UT Science Forum

Presented by Quest

Small Indian Mongoose Topic at Next Science Forum

small indian mongooseDr. Daniel Simberloff, Professor, Nancy Gore Hunger Chair of Excellence in Environmental Science, will speak on “The Small Indian Mongoose: Ongoing Spread of a Global Scourge” from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30 during the UT Science Forum in Thompson-Boling Arena Dining Room C-D.

The small Indian mongoose is one of the most destructive invasive species and has spread to many locations worldwide during the last century, largely because of deliberate introductions by people who thought it could control introduced rats or native snakes. Although originally tropical and subtropical, it is now beginning to invade Europe. It has contributed to a number of extinctions of native mammals, amphibians, and birds, and it threatens a number of other species. In the course of this travel, this mongoose has evolved substantially. It has proven to be one of the most difficult of invasive species to eradicate or manage.

The Science Forum is free and open to the public.

“UT Planetarium Goes Public” Kicks Off Spring Science Forum

ut-planetarium-paul-lewisThe UT Science Forum | presented by Quest offers a weekly lecture on current science, medical, or technology developments. The UT Science Forum was established in 1933 to share scientific research with the public. It was and continues to be an excellent opportunity for students, UT professors, and the general public to learn about cutting-edge research at UT, ORNL and other local institutions on Fridays over lunch during the UT academic year.

The spring semester lecture series will begin on January 23; Paul Lewis, Director of the Astronomy Outreach Program in the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy, will speak on “The UT Planetarium Goes Public” from noon to 1 p.m. during the UT Science Forum in Thompson-Boling Arena Dining Room C-D.

A planetarium has an immersive quality that excites and stirs the imagination and piques curiosity. It is a remarkable tool for teaching – primarily astronomy – but other disciplines as well. Lewis will talk about how the university uses the planetarium for UT astronomy students, public school students, and the general public to teach and promote astronomy and space science in our community.

“Catch-of-the-Day” to Wrap Up Science Forum Nov. 21

ZebrafishDr. Steven Ripp, research associate professor at the Center for Environmental Biotechnology, will wrap up the Fall 2014 Science Forum series with his presentation: “Catch-of-the-day: The tiny zebrafish in the big pharmaceutical pond.” The final session will take place Friday, Nov. 21.

The zebrafish is a 1.5 inch long tropical freshwater fish belonging to the minnow family. It is a very popular aquarium fish due to its hardiness, ease of breeding and availability in nearly any pet store. Zebrafish are also becoming popular in the biomedical research community because they share nearly 12,800 genes in common with humans, 84 percent of which can be linked to genes that cause disease in humans. Thus, studying how zebrafish genes react and respond to new cancer drugs or other disease treatment strategies serves as an indicator of similar reaction endpoints in humans, and can be used to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs prior to human (or other animal) therapies.

Although the mouse served admirably as the proxy for human biomedical research for the past several decades, the small size and high fertility of zebrafish assists in reducing drug discovery costs and accelerating research results. More critically, the transparency of zebrafish early in their life cycle allows them to function as see-through subjects whose every organ and tissue can be easily visualized to better and more quickly understand how a new drug might be affecting, for example, the growth of a cancerous tumor.

To make zebrafish visualization even easier, Dr. Ripp’s research is focused on integrating genes into the zebrafish that will allow specific organs and tissues to emit bioluminescent light. Cameras able to capture this light response will very precisely monitor the zebrafish’s physiology to rapidly pinpoint the effectiveness of a new drug or, alternatively, determine unwanted side effects of a new drug. With the zebrafish being so small and large in number, many drugs can be tested simultaneously to massively accelerate the current pace of new drug discovery and move drugs to market faster and more inexpensively than previously possible.

The UT Science Forum is free and open to the public. Presentations begin at 12 p.m. in the Thompson-Boling Arena Cafe, rooms C-D.

Vision for Rocky Top’s Coal Creek Miners Museum Nov. 14

CoalCreekMinersMuseumTim Isbel, commissioner for Anderson County, will present “A Vision for Rocky Top’s Coal Creek Miners Museum” at the next UT Science Forum meeting Friday, November 14 from noon to 1 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena Dining Room C-D.

The town of Rocky Top, Tenn., was formerly known as Coal Creek, named after the stream that runs through the town. This area was the site of a long struggle in the 1890’s, known as the Coal Creek War, between miners and coal companies over the use of unpaid convict labor in the coal mines. The coal miners were eventually victorious, ending the Tennessee’s convict labor program.

In 2013, the Anderson County Commission voted to purchase the former Bank of America building in Lake City and donate it to the City of Lake City to be used for the home of the Coal Mining Museum. PlanET awarded the City of Lake City a Community Enhancement Project, which included a conceptual design for the Coal Creek Miners Museum. Mr. Isbel will share plans for the new Coal Creek Miners Museum in Lake City.

The UT Science Forum is free and open to the public.

Expert to Speak on Electric Vehicles at next Science Forum

omer-onar-electric-vehiclesDr. Omer Onar, the Alvin M. Weinberg Fellow at the National Transportation Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory will present “Electric Vehicles Without Plugging In” at the next UT Science Forum Friday, November 7

Imagine charging an electric vehicle without plugging it in – and even while it is in motion.  Wireless power transfer is a safe, convenient, efficient and autonomous means charging electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Wireless charging does not require bulky connectors, plugs and heavy-duty wires; is not affected by dirt or weather conditions; and is as efficient as conventional conductive charging systems.

During his presentation, Dr. Onar will provide an overview of wireless power transfer systems and vehicle charging applications he developed. He will also describe three different programs on wireless power transfer in progress at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, along with experimental test results.

The UT Science Forum is a brown-bag lecture series hosted each Friday in the Thompson-Boling Arena Cafe, Rooms C-D from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Searching for New Forces with the Large Hadron Collider Oct. 31

large hadron colliderDr. Stefan Spanier, professor of physics at the University of Tennessee, will present “Searching for New Forces with the Large Hadron Collider” at the next UT Science Forum Friday, Oct. 31.

The discovery of a candidate for the Higgs particle with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of CERN in Geneva Switzerland in 2012 is a strong support of the mathematical concepts behind our present theory of the microscopic world. But there is evidence that our present understanding is still very limited.

Open questions are for example: Do the fundamental forces unite? This is Einstein’s dream, but while seeing evidence that at higher energies the strengths of fundamental forces move toward each other they do not exactly unite.

How does the gravitational force fit in?  It is considered negligible for the understanding of interactions between elementary particles, but this might change with the LHC: some theoreticians predict that at the higher energy it might be possible to create micro black holes.

Are there particles responsible for dark matter and dark energy? Is there more than one Higgs particle? And many more…

Next year the LHC will restart at higher energy and higher beam intensity to search for new forces that might help us to arrive at a more comprehensive theory of nature.

The UT Science Forum is free and open to the public. Each presentation takes place in the Thompson-Boling Arena Cafe, Room C-D from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Presentations are usually 45 minutes with a question and answer session to follow.

“Century of Cities” Topic for Oct. 24 Science Forum

century of citiesThe 21st century has rightly been called “The Century of Cities,” with urban areas as the leaders in economic growth and sustainability innovation.

Phil Enquist, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Energy and Urbanism, will present on the challenges facing cities and regions today and holistic principles to guide future development. An integrated approach to energy and urbanism will be transformative at all scales of development, from individual buildings, to districts, cities, nations, and even multinational watersheds. With a focus on the human experience and a bold vision of carbon neutrality, city design can drastically reduce resource consumption, help cities build disaster resiliency, and improve quality of life.

The “Century of Cities” presentation will take place Friday, October 24. The science forum will not meet the week of Fall Break – October 17.

The Science Forum begins at 12 p.m. in the Thompson-Boling Arena Cafe, Rooms C-D. The event is free and open to the public.

Science of Communication Next Topic at Forum

decision-making-dr-rentschFriday, October 10, Dr. Joan R. Rentsch, professor of communication studies at the University of Tennessee, will present “Communicating to Build Knowledge in Decision-Making Teams.”

Decision-making teams perform best when team members capitalize on their different perspectives and information to build team knowledge. Building team knowledge requires team members to communicate uniquely held information, to transfer knowledge to teammates, to operate relevant knowledge available in the team and to collaboratively integrate and structure knowledge possessed by the team.

However, research has shown that team members tend to communicate information ineffectively, which limits team knowledge building. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to test a team training strategy to examine its effects on distributed decision-making teams. The results indicated that the team training strategy may support high quality team decision making. This research was conducted with funding from the Office of Naval Research.

The presentation begins at 12 p.m. in the Thompson Boling Arena Cafe, Rooms C-D. The UT Science Forum is free and open to the public.

Emerging Infections, Resistant Diseases Discussed Oct. 3

emerging infections-caroline-graberCaroline Graber, research nurse at Vanderbilt University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will cover Ebola, recently discovered hospital-acquired infections, resistant bacteria and the recent flu epidemic during her talk. Her lecture, titled “Emerging Infections—Old Germs, New Problems,” begins at noon on Friday, Oct. 3, in Room C-D of Thompson-Boling Arena.

Graber will discuss new medical topics concerning resistant organisms, vaccination practices and diseases like Ebola. She will specifically address the Chikungunya virus and the Middle Eastern respiratory virus, two infectious diseases emerging in the Western Hemisphere.

Graber earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from UT and her master’s degree in microbiology from the University of Michigan Medical School. She worked as director of infection control and the institutional review board at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital before moving to Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine.

The Science Forum is a weekly lunchtime series that allows professors and area scientists to discuss their research with the general public in a conversational presentation.

Free and open to the public, each Science Forum consists of a 40-minute presentation followed by a question-and-answer session. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lunch or purchase it at the cafe in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Science Forum is sponsored by the UT Office of Research and Quest, an initiative to raise awareness of the research, scholarship and creative activity happening on campus.


Learn how to “Get FRUVED” Sept. 26

get-fruved-dr-sarah-colbyDr. Sarah Colby, assistant professor of nutrition, will present “Getting Fruved!  Changing Behavior, Changing the World, and Improving Health” at this week’s UT Science Forum Friday, September 26.

Obesity is a serious problem for teenagers in this country, and it has been on the rise for the past 30 years. If young people begin to make healthier choices now, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising more regularly, it could result in better health throughout their lifespans.

Get FRUVED (Get FRUits and VEgetables) is a USDA-funded 4-H project designed to decrease the proportion of older adolescents who are overweight or obese by developing an effective behavioral intervention with environmental supports. Dr. Colby’s study uses an interactive, peer-led, social marketing environmental intervention to help teens manage their weight through dietary quality, physical activity and stress management skills.

Dr. Colby is an obesity prevention behavioral researcher with a focus on health communication through novel nutrition education strategies including marketing, arts, and technology.

The Science Forum is free and open to the public. Location: Thompson-Boling Arena Dining room C-D. Bring your lunch or purchase it from the Arena.

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