About 60% of all plastics ever produced are currently in waste sites, resulting in a yearly loss of $80-120 billion USD. Additionally, plastic production, which makes up 6% of global oil use, is expected to increase to 20% by 2050. Unique conditions in landfills and the natural environment expose plastic waste to factors like high salinity, varied temperatures, and microbial breakdown which can lead to the formation of tiny plastic particles.  Our lab leverages expertise in catalysis and reaction engineering along with advanced techniques such as two-dimensional gas chromatography and artificial intelligence to study the fundamental chemistry behind mixed plastic recycling technologies.

Speaker: Hilal Ezgi Toraman | Energy & Mineral Engineering | Chemical Engineering

We will discuss a vision for applying the tools and insights of materials science to studying life from molecules to ecosystems, opening new ways of sensing and measuring the structures and processes that underpin and drive living systems. The discussion will center on the big unanswered questions in the biological sciences, and how materials science and the emerging fields of biorenewables and living materials might be applied to addressing these questions. 

JP Gevaudan | Architectural Engineering
Aida Ebrahimi | Electrical Engineering
Cunjiang Yu | Engineering Science & Mechanics | Biomedical Engineering
Vicky Nguyen | Mechanical Engineering, Johns Hopkins

Charlie Anderson | Biology
Zoubeida Ounaies | Mechanical Engineering

Alarming rates of mental health challenges and social isolation among today's young people have called for unique and innovative approaches to supporting student well-being.  I will provide an overview of current academic and research efforts at Penn State to support skills and mindsets related to student flourishing. We will explore what it means to flourish and why it's important to challenge the status quo of today's "college life". 

Presenter: Blake Colaianne  |  Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center

With so much buzz around AI in the press, we should see big payoffs in science. Yet it doesn’t seem like major advancements with chatbots and image generators in recent years have also extended to scientific breakthroughs. In this talk, I will discuss the concept of representation learning: the way that AI algorithms understand data, and a major bottleneck in repurposing existing AI algorithms to solve new problems. I will specifically highlight challenges and opportunities in materials science applications including molecular simulation, characterization, and small molecule design.

The Penn State Sustainable Labs Program has been internationally recognized for its unique educational and experiential learning approach to incorporating sustainability practices into the research laboratory.  Instead of excusing research as a necessarily energy intensive and waste producing endeavor, participating researchers improve their lab operations while developing a sustainability-focused mind and skillset towards the daily habits and decisions that are essential for building and leading a strong culture of sustainability in the scientific workforce.  30 research labs is currently being recruited for the 2024-25 cohort - come and discover how to start running a more sustainable research lab with this programmatic opportunity. 

Speakers: Kristin Dreyer (Center for Nanoscale Science) |  Jack Rumery (PSU Sustainability) 

The Center for Pollinator Research integrates research, education, outreach and extension to improve management and conservation of pollinators.  Here, I will highlight our Beescape platform, which is a mapping tool that helps people evaluate the quality of their landscapes and habitats for bees, as well as our new NSF funded INSECT NET graduate training program which seeks to develop non-lethal, automated monitoring systems for bees and other insects, which will help us model how land use and climate influences insect  diversity and abundance.  We are intersted in new ideas for the integration of data science, computer science, and engineering to address bee declines.

Speaker: Christina Grozinger