School of Science and Engineering

Past Lectures

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September 14
Exploring Strange New Worlds: Kepler's Circumbinary Planets 
William Welsh, Ph.D.
Professor of Astronomy, San Diego State University

NASA's Kepler Mission was spectacularly successful: its discovery of approximately 2,400 exoplanets has revolutionized our understanding of the sizes and architectures of planetary systems. Among the most fascinating of these systems are the "circumbinary planets": planets that orbit two stars. Like the fictional planet Tatooine from the Star Wars movies, these planets have two suns in their skies. We currently know of a dozen such planets, and each system has revealed an important new facet and challenge (headache!) to solve. In this talk, I will give an overview of how we find exoplanets and present the main results of the Kepler Mission with emphasis on the circumbinary planets. 


April 6
Engineering for the Middle of Nowhere 
Toby Cumberbatch, Ph.D
Professor of Electrical Engineering, Cooper Union 

Humankind is on the verge of extinction—our life support system, the earth, is no longer able to accommodate current human activity. To ensure future supplies of water, food and energy, radical changes in infrastructure and lifestyle are required. Engineering solutions must do more with less, use what’s at hand and live with the land. 


March 9
Offshore Critical Minerals: What are They and Why Should I Care?
Jeff Reidenauer, Ph.D.  
Chief, Marine Minerals Division, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) within the U.S. Department of Interior has jurisdiction over marine mineral development on the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). There has been renewed, recent interest in seabed minerals that are critical to the national economy and defense. Critical minerals are minerals with supply chains that are vulnerable to disruption. Currently, the U.S. has designated 35 minerals as critical. For 31 of the 35 critical minerals, the U.S. imports more than half of its annual consumption. The U.S. has no domestic production for 14 of the critical minerals and is completely dependent on imports to supply its demand. Critical minerals are essential to the production of high-tech equipment in a wide variety of sectors including energy production, national defense, battery technology, information technology, and health care. There are three primary types of offshore mineral deposits that contain potential commercial concentrations of critical minerals; polymetallic nodules, ferromanganese crusts, and seafloor massive sulfides. These deposits contain several of the designated critical minerals such as manganese, cobalt, lithium, and rare earth elements. Marine mineral deposits containing potential critical minerals occur on the OCS with even higher levels for resources offshore the U.S. Pacific territories. Portions of the seabed in international waters, especially in the central Pacific Ocean, also contain a high potential for critical minerals and may be developed by other nations in the next few years.


February 16, 2021 
Reconfiguring Graph Colorings
Heather Russell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Mathematics, University of Richmond 

A reconfiguration system provides a convenient mathematical framework for studying the structure of the solution set to a given problem. In such a system, the set of solutions is equipped with a reconfiguration rule allowing one to iteratively transition between solutions. In this talk, we will explore properties of reconfiguration systems for graph colorings which can be used to model a variety of scheduling problems. Our investigation will focus on connectivity properties of these systems. We will also demonstrate software our research group at the University of Richmond has developed to aid in visualization and conjecture testing. No prior knowledge of graphs is necessary. The talk will begin with the definition of a graph and provide lots of examples along the way!


November 10, 2020
Primordial Black Holes, Dark Matter, and the Post-Inflationary Universe
Dr. Scott Watson 
Associate Professor of Physics, Syracuse University

LIGO has detected several gravity wave signals from black holes with masses around 30 times the mass of the sun. Whereas, direct and indirect dark matter detection experiments have so far failed to detect any sign of dark matter particles. In this talk, we will explore whether the primordial formation of black holes — with properties like those detected by LIGO — could be part or all of the cosmological dark matter. It turns out the prediction of such black holes could be intimately connected to addressing the puzzle of a quantum theory of gravity and the end of cosmological inflation. That is, string theory may predict exactly such a dark matter candidate.


October 20, 2020 
The Tangle Method: A Mathematical Model for Protein DNA Interactions
Dr. Candice Price
Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Smith College

Topological techniques applied to DNA topology have thrived in the last 50 years with the characterization of 2-string rational tangles, the discovery of new knot invariants, computer software such as KnotPlot, which provide access to high-quality visualizations and new ways to verify experimental and analytical results. The characterization of 2-string rational tangles led to the development of the tangle method, which models the mechanism of the action of certain proteins on DNA. In this presentation, we will take a journey together through the description of the tangle method and apply it to an example of protein action on DNA in order to discover the mechanism of this protein.


September 29, 2020 
Building a Data-driven Government Focusing on Citizen Services
Robin Thottungal
Chief Technology Officer/Chief Data Scientist, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC 

Data science is key to addressing national challenges with greater agility.  Thottungal will discuss how this digital transformation has become the driver behind a better understanding of the complex interdependencies between our air, water, land and public health. By embracing emerging technology strategies such as microservices-based architecture and user-centered design, we can better capture the relationships and detect anomalies in the terabytes of data that we intake each year.

March 10, 2020
Exploring Barnacle Exoskeleton Formation
Rebecca Metzler
Associate Professor of Physics, Colgate University

Barnacles are ancient arthropods that, as adults, consist of a soft organism surrounded by a hard, mineralized, outer shell that the organism produces for protection. While research has been done into the glue-like cement that barnacles use to adhere to a variety of surfaces, less is known about the barnacle exoskeleton. Professor Metzler will present preliminary data exploring the changes that occur as the barnacle cyprid undergoes metamorphosis to become a sessile barnacle with a mineralized exoskeleton. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) data, in conjunction with confocal microscopy data, show the morphological and chemical changes the barnacle undergoes within the first 48 hours following metamorphosis and how climate change can impact these properties.

February 18, 2020
The Pathway to Drug Development and Importance of the FDA (Compared to the Good Old Days)
Carol Duffy, DO, FACC, FACOI
Executive Director, Head U.S. Clinical Trial Excellence, Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp.

Of every compound identified by the pharmaceutical industry as a possible medication, the disease target needs to be carefully defined, the development timeline is incredibly long, the cost is very high, and the success rate is very low. Precipitating situations/crises involving patient safety and efficacy over the past 170 years has led to the current process and phases of clinical trial investigations required to prove safety and efficacy in these potential medications. This lecture will present the history and the research/stages/timing involved in pharmaceutical drug development from onset to potential FDA approval for patients and consumers.



Imaging the Source of Large Subduction Zone Earthquakes
Anne Becel - November 12, 2019
Assistant Research Professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia Univ. Earth Institute

Subduction zones produce the largest earthquakes and most devastating associated tsunamis on the planet. Although our ability to anticipate the timing and impact of future great earthquakes remains elusive, recent advances in Earth Science have allowed to improve our understanding of the physical processes that trigger large earthquakes and control how they evolve.


Looking Inside of Rocks
Dustin Crandall - October 22, 2019
Research Engineer, National Energy Technology Lab, West Virginia

Computed tomography scanners enable researchers to examine different phenomena important for energy production - from dynamic fluid-floods within rocks to identification of complex structures and material features.  Dr. Crandall will illustrate research at the National Energy Technology Laboratory that is focused on examining the fundamental physical phenomena that control flow in the subsurface.

Cosmic Lego: Making Molecules on Stardust
Gianfranco Vidali - September 24, 2019
Professor of Physics, Syracuse University

How did life emerge on Earth? This question might not have an answer yet but, as proposals for a non-terrestrial origin of life have gained some traction lately, astrophysicists and astrochemists have begun to ask whether there are complex enough molecules in space which can be the building blocks of life.


Changing the World of 3D Printing 
Jack Stubbs - April 9, 2019
Director of the Prototype Development and 3D Printing Lab, Institute for Simulation and Training, University of Central Florida

Abstract: The Prototype Development and 3D Print Lab at the Applied Research Institute of the University of Central Florida is actively involved in advancing the state-of-the-art of 3D printing. The Institute is developing novel approaches to many areas of application in 3D printing including composite structure approaches to create tunable mechanical properties within 3D printed materials, deformation based additive manufacturing to reduce print time and material use, 3D printed optical waveguides and acoustic arrays. This lecture will review some of the technological advances and application areas in medical simulation, pre-surgical planning, patient specific medical device design and augmented medical devices. Mr. Stubbs will have 3D printed models and materials available to view and discuss.

Bioethics and Bioengineering: What We Can Do vs What We Should Do
Dr. Stephen Macleod - March 12, 2019
Professor, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Loyola University Medical Center

Advances in Bioengineering have allowed surgeons to make significant advances in patient diagnosis management. With virtual surgical planning, it is possible to plan surgery and design patient specific implants from the comfort of the office, saving time in the operating room and improving patient safety. Frequently, this technology is used to plan solutions to complications of treatment for other conditions. This presentation will demonstrate some of the developments in bioengineering used for reconstruction of defects complicating other treatments, and discuss the ethics of rendering treatments associated with known significant complications.

The Chemistry of Computers
Dr. Laura Kosbar - February 26, 2019
Research Staff Member, IBM, T.J. Watson Research Center

 Abstract:  Computational chemistry has become the key to advances in chemical knowledge including modeling of molecular structure and reactivity, as well as facilitating medicinal chemistry and drug design.  What may be less apparent is the role that chemistry has played in the design and manufacture of computers themselves.  Advanced materials and chemical processing have been responsible for improving the speed and reliability of computers, as well as reducing the size of powerful microelectronic chips that power all electronic devices - from phones and laptops to video games.  This talk will demonstrate how the research and design of materials has contributed to the interconnected information age in which we live.