TACNY Jr. Cafe Scientifique

October 21 – Stranger than Fiction: A Journey through the History of Life

Speaker: Emily J. Judd, PhD Candidate, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University

Overview: The Earth is very old – 4.56 billion years old, to be exact. Yet it took about a billion years for life to first appear, and another 3 billion years or so to evolve to the complex forms we see today. Together we will journey through geologic time, from the very beginning of life through to the appearance of humans. We will explore the interactions between organisms and the Earth around them –not only how they’ve adapted to changing environments, but also how they’ve caused changes to the environment, from altering the landscape to oxygenating the atmosphere. Through the lens of the fossil record, we will look at the explosion of complex, multicellular life more than 500 million years ago, the transition from life in the oceans to life on land, the rise (and fall) of dinosaurs, the diversification of mammals, and eventually, the evolution of humans.

Biography: Emily Judd is a PhD candidate in the Department of Earth Sciences at Syracuse University. Before coming to Syracuse, she earned her BS in Geology, with a minor in Philosophy from the Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. Emily’s primary field of research is paleoclimate, or the reconstruction of ancient climates. Her research focuses on greenhouse climate intervals – times in Earth’s history when there was no ice near the poles, but instead there were palm trees and crocodiles. She looks at chemical signatures in fossils from these warm intervals to investigate how different environments respond to large-scale changes in climate, so that we may be able to better predict those changes in the future. These days, much of Emily’s work involves looking at 50-million-year-old clams from Antarctica to assess seasonal changes in temperature and precipitation.

November 18 – Searching for New Worlds

Speaker: Maryame El Moutamid, PhD, Research Associate, Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, Carl Sagan Institute

Overview: In the last two decades, thousands of planets have been discovered outside our solar system. Some are potentially habitable, meaning they orbit within a region around their respective star in which liquid water may be present on the planet’s surface – a necessary condition for life as we know it. Join the discussion in reviewing the latest findings from scientists around the world on exoplanets as we explore the path forward over the next decade in studying these worlds and searching for signs of life.

Biography: Maryame El Moutamid is a research associate at Cornell University. She is an expert in orbital dynamics and celestial mechanics, especially orbital resonances of satellites and exoplanets. Her current research concerns planetary ring dynamics and satellite orbital dynamics, and their connections with giant planet interior structure in the context of the Cassini/NASA mission. Maryame earned her Ph.D. in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Celestial Mechanics from PSL (Paris Sciences et Lettres) Research University and Paris Observatory in September 2013, and then moved to Cornell University.

December 16 – Loops, Rolls and Breaking the Sound Barrier

Speaker: Hon. Theodore H. Limpert, Pilot and Judge, Syracuse City Court

Overview: Have you ever wondered how an airplane flies or how to become a pilot? Flying an airplane is a dream everyone can realize and is a lot easier than you might think! Explore the world of aviation, learn the physics of flight, and the different routes to becoming a pilot. Learn how airplanes navigate, turn with a force nine times your body weight and refuel in the air.

Biography: Ted Limpert had his first flight at 6 weeks old, soloed when he was 16 and now has over 5800 hours in the air. He became a Fighter Pilot in the New York Air National Guard, with seven tours overseas, in the Iraqi and Afghanistan theaters, having flown 106 combat missions in the F-16. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor for a combat mission in the Gulf War and flew an intercept mission on 9-11-01. He retired in 2012 as a Colonel, with over 30 years of military service. He is currently a Syracuse City Court Judge and flies his own small airplane.

January 20 – Life and Lava: How Earth’s Largest Volcanic Eruptions Cause Species Extinctions

Speaker: James D. Muirhead, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University

Overview: Planet Earth is typically hospitable, teeming with life in almost every corner and crevice. However, since the origin of life there have been a handful of occasions when things have turned deadly, and the majority of animal species suddenly vanished from existence on Earth. These events are called mass extinctions. Dr. James Muirhead explores the causes of these extinctions, showing that many coincide with unthinkable events involving the underground movement of hot molten rock, release of climate-warming gases, and massive outpourings of lava that can cover entire countries and continents.

Biography: James Muirhead is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Earth Sciences at Syracuse University. He earned his B.S. and M.Sc. in Geology from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. As a Fulbright scholar, he performed his doctoral research at a number of institutes in the western US, and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Idaho in 2016. Since then, he has worked as a postdoctoral researcher here in Syracuse. Dr. Muirhead’s research investigates the interactions between volcanoes and earthquakes, and explores the means by which volcanic events effect climate. These endeavors have led to many adventures across the world, in not only the United States and New Zealand, but locations such as Kenya, Antarctica and Iceland. James enjoys travelling and hiking. While his choices of travel locations and field research may be questionable to many, he prefers scrambling over active volcanoes and rocky deserts, and chilling out in Arctic climates.

February 17 – The Earth History of Oxygen

Speaker: Zunli Lu, PhD, Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University

Overview: Oxygen is an essential gas for many life forms on Earth today, but it did not exist in the atmosphere during early episodes of Earth history. Geochemists invested great amount of effort to study how trace level of oxygen first appeared at about 2 billion years ago and then rose to its concentration of modern atmosphere. Even when the atmosphere was rich in oxygen, global oceans experienced catastrophic oxygen losses in the last 100 million years. Last but not least, on-going global climate change and nutrient pollution are leading to the expansion of marine dead-zones and more frequent hypoxia. This talk will explore the Earth history of oxygen, addressing causes and evidences for changes in oxygen levels.

Biography: Zunli has been with Syracuse University since 2011 after obtaining his PhD at University of Rochester and completing post-doctoral research at University of Oxford (England). He is interested in using chemical analyses and computer simulations to solve puzzles in the Earth system at different time scales. He is in charge of a clean lab and mass spectrometer to measure trace elements in water, rock and fossil samples. Climate change and oceanography are his main areas of teaching at SU.

March 17 – Digging Up the Past with Archaeology

Speaker: Andrea Zlotucha Kozub, MA, Project Director, Public Archaeology Facility, Binghamton University

Overview: Look around your house. What objects do you see? Are they tools? Toys? Decoration? Waste? Those objects are called “artifacts” in the social science of archaeology and they can be used to tell the story of your life. Archaeologists learn how people lived in the past by studying their artifacts. These artifacts are usually buried in the ground and are found by digging. Join us to hear how Andrea Zlotucha Kozub digs through the past at archaeological sites in our region and beyond. Then think about what a future archaeologist could learn about you, or your family, or kids in Syracuse by studying the artifacts you have in your own house!

Biography: Andrea Zlotucha Kozub is a Project Director at the Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) in Binghamton, specializing in the analysis of archaeological animal bones (also known as zooarchaeology or faunal analysis). PAF is a research center of Binghamton University focusing on the preservation of archaeological resources that may be damaged by development. Her earliest work as an archaeologist included volunteering at a Paleolithic site in England and at the site of a 19th century African American schoolhouse in Boston. After finishing her Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Binghamton University, Zlotucha Kozub had temporary positions as an archaeologist in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, adjunct faculty at Cazenovia College, and co-instructor of Binghamton University’s archaeological field school. In 2001, she joined PAF as a Project Director. This position has taken her to dig sites across New York that date from the Paleoindian period to the early 20th century, and afforded opportunities to publish research on topics including: 19th century healthcare; the archaeological “footprint” of pig pens on historic farms; and the lived experience of an Irish immigrant family working for Cornell University founder, Ezra Cornell. Her current research interests include 19th century meat butchering and evidence for prehistoric use/consumption of frogs. Zlotucha Kozub has presented these and other archaeological topics to school groups and adult organizations, and is the co-leader of PAF’s Community Archaeology Program (CAP) summer archaeology camp for teens. She also works as an architectural historian with Renaissance Studio of Syracuse, which dovetails her own work in historic preservation with interests she shares with her architect husband.

April 21 – The Superpower of STEM Cells

Speaker: Zhen Ma, PhD, Assistant Professor, Samuel and Carol Research Scholar, Department of Biomedical & Chemical Engineering, Syracuse Biomaterials Institute, Syracuse University

Overview: A cell is the minimal unit of life. Your life is made up of all kinds of different cells. Most of these cells have a very specific role. But there is one kind of cells, which can transform into other cells. We call them “Stem Cells”. Their superpower not only helps us understand how life begins, but also heals the injuries and fights the diseases.

Biography: Zhen Ma is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical & Chemical Engineering at Syracuse University. His research focuses on engineering stem cells to study and treat human heart diseases. He obtained his PhD degree in Bioengineering at Clemson University, and spent four years at Bay Area as a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Berkeley. He came to Syracuse University in the Fall of 2016, and established his “System Tissue Engineering and Morphogenesis (STEM) Lab” at Syracuse Biomaterials Institute.

May 19 – Engineering the Human Machine

Speaker: Douglas Yung, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, Syracuse University

Overview: The human body is often viewed as a sophisticated machine. Brain is like a big circuit, heart and lungs are like a pump. With malfunctioning machines, one can easily take things apart, fix and replace the broken components. But how can we
diagnose and treat butterflies in stomach, brain freeze, water on the knee, Charley horse, and the like? Come join Dr. Yung to learn about ways to engineer our human machine!

Biography: Douglas Yung is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering at Syracuse University. He pursued a pre-medical curriculum and received BSc in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics/Applied Science from UCLA, and PhD in Bioengineering from the California Institute of Technology. He was awarded the NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship and conducted research at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is interested in deploying microorganisms as little yet powerful machines. He joined Syracuse in 2016 and acts as the program director for the bioengineering undergraduate program.

June 16 – Below the Surface: The Fisheries of Onondaga Lake

Speaker: Anne Burnham, MS, Biologist, Parsons Corporation

Overview: Ever wonder what might be swimming just beneath the surface of your local lakes and streams? Whether you are swimming in your local water bodies or recreating along the shores of Onondaga Lake, there is a whole world living just below the surface. Join us on June 16 to explore the aquatic life of Onondaga Lake, and learn about its amazing story of recovery.

Biography: Anne Burnham is a Biologist with Parsons, Corporation in Syracuse, NY. A Massachusetts native, she earned her B.S. in Biology and B.A in Environmental Studies at Saint Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont in 2013. She then went on to complete her Masters of Science in Ecology from SUNY Environmental Science in the Fall of 2015. While at ESF, her research focused on the use of fish communities in the biomonitoring of freshwater streams throughout New York State. She joined Parsons Corporation in the spring of 2015, where she has helped to develop and implement the long-term monitoring plan for Onondaga Lake. She specializes in fisheries, helping to monitor the community dynamics and mercury cycling in the lake.

About Junior Cafe Scientifique
Junior Café Scientifique is sponsored by the Technology Alliance of Central New York (TACNY) and usually held on the third Saturday of the month during the school year at the MOST. A light breakfast is provided, and participants must be accompanied by an adult. The event is free, but TACNY asks that you RSVP to jrcafe@tacny.org. After the event, participants are welcome to explore the museum for free.