Science is a restless search for truth where advances can materialize when newer paradigms replace older ones. The replacement of concepts occurs because one vision more productively probes, defines, and applies the nature of reality over its predecessor.  Indeed, new thought frameworks and data patterns often ask us to reflect on what it means to be human.  While there is no end to the search for the best representations of life, biology is at a crossroads today as the microbiome revolution asks life scientists to embrace a more holistic, interconnected, and encompassing reality where microbes - the base of the biosphere - reorient our perspectives and solutions for the new millennium.

Presenter: Seth Bordenstein  |  Director of the Microbiome Center  |  Biology and Entomology

The field of inorganic nanoparticle synthesis lacks what the synthetic organic community has spent decades developing – a set of guidelines to provide a reasonable synthetic route to a given product.  Current synthetic guidelines for multi-component inorganic nanostructures are underdeveloped in comparison to the scope of potential applications for these materials. I will discuss recent developments from my work which aims to assess design guidelines for heterostructured inorganic nanoparticles.

Presenter: Sarah O’Boyle  |  Schaak Group

While organic chemists are good at synthesizing a variety of small molecules, we fall short of replicating the synthetic precision and fidelity demonstrated by natural enzymes.  Nature is truly the best synthetic chemist out there and we draw upon this inspiration to design new catalysts.  I will discuss how our team has designed and investigated squishy (polymer-based) homogeneous catalysts that embrace some key design elements found in natural systems to accelerate photoredox reactions and achieve precise bond formation.

Mutations in ATP13A2 cause juvenile onset Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.  My lab leverages an electron cryo-microscopy technique called single-particle analysis (SPA) to study mechanisms of membrane transport.  I will present atomic structures of human ATP13A2 visualized by SPA that reveal physical principles underlying selective polyamine transport and its regulation by lipids. These findings bring us closer to realizing ATP13A2’s potential in neuroprotective therapy.

Presenter: Kenneth Lee  |  Cellular and Molecular Physiology 

Measles virus remains a significant source of vaccine preventable disease in sub-Saharan Africa. The recent proliferation of rapid diagnostic testing presents a new tool in the fight to eliminate measles. Point-of-care rapid diagnostics present an opportunity to scale up, and speed up, diagnostic confirmation of suspected measles cases in settings with limited laboratory capacity. We are working on a new project with Gavi, the Alliance for Vaccines to develop strategies for deployment of rapid diagnostic testing for measles virus to support areas with limited diagnostic infrastructure. 

Speaker: Matthew Ferrari  |  Biology

Nanoscale lithography, the ability to pattern 700 billion transistors on 300 mm wafers at sub-10 nm features with no defects is a marvel of modern engineering This high density of transistors is central to the digital revolution that allows us to exchange information within the blink of an eye. Our lab leverages lithographic pattering, namely directed self-assembly (DSA) of block copolymers, to fabricate extended surface electrocatalyst and nanostructure polymer electrolytes for hydrogen fuel cells and water electrolyzers – technologies that are central to decarbonizing the global economy. DSA has revealed how the mesostructure of electrochemical materials govern ion transport, ion activity, and electrochemical reactivity.