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School of Science and Engineering

The Harrington STEM Lectures

The Harrington STEM Lectures 2014 - 2015

The School of Science and Engineering sponsors a series of lectures on major topics of current scientific interest. These lectures, each designed for a general scientific audience, are given by recognized scholars from around the country who will be available to meet faculty and students on the days of their visits. The public is cordially invited to these colloquia at no charge. For further information call 845-257-3990 or follow the links below.

Location: SUNY New Paltz, Coykendall Science Building Auditorium.
Time: Selected Tuesdays at 5 p.m., preceded by a reception at 4:30 PM in the CSB lobby.

2014-2015 Lectures:

  • Jacek Wollocko OXYVITA Inc. Sept. 23, 2014

"The Quest to Engineer a Synthetic Blood Substitute from Natural Sources"

Abstract Throughout the past 100 years, medical advances have taken leaps and bounds. The quest for an alternative to a red blood cell transfusion has been underway since Vietnam. There have been many attempts though that time period with many different perceptions of an ideal technology. Each iteration of technology has taught us new things about how the body and how blood actually works. We have been able to collect this information from the past several decades of trials and attempts, to engineer a physiologically safe, competent and effective red blood cell replacement product, OxyVita, which is specifically designed to succeed where others have fallen short. Further, OxyVita has a stability unparalleled by the product that it is aimed at replacing, the red blood cell, and is capable of long storage times without refrigeration, as well as of being turned into a powder form - therefore introducing the worlds first instant-blood (just add water)! So here, we offer a short history lesson, the introduction to the technology, what it took to get to where we are today, and a glimpse of the future of medicine and the revolutionizing of blood science as we know it.


  • David A. Sela Department of Food Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Oct. 21, 2014

"Nursing Our Microbial Selves: Breast Milk's Influence on the Infant Microbiome"

Abstract Mammals have evolved in a world dominated by microbes. As such, profound codependencies have evolved from intimate associations with the microbes that colonize our bodies. Evidence of this is found in our genome and that of our resident microbiota. Physiological operations in which our microbiota play a critical role include training our immune system and participation in metabolism. Milk's influence on the early composition and function of the infant microbiome will be discussed. Accordingly, a model for a nutrient acquisition strategy predicated on milk oligosaccharide utilization will be presented. Genomic, ecological, and other molecular linkages will be discussed that bind breast milk and our earliest symbionts.


  • Percy Deift Department of Mathematics, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University. Nov. 18, 2014

"Universality in Numerical Computations. Case Studies"

Abstract The authors consider various algorithms used in numerical computation and present evidence that these algorithms have universal features. Such features also appear to be present in certain decision making processes.


  • Larry Kepko Space Weather Laboratory NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Feb. 17, 2015

"The Aurora Borealis"

Abstract For centuries humankind has sat in awe of the aurora, one of the most beautiful natural phenomena to occur at Earth. Despite observations dating back thousands of years, real scientific inquiry into the causes of the aurora did not begin until the start of the 20th Century, with the polar expeditions and related laboratory experiments of Kristian Birkeland. Our understanding of the aurora deepened further with the dawn of the space age, enabling scientists to discover how energy derived from the solar wind is ultimately responsible for producing the aurora, just 75 miles above our heads. The goals of this talk are to provide an historical perspective of how we acquired our knowledge, deliver a clear understanding of the complex processes that create the aurora, and provide some simple tips on the best times and places to see the aurora. I will trace our understanding of the aurora through the last half decade, starting with ground-based observations in the 1960s, through space-based imagery in the 1980s, and concluding with the still-operating NASA mission, THEMIS. Finally, I will conclude with a list of questions still remaining to be answered.


  • Eric W. Brown Director, Watson Technologies at IBM TJ Watson Research Lab. March 24, 2015

"Watson: The Jeopardy! Challenge and Beyond"

Abstract Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was built by a team of IBM researchers who set out to accomplish a grand challenge––build a computing system that rivals a human's ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. The quiz show Jeopardy! provided the ultimate test of this technology because the game's clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities of natural language in which humans excel and computers traditionally fail. Watson passed its first test on Jeopardy!, beating the show's two greatest champions in a televised exhibition match, but the real test will be in applying the underlying natural language processing and analytics technology in business and across industries. In this talk I will introduce the Jeopardy! grand challenge, present an overview of Watson and the DeepQA technology upon which Watson is built, and explore future applications of this technology in the healthcare space.


  • David Clark (SUNY New Paltz). April 21, 2015

"Creating Circuits Designs via Biological Evolution"

Abstract In 1913 Sheffer published a paper demonstrating that AND, OR and NOT gates could be replaced with only NAND gates to produce all possible 0,1-valued switching circuits. As new electronics required multivalued switching circuits, the need arose for multivalued gates with the same universal property as NAND. Theoreticians demonstrated the existence of ever more universal gates, but their proofs remained non-constructive. Given a universal gate G and a performance specification for a multivalued switching circuit, there was no computationally feasible method known to find a design for a circuit realizing an arbitrary specification. In 2013 the speaker published a paper demonstrating that, for almost all randomly chosen gates G, circuit designs could be quickly and efficiently found by simulating biological evolution on a computer. The algorithm for finding these designs, produced in collaboration with Keijzer and Spector, produces male and female circuits whose fitness is calculated by their ability to parent circuits approximating the given specification. Examples will be shown of circuit designs requiring geologic time to find by a standard search that can be produced within minutes by simulated biological evolution.


2013-2014 Lectures:

  • Dr. Charles Van Loan, Professor, Department of Computer Science, Cornell University
    Sept. 19, 2013
    "If Copernicus and Kepler had Computers: An Introduction to Model-building and Computational Science" NOTE CHANGE in location: LC 102 at 5:00pm, reception outside LC102 at 4:30pm
  • Dr. Alain C. Diebold, Empire Innovation Professor of Nanoscale Science. University at Albany, College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering 
    Oct. 17, 2013 
    "The impact of Nanoscale Dimensions on Optical Properties"
  • Dr. Charles A. Ver Straeten, Sedimentary Geologist, & Curator of Sedimentary Geology, NY State Museum/Geological Survey
    Nov. 21, 2013
    "Explosive Volcanism in Eastern North America: What the Rocks Tell Us"
  • Dr. Marcus Weck, Molecular Design Institute and Department of Chemistry, New York University
    Feb. 20, 2014
    "Learning from Nature: Functionalizing Synthetic Polymers for Tomorrows Applications"
  • Dr. Matthew Gould, Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics, Vanderbilt University
    March 13, 2014
    "The Life of Pi"
  • Dr. Melissa K. Fierke, Assistant Professor, Forest Entomology Department of Environmental & Forest Biology SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
    April 17, 2014
    "Girdling, Peeling and Rearing to Know: Insights Into NY Forest Invaders"

2012-2013 lectures:

2011-2012 lectures:

2010-2011 lectures:

2009-2010 lectures:

  • Lois Pollack, Cornell University
    Sept. 24, 2009
    "Using Physics to Learn about Biology"
  • Ann McDermot, Columbia University
    Oct. 19, 2009
    "The Secret Lives of Molecules: Probing the Motions of Enzymes"
  • Yi Li, University of Connecticut
    Feb. 18, 2010
    "Making Beautiful Plants Non-Invasive"
  • Wayne Knox, University of Rochester
    March 25, 2010
    "Optics from 3000 BC to 3000 AD"
  • Robert Titus, Hartwick College
    April 29, 2010
    "A Geological History of the Catskills"

2008-2009 lectures:

2007-2008 lectures:

2006-2007 lectures:

2005-2006 lectures:

2004-2005 lectures:

2003 - 2004 lectures:

  • Dr. Phaedon Avouris, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center
    Oct. 16, 2003
    "Carbon Nanotube Electronics and Opto-Electronics"
  • Dr. Gene E. Likens, Institute for Ecosystem Studies Studies
    Nov. 20, 2003
    "Acid Rain: An Unfinished Environmental Problem"
  • Dr. David M. Clark, SUNY New Paltz
    Feb. 12, 2004
    "Quantum Theory Challenges Reality: the EPR Experiment"
  • Dr. Yervant Terzian, Cornell University
    March 11, 2004
    "Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Luminous Universe"
    (Informal Discussion in CSB 110 at 2:00p.m.: "The Nature of Time")
  • Dr. Charles Ver Straeten, New York State Museum
    April 15, 2004
    "Seas, Sand and Mountains: Deep Time in New York 400 Million Years Ago"

2002 - 2003 lectures:

  • James M. Wilson, M.D., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
    Oct. 17, 2002
    "Science and Clinical Potential of Human Gene Therapy"
  • Dr. Ronald Miller, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
    Nov. 14, 2002
    "Is it hot enough for ya? - the human contribution to global warming"
  • Dr. David DiVincenzo, IBM Watson Research Center
    Feb. 6, 2003
    "Introduction to Quantum Computing"
  • Dr. John Harrington, SUNY New Paltz
    March 6, 2003
    "Blood Substitutes: Can nature show us the way?
  • Dr. Jefferson W. Tester, MIT Laboratory for Energy and Environment
    April 24, 2003
    "Our Energy Policy"

2001 - 2002 lectures:

  • Dr. Neil Cornish, NASA and Montana State University
    Oct. 12, 2001
    "Measuring the Size and Shape of the Universe"
  • Dr. Richard Bopp, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    Nov. 30, 2001
    "Timing is everything: PCBs & Other Contaminants in the Hudson"
  • Dr. David O. Carpenter, Institute for Health and the Environment, SUNY Albany
    Feb. 13, 2002
    "Cell Phones & Power Lines: What are the health effects of electromagnetic fields?"
  • Dr. Michael Novacek, American Museum of Natural History
    April 3, 2002
    "Dinosaurs and Fossil Mammals of the Flaming Cliffs: The Gobi Expedition"
  • Mr. Brian McConnell, Trekmail, Inc.
    April 29, 2002
    "Communicating with Extraterrestrial Civilizations"