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The Millennium Cafe

Exchanging ideas and challenges

Aug 22 2017
Computer Vision in Agriculture

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) coupled with computer vision models offer the potential to extend the monitoring capacity of farmers to the assess and manage their land. This is especially important as climate change is leading to more frequent extreme weather events and globalization is leading to an increasing number of novel pathogens and pests.  My preliminary research has shown deep learning models can detect healthy and diseased plants with over 90% accuracy using in-field images of plant leaves collected with digital cameras. I am currently investigating the performance of UAVs in collecting image datasets of agricultural land to support automated plant disease diagnoses with computer vision models.

TB or bTB? A Truly Wicked Problem

Tuberculosis (TB) kills more people on the planet that any other infectious disease, and emerging drug resistant strains are proving untreatable.  Our group is taking an orthogonal approach to addressing the problem. During this presentation, I summarize our ongoing efforts at addressing this issue of bovine tuberculosis (bTB), discuss its impact on livestock productivity and associated human health risks, highlight key knowledge gaps, and define opportunities for mitigation through needed technical and market-based innovation.

Aug 8 2017
Crushing Molecules to Crystals of Carbon Nanothreads

Organic chemists are very good at synthesizing small carbon molecules, millions to date, but the number of completely crystalline and especially single crystal carbon “extended solids” such as diamond, graphite, and carbon nanotubes with bonding in multiple dimensions is very limited. Still, these few examples attract great attention because they often have superlative properties, such as high electron mobility, extremely high strength, and sometimes even superconductivity, so it is interesting to synthesize new ones.  I will show how the small molecule benzene can be crushed under pressure to form crystals of carbon nanothreads, a new low dimensional carbon nanomaterial akin to “flexible diamond” that may uniquely combine extreme strength with flexibility, insensitivity to defects, and resilience.

Plant-Herbivore Interactions and the Chemicals that Mediate Them

With a deep history of plant-animal interactions, it’s no surprise we find relationships that span from mutualisms to all out warfare. A brief overview of the chemical relationships that have been established between herbivores and their hosts will be discussed with a focus on behavior and chemical ecology.

Aug 1 2017
Maintenance Week at the MSC

There will not be a Millennium Cafe on August 1st due to building maintenance week. Also, note that core facilities in the MSC building are also closed during this time.  Please contact core facility technical staff directly for information about when instrumentation will be back online.

We will return on August 8
Jul 25 2017
Cold Sintering: Extremely Low Temperature Processing for Ceramics and Related Composites

Sintering entails converting a particulate compact in the form of ceramics, metals and polymers into a dense and robust solid.  Generally speaking most ceramics are sintered at high temperatures, typically 50%-75% of the melting point. Using the cold sintering process, many ceramics can be densified at much lower temperatures than previously thought possible (25-300 °C). This talk will discuss the history, current understanding, opportunities and challenges of cold sintering process.

A Little Weed is a Good Thing: How a Simple Plant Can Help Provide Food, Energy, and Clean Water for 11 Billion People

There is an urgent need to develop innovative, sustainable strategies to provide food, energy, and water for our burgeoning human population.  The ubiquitous and highly prolific aquatic plant, duckweed (Lemnoideae), hyperaccumulates nutrients from its environment, simultaneously cleaning water and synthesizing either starch- or protein-rich biomass that can be harvested for a range of applications, including: simple biofuels; advanced chemicals; fertilizers; fodder for meat and dairy animals; and human food.  To fully realize the potential of this ecological approach and bring it to market, collaboration across a myriad of technical, economic, and social disciplines is critical – we hope you will join us!

Jul 18 2017
Utilizing Tissue Cutting Mechanics Knowledge for Haptic Robotic Surgical Training

We have developed and implemented a haptic robotic training system into Hershey Medical Center’s surgical resident training program.  This device utilizes a haptic robot and virtual ultrasound image to provide diverse patient scenario training of ultrasound guided central venous catheterization. This project explores both the interaction between soft tissue and instruments and how to most effectively train the complex skills needed by future surgeons.

When the Drugs Stop Working: Antimicrobial Resistance and What to do About it

In ten years, many more Americans will die from drug resistant infections than will die in car crashes -- if nothing is done. Turning that situation around will require interdisciplinary effort, not unlike that responsible for the massive improvements in road safety. But right now, the resistance problem seems a lot harder.

Jul 11 2017
Imaged-Guided Atomistic Simulations of Partially Ordered Carbons

Tools for reconstructing complex carbonaceous-rich structures with partial ordering are lacking. We have created a series of image analysis and atomistic construction approaches to allow HRTEM micrographs to be used for image-guided, large-scale construction of atomistic representations (>30,000 carbon atoms) with consideration of the distribution of alignment, order (stacking), lattice fringe size, and initial efforts for defect-induced graphene curvature.

Exploiting and Re-Engineering Nature’s Metal Ion Sensors to Image Metal Ions in Disease

Metal ions in enzyme active sites catalyze many of Nature’s most challenging and important reactions, from synthesis of the building blocks of DNA to photosynthesis and respiration. Selective incorporation of the correct metal ion into an enzyme is usually crucial for function, and a major interest of my lab is how cells control metal ion localization to ensure this selectivity and how misregulation of those pathways leads to disease. I will present my lab’s progress toward developing protein- and nucleic acid-based fluorescent sensors for iron and manganese, sensors which we envision applying to better understand the dynamics of these metals in mammalian, bacterial, and host-pathogen systems.

Jul 4 2017
"Grand Challenge" Talks

Based upon feedback provided during the Millennium Café SWOT analysis last month we are soliciting ideas for “Grand Challenge” talks at the Café over the next 12 months.  The desire is to have one of these talks each month and the format is TBD but could involve having up to 3 presenters cover a single topic from different angles and then opening the floor up for a panel type discussion (see below for one example from a previous Café talk). 

There are many grand challenge topics (NAE, DOE, Gates, etc..) synergistic with Penn State Strategic Priorities.   

Please send ideas directly to Josh Stapleton by July 31st.

Jun 27 2017
Bacteria That Eat Solid Metal Oxides

Bacteria typically extract energy from their environment by transferring electrons from organic compounds to molecular oxygen.  In oxygen-deficient deepwater lakes, a certain bacterium known as Shewanella oneidensis transfers these electrons instead to iron oxide or manganese oxide nodules using electrically-conductive wires that extrude from the cell.  These bacteria are being employed commercially in bacterial fuel cells to generate electricity from waste water. In this talk, I will discuss the composition of these electrically-conductive wires and speculate on how they might be useful in cell-to-cell communication for biofuel production.

The Ins and Outs of Arbovirus Infection by Live-cell Imaging and Electron Microscopy

Emerging and re-emerging human pathogenic viruses such as Chikungunya, West Nile, dengue and Zika cause frequent outbreaks across the globe. Despite the urgent medical need to control these arthropod-borne (arbo) virus infections, there are no licensed human vaccines or specific antiviral therapy available. We are utilizing high-resolution, live-cell imaging coupled with single particle tracking, and electron microscopy analyses to elucidate complex networks of virus–host protein associations in virus life cycle. One of our major objectives is to garner greater insights into how these pathogens exploit host pathways for entry, replication, assembly and subversion of host defenses.

Jun 20 2017
Harnessing Big Data to Address Pollinator Decline

Bees are critical pollinators of agricultural crops, but populations of both managed and wild pollinators are in decline globally.  Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research represents the largest consortium in the world of researchers, educators, extension specialists and outreach coordinates tackling issues related to pollinator decline, management and biology.  Multiple interacting factors are driving pollinator declines, many of which are associated with biotic and abiotic features of the landscape, including the availability of forage, pesticide use, population densities, and climate.  We are coupling information on honey bee population health with landscape information to develop predictive models of bee health.   Our goal is to develop a web-based tool that beekeepers, land managers, growers, and policymakers can use to evaluate the quality of their landscapes for supporting bee populations and obtain recommendations for improving their landscapes and management practices.

The Exquisite Corpse: The Intersection of Art, Anatomy, and Technological Innovation

Exploding traditional disciplinary boundaries, Cristin Millett’s investigations of medicine and its history are integral to her artistic process. Her research stems from her childhood growing up in a medical household where discussions focused on the human body. Whereas most scholars respond to their research through writing, Millett expresses the results of her critical analysis by creating works of art. She reinvents established methods of sculpture by incorporating new advances in digital technology, including CNC machining, 3D printing, and robotics, with the time-honored practices of stone carving and bronze casting. Her objects and installations prompt a contemporary cultural critique of societal issues surrounding reproduction and gender identity.

Jun 13 2017
Generating Renewable Electricity from Salinity Gradients

Salinity gradients exist when two bodies of waters have different salt concentrations.  These gradients possess an immense amount of potential energy.  For example, the energy contained in the mixing of freshwater and seawater at coasts is equivalent to freshwater flowing over a 270-meter-tall dam into the ocean.  In this talk, I will present a recent, battery-inspired technique developed by my group that harvests this energy – the concentration flow cell – and discuss future research directions and collaborative opportunities.

Top-3 Winners of the Millennium Café Pitch Competition

On June 6th over 40 students competed in the 3rd annual 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 a diverse panel of judges.  Don’t miss this opportunity to hear the top-3 winners from this year’s competition.

  • Brad Hanks - “Creating Personalized Surgical Tools with Metal 3D Printing”
  • Nicole Famularo - Nanoparticle-based Invisibility Cloaks
  • Ece Alat - “Ceramic Coating for Corrosion (C3) Resistance of Nuclear Fuel Cladding”
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