The Millennium Cafe

Exchanging ideas and challenges

Mar 26 2019
“Exciting New Capabilities in MCL X-ray Scattering”

A multipurpose x-ray diffractometer installed last semester now enables analyses that were previously challenging or impossible. Examples to be discussed include: steel, stainless steel, and Inconel alloys; manganese-containing materials; microscopic polymers embedded within electronic devices; and tiny fragments of ancient art. This talk will also highlight the new capabilities, which include multiple radiation sources, a variety of optics for analyzing spot sizes from micron to tens of millimeter, and a 2D area detector.

“Image Analysis, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence”

I will introduce my research at the interface of image analysis and statistical machine learning. In particular, I will demonstrate AI systems for general purpose photographs and fine art paintings, for instance, to tag pictures by words and to date paintings. The underlying statistical and computational methods and their broad applicability will be explained.

Mar 19 2019
The Engaging NIH Application: A Reviewer Perspective” – Part III in the Art of Convergence at the NIH series

This presentation will draw on >10 years of reviewing NIH grant applications and provide a personal perspective on tips and secrets to prepare grant applications that engage the reviewer and turn them into your study section advocate.

“Drawdown: A Research Framework for Climate Solutions”

Over the last few years Project Drawdown has used peer-reviewed research to assess the costs and impact of over 80 solutions to reverse global warming. This research has demonstrated that solutions exist, they are here today, and they have positive impacts beyond their climate benefits – a positive and hopeful message that has attracted attention worldwide. The portfolio of solutions is broad and sometimes surprising, including not just energy, buildings and transportation and energy but also chemicals and materials, food systems and land use, empowering women and educating girls. This summer Penn State will be hosting about 50 undergraduates from across the U.S. as Drawdown Scholars to advance the research and extend it education and outreach, and September 16-18 we will be hosting the first Drawdown international scientific conference. We will discuss how the Drawdown framework can help connect the broader impacts of your research to new funding opportunities, develop new collaborations, and attract the best of the next generation of extraordinary and highly motivated students.

Mar 11 2019
“An Industrial Perspective” – Part II in the Cradle to Cradle: Designing for Sustainability series

There are many challenges of cradle to cradle design in materials science development within an industrial setting. This talk will shed light on some challenges from an industrial perceptive and will provide a few examples of how what may sound easy in theory, isn't always easy in the real world. I’ll highlight a few current challenges from the electronics and packaging markets which Avery Dennison services. 

“Attempting to Build Complex Solids Atom-by-Atom for Chemical Conversion”

Heterogeneous catalysis is a core technology in the bulk and specialty chemical industry. However, we still lack the ability to design or assemble catalysts of arbitrary complexity. In this Café talk, I will summarize our efforts aimed at building catalytic entities of controlled nuclearity and composition and solicit help for exploring new material platforms to realize our catalyst design goals.

Mar 5 2019
No Cafe due to Spring Break

The Millennium Café will return on March 12, 2019.  Enjoy the break!

Feb 26 2019
“Re-Designing Molecules, Materials, and Markets for the Anthropocene” – Part I in the Cradle to Cradle: Designing for Sustainability series

Humans are having an impact on our planet’s life-support systems - from the climate and oceans to land itself. The magnitude is such that scientists have claimed we are in a new geologic epoch—the Anthropocene—the age of the humans. This represents a pivotal time in both planetary and human history. In response, we must evolve our thinking and designing of industrial production-consumption systems. The most consequential shift is to what is being called the “circular economy”: biomimetic materials and processes that feed either technical or biological nutrient loops. These aren’t “zero waste” systems, but rather perpetually value-adding “nutrient management systems.” This talk will introduce the audience to the “circular economy” and closed-loop systems with key insights from business research, explore a current business example/case study, and offer thoughts on opportunities to be addressed.

“Mike Mower’s Music: A Bridge of Classical Music and Jazz”

Join us for a performance of Mike Mower’s Fictions, performed by the Penn State Graduate Flute Quartet. This program provides 3 short descriptive pieces, including a swirling whirlpool in canon-style, a slow harmonically sparse and arid movement, and a crowd of football fans cheering their team on to defeat and then collapsing into bed.

Feb 19 2019
“Kindness and Humility Matter”

Researchers are subject to all the virtues and vices of being human. Some remain kind and generous even under tremendous pressure, while others become cold, imperious, and contemptuous. In this short talk, I will consider whether there are things we can do to help researchers retain their humility and emotional balance. I also will explore what happens when researchers lose that balance. All of us have moments of anger and resentment, but it is incumbent upon people who purport to be teachers, mentors, and thought leaders to remain people of character, always.

“Outsmarting Cancer Cells” – Part II in the Art of Convergence at the NIH series

As the world has quickly evolved to embrace leading-edge technologies to improve mankind, how is cancer still a threat to human health? I’ll discuss our recent efforts to see the molecular culprits of human cancer cells with a new set of eyes. We use high-resolution cryo-EM to see native cancer proteins in a manner that allows us to image molecular defects. We expect molecular management plans based on these findings to enable next generation cancer-fighting therapies. 

Feb 5 2019
“The Role of Nanofabrication in High-Energy Astrophysics”

Developments in grating spectroscopy are one key to enabling new discoveries in the field of astronomy, particularly in X-ray/UV astronomy. I will present recent advances made by our group where we’ve developed new ways to build large-format gratings (i.e. dispersive elements) using nanofabrication techniques that are traditionally used in semiconductor device research. These fabrication efforts are coupled with testing of these gratings onboard sounding rockets, our overall efforts are contributing towards the design of future space telescopes.

“Investing in Science Based Start-ups”

Our world is undergoing rapid and dramatic change due to the productization of new technologies that increase perspective, productivity and convenience. These technologies often emerge from “start-up” companies that get early investment from venture or other “high risk” capital sources. This talk will introduce the process of attracting and accepting venture money to propel new ideas and when is the “right time” to consider such funding in “Science Based Start-ups.”

Jan 29 2019
“2D-Legoland: Constructing a New Class of Materials”

Graphene substrates provide researchers with a unique and robust platform for the synthesis of new materials (i.e. 2D-metals) and heterostructures by allowing the growth of films both above and below the graphene surface, often with novel structures and properties. Depending on the elements and stacking used, these hybrid-graphene structures have applications in semiconductor electronics, superconductivity, quantum well systems, non-linear optics, and biosensing.

“An Active Noise Cancellation System for Vibration Sensitive Microscopy”

Given the sensitive nature of scanning probe microscopes (SPM) they cannot be used in noisy environments. I will briefly describe an active cancellation process that nullifies the appearance of vibrational noise by adding a drive signal into the existing Z-feedback loop of the SPM.  This inexpensive and easy solution requires no major instrumental modifications and is ideal for those looking to use a microscope in noisier environments, e.g. coupled to active cooling systems or for use in the field. This general approach can be employed to eliminate the various types of noise which compromise sensitive measurement techniques. We invite ideas and suggestions to expand the application of this approach to other techniques which might benefit from active noise cancellation.

Jan 22 2019
“Building Electronics with New Materials”

New materials with superior characteristics offer great opportunities to build better electronic devices, circuits, and systems.  In this talk, I will introduce past and ongoing efforts around translating material advantages into electronics performance improvements. In one case, realization of material advantage was not possible without engineering out parasitic effects. In another case, innovative engineering broke the performance limit predicted by the conventional wisdom.

“Life’s Role in Environmental Regulation”

Nearly fifty years ago, Lovelock and Margulis proposed that environmental conditions on Earth are regulated through interactions with the biota. Where does this “Gaia Hypothesis” now stand? Do these interactions increase biospheric resilience? On geologic timescales? On human time scales? These questions will be explored with examples from my research and collaboration with Lovelock. 

Jan 15 2019
“Much of it is Just Learning Each Other’s Language” – Part I in the Art of Convergence at the NIH series

Through my research on molecular motors, I have collaborated on NIH-funded projects with cell biologists, physicists, electrical engineers, materials scientists, and mathematicians.  These successful collaborations all shared traits of a) the need to overcome communication barriers, b) having complementary areas of expertise and a mutually beneficial relationship, and c) addressing an important and timely problem.  Using examples of successful grants, rejected grants, and reviewing grants, I will endeavor to provide a roadmap for cross-disciplinary collaborations that are enthusiastically received by NIH study sections.

“Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources: Integrating Law, Policy, and Engagement”

Finding solutions to critical energy and the environment challenges depends not only on understanding the scientific and economic basis, but also the legal and policy basis.  Pulling from my experience as an attorney/mediator/facilitator, I will briefly discuss what the "law" is (or isn't) and how engaging with a broad group of stakeholders can lead to impact and results for questions ultimately critical to stewarding our planet's resources.  I will also briefly highlight upcoming opportunities for interdisciplinary funding in this space. 

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