The Millennium Cafe

Exchanging ideas and challenges

Jun 12 2018
“Infectious Diseases and the Importance of Being Different”

Individuals differ in the way they respond to infections, some struggle and suffer, while others are very good at fighting the infection. While genetic differences are important, other factors can contribute to generating highly infectious individuals.  One of these factors is the presence of a second pathogen and the fact that hosts have now to deal with both infections. The outcome is not easily predictable and can affect the dynamics of infection.  

“Unique Functionality of Crystalline Thin Films”

Crystalline oxide and chalcogenide thin films offer functionalities beyond their bulk counterparts. Growing these thin films is not always straight forward and defects frequently mask the properties of interest. In this talk I will highlight selected examples where molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) has enabled the growth of new thin films with unique functionality.

Jun 5 2018
“Good Bugs, Bad Bugs, and How to Tell them Apart”

The safety of our food supply relies on timely and accurate detection of microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness.  Traditional microbiological methods frequently fail to distinguish closely related beneficial bacteria used as biocontrol agents from those that can cause infection.  In such cases, use of genomics methods for accurate and precise identification, and prediction of pathogenic potential becomes invaluable.

“Making Big Molecules Bigger: Opportunities in Polymer Electron Microscopy”

Recent electron microscopy instrumentation advances have aimed to push the resolution limit, leading to remarkable instruments capable of imaging at 0.5 Å.  But, when imaging soft materials, the resolution is often limited by the amount of dose the material can handle rather than the instrumental resolution.  Despite the challenges of working with radiation sensitive samples, recent developments in electron microscopy have the potential to transform polymer electron microscopy.  For example, monochromatated sources enable spectroscopy and imaging based on the valence electronic structure, aberration correctors enable imaging of thick films, direct electron detectors minimize the required dose for imaging, and differential phase contrast imaging can map heterogeneities in electric fields within films.

May 29 2018
“Patterns, Proxies and Predictions: Tools to Monitor CO2 Plume During Sequestration?”

Geological systems such as subsurface reservoirs or aquifers often exhibit complex patterns of spatial heterogeneity in the form of channels, natural fractures, and other features.  The presence of these multi-scale features strongly influences the performance of processes such as gas-injection and groundwater flow.  In this talk, a unique pattern growth algorithm for modeling the complex connectivity of such subsurface systems and a strategy for calibrating the models using injection data will be presented.

“Millennium Café Pitch Competition Winners”

On May 22th 44 students competed in the Millennium Café Pitch Competition sponsored by PPG.  The competition was fierce as students had <2 minutes to introduce their research in a manner that was understandable and inspiring to our panel of judges.  Don’t miss this opportunity to hear four of the top-5 winners from this year’s competition.

Joseph Persichetti  “Modeling the Ensemble Reaction Pathways in Enzyme Catalysis”

Alexis Baxter  “Can Metal Ions Cause Alzheimer’s”

Kayla Gentile  “Self-Powered Micropumps”

Ambika Somasundar  “Controlling the Direction of Motion of Enzyme-coated Liposomes”

May 15 2018
“What’s Up with Water @ Penn State?”

Come learn about what is happening and how you can join water related research, education, and outreach efforts at Penn State.

“Workplace Accidents and Self-Organized Criticality”

The occurrence of workplace accidents is described within the context of self-organized criticality, a theory from statistical physics that governs a wide range of phenomena across physics, biology, geosciences, economics, and the social sciences.  Workplace accident data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal a power-law relationship between the number of accidents and their severity as measured by the number of days lost from work.  This power-law scaling is indicative of workplace accidents being governed by self-organized criticality, suggesting that nearly all workplace accidents have a common underlying cause, independent of their severity.

May 8 2018
Exploring the Potential for an Extended Period of Habitability on Mars

The primary objective of the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Mission is to investigate the potential habitability of ancient Mars. During this mission, the Curiosity Rover has traversed hundreds of meters of mudstone representing a long-lived series of ancient lakes. Characteristics of the sandstone and conglomerate deposits studied along the traverse indicate that those lakes were sustained by rivers and deltas. Additionally, the mission has found extensive evidence for water having flowed through fractures in the bedrock at a later time of Martian history. Further, the preserved rocks, and their associated minerals, show considerable evidence for different reduction/oxidation states, an important prerequisite for habitability.

Particles Here, There, and Everywhere – New Capabilities for Particle Size and Shape Analysis

Size and shape are important properties of particulate samples. These can influence a wide range of characteristics, such as: texture and feel of food ingredients, flowability of metal powders, and packing density/porosity of ceramics, to name a few. This talk will highlight capabilities and applications of two new particle characterization instruments currently available at Materials Characterization Lab, the Mastersizer 3000 for measuring particle size distribution and the Morphologi G3 SE for imaging size and shape of individual particle.

May 1 2018
There will be no Café on May 1st

The Café will resume on May 8th

Apr 24 2018
The Problem with Heat Transfer Across the Solid-Liquid Interface is that we Have Heat Transfer Across the Interface

Poor understanding of heat transfer across solid-liquid interfaces bottlenecks the development of nanocomposite materials for applications in thermal interface materials, energy generation, catalysis, and thermotherapeutics. Thermal engineers have identified the main parameters governing interfacial heat transfer; however, the interplay among these parameters is rather complex. This talk calls for anybody interested in the topic to develop a proper understanding of interfaces before addressing the problem of heat transfer across interfaces.

Am I Allowed to Spank my Robot? Musings on the Value of Robot Punishment

Punishment, or the threat of punishment, is a critical component for the establishment and maintenance of social system governed by norms. We would like to create robots that obey social norms. Do we then need a means for punishing our robots and, if so, how do punish a robot? This talk examines these and related questions.

Apr 17 2018
“Re-engineering the Integrated Biorefinery: Why I Love Your Trash”

Every year the world produces more trash and demands more energy. While the integrated biorefinery could produce renewable fuels from waste, its economic viability hinges on the ability to upgrade the unstable bio-oils currently produced, and to develop high-value byproducts. In a new approach to the integrated biorefinery, we incorporate inorganic compounds into cellulosic feedstocks to engineer solid products such as nanomaterials via biotemplating, heterogeneous adsorbents, and tunable carbon electrode materials, while simultaneously upgrading biofuels. This reduces the need for downstream upgrading and improves the economic viability of sustainable biomass to renewable fuel conversions.

“New Materials through Supramolecular Engineering”

Supramolecular chemistry is a strategy to engineer materials through directional noncovalent interactions (e.g., hydrogen bonds, host-guest interactions, metal coordination). Despite the dynamic and reversible nature of supramolecular interactions, their full integration into synthetic materials design platforms is sluggish. Nature, however, fabricates some of the most beautiful 1D, 2D, and 3D self-assembled architectures using a combined array of complex synthetic techniques and exploitation of noncovalent chemistry. So the question arises… why can’t we do the same to control molecular architecture?

Apr 10 2018
“Precision Antimicrobials: Staying Ahead on the Drug Resistance Treadmill”

The emergence of antibiotic resistance driven in part by the overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics represents a growing health crisis worldwide.  This challenge is exacerbated by reduced financial incentives and regulatory challenges in the drug development pipeline.   We are developing a precision antimicrobial initiative enabled by recent advancements in life science, material science, and data science to stay ahead on the drug resistance treadmill. 


“Teaching Drones to Soar”

Large birds (such as hawks, vultures, and eagles) as well as human sailplane pilots routinely exploit vertical air motion (lift) to remain aloft for several hours and fly hundreds of miles without flapping wings or the use of engines.  We are developing algorithms inspired by both human- and bird-soaring to improve the flight of drones: we teach to soar.  This talk will discuss what we have learned about robotic and bird flight, covering planning and flight control of robotic aircraft as well as our observations of bird flight.

Apr 3 2018
“Mixing Things Up in the Lab: 3-D Printed Micro-propellers”

Designing and building self-propelled particles (artificial microswimmers) with the capabilities of complex swimming (combined translational and rotational motion) is challenging with conventional fabrication techniques, such as lithography or electrochemical deposition. In this talk, I will present on an alternative fabrication technique, 2-photon lithography, that has enabled 3-D printing of microswimmers capable of complex swimming behavior.  This research demonstrates the advantages of the 2-photon lithography for 3-D printing and rapidly optimizing microstructures.

“Smartly Manufacturing Multifunctional Smart Materials: Microstructure Matters”

Multifunctional materials can act as machines for sensing, actuation, morphing, damage mitigation and limiting detrimental structural loads.  Industrial applications range from biomedical, aerospace, civil and automotive.  Shape memory alloys are a class of multifunctional materials that undergo large shape changes, and upon heating or removing external stimuli “remember” their original shape and form.  Underlying solid-state atomic and microstructure length scale phase transitions are reversible, which begets the bulk scale memory and thus smartly designing the microstructure can tailor alloy behavior.  In this talk, I will discuss our work using macro and micro-scale additive manufacturing and efforts to establish the interrelationships between novel fabrication technologies and shape memory functionality.

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