November 2017

Jason Hoeksema (University of Mississippi): Wild mushrooms: Ecology, edibility, and more.

What is a mushroom? What is it's natural function for fungi? Which ones are delicious and which ones will make you ill or worse? We will answer all these questions. We'll start with a discussion of fungal ecology, especially focusing on how fungi obtain food, and the really interesting ways that fungi can change the ecology of plants and nutrient cycling. We'll talk about the role of mushrooms in the life cycles of fungi. Finally, we'll discuss strategies for finding and safely enjoying wild mushrooms in northern Mississippi.

November 14, 2017, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

October 2017

Carolyn Freiwald (University of Mississippi): This is your life in a tooth

You might be surprised to learn that a single tooth contains a record of your life... from the types of food that you ate, to where you lived, to how healthy you were as a child. Vegetarians and BBQ lovers have different chemical markers, and so do people with jobs such as blacksmiths. It is "you are what you eat" at the molecular level. Archaeologists use chemistry to reconstruct the past, learning what ancient people ate and drank, and discovering just how mobile they were. Migrants made up part of cities such as Cahokia across North America 1000 years ago, and formed part of the social fabric in cities throughout Mexico, Latin America, ancient Rome and across the world. Immigration is not a new phenomenon and likely not a new debate. Bone chemistry also has important applications in forensic cases, including identifying missing persons. We'll look at how science works to help us solve both ancient and modern mysteries.

October 17, 2017, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

September 2017

Ronald Miles (SUNY Binghamton): Biomimetic Acoustic Sensors for Hearing Aids

Current hearing aids typically use a pair of miniature microphones in order to achieve directional acoustic sensing. Better hearing aids can be designed by examining how the hearing organs of very small animals such as insects and spiders enable these creatures to detect and localize sound. We have studied the hearing in mosquitoes, flies, crickets, midges, caterpillars, and spiders to explore remarkable ways these animals sense sound. This talk will describe our discovery of the amazing directional ears of a special fly, Ormia ochracea, which is able to localize sound better than humans can even though its ears fit in a space only 1 mm across. Our biomimetic microphones based on this discovery show better performance than existing hearing aid microphones. We have also recently discovered new ways to sense sound based on the use of nanoscale fibers such as insect hairs or spider silk. This has resulted in a directional microphone that has ideal flat frequency response from 1 Hz to 50 kHz, far beyond the range of human hearing. There remains much more to learn from nature to create technology to improve hearing.

September 19, 2017, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

April 2017

Susana Martinez-Conde (State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center): Vision is all about change.

Your eyes are the sharks of the human body: they never stop moving. In the past minute alone, your eyes made as many as 240 quick movements called "saccades" (French for "jolts"). A portion of our eye movements we do consciously, and are at least aware of on some level. But most of these tiny back-and-forths and ups-and-downs are unconscious and nearly imperceptible; someone staring directly at your eyes would miss most of them. Scientists long believed that we use two types of oculomotor behavior to sample the visual world, alternating between big saccades to scan our surroundings and tiny ones to fix our gaze on a location of interest. Explore, fixate, repeat, all day, every day. It seemed to make intuitive sense that we would have one brain system for exploring the environment and another for focusing on specific objects. But it turns out that exploration and gaze-fixation are not all that different processes in the brain. Instead, our eyes scan visual scenes with a same general strategy, whether the images are huge or tiny, or even when we try to fix our gaze. This insight may offer clues to understanding normal oculomotor function in the healthy brain, and oculomotor dysfunction in neurological disease.

April 11, 2017, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

March 2017

Sabrina Savage (Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA): Physics of the Sun

Because the Earth resides in the atmosphere of our nearest stellar neighbor, events occurring on the Sun's surface directly affect us by interfering with satellite operations and communications, astronaut safety, and in extreme circumstances, power grid stability. Solar flares, the most energetic events in our solar system, are a substantial source of hazardous space weather affecting our increasingly technology- dependent society. While flares have been observed using ground- based telescopes for over 150 years, modern space-bourne observatories have provided nearly continuous multi-wavelength flare coverage that cannot be obtained from the ground. We can now probe the origins and evolution of flares by tracking particle acceleration, changes in ionized plasma, and the reorganization of magnetic fields. I will walk through our current understanding of why flares occur, show several examples of these fantastic explosions, and describe the technology and instrumentation being developed at Marshall Space Flight Center to observe these phenomena.

March 21, 2017, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

February 2017

Susan Pedigo and Lemuel Tsang (University of Mississippi): Chemistry of Milk

Why is some cheese stringy and other cheese crumbly? We will discuss this topic and others as we tour the chemistry of the proteins, lipids and carbohydrates in milk. Through the millennia, human cultures have exploited one biomolecule or another to create a wide range of foods from milk. We will cover a diverse range of topics including the incredible origin of milk, butter and its close cousin margarine and the art of cheese making.

February 21, 2017, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford

January 2017

Randy Wadkins (University of Mississippi): It's a small world after all

Nanomaterials are types of matter that lie in size between single molecules and bacteria, or approximately one millionth of a millimeter. Where do you find such tiny little objects? Right in plain sight! Maybe you were hungry today and grabbed a slice of American Cheese or a tub of Greek yogurt from the fridge. Maybe afterward you brushed your teeth with toothpaste, or freshened your breath with gum. Maybe you took a shower and used a dandruff shampoo, then put on deodorant. Maybe you then put on stain-resistant pants, dabbed on a little sunscreen, and headed off to campus. All of those items I just mentioned contain nanoparticles, so small you can't see each one, but essential for product performance.

In this follow-up to my 2016 TEDxUM talk, I will describe what the nanoparticles do in these products, then talk a little about nanoengineering using DNA, with a particular focus on the future of nanomedicine. Like in the movie 'Fantastic Voyage,' nanomedicine is close to being reality.

January 24, 2017, 6pm - 7pm
Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford