The Millennium Cafe

Exchanging ideas and challenges

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. 

Dec 18 2018
Survey Says - Thank you for your participation!

Question #1 – The Café could be improved by: 

  1. [43%]  Having more “series” within the Café which present a topic from different perspectives (e.g. the recent faith, ethics, morality series included 4 talks over the semester.
  2. [22%]  Expanding the diversity of the audience (e.g. identify additional ways to advertise event).
  3. [15%]  Ensuring all talks are < 13 minutes (e.g. Josh needs to tighten up the operation)
  4. [11%] Getting more faculty to the event.
  5. [9%]    More regularly engage Café stakeholders to help shape the event (e.g. forming a team to help guide the event)

Question #2 - The Café attempts to strike a balance between talks that appeal to the “core” while also exploring new topics.  The range of topics at the Café are:

  1. [73%]  Generally “just right.
  2. [20%]  Could be “more diverse”
  3. [7%]    What talks?  I’m here for coffee!
  4. [0%]    Generally “too narrow”

Question #3 – Why do you attend the Millennium Café?

  1. [66%]  Conversation, Coffee, and Talks are all important
  2. [18%]  Talks - the Café exposes me to new perspectives/challenges/expertise.
  3. [14%]  Coffee – free food/drink….I’m there.
  4. [2%]    Conversation - an informal opportunity to connect with colleagues new and old.
The Millennium Cafe will resume on January 15, 2019

The Millennium Café has concluded for 2018 – have a great holiday break!

Dec 11 2018
“Survey Says…”

Due primarily to a fantastically diverse audience, (thank YOU) the Millennium Café has become a weekly interdisciplinary cup-o-goodness.  Over the past 6+ years Café participants have been treated to >600 different talks spanning science, engineering, art, agriculture, ethics, live music, etc…  In the spirit of keeping the Café fresh, engaging, and relevant we’ll take a few minutes to get your real time feedback on three questions – bring your device.

“How to Participate in the MRSEC Renewal Competition”

The Center for Nanoscale Science, Penn State’s NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, will compete for renewal in 2018, with the preproposal due at NSF in June.  NSF expects – and we intend to deliver – substantial change in the focus and composition of the Interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs) that will comprise the renewal proposal. 

This talk will describe (1) the internal down select competition to become one of the IRGs in the renewal proposal, (2) the events, people, and resources that will be available throughout the winter and early spring to help teams in generating compelling IRG white papers, and (3) the key measures of a successful IRG proposal.

Alignment to the NSF Big Ideas is important: these include (among others) Rules of Life, Harnessing the Data Revolution, Quantum Leap, Convergence, and Multiumessenger Astrophysics. Sustainability is another important theme. In the last cycle, 54 external reviews were secured on 9 internal IRG white papers, to identify 5 for inclusion in the renewal.

If you are interested but unable to attend the Cafe, an additional similar event will be held in early January (time/place TBA), and the MRSEC Director (vhc2@psu.edu) is available anytime for discussion.

Dec 4 2018
“To Communicate, or Not to Communicate? That, is the Question”

What if the barriers between human beings and science could be dissolved with individual and collective acts of communication?  What if science communication begins with what each scientist believes about communicating?  What if everything everywhere begins with what a human being believes? ... What was the question?

“Who Am I? Identity as Morality”

Using the ancient art of mask-making, we will explore “self” in the specific context of professional identity formation.  I will discuss how this unique art form has helped me to explore multiple, liminal and evolving elements of identity. The conversation will focus on developing an authentic sense of self when competing demands create potential moral dilemmas as we seek to determine, refine and (potentially) reconcile our personal and professional identities.

Nov 27 2018
“Bringing Molecules and Materials to Light – Ultrafast Microscopy at the MRI”

The National Science Foundation recently funded a new ultrafast microscopy facility at Penn State through the Major Research Instrumentation program. This talk will begin with a description of the facility from the perspective of its use as a tool to examine the electronic properties of 2D materials and to tune those properties through control of doping chemistry. The second part of the talk will discuss plans to expand the scope of the facility to enable operando measurements of new electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution, formation of SEI layers at battery electrodes, and water dynamics in membranes for purification and energy applications among others.

“From Gob Piles to Concrete: Pursuing Sustainability at the Infrastructure-Energy-Environment Nexus”

This talk will present characterization, processing, and high-volume use of industrial waste products in producing high-performance concrete for infrastructure applications. Specifically, we will focus on the fluidized bed combustion (FBC) technology that is widely used in Pennsylvania for environmental cleanup of waste coal (gob) piles and producing electricity. The byproduct FBC ash contains dehydroxilated clays which can beneficially react with Ca- and Al-bearing phases in concrete.  Opportunities and challenges will be presented.

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!

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