different future for assessments of risks borne by the public.
Accounting for Public Risks in Enterprise Risk Management Systems (P, G, S)
For many years, the concepts of risk and risk management has been the means of expressing and reducing the burden of harms faced by the public. Increasingly, public and private organizations have developed enterprise-wide risk management frameworks that focus on furthering the objectives of the organization, where risk applies equally to seeking opportunity as well as limiting losses. The ISO 31000 risk management standard provides an organization-centric model for the management of risks borne by an organization. For public sector agencies with a public risk management mandate, and private sector organizations whose business directly impacts public risk, effective holistic risk management implies that the two worlds of risk management must co-exist and accept the reality of interaction and potential conflicts of interest. The web of risk arises because risks faced by the public can be increased or decreased through an organization’s behavior. In addition, risks faced by an organization can be affected by the risks faced by the public. The complex web of relationships between public and organizational risk bearing is often suppressed in the hope that enterprise risk management systems, properly executed, will manage the public risk as part of the organization’s objectives. The conflict of interest inherent in public-centric versus organization-centric risk management is not adequately represented. This lecture describes this web of risk and calls for an explicit recognition of the need to separately measure and manage public versus organizational risk.
Jose-Antonio de la Peña
Mathematics in the movies (P)
We discuss (and show short parts of some) films where mathematics or mathematicians play a role. Through the eye of cinema we gain an understanding of the meaning of mathematics for society.
Mathematics as a human endeavor (G)
The power of mathematics to explain how the universe works has been seen with awesome: God is a mathematician or mathematics is the language of the universe. Even the purest mathematics often turns out to have practical applications in what Eugene Wigner has called "the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics". In this lecture we discuss historic examples of human weaknesses in mathematics: mistakes, lack of rigor, biased viewpoints and others.
Scientific and social networks: a mathematical view (P,G,S)
We discuss networks as mathematical objects and develop combinatorial and algebraic tools to better understand scientific networks (formed by scientists, scientific journals and others) and social networks (formed by organized societies, internet users and others).
John J. Shea
Myths of "Modern" Human Origins (G)
For decades paleoanthropologists have distinguished recent "behaviorally-modern" humans from the earliest member of our species, Homo sapiens. This distinction reflects two longstanding myths in human origins research. The first myth is that the European Upper Paleolithic "revolution" 40,000 years ago marks a crucial turning point in prehistory. The second is there is a unifying trend to human evolution. This lecture challenges both of these myths. The European Upper Paleolithic features impressive art and it is well-documented by archaeologists, but it is just the record of one region, and not one necessarily representative of the whole world. Archaeologists' use of the Upper Paleolithic as a universal standard for human behavioral modernity is an artifact of history. It reflects the fact that archaeology began in Europe, a continent to which humans dispersed relatively late and not in Africa, where our species actually originated. If there were a trend in human behavioral evolution, it should be apparent in the archaeological record for Eastern Africa, the region with the longest fossil record for Homo sapiens. Analysis of variability in stone tool technology over the last 275,000 years in Eastern Africa reveals no trend in human behavioral evolution, but instead a wide range of behavioral variability from before our species origins to recent times. Such differences as there are between earlier and later stone tools, (chiefly microlithic technology) reflect changes in toolmaking strategies, not the evolution of "behavioral modernity". This evidence provides no support for a categorical distinction between the earliest members of our species and ourselves. Early Homo sapiens were no less capable of varying their behavior to deal with novel evolutionary challenges than we are. They were different from us, but not inferior. Trend theories about human evolution have a long history of being wrong. The "behavioral modernity" theory is wrong, too.
The Handaxe's Tale: Stone Tools and Human Evolution (G)
Stone tools are the most durable record of human evolution, outnumbering human fossils from the last 2.5 million years by several orders of magnitude. But what do we know about them and how do we know it? (We say “dull as a stone”, but the edges of stone tools are sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel.) This lecture introduces the basics of stone tool technology, surveying what archaeologists know from mechanics, from experiments, and studies of recent stone-tool-using people around the world. Next the lecture introduces the Acheulean handaxe. Handaxes were first made by Homo erectus more than 1.5 million years ago and retained in the toolkits of Neandertals and Homo sapiens as recently as 45,000 years ago. They are found throughout most of Africa, Europe, and Asia. Large and symmetrical, handaxes were among the first stone tools presented as proof of human geological antiquity in the 19th Century. They are the most intensively-studied and measured stone tools in the archaeological record, and yet, the reasons for their popularity, and their abandonment remain an enigma. This lecture explores some of these theories and culminates with an actual demonstration (15-20 minutes) of the production of an Acheulean handaxe.
Paul D. Simmons
The Great Embryo Stem Cell Debate: Galileo Redivivus? (P,G)
The Galileo episode reflects a number of the elements of the recent debate regarding human embryo stem cell research. The conflict between religion and science reflects priorities and philosophical assumptions that need careful and critical examination. The effort to impede scientific progress should bear a heavy burden of proof and recognize the human need for medical breakthroughs in this very promising area.
Four major reasons will be given to support embryonic research.
"Intelligent Design: is this the end of evolution? (P,G)
Intelligent Design claims to rival or displace the theory of evolution but I argue it is both bad theology and bad science. It has no credible standing as science and appeals to terribly problematic notions such as "irreducible complexity." It also appeals to religious piety as believing the unprovable and improbable. I believe there are major deficits in ID that make it incredible that it would ever be taught in a classroom for science.
"Neuroscience and the Spirit: Has Science proven the existence of God?" (P,S)
The findings that religious impulses are related to chemical activity in the brain has raised the intriguing question as to whether people are hard-wired for belief in God. The issue for religion is whether brain activity is proof of divine activity in human life. Might God be the subject of scientific research after all? These and other questions will be posed in the light of new breakthroughs in brain imaging. "Proofs" are variable, of course, and amount to what makes of them. I find it incredible to believe that brain activity is, as such, evidence of God's invasion of human life and thought. I will bring illustrations from science and religion that pose profound questions for an easy reliance on such studies.
"Faith in the Public Square: Should we teach religion in the schools?" (P,S)
Strong pressures have been placed on public officials and those running for office to demonstrate their religious faith. Fervent believers insist religious piety would correct
immoral and destructive behavior in society, and thus insist we need to teach religion through the public schools. The movement has ardent proponents but poses enormous problems for the social contract and seems a new threat to social harmony.
Mentoring and Retention of Minority Scientists (P,G,S)
African American students make up 11 percent of all college students in the U.S., but they earn less than seven percent of all bachelor’s degrees and less than two percent of the doctoral degrees in science and engineering. We have developed a system for diversifying our undergraduate and graduate STEM programs that focus on high achievement. Initiated in 1988, the program goal has been to build a cadre of well prepared minority students who would become leading researchers. We have focused on creating a climate that attracts serious students, sets high expectations, and then takes a proactive approach in helping them to succeed. More than 950 students have participated in the undergraduate Meyerhoff Scholars Program since its inception in 1988. Of these, >230 students are currently enrolled at UMBC, >800 (85%) graduated with STEM degrees, > 40% matriculated directly to top PhD or MD-PhD programs, 20% matriculated to STEM Masters programs, and 20% entered professional (mainly MD) programs. We typically receive 1500-2000 nominations and more than 500 applications annually from high achieving high school students (half URM students), with 80% of these coming from Maryland residents. Our data indicate that large numbers of high achieving, well-prepared URM students start college with interest in STEM areas, but few are retained.; Similar efforts at the graduate level are now yielding positive results. URM participation in STEM PhD programs has increased over the past 15 years from 3% to 17%, and URM PhD production has increased from 3 graduates in the 10 years preceding our program to 30 graduates over the past 10 years. The program currently includes 48 URM doctoral students, and the retention rate over the past 5 years is greater than 90%. The program components of the undergraduate and graduate programs should be replicable at other interested academic institutions.
Structural basis for HIV-1 assembly and genome packaging in infected cells (G,S)
In cells infected by HIV-1, newly synthesized retroviral Gag polyproteins are directed to specific cellular membranes where they assemble and bud to form immature virions. Membrane binding is mediated by Gag’s matrix (MA) domain, which contains an N-terminal myristyl group that can adopt sequestered and exposed conformations. Membane specificity is regulated by phosphatidylinositol-(4,5)- bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P2), a cellular factor abundant in the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane (PM). We now have evidence that phosphoinositides, including soluble analogs of PI(4,5)P2 with truncated lipids, bind HIV-1 MA and trigger myristate exposure. The phosphoinositol moiety and one of the fatty acid tails binds to a cleft on the surface of the protein. The other fatty acid chain of PI(4,5)P2 and the exposed myristyl group of MA bracket a conserved basic surface patch implicated in membrane binding. Thus, PI(4,5)P2 can act as both a trigger of the myristyl switch and as a membrane anchor, suggesting a structure-based mechanism for the specific targeting HIV-1 Gag to PI(4,5)P2-enriched membranes. The Gag protein is responsible for specifically recruiting two copies of the viral genome into assembling virions. We now have evidence that diploid genome selection by HIV-1 and other retroviruses is mediated by RNA structural switch mechanisms, in which dimerization-dependent changes in RNA base pairing expose conserved residues responsible for genome packaging. Recent studies of the structures responsible for genome selection will be presented.
John A. Turner
Hydrogen Production from Photoelectrochemical Cells: Theoretical considerations and experimental results (S)
To date, no semiconducting material has been discovered that simultaneously meets all the criteria required for economical hydrogen production via light-driven direct water splitting. Considerable work has been directed at metal oxides due to their expected stability and low costs, unfortunately after 35 years of work little progress has been made, efficiencies for these oxides remains very low. For a viable material, semiconductors for photoelectrochemical water splitting must have the same fundamental internal quantum efficiency as the commercial high efficiency PV devices. Multi-component transition metal oxides are complex materials, making intuitive guesses impossible and a focused search very challenging. So to achieve suitable photo-electrode materials, the electronic properties of the materials and their response to defect formation must be understood. A computational approach may be the only approach that can give us the necessary insight into these mixed metal oxides and allow us to narrow the composition space leading us towards a successful material.
The highest efficiency PV devices are III-V material based and likewise the highest efficiency PEC water splitting devices are III-V based. This report will discuss issues relating to metal oxides and summarize our efforts on III-V materials and their application to tandem cells for photoelectrochemical water splitting.
Frontiers, Opportunities and Challenges for a Hydrogen Economy (P,G)
Energy carriers are the staple for powering the society we live in. Coal, oil, natural gas, gasoline and diesel all carry energy in chemical bonds, used in almost all areas of our civilization. But these carriers have a limited-use lifetime on this planet. They are finite, contribute to climate change and carry significant geopolitical issues. If mankind is to maintain and grow our societies, new energy carriers must be developed and deployed into our energy infrastructure. Hydrogen is the simplest of all the energy carriers and when refined from water represents a sustainable energy carrier, viable for millennia to come.
This talk with discuss the challenge for sustainable production of hydrogen, along with the promise and possible pathways for implementing it into our energy infrastructure.
Computatational Thinking, Visualization and the Advancement of Science in the Twenty-
First Century (G)
In this talk I will discuss the roles of computational thinking and visualization in advancing computing research and science in the rest of this century. It is well accepted that mental visualization is critical to the development of thought experiments, which are often the portals to new science. Within a given individual, the interplay between biological, cultural, social, psychological, religious, and cognitive structures will impact visualization construction. In turn, little is understood concerning how the constructed visualizations are mysteriously mapped to cognitive symbolic and computational structures supporting logical inference and scientific discovery. I will present examples from various cultural perspectives to highlight different approaches and potentially unique geometries of thought for diverse cultural groups. The talk will conclude with some thoughts on potential pathways, both computational and visual, for thought experiment enhancement in diverse young researchers.
Prime Number Graphs, Factoring, and Self-similarity (S)
I present work in progress on a novel graph-theoretic view of prime numbers, the self-similarity of corresponding adjacency matrices and some implications for factoring large composites. A prime number graph is a graph in which the vertices are represented by prime numbers and two vertices are adjacent if the binary representations of their corresponding prime numbers are within a specified Hamming distance. Specifically, we consider families of prime number graphs, PG^k_N, where the vertex set consists of all primes in the open interval (2,2^N)and two vertices v1 and v2 in PG^2_N are adjacent if the Hamming distance between them is less than or equal to k – i.e. HD(v1,v2)<= k. In this work our primary focus is on graphs for k=1,2,3 and N=24,...256. I present a number of observations, conjectures and preliminary results.