The Millennium Café

Exchanging ideas and challenges

Nov 19 2019
“Serious and Sincere: Two Movements from Beethoven’s Opus 95”

Beethoven published a total of sixteen string quartets in his life, but this one stands out from them all. Opus 95 in F minor has been given the epithet “serious,” and for good reason. The first movement is unrelenting in its straining rhythm and ruthless articulation. Joseph Kerman says of this movement “this piece stands aloof, preoccupied with its radical private war on every fibre of rhetoric and feeling that Beethoven knew or could invent.”  Thankfully, the second movement gives way to a more lyrical motion, and although there are still hints of gloom, it ends peacefully. 

“Living Materials: Biomolecular Memory Elements that Compute Like the Brain”

I will highlight several examples of living materials that range from stimuli-responsive systems to those that achieve synapse-like functionality. I will also demonstrate the ability of such materials to sense, learn, and process signals.

Nov 12 2019
“Team Science: Navigating Temporal Differences in Teams”

Some individuals are chronically hurried, while others have a relaxed pace. Some start projects early, and others wait until the last minute to begin. What happens when team members with different orientations toward time work together interdependently? Although commonly overlooked in research and practice, research is demonstrating that time differences have important implications for team conflict, coordination, and performance.

“Millions More Molecules: New Organic Analytical Capabilities in EESL”

Newly acquired mass spectrometry instrumentation has greatly expanded organic molecular analysis capabilities at Penn State. This talk will highlight exciting applications in fields such as forensics, art history, food science, oil and gas, environmental contaminants of emerging concern, and astrobiology–including the technology behind the discovery of organic matter preserved in ancient Martian sediments. New capabilities include: high-resolution LC-Orbitrap and GC/triple quad mass spectrometry, direct analysis in real time (DART), and pyrolysis capabilities which can drastically reduce sample preparation steps, increasing throughput.

Nov 5 2019
“Cryo ex machina: Novel Approaches to Drug Discovery in cryo-EM”

Electron cryo-microscopy has emerged in recent years as a go-to technique for structural characterization of macromolecular machines. Freezing samples and optimizing parameters is a stochastic process and that oftentimes requires a tedious trial-and-error approach. This is a big impediment to high-throughput structural determination of drug-bound targets. I will discuss the issues we face and present food-for-thought in hopes of finding colleagues interested in solving them along with us.

“Solving our Global Phosphorus Problem”

Phosphorus is a finite resource estimated to run out in less than 300 years. Research shows more than 90% is lost from mine-to-fork and this inefficient use contributes to eutrophication that is devastating freshwater resources globally. Our research and commercialization efforts focus on capturing and recycling phosphorus to promote a more sustainable future for this vital nutrient.

Oct 29 2019
There will be no Millennium Café on 10/29 due to Materials Day 2019: Mind the Gap.

The Millennium Café returns on 11/5!

Oct 22 2019
“Piezoelectric Batteries”

Lithium ion batteries are energy-storage devices that deliver power on demand. In this talk I will introduce new strategies to use the electrochemical cells within lithium ion batteries to harvest mechanical energies, thereby filling the gap of highly efficient mechanical energy harvesters at the low-frequency paradigm. 

“Tech Transfer: The Differences Between Patent Trends in the Life and Physical Sciences”

I will discuss the role patents play in research, development, technology and the economy—including the differing views specific fields of research and industry have on the value of patents. The role of patenting at academic institutions will also be discussed. We will examine the ways that patents have enhanced innovation, and how they sometimes are thought to impede collaboration and new discoveries.

Oct 15 2019
“The Creative Brain”

What makes some people more creative than others? I will explore this question from a neuroscience perspective, presenting findings from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research that uses machine learning of brain data to predict a person's ability to come up with original ideas. The findings indicate that creative ability is characterized by cooperation between brain networks that do not typically cooperate, providing insight into the wiring of the creative brain with potential implications for creativity in the arts, sciences, and everyday life.

“3D Printing with Lignin”

Lignin is a polymer produced by terrestrial plants that can be converted into chemicals and products by biorefining. Although many researchers have tried and failed to “make money from lignin” over the past century, its heterogenous structure presumably makes it ill-suited as a platform for new materials. My presentation will showcase our group’s successes using it in 3D printing, and I will highlight our path towards 100% renewable feedstocks for additive manufacturing.

Oct 8 2019
“Ethics and the ‘Two Cultures’: The Need for Transdisciplinary Research and Education”

Numerous social challenges have renewed interest in the need for ethics in organizations and more broadly in our approach to solving sociotechnological problems. In this presentation, a simple model for moral agency will be discussed along with the need for the integration of ethics with engineering, the sciences, and other disciplines. Resources at Penn State for aiding in such integration will be reviewed.

“The Quest for a Universal 3D Printer”

Can we develop a platform in which printing a working device requiring a range of material functions (conductivity, insulation, elastic compliance, etc.) is no more expensive than printing for a single function? Consider, for example, printing an electric motor versus printing a shelf bracket. I will discuss work in our lab, along with the lab of Dr. Ounaies, that has developed a technological pathway that points toward such a platform.  The talk will illustrate how coupled – electric and magnetic field processing techniques applied to polymer matrix composites sit at the heart of our quest for a universal printer. 

Oct 1 2019
“Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management”

Traditionally, stormwater has been managed with 'grey' solutions like sewer pipes and underground detention, but increasingly there's interest in implementing more nature-based or ecological approaches. I'll give a quick overview on what 'green infrastructure' means and talk about efforts to ensure the most effective designs for managing flooding, water quality, and providing other benefits- including a new 'living lab' for green stormwater infrastructure here on campus.

“Characterizing Microscale Features Nondestructively Using Ultrasound”

Microstructure characterization is often relegated to techniques that require extensive sample sectioning and surface preparation. Furthermore, these methods are limited to a small portion of the bulk material. In this presentation, I will show how elastic wave propagation methods (ultrasound) combined with physics-based models can be used to extract microstructural parameters in polycrystals over large areas. I will close with a broader outlook for applications of these techniques in various fields.

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.

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