November 2012

Dr. Greg Tschumper (University of Mississippi): Chemistry without Chemicals: An Introduction to Computational Quantum Chemistry

Computational quantum chemistry utilizes physics, mathematics, and high performance computing rather than laboratory experiments to study the chemistry of molecules. Quantum mechanics, rather than classical mechanics, is required to correctly describe the behavior of electrons. As such, Newton's equations of motion are effectively replaced with the electronic Schrödinger equation for atoms and molecules. Solutions to the Schrödinger equation tell us about the electrons in an atom or molecule and, thereby, provide insight into the chemistry, in much the same way that computers can provide solutions to Newton's equations of motion in order to predict the trajectory of a projectile.

November 20, 2012, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.

October 2012

Dr. Christine Nattrass (UT-Knoxville): The little bang: understanding the Quark Gluon Plasma

Physicists have created a hot, dense form of nuclear matter called the Quark Gluon Plasma. This phase of matter is believed to have been created shortly after the Big Bang and may exist today in the cores of neutron stars. We create it in the laboratory at high energy colliders such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider on Long Island and the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. I'll talk about what we know about the Quark Gluon Plasma and how we study its properties.

October 16, 2012, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.

September 2012

Dr. Theresa Levitt (University of Mississippi): Isaac Newton, Alchemy, and the Invention of Gravity

When Isaac Newton was a student at Cambridge, he had little interest in the official curriculum of scholastic Aristotelianism, preferring to read the rogue copies of Descartes and Galileo being passed around. He also spent enormous amounts of time on the study and practice of alchemy. He kept this last activity a secret, to the point that even historians were unaware of its extent until recently. The two pursuits (heliocentrism and alchemy) combined when he went home to Woolsthorpe in 1666. The invention of gravity that year is often heralded as the next logical step of the heliocentric theory. But it owed a great deal to alchemical conceptions which allowed Newton to move past the strict mechanism of Galileo and Descartes, and conceive of a force that could be transmitted over empty space.

September 18, 2012, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.

August 2012

Dr. Lucien Cremaldi (University of Mississippi): My Memories of the Higgs Boson

Scientists now believe they have discovered the Higgs boson. I will give my recollections of the boson and tell you how it was seen by the most complex scientific apparatus created by mankind on earth. 

August 21, 2012, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.

April 2012

Dr. Amber Stuver (Caltech): Multi-messenger Astronomy: Expanding Astronomy's "Senses"

Every time humans have looked at the Universe in a new way, we have found something that was unexpected that revolutionized our understanding of the Universe. Light has been the primary tool for doing astronomy since ancient times. Only recently have other ways of looking at the Universe become available, notably neutrinos and gravitational waves. Observing the Universe with different media is a growing field of astronomy called multi-messenger astronomy. This conversation will describe how astronomy revolutionized how we see the Universe and how multi-messenger astronomy will expand our "senses" to observe the Universe in fundamentally new ways. Multi-messenger astronomy examples used will be from the experience of the LIGO gravitational wave observatories. The potential of this new field of astronomy will be discussed, but the unexpected is expected to be the most exciting!

April 17, 2012, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.

March 2012

Dr. Tracy Brooks: Cancer - where is the cure?

Cancer is a set of similar diseases, rather than a single disease. In the last Science Café we learned about the history of chemotherapy, and the traditional treatments used. In this next installation, we will talk about the problems associated with traditional chemo, some of the work done to combat those problems (such as combination chemotherapy), and other problems that exist.

We will also discuss how far research has come in getting safer and effective targeted therapies for breast cancer, gastrointestinal stromal tumors and chronic myelogenous leukemia, and more. Finally, we will talk about the lack of effect with some targeted therapies, including the recent removal of FDA approval for Avastin in advanced breast cancer, and some of the lessons learned for lung cancer.

March 20, 2012, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.

February 2012

Dr. Randy Wadkins: How cancer drugs work.

This talk will describe the mechanisms by which cancer drugs work, as well as why they don't. For example, why was Lance Armstrong completely cured of testicular cancer while Steve Jobs' pancreatic cancer proved fatal? We will explore the historical use of drugs to treat cancer from the nitrogen mustards of the 1940s to the more recent development of Herceptin and Gleevec. We will also discuss the common mechanism by which compounds kill cancer cells, which is known as apoptosis. Further, we will discuss the role of Henrietta Lacks in the development of cancer drugs.

February 21, 2012, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.

January 2012

Dr. Maurice Eftink: Access to STEM Education in Mississippi: Status and Goals.

A shared interest among the science educator community in Mississippi is whether we are doing an adequate job in preparing future generations in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Ideally, the STEM "pipeline" is filled with a flow of eager, bright students being taught by capable, challenging teachers, from K-12 through graduate school. Unfortunately, reality is less than the ideal. In our regional context, STEM Education issues include the level of preparedness of our students, the training and support for science/math teachers, the underrepresentedness of minority students, and the mission of the UM in preparing bachelors and graduate school graduates. This discussion will focus on a variety of STEM Education access issues, will give an overview of some of the successful programs at UM, and will envision what we science educators can do to further enhance the STEM pipeline.

January 17, 2012, Lusa Pastry Café, 6pm - 7pm.