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Presidential Lecture Series

Science, Mathematics and the Environment

Antimicrobial Resistance and the Food System

Dr. Sara Gragg, Assistant Professor of Food Science

This lecture describes the various categories of antimicrobials and how bacteria develop resistance to their bactericidal or bacteriostatic effects.  A discussion of how and why antimicrobials, particularly antibiotics, are used in agriculture will encompass a large portion of the time.  Students will be asked questions and prompted for discussion throughout the lecture.  Comparisons will be made concerning antibiotic usage in human medicine vs. agriculture.  The epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance in the food system will also be reviewed.

A Universe of Light 

Dr. Chris Sorensen, Cortelyou-Rust University Distinguished Professor

We live in a universe of light! All the non-luminous objects we see, including this screen and the faces of friends, we see through a process of light scattering. We will explore simple ways to understand light scattering. Questions to be addressed are: what are the effects of scattering on the polarization of light? Why is the sky blue and the clouds white? What determines the magnitude of the scattering and its distribution relative to the incident direction? What is the explanation of rainbows, glories, and sundogs? My goal is to both enhance our physical intuition for the light scattering process and to awaken us all to the universe of light around us.

Earthquakes and Tsunamis – Japan, 2011 & Indian Ocean, 2004

Dr. Don Von Bergen, Head of Arts, Sciences, & Business at Kansas State Polytechnic Campus

An overview of the geology behind earthquakes and the resulting tsunamis.  Much of the talk will focus on the devastating earthquakes and resulting tsunamis that occurred in Japan (2011) and Indonesia (2004).  The format of the talk is an interactive PowerPoint slideshow.  Questions and discussion is encouraged.  No prior knowledge is needed.  This talk can be adapted to any age group.

From Molecular Sociology to Smart Materials

Dr. Christer Aakeroy, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry       

How do molecules communicate with each other?  Why do some molecules like each other and others do not?  Any biological system relies on molecular recognition, binding and function, and if we could improve our understanding of these processes we would be able to build new materials that are faster, smarter or cheaper than current alternatives. This lecture will (a) present some strategies for how we can begin to build new molecular architectures and (b) describe how these structures can be used for materials applications including molecular filters that will selectively capture and destroy a variety of toxins.

How Scientific Discoveries in Kansas Impact the World

Dr. David Poole, Professor of Kinesiology, Anatomy and Physiology 

No summary available

How  We Know What We Know   

Dr. Chris Sorenson, Cortelyou-Rust University Distinguished Professor of Physics

Science is much less a body of knowledge and much more a way of knowing. With science we have a method to interact with and develop an understanding of the world around us. Science is neither esoteric nor dogmatic; scientists are neither wizards nor “mad”. In this lecture we will describe some great scientific works that demonstrate how science can, from systemic, quantitative observational gleanings, find profound truths. How simple curiosity with an open mind can reveal unanticipated insights. In short, this lecture will demonstrate how we know what we know.

“Just what is “Fracking?” Energy from the Earth: Hydraulic fracturing and other principles behind Exploration, Drilling, and Production of Oil and Natural Gas 

Dr. Don Von Bergen, Department Head of Arts, Sciences and Business at Kansas State Polytechnic Campus

This is an overview of the geology and operations involved in the process known as “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing. It is designed to give the audience a better understanding of the methods used to find oil/natural gas, major steps and technology involved in safely drilling an oil well, and the steps taken to safely and efficiently produce it. Some of the discussion will focus on the factors that led to the “blow-out” and subsequent explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, resulting in the “infamous” April, 2010 oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The format of the talk is an interactive power point slide show. Questions and discussion are encouraged. No prior knowledge is needed. The talk can be adapted to any age group.

Lasers: The Light Fantastic

Dr. Chris Sorensen,Cortelyou-Rust University Distinguished Professor of Physics

In this lecture we will study the physics of lasers, i.e. what they are and how they work. To do this we demonstrate a number of interesting physical phenomena including the physics of color, light emission, feedback, and resonance. The lecture concludes by taking a laser apart and explaining all the pieces.

Tips for Safe Food Preparation

Dr. Sara Gragg, Assistant Professor of Food Science

Food safety is important because “everyone has to eat,” and how we handle and prepare our foods plays a critical role in preventing foodborne illness. Knowledge is power; therefore, for consumers to have a solid understanding of how they can take an active role in reducing their risk for foodborne illness is critically important.  This lecture is designed to walk participants through a typical kitchen to discuss the risks for foodborne illness associated with improper cooking temperatures, improper storage and holding of food products, cross-contamination, importance of sanitizing and handwashing, etc.  Time allowing, this lecture can also become quite interactive with demonstrations on cross-contamination and surface swabbing to rapidly determine bacterial contamination.

Up-Cycle Your Life: Going Green through Re-purposing, Re-cycling, and Re-Using

Dr. Donita Whitney-Bammerlin, Instructor, Department of Management

At a time when society has concerns about the ozone layer, footprints, and global warming, appreciation and awareness for our environment is higher than before in history.  The mass media utilizes words such as ‘accountability’ and ‘responsible use’ as a means for emphasizing the fact conscientious consumption of our natural resources and recycling is everybody’s business.  Individuals or groups can not participate in this effort unless they are aware of the need and know some strategies for integrating environmental awareness in their daily lives.  Many organizations do not reinforce or reward environmental awareness.  There are few formal trainings that teach reuse and recycling and much of society views these activities as something that is everyone else’s responsibility.  This workshop will share ways your entire organization can be a part of these efforts without a huge budget, hiring on extra staff, or implementing time consuming programs.  

The Hidden Benefits of Landscapes

Ms. Jessica Canfield, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Regional & Community Planning

Designed landscapes offer more than visually pleasing experiences; they engender many social, environmental, and economic benefits as well. Trees within a park, for example, can sequester carbon, intercept storm water, cool adjacent streets and buildings, increase property values, and reduce stress levels. An amenity such as a neighborhood trail can potentially increase walkability, while lessening vehicle trips and carbon emissions. This presentation explores a range of easy-to-use tools and methods, useful for identifying, assessing, and communicating the hidden benefits of designed landscapes

Climate change: true or false? Lessons from the geological record

Dr. Karin Goldberg, Assistant Professor of Geology

In recent years, there has been increasing debate over whether or not climate change is real and how much human activities impact our planet. These issues are important not only because of the natural consequences of global warming, but also due to the enormous costs that it may have on society and the economy. The geological record shows that climate change is inherent to the Earth’s dynamics and operates at different scales. The analysis of past climates in longer time scales allows us to tease apart natural variability from human-induced changes, thus providing a framework to understand the potential effects of anthropogenic climate forcing and a guideline to mitigate damaging outcomes.

Using fluorescent tags to find proteins inside living cells

Dr. Kathrin Schrick, Associate Professor of Biology

Have you ever seen GloFish and wondered about the science behind what makes them glow so magically? Like so many remarkable things in nature, the brilliantly glowing green fluorescent protein (GFP) was first observed in the ocean, in aquatic jellyfish. In this lecture I will explain how using GFP, along with a multitude of other bright colorful fluorophores, can help us to find proteins inside living cells. This technology has revolutionized modern biology, and was awarded with a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008. In my lab, we routinely use fluorescent tags to view proteins in live plant cells, and I will introduce a special protein that accumulates within the nucleus.

How to net mosquito-borne diseases: mosquito control to prevent dengue, malaria, West Nile and Zika

Dr. Kristin Michel, Associate Professor of Biology

Once common in the southern United States, malaria currently impacts the health and economy of countries around the globe. These impacts are seen most clearly on the continent of Africa. Other mosquito-borne diseases, meaning that these diseases are transmitted to humans by a mosquito, are impacting the Americas, including West-Nile fever, Dengue, and most recently, Zika. This lecture presents a brief history of mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S., current economic and health impacts of malaria, Dengue and Zika around the world, global efforts underway to eliminate mosquito-borne diseases, and the process by which these diseases spreads.

The activity accompanying the lecture invites participants to examine the four stages of the mosquito life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. If desired, participants may extend this activity by identifying and eliminating mosquito habitats around the school, educating community members about mosquito bite prevention, and joining the international effort to provide mosquito bed nets to countries where malaria has a severe economic and human health impact.

Mimicking Enzymes: Why & How?

Dr. Tendai Gadzikwa, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Humans have been using enzymes to perform all sorts of chemical reactions for thousands of years. In bread making for example, the enzyme amylase breaks down starch in wheat flour to produce sugars, which the yeast needs to make the bread rise. For several decades now, chemists have been trying to mimic some of the strategies of enzymes, and apply them to non-biological reactions. This lecture will discuss why we want to do this, and how we go about it. Specifically, I will talk about supramolecular chemistry – molecular architecture – and how we use it as a tool to construct enzyme mimics.

The Accelerating Expanding Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Einstein's Cosmological Constant

Dr. Bharat Ratra, Distinguished Professor of Physics

Dark energy is the leading candidate for the mechanism that is responsible for causing the cosmological expansion to accelerate. Dr. Ratra will describe the astronomical data which persuade cosmologists that (as yet undetected) dark energy and dark matter are by far the main components of the energy budget of the universe at the present time. He will review how these observations have led to the development of a quantitative “standard” model of cosmology that describes the evolution of the universe from an early epoch of inflation to the complex hierarchy of structure seen today. He will also discuss the basic physics, and the history of ideas, on which this model is based.

This is how learning happens

Dr. Frederick Burrack, Director of Assessment

Explore how learning occurs, how the brain recognizes and processes new knowledge, observations, and experiences, and how meaning and memory are formed.

Tiling Torment

Dr. David Auckly, Professor of Mathematics 

You have a box of tiles and a specific room. Can you cover the floor without cutting any of the tiles, and without any overlap? Some versions of this problem are easy, some are hard. There are a number of surprises and colorful tricks to find.

Balloon Numbers

Dr. David Auckly, Professor of Mathematics 

It is possible to make many fun shapes out of balloons. One interesting question with a fun answer is to determine the smallest number of balloons required to make a particular shape. Come to this math party. There will be balloons.

Math Blocks

Dr. David Auckly, Professor of Mathematics 

Remember playing with blocks? A great way to understand mathematics is to build symmetrical and/or solid shapes. In this session we will see how to solve some difficult problems by playing with blocks.

Alien Pizza

Dr. David Auckly, Professor of Mathematics 

Are you hungry? Do you have friends. How would you share a pizza and a watermelon? How would an alien do so? We’ll play with some various possibilities and the related mathematics.

The CRISPR/Cas system: a revolution in gene editing

Dr. Gregory Finnigan, Assistant Professor

This lecture is an introduction to the very recent discovery of the world’s most powerful gene editing system (CRISPR/Cas). It will describe where it comes from, how researchers have adopted this technology for use in biomedical research, agriculture, ecological conservation, and combatting human disease. This will include discussion of the mechanism of how gene editing functions inside cells, why it is such a powerful and useful technique, and what scientific and ethical consequences this has for society and future generations.

The Landscape Idea: Exploring the science of what landscape architecture can do for learning and health

Ms. Katie Kingery-Page, Associate Professor

Landscape architecture is a licensed profession concerned with the design and stewardship of the exterior environment. Because brains under stress are less capable of learning, understanding the science linking time in nature to stress relief highlights the role landscapes can play in schools and other places of learning. This presentation explores the science behind time in nature, human health, and learning.

The Google Mindset

Dr. Ashley Rhodes, Teaching Associate Professor

The Google Mindset explores the impact instant access to information has on learning both in the classroom and in our daily lives. In addition, the physiological changes that our bodies experience when holding or even interacting with Internet-ready devices will be discussed as volunteers are asked to wear heart rate monitors and are subjected to several scenarios. Involving their beloved devices. Attaining physiological data in real time can be a real eye opener and is always enjoyable for the audience as they attempt to predict what might happen.