The Millennium Café

Exchanging ideas and challenges

Sep 24 2019
“Water On, In, and Around the Brain”

Our brains are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which has an important role in transporting waste out of the brain. Failures in this waste transport process contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases but the dynamics of this process are poorly understood. I will talk about recent work looking at the micro-scale drivers of cerebrospinal fluid circulation, and the impact of blocking outflow pathways on waste transport.

“The Air we Breathe: Atmospheric Particulate Impacts on Climate and Human Health”

Aerosol particles impact the climate system through their interactions with light and clouds while also impacting human health by causing inflammation in the lungs. The Freedman group focuses on laboratory studies of aerosol physical and chemical properties, and in recent years, we have begun incorporating materials chemistry into our studies of ice nucleation and phase transitions under confinement. I am looking for ways in which our research may be applied more broadly in materials science and for applications to human health.

Sep 17 2019
“Broadening Impacts via Humanitarian Engineering”

The Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program has a wide range of projects spanning agriculture economics, irrigation, biofuels, low cost diagnostics, and security. I will make a case for humanitarian engineering as a motive for and application of your research, as well as a means to bring additional resources to your lab, recruit broader-minded students, and positively impact humanity. HESE is interested in developing new partnerships on campus that truly broaden research impacts. The recently announced Materials that Matter at the Human Level program could be a great opportunity to jumpstart a collaboration.

“Shielding the Microbiome During Antibiotic Therapy”

The spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria threatens our ability to treat infections and poses a major threat to public health. This presentation describes new strategies that protect the patient’s microbiome during antibiotic therapy to reduce the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. We are looking for collaborators to help develop and test materials that inhibit antibiotics in the gut.

Sep 10 2019
“Making Safety Sustainable”

Mirroring work-related injury and illness incidence rates for US private industry overall, the injury and illness incidence rate at Croda Inc’s Mill Hall Pennsylvania facility has steadily declined since 2005. Strategic efforts to ensure compliance with safety standards, developing and maintaining safety and health management systems, and building a proactive safety culture have all contributed to this success. However, this journey to make our work environment injury free is ripe with challenges and opportunities. In this talk, I will discuss this journey and highlight the skills and attitudes that all of us should adopt to make safety sustainable in our personal and professional lives.

“Laser Fabricated 3D Photonic Networks”

Under certain conditions, focused femtosecond laser pulses can permanently modify properties of transparent dielectric materials e.g. glass and crystals. By translating a substrate through this focal point, we can 'write' three-dimensional structures that can guide light in a well-controlled manner. I will briefly discuss how laser written waveguide networks can be used to probe novel physics and device concepts beyond conventional nonlinear optics and condensed matter physics.

Sep 3 2019
“Mucus…Liquid Crystals Under Your Nose!”

We have found that mucus, a slimy viscous substance protecting our respiratory, digestive, and reproductive tracks, can be turned into an effective liquid crystal through mechanical stress. Bacterial penetration of mucus can be relevant in the context of respiratory, intestinal and sexually-transmitted infections. In addition, bacteria can turn common passive materials into novel active materials, with emergent properties. In this talk, I will discuss our research on bacterial transport in non-isotropic liquids, like mucus and liquid crystals. Our results provide clues in the propagation of bacteria-borne diseases, as well as insight into the design and control of new active materials.

“The Penn State and University of Freiburg Strategic Collaboration on ‘Living Materials’ ”

A new strategic partnership between Penn State and the University of Freiburg is focused on developing a new class of engineered living materials with potential applications in sustainable infrastructure, robotics technologies, and next-generation medical care. Strategic funding will be provided to enable three primary activities:  prestigious research exchange programs open to undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty; interconnected seed grants to encourage activities between research collaborators; shared access to specialized research equipment and facilities at each institution. This program will be jointly managed by MRI and IEE in partnership with the livMatS Centre of Excellence at the University of Freiburg.

Aug 27 2019
“Airborne Transmission: Strategies to Understand this Key Requirement for Influenza Pandemics”

An influenza pandemic occurs when a virus circulating in animals evolves the ability to infect and transmit via the airborne route between people. Using animal models, key changes in a virus that contribute to airborne transmission have been identified; however, while these changes are required, they are not sufficient to support transmission. Therefore, we are taking a multipronged approach to improve existing animal models and define the key barriers that a virus must overcome to transmit through the air. 

“Towards Next Generation Manufacturing: Can We 3D-Print Single Crystal Components”

Nickel-based superalloys are broadly used in the manufacture of single crystal turbine blades. These components are often considered the limiting components of gas turbine engines due to the harsh operating conditions. Traditionally, these components are manufactured using exotic investment casting, which limits design flexibility. The goal of this presentation is to summarize progress made so far and highlight the challenges on additive manufacturing (AM) of such components.

Aug 20 2019
Geoscientific Machine Learning: What Aspects of Learning do you Delegate to the Machines?

The recent rise in deep learning (DL) is transforming the way many scientists, Geoscientists included, ask questions, formulate solutions and get answers.  We are demonstrating promising hydrologic and geotechnical applications, e.g. soil moisture, streamflow, and landslide modeling (Google AI Impact Challenge), where we dedicate some mathematical effort including uncertainties and real-time model updates to the machine.  We welcome a conversation regarding where this evolution will take us next.

Technology Entrepreneurship

Thousands of Penn State students graduate each year and seek jobs in academia, national labs, or large companies, but there is another path.  Start-up companies create millions of jobs and bring innovative products or services to the world.  I will discuss my experience founding a high-tech company that serves the electron microscopy market, discuss risks and rewards, and present “lessons learned” along the way.

Aug 13 2019
“Electrosorption of Ions in Porous Carbons: Opportunities and Challenges”

Control of pore size, morphology, microstructure and surface functionalization form the basis for numerous applications of carbon materials. In particular, they have a profound impact on the electrochemical properties of carbon. I will discuss past and ongoing efforts in the use of various types of carbon materials for improving the electrode/electrolyte interaction and their potential impact on design of high energy density electrochemical capacitors.

“Characterizing Radiation Damage in Materials”

Advanced nuclear reactor designs push the operational requirements for materials, including tolerance to radiation damage whereby atomic displacements produce defects in the microstructure. Accelerated irradiation testing of materials is possible in the laboratory setting through ion irradiation, and its ability to reproduce real conditions is quantified by transmission electron microscope microstructural characterization and comparison to in-reactor irradiation.

Aug 6 2019
No Millennium Cafe on August 6

The Millennium Café returns on August 13. Stop by for freshly brewed science & coffee.

Jul 30 2019
No Millennium Cafe on July 30 and August 6

The Millennium Café returns on August 13. Stop by for freshly brewed science & coffee.

Jul 23 2019
“Sustainability Challenges in the Domestic Production of Rare Earth and Critical Minerals”

Rare earth elements are used in the manufacture of lighter and stronger materials for energy applications such as gas turbines and wind and power systems, defense applications, electronics, and the medical industry.  2017 data indicates that the US is 100% import dependent for 21 of the 50 non-fuel mineral commodities. This dependence poses a national security threat and as such the US DOE, DOD, and DOI are actively pursuing research and development efforts in this area to expand domestic production. Penn State along with other industrial partners is involved in research efforts to develop physical separation and chemical methods to concentrate rare earths and other critical elements from coal and other waste products. This talk will outline the multidisciplinary nature and challenges in this task that require collaborations across several disciplines.

“Seven Years after a Millennium Café Talk: Reflections on Research and Teaching Collaborations”

Over the past seven years, part of my research has focused on the use of nanoscale and microscale fillers as a strategy to transform the performance of polymers by providing new mechanisms to engineer dielectric, magnetic and coupled functionality, with important implications in actuation, energy harvesting and energy storage. The goal of the talk, which seeks to assess my interdisciplinary experiences with colleagues and students at Penn State and other institutions, is to provide an example of critical self-refection that might prove useful to colleagues interested in making sense of their own collaborative research and teaching practice.

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