The Millennium Cafe

Exchanging ideas and challenges

Nov 13 2018
“Thermal Devices & Circuits: A New Frontier in Thermal Science”

The development of thermal analogues to electrical devices (diodes, transistors, etc) and the potential of integrated thermal systems is the next frontier in nano/micro scale thermal transport.  This exciting new area of research represents uncharted territory for the thermal sciences community where until now, the primary objectives for controlling the flow of heat have been focused on fixing the properties of a material or interface to (a) be as conductive or resistive as possible and (b) maintain these properties both over time and under a variety of environmental conditions.  My presentation will encompass a survey of the existing research on thermal diodes and transistors to date, as well as a perspective on future material/device architectures and other electrical-analogs including detectors and interconnects. 

“Mozart: The Operatic and the Sprightly”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music has spanned generations and still permeates society today.  While most people are familiar with the stately elegance of his music, fewer understand just how many distinct styles Mozart could convey.  Today we will perform a slow movement (Andante) and a fast movement (Allegro) from his C major string quintet, K. 515 composed in 1787. Mozart’s lyrical gift, heard most often in his operas, is heard also in the slow movement of this quintet.  His ability to conjure drama through melody and harmony is apparent in the tender duet shared between the violin and the viola. In the fast movement, Mozart’s brilliance and sparkle conveys a sense of perpetual energy, culminating in a dramatic unison ending fit for royalty.

Nov 6 2018
“Selective Recognition of Lanthanides in Biology and Biotechnology”

Recent work has established that lanthanides (also called rare earth elements) are acquired and utilized by certain bacteria for essential cellular functions. I will discuss our discovery and characterization of lanmodulin, a protein that recognizes lanthanides with picomolar affinity and millions-fold selectivity over more abundant metal ions such as calcium. A deeper understanding of how these bacteria selectively acquire and use lanthanides may be useful in strategies to detect and concentrate these technologically important metals, and we are seeking collaborations in these areas.

“Cellulose Nano-fibril Synthesis, Assembly, and Protein-Mediated Enlargement of Cellulosic Networks”

I will begin with a brief overview of the DOE-funded Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation, an Energy Frontier Research Center. Then I will  discuss how plant cells control the expansion of their cell walls and the enigmatic action(s) of the protein that catalyzes wall expansion. 

Oct 30 2018
Thermal Devices & Circuits: A New Frontier in Thermal Science

The development of thermal analogues to electrical devices (diodes, transistors, etc) and the potential of integrated thermal systems is the next frontier in nano/micro scale thermal transport.  This exciting new area of research represents uncharted territory for the thermal sciences community where until now, the primary objectives for controlling the flow of heat have been focused on fixing the properties of a material or interface to (a) be as conductive or resistive as possible and (b) maintain these properties both over time and under a variety of environmental conditions.  My presentation will encompass a survey of the existing research on thermal diodes and transistors to date, as well as a perspective on future material/device architectures and other electrical-analogs including detectors and interconnects. 

Apologia Pro Vita Sua“- Part II in the Morals, Ethics, and Faith in our Science Communities Miniseries

In Part I of this series, Dr. Crystal Ramsey challenged us to consider not just  the “what” and the “how” regarding our academic endeavors, but also the “why”.  We were encouraged to explore “what if” questions such as:

-What if I knew “why” a researcher was doing her/his/their research?  
-What if my “why” is where I can communicate with anyone about anything without data?  

In the spirit of articulating “why”, I’ve borrowed the title of a work by 19th century British theologian/educator, John Henry Newman; “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” which roughly translates to “a rationale for my life.”  I will discuss, with a biographical bend, my wrestling with the contours of a relationship between faith and knowledge, recognizing that the history of the academy, at least in part, suggests the impropriety if not the impossibility of such.

Oct 16 2018
There will be NO Millennium Café on 10/16 or 10/23

Due to circumstance beyond anyone’s control the Millennium Café scheduled for 10/16 is cancelled, the presentations are being rescheduled.  Also, due to Materials Day activities next week, there will be no Millennium Café on 10/23. 

In the meantime use this time to treat a colleague to a cup of coffee and find out “why” they do what they do.  We’ll see everyone back at the Café on 10/30!

Oct 9 2018
ABRL – A Catalyst for Global Health Security at Penn State: Vision, Ongoing Engagements, and Opportunities for Collaboration

Penn State’s Applied Biological and Biosecurity Research Laboratory (ABRL) protects global health through a strong network of international partners.  Together we perform critical research, assess risks, investigate threats, inform policy and work to build global capabilities for mitigating the threat of human and veterinary infectious disease emergence.  Leveraging state-of-the-art interdisciplinary strategies, ABRL has ongoing programmatic engagements focusing on One Health security around the globe to create sustainable impacts.  We involve regional country ministries and stakeholders as well as US government agencies, global foundations and philanthropic organizations. In the end, our mission is simple: improve global health and biosecurity.  I will provide an overview of ABRL’s Vision, current global engagements and how faculty may engage with and contribute to ABRL’s global engagements.

X-ray Diffraction for Monolayers of 2D Materials

When synthesizing materials for applications in electronics, optoelectronics and other applications the crystalline quality of the material is usually of high importance.  X-ray diffraction, historically, has been widely implemented to assess crystal structure and imperfections present in the crystal lattice.  While this is routinely done for samples that are around 10 nm and thicker, for monolayer materials like two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides such characterization is much more challenging.  In this presentation I will discuss how XRD can be leveraged to study ultra-thin  2D layered materials.

Oct 2 2018
Solving Sulfur Suspicions using Raman Spectroscopy

Elemental sulfur, an essential intermediate in the sulfur cycle, is both ubiquitous in the environment and an enigmatic material with dozens of allotropic forms.  Despite its prevalence, S(0) is challenging to characterize. In this talk, I will discuss our use of low frequency Raman spectroscopy in detecting and analyzing sulfur in our environmental and lab-synthesized samples.

Opportunities in Medical Radar

Medical radar is an emerging area of research and development, spurred by rapid advances in electromagnetic modeling, simulation, component development, and signal and image processing algorithms. In this talk, we review various important considerations in the design and development of medical radar systems for diagnostic applications. 

Sep 25 2018
“Knowledge Discovery within Images“

A picture is worth a thousand words.  The question is, which thousand words?  This talk will present computational methods developed in my group that enable the translation of raw image pixels to objects, relations, events, decisions, and new knowledge. Based upon these methods we have created highly accurate machine learning systems for segmentation, classification and synthesis of biological and medical images.​

“You’ve Crossed Over into…..The Critical Zone“

Earth’s Critical Zone is the thin near-surface zone spanning from bedrock to the atmospheric boundary layer.  Since the mid-2000s, scientists have been viewing this zone through a new interdisciplinary lens that brings together biology, soil science, geology, hydrology, and meteorology to make co-located measurements of water, energy, sediment and solute fluxes.    NSF now funds a network of Critical Zone Observatories, one of which is led by a Penn State team. I’ll describe the key questions and ongoing research of our local Critical Zone Observatory, including the unmet demand for robust field sensors to monitor soil processes, and our attempts to move from measuring everything everywhere to measuring only what we need to model the Critical Zone.

Sep 18 2018
“What’s in the Air that we Breathe? Visualizing Particulate Matter“

Particulate matter adversely affects millions of people across the globe and is becoming an increasing global health and environmental concern. This talk will highlight our work to analyze what it is that we breathe and its impact, using microscopy for visualization. Characterization of such aerosolized carbon forms lies at the intersection of multiple analytical techniques which come together to tell the story of this unwanted yet impactful material.

“Killing Tumor Cells with Novel Engineered Protein”

In collaboration with the Medina Group are examining fundamental roles of glycoproteins in cancer cell biology facilitated by a newly discovered glycan-binding protein (Lectin-1) that kills epithelial cancer cells with unprecedented potency (picomolar concentration). Utilizing chemical biology, evolution, genomics and cancer biology, we are studying the affinity and specificity of this new anti-tumor lectin, as well as selected candidates from a library of novel lectins, toward cancer-associated glycans and characterizing mechanisms of their cytotoxic action.

Sep 11 2018
“Invisible Plastic“

From eyeglass lenses to the optics in your cell phone camera, an ongoing challenge is to eliminate reflection from plastic optics that most of us use on a daily basis. This talk will highlight the development of a graded-index fluoropolymer antireflection coating that combines extraordinary durability with extreme performance, making common plastics such as plexiglass virtually disappear. 

“Why are You Here?” – Part I in the Morals, Ethics, and Faith in our Science Communities miniseries

This fall The Millennium Café is asking the question “What if?” as we discuss issues of morals, ethics, and faith in our scientific communities.  

  • What if I knew why a researcher was doing her/his/their research?  
  • What if my why is where I can communicate with anyone about anything without data? 
  • What if leaving out the why, or focusing on specific whys, is where gaps in ethics occur?  

 It’s all good to ask someone “why,” but how often do you ask yourself the same question?  How well do you examine your own attachment to whats, hows, wheres, and whens.  What if “why” is a part of a building process, an architectural design of sorts, that, if invested in intentionally and consciously, offers an intriguing foundation for communication between science and people?  Why is a natural foundation shaker, so let’s start with ourselves. “What do you believe? Why?”, “What are your rules for research? Why?”, “On your best day, or your worst, what do you believe IN? Why?”  BTWs, the why is where morals and ethics live, and if this conversation does not interest you, ask yourself “why.”  What if science, like morals, ethics, and faith, is a belief, a rule, and a way of being.  If so, maybe science can connect to anyone. Why.....not? 

Sep 4 2018
“Safety: a ‘Critical Competence’ “

Morgan Advanced Materials, a global supplier of components for demanding applications across multiple business sectors, has established its long-range carbon science R&D capability within the Innovation Park at Penn State.  I will discuss how safety plays a central role at Morgan and in general across all industries.  Safety will be discussed as a body of knowledge, a skill set, a mindset, a value necessary for carrying out all manner of activities, from experiments in the laboratory to operation of large-scale plants, and extending to day-to-day activities at home.

“Understanding Sleep: From Computation to Physiologic Dynamics”

Sleep is important for normal brain function, and sleep disruption is co-morbid with many neurological diseases.  There is a growing mechanistic understanding of the neurological basis for sleep regulation that is beginning to lead to mechanistic models. We aim to validate the predictive capacity of such models. If we are successful, and the models accurately describe enough of the mechanistic functions of the physical system, then they can be used as sophisticated observation systems to reveal both system changes and sources of dysfunction with neurological diseases and identify routes to intervene.

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