The Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM)

Science Café Program

The LRSM, through the NSF-supported Penn MRSEC, is continuing a series of Science Cafés that began last year to promote NOVA’s four part TV series on materials, ‘Making Stuff with David Pogue,’ on public television. The Science Cafés, which are science talks for laymen about materials-related topic of current interest, will take place at 7:30 pm at Stoney’s British Pub, 3007 Concord Pike, Wilmington DE and Saint Declan's Well, 3131 Walnut St. Philadelphia, PA, at 6:00 pm.

These programs are free and anyone who is interested is invited to attend. No purchase is necessary.

Google Maps Stony's Directions | Saint Declan's Well

For further information contact:

Andrew R. McGhie at

September 8, 2014
Stoney’s British Pub
Eric HumeEric L. Hume, MD
Penn Orthopaedics
Perelman SOM, University of Pennsylvania
“Adventures and Misadventures in Materials and Biology: 50 Years of Hip Replacement Progress”

Hip replacement is a spectacularly successful operation to relieve pain from hip arthritis. Replacement offers high success rates and very good pain control, and allows high levels of recreation and work activity. It is a gold standard for successful surgical treatment. The development history is an interesting story of intuition, engineering methodology, materials development and selection, and biology. As most stories go, replacement was born from the mind of a visionary, steadily progressed with careful consideration of failures, took surprising leaps forward, but also saw catastrophes resulting from well-considered new concepts. We will start at the beginning, touch on some of the more interesting and important of these chapters, and end with where we are now and where I think we need to go.
September 3, 2014
Saint Declan's Well

Matthew J. Lazzara / Personalized Medicine for CancerMatthew J. Lazzara
CBE, University of Pennsylvania
“Personalized Medicine for Cancer”

Over the last decade, an improved ability to sequence tumor DNA has been leveraged to identify genetic mutations that promote tumorigenesis and resistance to therapy. In an increasing number of cancer settings, sequencing individual patient DNA now allows for the optimization of therapeutic regimens by including drugs that target specific mutant proteins. This talk will highlight several examples of the successful application of this personalized medicine approach as well as examples of tumor adaptation to outsmart even the best available personalized approaches. The talk will also cover computational modeling approaches being developed by engineers to gain quantitative and predictive understanding of the biochemical processes that dictate cancer cell response to therapy.

October 6, 2014
Stoney’s British Pub

Bentley RacingDillon Brout
Physics & Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania
"Advances in Race Car Vehicle Dynamics and Race Strategy"

With ever increasing amounts of data provided by sensors on race tracks and race cars, in order to succeed in sports car racing it has become imperative to invent insights, algorithms, and strategies to create an edge over competitors. With Bentley Motorsport North America and Dyson Racing Team Bentley, we have led a number of innovative analyses to optimize the vehicle's handling for each on-track scenario as well as developed algorithms to predict optimal race strategy in real time. The talk will highlight several of these innovations as well as cover an introduction to the physics of race cars.

October 15, 2014
Saint Declan's Well

solar arrayIgor Bargatin
Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania
"Producing Solar Electricity by Boiling Water ... and Electrons!"

Humanity generally relies on two methods to produce solar electricity: (1) photovoltaic devices, a.k.a. solar cells, which convert sunlight directly to electricity, and (2) solar thermal power plants, which focus sunlight to produce high temperature heat, which can then be used to power steam turbines. I will talk about the relative advantages and disadvantages of the two technologies and show some recent examples, including the controversial mirror array recently opened at Ivanpah, CA. I will then talk about the alternative methods of using the high temperature heat, which rely on evaporation of electrons rather than water and which can be used to produce electricity at a much smaller scale than the large mirror installations.

November 5, 2014
Saint Declan's Well

David Salas-de la CruzDavid Salas-de la Cruz, Ph.D., EIT
Rutgers University, Camden
“3D Printer: Materials and Custom-made Manufacturing Revolution”

In his 2013, State of the Union Address, President Obama mentioned that 3D printing "has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything". In fact, Nicolas Jones, science critic for Nature, stated, "three-dimensional printers are opening up new worlds to research". What is a 3D printer? A 3D printer is a tool and a process of making 3D-dimensional objects from computer aided design (CAD) models. The process deposits a polymeric material using layer-by-layer deposition technique by mean of a micro extrusion system. Charles Hull patented this stereolithography technique in 1986 and it was not until 2005 that the process reached stream-media by an open source model. The process allows for a rapid deposition of liquid plastic into solid object. The process reduces the development and manufacturing preparation cost by 70% and speed-up time to market. It allows communities to develop custom-made objects to solve local community problems. Furthermore, the process allows for the creation of custom-made medical devices and body-parts for the medical community. However, the lack of generation awareness, increased security concerns and the lack of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educational programs, in our K-12 system, is preventing the technology from rapidly expand. It is unquestionable that 3D printers has the potential to revolutionize material design, manufacturing and medical technology but it will require also a change in our educational system so complex designs can be understood by everyone.

November 10, 2014
Stoney’s British Pub

Karl Adamsons
"Art Preservation Over the Last ~5000 Years"


December 8, 2014
Stoney’s British Pub

Alain Plante
Earth & Environmental Science
University of Pennsylvania
"The Carbon Beneath Our Feet"


December 10, 2014
Saint Declan's Well

Charlie Johnson
Physics & Astronomy
University of Pennsylvania
"Can Dogs Teach Us How to Use Nanotechnology to Smell Ovarian Cancer?


January 19, 2014
Stoney’s British Pub

Stewart Ramsey


January 21, 2014
Saint Declan's Well

Doug Durian "Grains of Physics"Doug Durian
Physics, University of Pennsylvania
"Grains of Physics"

Sand is a problem. At the beach it's fun to scoop and pour, and to make sandcastles. But it's hard to walk on and it sticks everywhere, plus those sandcastles start crumbling right away. The beach can turn to quicksand, and sandy bluffs can collapse in avalanches. Similar problems arise in desert, lunar, and Martian environments. Industries struggle with processing food grains, pharmaceutical powders, minerals for making ceramics and concrete, as well as with coal and geologic formations holding oil and gas. In short, we need to deal with granular materials to secure our food, medicine, shelter, and energy. Unfortunately, lots of things still go wrong. At a basic level, we lack a good understanding of how "sand'' either flows or jams up under applied forces. This is a mechanics problem, and it is difficult because unexpected behaviors emerge for large collections of even the simplest objects like grains. I'll survey this background, explain why physicists have latched onto "sand" as a cutting-edge research topic, and describe some research from my own laboratory on impact cratering and intermittent avalanche flows.


[ Science Café Program 2010-11 ]
[ Science Café Program 2011-12 ]
[ Science Café Program 2012-13 ]
[ Science Café Program 2013-14 ]


The Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter
University of Pennsylvania / 3231 Walnut Street / Philadelphia, PA 19104-6202, USA
tel: 215-898-5425 fax: 215-898-8296
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