Past Science Lecture Series

Spring 2019 Lectures


Targeting the Cause of Cystic Fibrosis: Recent Progress

Wednesday 6 February 2019 @ 6:00 PM in SM 313

Dr. Brian Bear, Associate Director Cystic Fibrosis Research Vertex Pharmaceuticals


Watch Dr. Bear's Lecture - Here

Cystic fibrosis is a rare, genetic disease that affects ~89,000 children and adults in the US and Europe.  Treating the underlying cause of the disease has potential to improve lung function and slow down pulmonary decline in patients.  The discovery of two classes of molecules used in the treatment of cystic fibrosis, as well as a future perspective, will be presented.


Why and How We Are Trying to Design a Vaccine for HIV/AIDS

Wednesday 27 February 2019 @ 6:00 PM in SM 313

Dr. William Schief, Department of Immunology and Microbiology, The Scripps Research Institute

Watch Dr. Schief's Lecture - Here

Though HIV/AIDS makes few headlines these days in the United States, the epidemic continues raging worldwide, especially in developing nations where many people do not have access to expensive anti-HIV drugs. Approximately 1.8 million people become infected with HIV each year (nearly 5,000 per day), and for many of those people this infection is a death sentence: approximately 1 million people die each year due to HIV/AIDS. The only truly sustainable global solution is to develop a vaccine that prevents HIV infection. Vaccines have controlled or eliminated many terrible diseases and have probably saved more lives than any other medicine in history. The major challenge to making an HIV vaccine is that HIV is not just one virus. Because HIV mutates rapidly in every person it infects, there are millions of different strains of HIV circulating the globe right now, and an effective vaccine will need to protect against most or all of them. Despite this massive challenge, over the last 10 years the HIV vaccine field has undergone a renaissance that has increased our hopes that a vaccine can be developed. The field has produced an explosion of knowledge about antibodies that can neutralize diverse strains of HIV -- so-called "broadly neutralizing antibodies".  This talk will describe how we are attempting to design a vaccine that can elicit HIV broadly neutralizing antibodies and protect humans against this deadly pathogen.


Sea level rise from melting ice sheets: How does it work, what do we know, and what can we do about it?

13 March 2019 @ 6:00 PM in SM 313

 Dr. Eric Rignot, Donald Bren Professor and Chair of Earth System Sciences, University of California Irvine

Watch Dr. Rignot’s Lecture – Here

Glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, and other parts of the world, are melting as a result of climate change from human-induced emission of greenhouse gases. While the rates of melt are small, they changed by one order of magnitude over the last 40 years and will likely increase rapidly in the next 40 years. We are on pace for 1 m sea level rise by the end of the 21st century but the actual change will depend on the rate at which climate is warming up and the rate at which ice sheets will undergo catastrophic decay, both of which are affected by uncertainties. As we will only run this experiment once, it is important to put the recent changes in the context of the longer term (paleo record) and what physics dictates. In that context, the current climate regime is unsustainable and commits ourselves to multiple meters of sea level rise in the coming centuries. A reduction of the rate of decay of polar ice is possible but entails a massive curbing of our greenhouse gas emissions and the usage of carbon sequestration techniques to bring back carbon concentrations in the atmosphere to levels comparable to the 1980s.

Anatomical and physiological mechanisms underlying variation in biomechanics and performance in “chameleons”

Friday, 12 April 2019 @ 10:30 AM in SM 313

Dr. Christopher Anderson, Assistant Professor of Biology University of South Dakota


Watch Dr. Anderson’s Lecture - Here

The manner in which animals move and perform in their natural environment can have a profound impact on their survival and fitness. Many animals have therefore modified aspects of their biomechanics to perform more optimally in the specific habitats that they occupy. These modifications are often in the form of anatomical or physiological specializations that alter their mechanics or performance. Variation in limb length among species living on branches of differing diameters or shifts in the temperature sensitivity of physiological rate processes among populations living at different latitudes are common examples of such specializations. This talk will explore some of the anatomical and physiological mechanisms by which “chameleons” have specialized to perform a variety of daily functions. Focusing first on true chameleons, we will look at the explosive performance that characterizes their ballistic tongue projection, as well as anatomical specializations of the skeleton that allow them to inhabit more or less arboreal habitats. We will then transition to research on “American chameleons” (anoles) and how variation in muscle contractile physiology helps shape locomotor performance, as well as how different muscles are tuned to perform different tasks. Using an integrative framework that includes techniques such as high-speed videography, micro-CT scans, in vitro muscle contractile experiments and behavioral trials, this talk will illustrate some of the functional basis for how these animals have specialized to perform in their natural environments.


Manya - The Living History of Marie Curie

Wednesday 24 April 2019 @ 6:00 PM in SM 313


Susan Marie Frontczak, Storysmith: Living History Presenter


In dramatizing the life of Manya Sklodowska, Susan Marie pays homage to their shared Polish heritage. She, too, enjoyed school, and promotes awareness that sound academics can be a path to outstanding achievement.  As a child, Susan read of Marie Curie’s perseverance in discovering and purifying the element radium.  This, in part, inspired Susan to major in Engineering.  With this program Susan pays tribute to the world of science, where she worked for fourteen years as an engineer and manager before pursuing full time storytelling.  It is her aim to reveal the human behind the scientist, while placing Marie Curie’s life and accomplishments in a memorable historical context.

Storysmith® Susan Marie Frontczak plays in theaters, corporations, universities, libraries, and festivals internationally.  She has given over 400 presentations as Marie Curie across 34 of the United States, Canada, and Europe.  The filmed version of her shorter Marie Curie program, Humanity Needs Dreamers: A Visit with Marie Curie will soon be available for distribution though sponsorship.  See  Frontczak also presents as Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, dancer Irene Castle, humanitarian Clara Barton, humorist Erma Bombeck, and humanitarian Eleanor Roosevelt.

Spring 2018 Lectures

The Dr. Bayard H. Brattstrom Lecture:

Is Citizen Science the Next Revolution in Ecology and Behavior Research? 2 March 2018 @ 10:30 AM in SM 313

Dr. Gregory Pauly, Associate Curator of Herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and Co-director of the Museum's new Urban Nature Research Center

For centuries, natural history discoveries have been made by members of the public. The professionalization of natural history research is a relatively recent development. Professional scientists, however, are now recognizing that many questions, including understanding some of the greatest global threats to biodiversity, can only be answered through large-scale efforts in which professionals partner with members of the public. These new citizen science efforts can answer basic and applied research questions across the fields of ecology and behavior. I will demonstrate three ways in which, through the help of thousands of dedicated naturalists, the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) Project is allowing us to make discoveries that were not possible through other methods. These discoveries include 1) documenting and tracking invasive species, including how we can reduce these threats; 2) assessing how basic ecological processes like predation and parasitism vary along urban to rural gradients; and 3) documenting rarely observed natural history events such as mating behavior. Although this talk will focus mostly on reptiles and amphibians, the approach is applicable to millions of species and thousands of research questions; the next revolution in ecology and behavior research is here, and it needs you. 


On the Long Road: Applying the Scientific Method Towards Rewiring Touch 16 March 2018 @ 10:30 AM in SM 313

Dr. Samantha Butler, Department of Neurobiology and the Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA


Recovering sensation after spinal cord injury or disease is an urgent unmet medical need and an objective that would immeasurably improve the quality of patients’ lives.  Although important progress has been made towards rewiring the motor circuits that will permit paralyzed patients to walk, very little progress has been made reestablishing the sensory circuits that permit patients to experience and react to their environment.  Using the framework of the scientific method, I will discuss our ongoing studies to understand first how these sensory circuits are established in the developing spinal cord, and second, how we are reapplying these mechanisms to derive sensory neurons from stem cells, the first key step in developing a cellular therapy.


Controlling Carbon 3D Shapes, Microstructure and Function
20 April 2018 @ 10:30 AM in SM 313

  Dr. Mark Madou, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Materials Science at UCI


Over the last two years we have learned how to manipulate not only 3D carbon shapes by pyrolysis/carbonization of patterned/structured polymer precursors but also how to control the internal carbon microstructure and its functionality.  The key to the latter is a precise control of the polymer precursor chains and the exact polymer atomic composition of the polymer before pyrolysis. Contradicting Rosalind Franklin, we have found that in this way we can graphitize even non-graphitizing carbons simply by applying mechanical stresses to align the polymer precursor chains and stabilizing them in position before pyrolysis.   Perhaps the most spectacular outcome of this work has been the recent demonstration of the conversion of PAN fibers through pyrolysis into a material that electrochemically behaves exactly like graphene doped with nitrogen. The latter material represents a very electroactive electrode ideally suited for energy and sensing applications. The current fabrication process for graphene doped with nitrogen is lengthy and complicated ours is a one-step simple process that is easily scalable.

Spring 2017 Lectures


Alien Oceans: the Habitable Worlds of our Solar System and Beyond
3 February 2017 @ 10:30 AM in SM 313

Dr. Michelle Thaller, Deputy Director of Science for Communication at NASA Headquarters

We are justifiably proud of the oceans of our planet, and indeed, Earth is the only world we know of with liquid water on its surface.  But even in our own solar system, we now know of three other worlds that have more liquid water (protected beneath layers of ice or rock) than the Earth has. Mars had vast oceans in the past, but has since become a dry, cold desert. Yet, liquid water may be hiding close to the surface or locked away as ice in massive glaciers.  In the past year, we have been shocked to discover evidence of liquid water on small, cold bodies like the dwarf planets Pluto and Ceres.  Looking farther out, we are beginning to glimpse planets around other stars with the right temperature and surface gravity to have oceans.  A driving question at NASA is whether any of these ocean worlds were habitable in the past, or may still harbor alien life today. Is alien life right in front of our noses, just waiting to be discovered? What is NASA doing to get to get ready to explore these places? Find out how Earth fits into a family of ocean worlds, and what this larger perspective tells us about our own future as a planet.

Predicting How the Stable-Isotope Compositions of a Variety of Elements are Affected by Common Chemical Reactions
3 March 2017 @ 10:30 AM in SM 313

Dr. Edwin Schauble, Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences at UCLA

Much of the development of modern Earth Science has been driven by a desire to answer two questions: How old? - and - How hot? The first question is the domain of geochronology, which uses the decay of radioactive isotopes (among other tools) to determine the ages of geological events. The second question has been studied in many ways, and is relevant to understanding climate change through time, including the growth and retreat of ice sheets, effects of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere, and the interplay between habitat conditions and life. Over the past 70 years, techniques for measuring temperatures using the stable (non-radioactive) isotopes of elements such as hydrogen and oxygen in natural materials have become the most robust and quantitative paleo-thermometers we have. In this talk the basic principles of stable isotope paleothermometry will be introduced. A particular focus will be on measurements of molecules containing more than one rare isotope, such as 13C18O16O22– in calcium carbonate, because these molecules can give direct information about their temperature of formation even when we don't know very much about what kind of environment they formed in. This means that we can try to answer 'How hot?' for shells from the ocean, and also for samples from lakes, soils and even from other planets.

Are Nutrition and Hydration Requirements Different for Female and Male Athletes?
20 April 2017 @ 7:00 PM in SM 313

  Dr. Stacy T. Sims, Environmental Exercise Physiology and Senior Research Fellow at University of Waikato, New Zealand

Dr. Stacy Sims is an environmental exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist at The University of Waikato specializing in sex differences in how the athlete’s body adapts to heat and/or altitude stress, recovery, genetics, and nutrition.  Factors (fitness, sex differences and aging) that affect the major physiological systems that are of interest to the Sims Laboratory include fluid balance, thermoregulation, neuro-endocrine interactions, and non-pharmaceutical interventions.  Dr. Sims is currently researching and applying practical sport science to elite professional athletes: implementing specific cooling and heat adaptation strategies, hydration practices, and overall nutrition to improve performance outcomes and overall health.  Additionally, she is researching and applying modifications of elite athletic practice to aid obese sedentary individuals in improving exercise tolerance and overall clinical outcomes.  Dr. Sims is the author of numerous scientific journal articles, a regular speaker at professional and scientific conferences and the author of ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life.

2015/2016 Lectures

The Science of Hydration
September 25, 2015 @ 10:30am in SM313

Dr. Stacy Sims Exercise Physiologist-Nutrition Scientist, CISSN
Dr. Stacy Sims
Exercise Physiologist-Nutrition Scientist, CISSN

Founder & Chief Research Scientist, Osmo Nutrition

Drink to Thirst? Or have a strategic plan? What do you drink and how does that impact blood volume? Hydration is a complex topic, with even more complex physiology. Dr. Sims served as an exercise physiologist at Stanford University and specialized in recovery and nutritional adaptions for health and maximizing performance. In this lecture, Dr. Sims aim to discuss the main factors which affect fluid absorption, applications for drink to thirst vs. drink on a schedule, and dispel the myth that liquid calories are the best option to fuel and hydrate.

Evolution of Spider Silk
October 23, 2015 @ 10:30am in SM313

Dr. Cheryl HayashiCheryl Hayashi Professor and Vice Chair of Biology
Professor and Vice Chair of Biology
College of Natural &Agricultural Sciences

University of California, Riverside

Dr. Hayashi's research focus is on spider silks, which are among the most diverse and interesting of animal structural proteins. In addition to the huge diversity of spider taxa, each individual produces as many as seven distinct varieties of silk from a battery of specialized glands. The different silks serve different purposes, ranging from web construction and prey capture to courtship and nest-building. But what is really known about spider silks? In this lecture, Dr. Hayashi will share results from the latest discoveries about the evolution of spider silk, which spiders have held secret for several hundred million years.

More about the Hayashi Lab.

Animal Acoustics
November 20, 2015 @ 10:30am in SM313

hummingbirdDr. Christopher Clark
Assistant Professor of Biology
College of Natural &Agricultural Sciences
University of California, Riverside

In this lecture, Clark will educate the audience on animal acoustics, particularly the singing of feathers, humming of hummingbirds, and the silent flight of owls. Dr. Clark is an expert in animal flight, bioacoustics, biomechanics, and courtship displays. The Clark Laboratory studies courtship displays, how feathers and wings produce sound, and bird flight biomechanics, using hummingbirds as a model system. His team utilizes high-speed cameras and sound recording equipment for both field and lab work. Currently, Dr. Clark is building an aeroacoustic wind tunnel with a working section capable of flying hummingbirds and other small birds.

Visualizing the Human Immune System
February 5, 2016 @ 10:30am in SM313

Dr. Jennifer A. Prescher Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Jennifer A. Prescher
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
School of Physical Sciences

University of California, Irvine

The Prescher group aims to understand the complex interactions that underlie immune function by visualizing immune cells with various imaging probes. The lab focuses on the development of chemical tools and noninvasive imaging strategies to probe immune function. In this lecture, Dr. Prescher will tell of her groundbreaking studies that moves chemistry from the test tube into living subjects, illuminating the mechanisms employed by the immune system to combat disease. She will explain how researchers utilize a combination of chemical and biological techniques to equip cells with various imaging probes that are then used to track the movements, interactions, and functions of immune cells in whole organisms.

Evolution and Adaptation of Bacterial Genome
March 4, 2016 @ 10:30am in SM313

Dr. Stanley Maloy Dean, College of Sciences
Dr. Stanley Maloy
Dean, College of Sciences
Professor of Microbiology

San Diego State University
After earning a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of California at Irvine, Stanley did postdoctoral work in Genetics at the University of Utah, then joined the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign faculty in 1984 where he was promoted through the ranks to Professor and Director of the Biotechnology Center. In August, 2002 he moved to San Diego State University as founding Director of the Center for Microbial Sciences and Professor of Biology. In this lecture, Dr. Maloy will discuss the research done in his lab that focuses on bacterial physiology, genetics, genomics, and the evolution of microbial pathogens. For more details on Dr. Maloy's research.

Unlocking Jupiter's Secrets - The Juno Project
April 1, 2016 @ 10:30am in SM313

Dr. Steven Levin Research Scientist, AstrophysicsDr. Steven Levin
Research Scientist, Astrophysics
Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA
California Institute of Technology

In this lecture, Dr. Levin will tell us all about the Juno project. Juno will fly to Jupiter and orbit its polar regions in order to understand the planet's gross size and structural properties, as well as measure Jupiter's atmospheric composition, temperature and deep wind profiles.
For more info: