Thursday, May 20, 2021

May Science Cafe, 5/25@7pm: "What is Chemical Engineering", by Steven Weinstein and Nate Barlow (RIT)

As we bring this first (and quite possibly only) year of the Rochester Virtual Science Cafe to an end, we wanted to take you on a tour of the chemical, mathematical, and engineering worlds with Dr. Steven Weinstein from RIT's Chemical Engineering department and Dr. Nate Barlow from the RIT's School of Mathematical Sciences:

May 25, 7pm
What is chemical engineering, and how is it different from chemistry?

Chemical engineers develop processes that transform raw materials into useful chemicals that enhance our quality of life. In addition to chemicals found in products used by consumers every day, chemical engineers create novel materials such as nanoscale composites, pharmaceuticals, plastics, fibers, metals, and ceramics. Chemical engineers are trained to design and control chemically reactive processes to achieve desired chemical purity. However, they also use their intricate knowledge of chemistry, engineering principles, and applied mathematics to work in a variety of other applications. These include applied energy systems, biomedical materials and therapies, and strategies to minimize the environmental impact of technological advancements.

A common question that many ask is, “How is chemical engineering different from chemistry?” Typically, chemists create new molecules via chemical reactions, examine the underlying mechanisms involved, and make precise chemical measurements on a bench scale in small volumes. Chemical engineers utilize the initial work of the chemists, but often need to modify the reactions themselves, as they can be too slow to be useful. Additionally, chemical engineers examine how the size of a system affects the chemistry, as both heat transfer and mixing processes get more difficult with increased system size—and the scale need to be larger to meet demand for chemicals. The interaction between size and chemistry is non-trivial and requires bench top and larger scale experimentation in which key parameters are measured. Such parameters are, in turn, inserted into mathematical models to predict larger scales. This is an iterative process and requires intensive chemistry, engineering, and mathematical training to master.

In this Science Café presentation, we will discuss the items above in a casual discussion!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

April Zoom Science Cafe: Dr. Arie Bodek (UofR): "Particle Physics Then and Now"

The Rochester Science cafe is pleased to announce the penultimate cafe for the Spring 2021 series. On Tuesday, April 27, at 7pm, we will have:

Dr. Arie Bodek, Ph.D.
George E. Pake Professor of Physics
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Rochester

“Particle Physics Then and Now: Quarks, Higgs Bosons and Gravitational Waves"

The final cafe of the Spring will be on Tuesday, May 25, by Profs. Nathaniel Barlow and Steven Weinstein of RIT, more on that soon.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

February Zoom Science Cafe: 2/23@7pm — Dr. Tony Wong (RIT): "Evaluating the Sensitivity of SARS-CoV-2 Infection Rates on College Campuses to Wastewater Surveillance"

The Rochester Virtual Science Cafe will be running this Tuesday, February 23, at 7pm. Needless to say, this month's subject is both timely, and something most of us don't spend a lot of time thinking about. Just to head off any questions, Dr. Tony Wong works on the theory and modeling side, not on the data collection, as far as I know.

Cheers, Josh


Evaluating the Sensitivity of SARS-CoV-2 Infection Rates on College Campuses to Wastewater Surveillance

Zoom link:

Passcode: 732879



As college campuses reopen in Spring 2021, we are thrust into yet another large-scale experiment on the efficacy of various strategies to contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Traditional individual surveillance testing via nasal swabs and/or saliva are among the measures that colleges are pursuing to reduce the spread of the virus on campus. Additionally, some colleges are testing wastewater on their campuses for signs of infection, which can provide an early warning signal for campuses to locate COVID-positive individuals. We will discuss the implementation of a new model component for wastewater surveillance within an established epidemiological compartment model for the spread of COVID-19 on college campuses. We use a hypothetical residential university to evaluate the efficacy of wastewater surveillance for maintaining low infection rates. We find that wastewater sampling with a 1-day lag to initiate individual screening tests, plus completing the subsequent tests within a 4-day period can keep overall infections within 5% of the infection rates seen with weekly traditional individual surveillance testing. Our results also indicate that wastewater surveillance can be an effective way to dramatically reduce the number of false positive cases by identifying subpopulations for surveillance testing where infectious individuals are more likely to be found. Through a Monte Carlo risk analysis, we find that surveillance testing that relies solely on wastewater sampling can be fragile against scenarios with high viral reproductive numbers and high rates of infection of campus community members by outside sources. These results point to the practical importance of additional surveillance measures to limit the spread of the virus on campus and the necessity of a proactive response to the initial signs of outbreak.


For more, you can head to his website on Github:

Sunday, January 17, 2021

January Cafe:

Hello everyone, our January Cafe will be Tuesday, January 26, at 7pm.

“Planetary atmospheres: The winds of change in our Solar System” 

Dr. Kelly Douglass, Ph.D. 

Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of Rochester

Here is what you'll need for next week and all future Zoom meetings of the Science Cafe. If you run into any problems, please reply to this email and I will make sure you can get in.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 960 2874 3897
Passcode: 732879

+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)


Dr. Douglass is currently a visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester. Her research interests include observational cosmology, cosmic voids, galaxy formation and evolution, dark matter structure, and statistical analysis of large data sets. She is currently working with SDSS data, studying the large-scale environmental dependence of oxygen and nitrogen abundances (metallicity) in dwarf galaxies, and is a member of the DESI collaboration.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

November Zoom Science Cafe: “2020 Elections: Polarization, Discourse, Democratic Institutions” by Prof. Lynda Powell (UofR)

 For our November Zoom Science Cafe, we are mixing things up a little:

7 pm, Tuesday November 24
“2020 Elections: Polarization, Discourse, Democratic Institutions”
Professor Lynda Powell, Ph.D.
University of Rochester Department of Political Science

Here is what you'll need for next week and all future Zoom meetings of the Science Cafe. If you run into any problems, please reply to this email and I will make sure you can get in.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 960 2874 3897
Passcode: 732879

Dial by your location
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)

Dr. Powell's academic interests:
American politics. Current research focuses on the influence of campaign contributions in American legislatures and on legislative bipartisanship, polarization and representation. My most recent book, The Influence of Campaign Contributions in State Legislatures: The Effects of Institutions and Politics (University of Michigan Press, 2012) won the Fenno Prize, the best book award of the Legislative Studies Section of APSA, and was the inaugural winner of the Gray Prize, the best book award of the State Politics and Policy Section of APSA. A description of the book can be found here on the publisher's website. Other publications include The Financiers of Congressional Elections (co-authors Peter Francia, John Green, Paul Herrnson, and Clyde Wilcox; Columbia University Press, 2003); Term Limits in the State Legislatures (co-authors John Carey and Richard G. Niemi; University of Michigan Press, 2000); Serious Money: Fundraising and Contributing in Presidential Nomination Campaigns (co-authors Clifford W. Brown, Jr., and Clyde Wilcox; Cambridge University Press, 1995); and articles in journals including the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics and Legislative Studies Quarterly. Teaches courses in American politics. Directs European Political and Business Internships, Washington Semester Program and local internships, including District Attorney Internships and Public Defender Internships.

Friday, October 16, 2020

October Science Cafe (10/27@7pm): "The Only Surviving Hominin: Human Origins and Evolution”, by Dr. Howard Ochman (University of Texas, Austin)

Hi everyone, we are excited to announce the speaker for the Rochester Science Cafe's October talk:

Tuesday, October 27 @ 7pm:
"The Only Surviving Hominin:  Human Origins and Evolution”
Dr. Howard Ochman (University of Texas, Austin)
Professor, Department of Integrative Biology

Apologies for any confusion last month with needing registration and/or a passcode for Zoom, that was a late addition to the RIT security protocols for public talks.  The video of the talk is now available online, you can find it here on Youtube.  Note that we were about 2 minutes in when I remembered to start recording.

 Here is what you'll need for all future Zoom meetings of the Science Cafe:

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 960 2874 3897
Passcode: 732879

Dial by your location
        +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

September Science Cafe: The Road to a Pandemic COVID-19 Vaccine, by Dr. Angela Branche (UofR)

 Hello to all the devoted friends and attendees of the Rochester Science Cafe!

Starting this Fall, and continuing on until it is deemed safe for us all to meet in person again, the Rochester Science Cafe is moving to Zoom (the Rochester Zience Cafe?).  See below for details on how to join, and how to ask questions.

Our Fall 2020 series will begin on September 22, and continue on monthly.  The first talk will be:

September 22, 7pm:

The Road to a Pandemic COVID-19 Vaccine

Dr. Angela Branche

Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Infectious Diseases

University of Rochester Medical Center

To join the Cafe,  simply follow the Zoom link above.  Please note that Cafes will be recorded, so we can reach the broadest audience possible.  There will be two ways to ask a question:

  • Write it down in the "Chat", and one of the MCs, either David or Josh, will ask it for you
  • Go to "Participants", and use the "Raise Hand" feature.  Josh or David will unmute you and ask you to go ahead with the question.

We will allow the audience to leave their video on, but we recommend turning it off while you are just listening to save bandwidth, turning it on to ask a question.

During her years at the University of Rochester her focus in research involved the use of viral molecular and immunological diagnostic assays to explore the pathogenesis and host response to acute viral respiratory illnesses in adults. She is currently the clinical director of the NIH Center for Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) New York Influenza Center of Excellence (NYICE) and Co-Principal Investigator for the UR Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit (UR VTEU). Her current research activities explore clinical disease, pathogenesis, development of therapeutics and vaccine biology related to infection with viral and bacterial respiratory pathogens. Studies include assessment of asymptomatic carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae and the impact of pneumococcal vaccination, surveillance of epidemic influenza infections and immunologic mechanisms of protection following natural infection versus vaccination, the development of pandemic influenza vaccines, population-based studies of RSV infection and the development of vaccine and anti-viral agents for RSV. Current efforts also include the study of the pathogenesis and immune response to pandemic SARS Coronavirus 2 infections and clinical interventional trials for the development of COVID19 therapeutic agents and vaccines. She is a member of the Infectious Disease Society of America and the NIH Human Cohorts Steering Committee and NIH IDCRC Emerging Infectious Expert Working Group. Dr. Branche has published several peer-reviewed articles, reviews and book chapters related to respiratory viral pathogens in adults.