Monday, October 26, 2015

October Science cafe (10/27, 7pm) -- Dr. Mihail Barbosu (RIT): "Common Core, Uncommon Core: Math Education in the United States and worldwide"

The Rochester Science Cafe is pleased to announce that our next talk will be tomorrow evening, October 27, at 7pm in the Pittsford Plaza Barnes and Noble (in the community room on the second level, as always). 

"Common Core, Uncommon Core: Math Education in the United States and worldwide"
Dr. Mihail Barbosu
Professor and Head,
School of Mathematical Sciences
Rochester institute of Technology

The Common Core State Standards are a set of pre-college education benchmarks that cover two areas of study: Mathematics and English. The standards were released in 2010, but lately they have become a very controversial subject, involving teachers, parents, students, politicians and … comedians. The latest polls show that after the implementation of these standards, even previous supporters of the Common Core have started to reconsider their views.
In this talk we will discuss the value of the Common Core and the debate surrounding this topic. We will address questions like:
  • What are Common Core Standards and what is the need for such standards?
  • What were the issues that lead to the current controversy?
  • How does the US system of education compare with other systems of education?
  • How common are common standards in other countries and how are they handled?
This presentation will address many other related questions and will serve as an invitation to a meaningful and engaging conversation on the Common Core.

We look forward to seeing everyone there!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

TWO September Science Cafes!

  The Rochester Science Cafe organizers would like to welcome you to the Fall 2015 Science Cafe series, as we begin our seventh year of exciting talks, brilliant scientists, and the best audience in Rochester (along with coffee and cookies, of course!).

This September, we are happy to announce a first: TWO CAFES!  

On Tuesday, September 22, in our usual fourth Tuesday slot, we will have a talk on the University of Rochester's new $600 million photonics institute.  For more on that, you can follow this tinyurl link to the UofR website:

The next day, on Wednesday, September 23, we will have a special cafe:
"Mercury in fish, mercury in us: how do we deal with it?”
Dr. Matt Rand
Department of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester

Mercury (Hg), a naturally occurring element that can be found in soil, water and air, is perhaps best known for its infamous role as a toxicant.  Methylmercury (MeHg), a naturally-derived organic form of Hg, can occur at elevated levels in some fish species that are consumed by people.  Decades of research have explored MeHg’s toxic potential including bio-magnification in large predatory fish, a long half-life in the body and a preference to attack the developing nervous system.  Despite these threatening features, studies have reported mixed results on the health effects of MeHg in people who consume large amounts of fish. Some of the key research on this topic has been conducted among people living in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean by researchers here in Rochester. In this talk I will discuss the toxicology behind understanding how the human body deals with MeHg exposure.  I will first talk about the fate of MeHg in the body following a fish meal. Next, I will discuss current research efforts aimed at understanding how diet and genetics might influence the toxic potential of MeHg in different individuals.

As always, the talks will be 7:00pm at the Pittsford Plaza Barnes and Noble, upstairs in the Community Room.  Our regular fourth Tuesday talks will continue for the rest of the Fall and Spring.

We look forward to seeing everyone there as we kick off another exciting new year of the Rochester Science Cafe!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Cafe (5/26): Dr. Moumita Das (RIT) -- The Touchy-feely Life of Living Cells

The Rochester Science Cafe is happy to announce the upcoming May Cafe, which will take place on Tuesday, May 26, 7pm at the Pittsford Plaza Barnes and Noble.   This will conclude the Spring 2015 Cafe series, but we will be back in September to begin our 2015-6 series, marking our 7th year running.

Tuesday's Cafe will be:

"The Touchy-feely Life of Living Cells"
Dr. Moumita Das
School of Physics and Astronomy, RIT

Living cells are the building blocks of all life. They are highly mechanically active and sensitive. For example they can divide and proliferate, migrate to distant locations within an organism, engulf other entities and exert forces on their surroundings. The ability of cells to perform these functions crucially depends on how they physically interact with each other and their environment, i.e. how they ``feel’’ mechanical forces in their surroundings and how “squishy” they are, i.e. how they change shape and remodel in response to these mechanical forces. This touchy-feely response of cells has important consequences. For example, some adult stem cells can become bone, muscle, fat, neurons or other types of tissue depending on the "feel" of their physical environment.  Also, how cells respond to physical forces undergoes important changes during tumor invasion and metastasis, the processes that make most cancers lethal. In this talk we will discuss how living cells and tissues use physics to their advantage and how physical properties influence their functions and fate.

Dr. Moumita Das is an Assistant Professor of Physics at Rochester Institute of Technology. She obtained her doctorate at the Indian Institute of Physics Bangalore, India on the physics of liquid crystals and colloids. She then shifted focus to researching the physics of living systems, especially cell mechanics and migration. She did her postdoctoral research at Harvard University, University of California Los Angeles and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Netherlands). Her current research interests lie in the interface between Biology and Physics.

We hope to see everyone there!

Monday, March 16, 2015

March Cafe: 3/24: "What does it mean to do mathematical research?" -- Dr. Paul Wenger and Dr. Nathan Cahill (RIT)

The Rochester Science Cafe is happy to announce the upcoming March Cafe, which will take place on Tuesday, March 24, 7pm at the Pittsford Plaza Barnes and Noble:

"What does it mean to do mathematical research?"
Dr. Paul Wenger and Dr. Nathan Cahill
School of Mathematical Sciences, RIT

Come join two members of RIT's math program as they discuss the different directions taken by modern-day mathematicians, and how disparate skills are used to formulate new and exciting research projects. Paul Wenger works on graph theory, a field that studies networks and connectedness, while Nathan Cahill works on topics including medical image computing. Here, they will talk about their various projects, including they ways in which "pure" and "applied" mathematicians are increasingly collaborating. Upon request, they will also recreate scenes from the movie "Good Will Hunting", though the quality of their Bah-ston accents is questionable.

For the remainder of the Spring 2015 series, our talks will be:

April 28
Exploring our Atmosphere's Unknown Chemistry
Dr. Nathan Eddingsaas, RIT

May 26
The Touchy-feely Life of Living Cells
Dr. Moumita Das, RIT

Monday, February 23, 2015

February Science Cafe -- "Hunting for the Darkest Galaxies" -- Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti (RIT)

Hi everyone, for our February Cafe, which takes place tomorrow, February 24, 7:00 pm at the Pittsford Plaza Barnes and Noble, our speaker and topic will be:

"Hunting for the Darkest Galaxies"
Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti
Asst. Professor, School of Physics and Astronomy, RIT

Dark matter is elusive. Since it does not emit electromagnetic radiation, it has been difficult to characterize. I will describe my work in developing a method to characterize dark-matter dominated dwarf galaxies from analyzing their gravitational effects on larger galaxies. I will review an earlier prediction I made for a new dwarf satellite galaxy of the Milky Way based on an analysis of ripples in the outskirts of our Galaxy. Our recent discovery of clustered Cepheid variables 300,000 light years from the Galactic center validates this earlier prediction. Thus, we may now have a viable means of hunting for the darkest galaxies in the universe.
More updates on the remainder of the  Spring schedule, with talks in March, April, and May, will follow shortly.

Monday, January 26, 2015

January Science Cafe: "Conversing with computers to improve social skills" - Dr. M. Ehasn Hoque (UofR)

Conversing with computers to improve social skills

Dr. M. Ehsan Hoque
Assistant Professor in Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering

Director of the  the Human Computer Interaction (ROC HCI) Lab

University of Rochester
 From his website (see also

What inspires my work?
"Is it possible to interact with computers and robots the way we interact with each other?" -- my research efforts are driven by this question. In particular, I work on developing techniques to understand and recognize human nonverbal behaviors, and inventing new applications to improve people's quality of life.  

Why is it difficult and how do I solve it?
Nonverbal behavior understanding and recognition concern modeling of complex, multidimensional data with subtle, uncertain and overlapping labels. I tackle these problems in context of Human-Computer Interactions while combining techniques from machine learning, computer vision, insights from psychology, algorithms and a great deal of computation. I aspire to deploy my research into the real world to generate new data and new findings to address scientific challenges that we could not solve before.

As always, we'll be in the community room at the Pittsford Plaza Barnes and Noble.  

Our February Cafe will be

February 24: Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti (RIT)
"Hunting the Darkest Galaxies"

and the series will continue on through May, with more talks being announced soon.