With the start of the semester falling upon us, it's time to start up the Frontiers in the Environment seminar series again. Following in last year's successes, we've got a great lineup of environmental all-stars this semester, starting on September 22. Here's a sneak peak at what's coming up this fall in Frontiers in the Environment.
Wednesdays, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
IonE Seminar Room R380, VoTech Bldg., St. Paul campus (map)
Free and open to the public; no registration required
us online via UMConnect
Biochemical Bloodhounds: Using Enzymes to Detect Toxins
Larry Wackett, Distinguished McKnight Professor, BioTechnology Institute
Toxic chemicals have always been with us, but today's toxins are
more problematic than ever: They are often made by people instead of
by plants, bacteria, or other living things, and are found in places
and even as part of objects we generally assume are safe. How can we
detect toxins' presence and so avoid harm? Wackett is working on
enlisting enzymes to sniff out the presence s
compounds, a major class of manmade chemicals used as disinfectants,
dyes, drugs, monomers, pesticides, and explosives. His talk will focus
on melamine, which was used as a food adulterant and hit the news in
2008 for sickening hundreds of thousands of children in China. Wackett
will show how fundamental enzyme research provided the key ingredient
for a melamine test kit as well as valuable insights into the mechanism
of melamine toxicity.
SEPT 29Hooked on Halorespiration: How, Where and So What?
Paige Novak, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering
Chlorinated organic molecules are some of the world's most hazardous
compounds, causing effects from cancer to obesity. Developed by humans
for uses such as degreasing, insulation, and fumigation, they now
contaminate tens of thousands of sites in the U.S. alone. About 15
years ago, scientists discovered bacteria that were able to "breathe"
some of these chlorinated compounds and thereby detoxify them.
Astoundingly, some of these so-called halorespirers actually require
chlorinated compounds to live. Scientists and engineers have since
debated how these organisms came to be, whether they have a niche in
uncontaminated environments, and how we can best harness their
abilities. Novak will talk about her work trying to unravel the natural
role of halorespirers in hopes of developing better clean-up methods.
Eight-Track Tapes, Compact Discs and Solar Cells
Eray Aydil, Professor, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
At least a dozen existing technologies produce solar cells with overall
power conversion efficiencies ranging from 5% to 40%. Given that these
technologies are available, the question arises as to whether society
should invest in research to develop even more new technologies, or
just work to improve existing ones. Aydil will make the case that we
should continue research on new types of solar cells, basing his
argument on the decision in the 1970s to develop new recording
technologies beyond the eight-track tape - a decision that led to
compact discs and eventually to digital formats. Even though new
technologies are uncertain, Aydil will argue, they are worth pursuing on
the chance they may lead to even more efficient solar cells at much
lower cost, revolutionizing renewable energy.Other featured Frontiers speakers this semester include: Jason Hill
(Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering)Martin Saar
(Geology and Geophysics)Alexandra Klass
(Veterinary Public Health)Jennifer Kuzma
(Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs)Jim Harkness
(Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)Elizabeth Wilson
(Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs)Tim Smith
(Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering)
----------Fall 2010 Frontiers in the Environment schedule & descriptionsIonE Events Calendar