The Millennium Café

Apr 6 2021
Teaming Up to Address Cell Therapy Technical Challenges

Cellular medicine is growing rapidly. However, there are many technical challenges related to cell manufacturing, delivery, and tracking. In this talk, I will show how my lab uses simple engineering and biomaterials to improve cell culture efficiency. I will also introduce the newly established Sartoris Cell Culture Facility at Huck Institute and call for collaborations from engineers, biologists, and materials scientists to address challenges in cell manufacturing.

Peering Inside Metallic Alloy Processing and Performance

Understanding how metallic alloys are processed and perform is one of the oldest scientific pursuits, and over the past two thousand years, a tremendous amount of empirical knowledge has been developed regarding how we can make and use these materials. Surprisingly, this has all been achieved without the ability to `watch’ how these materials evolve as they are being processed and used in-service. However, a new generation of X-ray techniques at synchrotrons (particle accelerators) are allowing us to look inside these materials in-situ, providing new insights into how to better use existing alloys and design new materials.

Mar 30 2021
Unlocking the Future of Infrastructure: A NSF 2026 Big Idea – Part II in the Living Materials Series

Current sand shortages symbolize the onset of numerous global challenges within our immediate future - our world has started to run out of resources. In this talk, I aim to inspire you to ponder how our materials, buildings, and infrastructure can take the giant leap to become ‘resource independent.’ Framed with the research challenges of building on Mars, I invite you to consider how the small steps we undertake in extraterrestrial construction can lead to giant leaps to decarbonize our built environment on Earth.

Put Your Science to Work with the Center for Energy Law and Policy

Penn State’s Center for Energy Law and Policy supports interdisciplinary teams from across Penn State that want to use their joint scientific expertise in the service of complex problems in energy, regulation and society. The process of working across many domains is complicated, and how researchers can get their work noticed within the policy system is sometimes daunting - but the potential to have real impact is tremendous. Come learn about how you can work with the Center for Energy Law and Policy, and how we harness the depth of expertise from our university to improve real-world decisions.

Mar 23 2021
Novel Batteries that Generate Electricity from Low-Grade Waste Heat – Part III in the Energy University Series

Tremendous amounts of low-grade thermal energy are lost to the environment through industrial practices because we lack viable recovery methods. Simultaneously, the intermittent nature of renewable energy has created a need for new sources of electricity that can be accessed quickly during times of need. Thermally rechargeable batteries are a promising new option that may help us solve these seemingly unrelated problems and improve our electric grid's sustainability. I will present some ideas from my laboratory to develop new thermally rechargeable batteries that have performances comparable to those recharged with electrical energy.

Using Wastewater as an Indicator of Community Physical and Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic – Part II in the Water, Public Health, and the Environment Series

Analyzing wastewater provides an unbiased view of the physical and mental health of communities. By analyzing wastewater for the novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2), prescription medicines, and over-the-counter medications, we can provide valuable information regarding the well-being of an entire community, without the need to interview, survey, or test individual people. We are currently partnering with four wastewater treatment plants in Pennsylvania to understand how the presence of the virus and related pharmaceuticals have changed over the course of the pandemic and hope that the information generated from this project will provide community leaders with the information they need to make informed, near-real time decisions in response to any increases or decrease in viral genome counts detected in the wastewater.

Mar 16 2021
Tips for Organizing Your Research Using MS Teams

The Microsoft Office Suite has come a long way since Word/PowerPoint/Excel. The Teams collaboration interface is a powerful tool that can be used to organize your research group and keep track of all the details associated with all research activities. I will be talking about how faculty and other researchers can consider organizing their work around projects using the communication, project planning, lab notebook, document repository, and everything else associated with keeping track of information with your research groups all in one place. It will take a shift in thinking, but will provide a powerful return on investment. There are some tips and tricks on getting started that will be shared and lessons learned from more than a year working in the teams environment.  

Soft, Mechanical Materials that Think

Autonomous, engineered materials composed of soft matter could assist society in a wide variety of ways that are outside the scope of microprocessor-based robots. A major technical hurdle is creating a soft matter realization of an information processor that can process sensory stimuli according to logical operations, thus guiding reactions. This presentation will describe how we engineered soft materials that process all decision-making operations resulting from mechanical stimulus, and will invite collaborations to pursue the first fully autonomous, engineered materials that emulate the fundamental functions of lifeforms.

Mar 9 2021
How Do We Build a Healthy Society?

Students of history know that social destabilization and violence can emerge with too much polarization among the people. In this introduction to the dialogue method developed over two decades at World in Conversation, Laurie Mulvey (Director) will briefly discuss the "how" of building a healthy society, in particular the crucial role of dialogue facilitators. In her view, facilitated dialogue is not a space for correcting other people’s beliefs and narratives, nor is the goal to develop empathy. It is a space for thinking together--with the very people whose ideas we reject.

Sustainability Initiatives Aimed at Environmental Footprint Reduction – Lessons Learned from the College of EMS – Part III in the Climate Drawdown Initiative @ PSU Series

Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant completes an annual system-wide Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions inventory, but because of its broad scope, the inventory does not provide unit-level detail to be used by individual colleges and campuses to assess their emissions. Unit-level inventories may provide more detailed identification and management of potentially avoidable GHG emissions, and may increase unit accountability to reduce emissions, increase sustainability, and help progress university goals. Here I describe: 1) College of EMS sustainability efforts including our first college-level GHG emissions inventory; 2) a “how to” guide for other colleges and units who care to create their own inventory; and, 3) our EMS actions aimed at reducing our college's, and therefore the university's, C footprint.

Mar 2 2021
Shape-Morphing Micromachines

The field of micromechanics is an established engineering domain with demonstrated impact on science, technology, and product development. At the core of this technology are movable mechanical structures, MEMS, with dimensions ranging from a few to 100’s microns, and rigid components that rely on external links for power supply and control. Removing these constraints would enable a new technology platform for responsive systems that can self-morph into different shapes, deploy, gather energy from the local environment, and self-propel. These shape morphing systems create a new paradigm in engineering where the distinction between materials and mechanisms gets vague. In this presentation, I will discuss the prospect of creating shape morphing micromachines by the integration of atomically thin electronics, flat optics, and nanomechanical devices.

One Year Later: Reflections on the COVID Pandemic and the Future of Public Health

The COVID pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of human life across the globe. The pandemic and the global response have catalyzed an unparalleled scale of innovation and brought renewed focus to long-standing challenges in public health. On the one year anniversary of my first Café presentation about the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, I reflect on the lessons of this pandemic and the opportunities to improve the practice of public health. 

Feb 23 2021
Kinetic Building Envelopes: Design Strategies with Bistable and Smart Materials – Part II in the Living Materials Series

Building envelopes are responsible for a large part of the building’s total energy consumption and indoor quality. Envelopes are typically designed to be static; however, new engineered materials present an opportunity to design envelopes to be dynamic and more efficient. This presentation will overview our work on developing kinetic building envelopes that use bistable materials and shape-changing smart materials, including interdisciplinary collaboration between the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing and the Convergence Center for Living Multifunctional Material Systems.

Behaviors, Movements, and Short-Range Transmission of Respiratory Infectious Diseases during Transcontinental US Airline Flights

With over 3 billion airline passengers annually, the inflight transmission of infectious diseases is an important global health concern. Air travel can serve as a conduit for the rapid spread of newly emerging infections and pandemics. We describe a data-driven, dynamic network transmission model of short-range transmission of respiratory infectious diseases in an airplane cabin during transcontinental US flights.

Feb 16 2021
What’s Critical about the Critical Zone? – Part I in the Water, Public Health, and the Environment Series

The critical zone is the layer of the Earth surface defined from the outer edge of vegetation to the depths of groundwater. This relatively thin zone where rock, soil, water, air, and organisms evolve over time is the foundation of life for people on Earth. Studied since the 1970s and NSF-funded for nearly two decades, Penn State critical zone research at Shale Hills – a small watershed next to the Shavers Creek Environmental Center – is undergoing a transition expected to involve both ongoing and new areas of research and education, with applications that include enhanced understanding of land use impacts on water provision and water quality.

Life Cycle Assessment: Past, Present, and Future

Life cycle assessment (LCA) may seem like a recent buzz word, but the idea and techniques have been evolving for fifty years. LCA creates a quantitative inventory of materials and energy across the entire supply chain required to deliver a product, process, or service. The inventory is consolidated and linked to impacts, e.g., climate change, called the impact assessment stage. The goal is to identify opportunities to realize less impactful approaches to delivering the goods and services. I will emphasize how we connect inventory to impact assessment in order to highlight opportunities to improve representation of impacts with high spatial, temporal, and cultural variability. For example, assessing impacts to ecosystem or human health are very challenging, and requires ongoing, close work with scientists who evaluate and define “health” in ecosystems and humans.

Feb 9 2021
Mechanics of Additively Manufactured Metals – Part III in the Additive Materials & Manufacturing Series

Penn State has a wide range of activities related to additive manufacturing (AM) of metals. My group focuses on identifying (and modeling) links between processing conditions, microstructure, and mechanical properties of metals. I will highlight some topics ripe for innovation in AM, and with those, some tools in our lab that could be beneficial for new collaborations. 

Helping our Planet “Breathe” Better by Optimizing Carbon Capture and Storage in Plants – Part II in the Climate Drawdown Initiative @ PSU Series

Using solar energy to drive photosynthesis, plants absorb over 100 gigatons of CO2 globally per year, sequestering a portion of the greenhouse gas pollution emitted by human activity in the durable cell walls that make up their bodies. These cell walls can serve as food for animals and people, renewable materials, and sources of bioenergy. I will explore how plants could be optimized for efficient CO2 uptake and carbon sequestration to enhance the health of natural ecosystems and human economies, using Pennsylvania as a test case for the smart application of science, policy, and economics to build the verdant and restorative fields and forests of the future.   

Feb 2 2021
“The Cold of Outer Space as an Energy Resource: Using Light and Heat for Cooling and Electricity” – Part II in the Energy University Series

Every object at a finite temperature emits thermal radiation, ranging from sunlight, incandescent lighting, to blackbody radiation from human bodies which can be detected in thermal cameras. Nanostructured materials allow new kinds of light-matter interaction, allowing for tailoring various properties of thermal radiation. Controlling thermal radiation holds the key to new energy applications. This talk will briefly introduce our group’s passion on tailoring thermal radiation for energy applications, ranging from heat-to-electricity conversion across a nanoscale gap, utilization of the coldness of the outer space for passive cooling, to active refrigeration using light, enabled by nanocalorimetry, nano devices, and photonic design.

“Shining a Light on Airborne Infection Control – Germicidal Ultraviolet Air Disinfection Systems”

The germicidal properties of certain wavelengths of light were first reported in the late 19th century. Ultraviolet C (UVC), is particularly effective at damaging the DNA and RNA of microorganisms of all types, preventing them from replicating. Technologies based on UVC have been used for nearly a century to help control airborne infectious disease outbreaks, but interest in them has spiked as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This presentation will briefly summarize our studies of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation systems for buildings, including recent studies focused on COVID-19 risk mitigation, and identify areas of need for further multidisciplinary research.

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