Science Café Program

The LRSM, through the NSF-supported Penn MRSEC, continues a series of Science Cafés that began in 2011 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 World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, at 6:00 pm.

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

For further information contact:

Andrew R. McGhie at
215-898-6461
mcghie@lrsm.upenn.edu

Current Schedule

September 12, 2016
Stoney’s British Pub

3007 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE


7:30pm
Dr. Stephen Fahnestock / What Is Life?: Application of Biology to Materials Science at DuPont Dr. Stephen Fahnestock
DuPont Central Research & Development (retired)
What Is Life?: Application of Biology to Materials Science at DuPont
 

About 25 years ago DuPont perceived that innovation in chemistry was becoming more difficult and less profitable, and turned to biotechnology to take up some of the slack. As we thought about that opportunity, the practical question, “What can biology offer that chemistry cannot?” presented the surprisingly difficult fundamental question, “What is life?”. I will discuss in light of that thinking the ways in which biology can impact materials, especially to engineer novel functionality. Finally I will describe one of the DuPont projects that made best use of the unique capabilities of biology — to develop permanent, removable hair coloring, in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson.


September 29, 2016
World Cafe Live

3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104


6:00pm
Ivan J. Dmochowski / Designing Light-Responsive Molecules for Biomedical Applications Ivan J. Dmochowski
Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania
Designing Light-Responsive Molecules for Biomedical Applications
 

Over the past 200 years–since the first synthesis of urea by Wöhler (in 1828)–chemists have synthesized a wide variety of molecules, many with biological significance. Today, my laboratory designs multi-functional molecules, with specially tailored physical and biological properties. This work is very similar in concept to architecture, but at the molecular scale. Our work has focused on developing light-activated small- and large molecules that make it possible to address several long-standing problems in Biology and Biomedicine. In this talk I will highlight our efforts at an exciting frontier in molecular pharmacology–the identification of a functionally relevant protein target of general anesthetics. I will also highlight our efforts to advance the field of transcriptomics by designing light-activated probes to elucidate how RNA populations vary between different cells in living tissue.


October 24, 2016
Stoney’s British Pub

3007 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE


7:30pm
Carl Hugo Naylor / Beyond Graphene: MoS2, a New Platform for Science Carl Hugo Naylor
Physics, University of Pennsylvania
Beyond Graphene: MoS2, a New Platform for Science
 

Graphene, the once acclaimed holy grail of materials in the two dimensional world has attracted a tremendous amount of interest in the past decade. However, the more we learn about this material, the more we realize the limits in its applications. Hence, the scientific community’s rush to discover the next Graphene. MoS2 has emerged as a true potential candidate to fill the big shoes of Graphene. In my talk, I plan to introduce MoS2 and how its exciting properties can be applied towards novel systems.


November 17, 2016
World Cafe Live

3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104


6:00pm
Randall Kamien / The Mathematics of Paper Randall Kamien
Physics, University of Pennsylvania
The Mathematics of Paper
 

Randy will not be talking about doing math problems on paper nor will he be talking about the economics of selling newspapers in this internet age.  He will talk, instead, about some profound mathematics behind our everyday trouble with wrapping oddly-shaped gifts and making maps.  What is his solution?  KIRIGAMI! A cousin of origami, kirigami allows us to solve these problems and much more.


November 22, 2016
Stoney’s British Pub

3007 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE


7:30pm
Toen Castle / The Mathematics of Paper Toen Castle
Physics, University of Pennsylvania
The Mathematics of Paper
 

Toen will not be talking about doing math problems on paper nor will he be talking about the economics of selling newspapers in this internet age.  He will talk, instead, about some profound mathematics behind our everyday trouble with wrapping oddly-shaped gifts and making maps. What is his solution?  KIRIGAMI! A variant of origami, where cutting is allowed as well as folding, kirigami allows us to solve these problems and much more. Demos will be given.


December 8, 2016
World Cafe Live

3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104


6:00pm
Paulo E. Arratia / A Fantastic Voyage – From Bacteria to Micro-robots Paulo E. Arratia
University of Pennsylvania
A Fantastic Voyage – From Bacteria to Micro-robots
 

In 1966, the science fiction flick Fantastic Voyage had a submarine crew shrunk to microscopic size to travel through a person’s body to fight brain disease and remove a clot. Traveling in their miniaturized submarine, Proteus, the crew fights off the body’s immune system and successfully completes their task. Today, scientists and engineers around the world are trying to make this voyage a reality – or at least the good parts of it. In this talk, I will review a few fundamental ideas and concepts in trying to design microscopic sized robots and the many challenges that still need to be overcome. In particular, I will discuss the main challenges in achieving efficient motility or propulsion as the system size (i.e. submarine) shrinks down to the micro- and/or nano-scale. I will argue that one can learn quite a bit from nature. Microorganisms such as bacteria, algae, and sperm cells have learned how to actively move in a diverse set of environments. By studying these biological systems in detail we may be able to mimic and reverse engineer their success.


January 16, 2017
Stoney’s British Pub

3007 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE


7:30pm
Bill Matthaeus / The Sun to the Earth and Beyond: Dynamics of the Plasma State of Matter Bill Matthaeus
University of Delaware
The Sun to the Earth and Beyond: Dynamics of the Plasma State of Matter
 

The plasma state represents a fourth state of matter that may not be as familiar as solids, liquids and ordinary gases, but actually pervades most of the universe. From magnetars and accretion disks, to molecular clouds and planetary nebulae, the dynamics of matter in the plasma state determines much of what we see in the cosmos.   Closer to home, in the solar system, plasma dynamics in the sun’s corona generates a very fast solar wind that blows out a huge bubble in the interstellar gas, creating the plasma heliosphere.  Plasma dynamics controls the energetic particle and magnetic environment within this bubble, where our planet Earth resides.

After reviewing some general features of cosmic plasmas, this talk will focus on three challenging problems in heliospheric plasma physics. First we will discuss the peculiar way in which the coronal plasma is heated, thus generating the solar wind and creating the heliosphere. Second we will discuss how turbulent motions in the solar wind propagate out to the Earth and causing magnetic storms and Space Weather. Finally, as the solar wind continues outwards it pushes back galactic cosmic rays, which are a major hazard to long term travel in space.  In this way the rhythmic cycle of solar activity exerts an important control over the Earth’s radiation environment.


January 26, 2017
World Cafe Live

3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104


6:00pm
Jorge Santiago-Aviles / The Importance of Batteries and Super Capacitors to the Electric Car and to an Efficient Power Grid Jorge Santiago-Aviles
University of Pennsylvania
The Importance of Batteries and Super Capacitors to the Electric Car and to an Efficient Power Grid
 

Some important aspects of modern technology such as transportation and the efficiency of the power grid are strongly tied to new advances in charge storage technology. Most electric car manufacturers are attempting to obtain a range comparable to internal combustion driven cars, about 500 miles, and all are seeking the right battery / super capacitor for the task. Of course, load leveling, avoiding the cyclical increase in grid load due to seasons, and day / night load fluctuations are a most important concern. We will discuss batteries, energy and power densities and the two types of super capacitors used, electrical double layer and Faradaic.


February 15, 2017
World Cafe Live

3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104


6:00pm
Jeffery G. Saven / Sculpting Protein Jeffery G. Saven
Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania
Sculpting Protein
 

The information in our genes, and those of all organisms, is encoded in polymers (DNA). This information is used to create other polymers: proteins. Many of these spontaneously fold and come together to form molecular machines, enzymes, and scaffolds. Attempts to understand and use this encoding can help us understand nature’s molecules, how to make complex natural systems easier to study, and how to create new tools, devices and materials using nature’s molecules. The design and sculpting of biopolymers and biomaterials will be discussed.


February 20, 2017

3007 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE


7:30pm
Ryan Frisch, Ph.D. / The CRISPR Craze: What is it? Ryan Frisch, Ph.D.
Wilmington, DE
The CRISPR Craze: What is it?
 

New technologies are fundamentally changing how biologists understand organisms. One of the most prolific new technologies is the adaptation of a microbial adaptive immune response for precision genome targeting. The Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) system has been repurposed by biologists to allow rapid, precise, and inexpensive targeting of DNA within an organism. This has accelerated the ability to understand fundamental properties of living organisms, provide therapeutic solutions to genetic disease, and reduce vector born human diseases. This talk will focus on how this naturally occurring system has been adapted into a tool in the lab and discuss some of the most exciting uses of this new tool.


March 20, 2017
Stoney’s British Pub

3007 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE


7:30pm
Peter J. Collings / Liquid Crystals: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them! Peter J. Collings
Physics, Swarthmore College and University of Pennsylvania
Liquid Crystals: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them!
 

In addition to the solid, liquid, and gas states of matter, some substances form a fourth state of matter between the solid and liquid states. This “liquid crystal” state of matter is fluid like a liquid, but possesses structure like a solid. The combination of fluidity and order is what allows high-resolution, low power-consuming LCD displays to be fabricated. The quality and prevalence of devices that rely on an LCD display have literally changed the way people go about their lives, making everyone wonder at times if living with them is not entirely a change for the better. In addition, the combination of fluidity and order is what allows many biological structures to function properly, including cell membranes, chromosomes, micro-filaments, and muscles. Thus we are alive because life has taken advantage of the properties of liquid crystals.


March 23, 2017
World Cafe Live

3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104


6:00pm
Peter J. Collings / Liquid Crystals: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them! Peter J. Collings
Physics, Swarthmore College and University of Pennsylvania
Liquid Crystals: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them!
 

In addition to the solid, liquid, and gas states of matter, some substances form a fourth state of matter between the solid and liquid states. This “liquid crystal” state of matter is fluid like a liquid, but possesses structure like a solid. The combination of fluidity and order is what allows high-resolution, low power-consuming LCD displays to be fabricated. The quality and prevalence of devices that rely on an LCD display have literally changed the way people go about their lives, making everyone wonder at times if living with them is not entirely a change for the better. In addition, the combination of fluidity and order is what allows many biological structures to function properly, including cell membranes, chromosomes, micro-filaments, and muscles. Thus we are alive because life has taken advantage of the properties of liquid crystals.


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Check out some past lectures on our Video Channel