Preview of Grad Slam prelim rounds 5 and 6: April 12

by Nicole Poletto, Professional Development Peer
Monday, April 10, 2017 4:41 PM

The 5th Annual Grad Slam competition continues with Preliminary Rounds 5 and 6. Your People's Choice vote can help your favorites advance to the semifinal round, so be sure to come and support your friends and fellow graduate students (#gradslamisbae). Here's a preview of what's to sure to follow us on Facebook for live updates on the winners of each round. 

Round 5

Wednesday, April 12 | 11 a.m. to noon
Engineering Science Building 1001

Jacob Barrett | Chemistry
Chemicals from ​Biomass: We Wood if We Could 
Society’s dependence on fossil carbon resources is linked not only to energy needs, but to the demand for chemical feedstocks.  The aromatic chemicals derived from petroleum make up everyday products from plastic water bottles to pharmaceuticals. Hence, the conversion of lignin from woody biomass into aromatic chemicals would derive value from an underutilized renewable resource and reduce our dependence on a nonrenewable one.

Megan Chang | Mechanical Engineering
Becoming a Disney Princess Through Dendritic Crystal Growth
We use numerical simulations to study dendritic crystal growth - a problem describing phase transition with no analytical solutions. These simulations give us valuable insight into the ideal conditions for making alloys with superior material properties, as well as the underlying mechanisms that govern metastatic cancer invasion.

Douglas Fabini | ​Materials
Toward Ubiquitous Solar Energy: Materials for Low Cost Conversion of Sunlight to Electricity 
In this talk, I will motivate the search for new low cost materials for the conversion of sunlight to electricity, introduce the halide perovskites as curious and promising candidates, and highlight the approaches and techniques we use to understand the structure and collective behavior of atoms, electrons, and molecules in functional solids.

Miles Krumpak | ​Global Studies
Cuba: Change, Development, and Farmers Markets
Recent events such as the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States have led many individuals to believe Cuba is now undergoing a rapid process of change or privatization. By using of a wider lens one can actually trace these trends back to the early 1990's (although there are brief experiments before) when due to the fall of the Soviet Union private restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and farmers markets were legalized. I seek to analyze the impact of these measures on individuals and focus on the effects created by allowing farmers to sell some of their produce at supply and demand prices. Lastly, I reflect on how these practices are viewed and fit into the country's larger socialist context. 

Max Nowak  | Chemical Engineering
Breaching the Blood-Brain Barrier
The Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) is notorious for being perhaps the most difficult biological barrier to cross. Despite extensive research on the BBB itself, very little is known about what factors influence how much or how fast something can get to the other side. This talk will discuss our work towards using a microfluidic BBB model to understand how nanoparticle properties affect their ability to cross the BBB.

Lauren Ortosky | Psychological and Brain Sciences 
Choosing Chaos
This research explores a theory of Uncertainty Verification, in which people use their choices to create chaos in the world in order to bring the reality of their environment into better alignment with their sense of felt uncertainty. This pattern was found in 2 studies, using the 2016 election as a framework for choice.

Pedro Sosa | Computer Science
Post-Quantum Cryptography: Preparing for the Cryptopocalypse
As the dawn of Quantum computers approaches, the state of our current cryptographic ciphers lies uncertain. Quantum computers have the power to break most secure communication standards used today. Now, cryptographers and mathematicians race against the clock to build new "Post-Quantum" crypto-schemes that will withstand such machines.

Round 6

Wednesday, April 12 | 3 to 4 p.m.
SRB Multipurpose Room

Anirudha Banerjee | Chemical Engineering
"Tractor Beams" that Steer Colloidal Particles Over Millimeter Distances 
Liquid suspensions of micron-scale particles and drops play a ubiquitous role in a broad spectrum of materials of central importance to modern life. A suite of interactions has long been known and exploited to formulate such suspensions; however, all such interactions act over less than a micron in water - and often much less. In this talk I will present a versatile concept to design and engineer non-equilibrium interactions in suspensions, which are particle surface-dependent, may last for hundreds of seconds, and extend hundreds of times farther than is currently possible.

Jonathan Downey | Education
Visual Feedback: An Easier Way to Improve Pronunciation
Foreign language proficiency is on the decline among Americans, including university students. Difficulty developing a comprehensible foreign accent can be demoralizing and can keep students out of the language classroom. Fortunately, visual feedback training is a promising resource for those who are looking to quickly improve their pronunciation and confidence.

Alexa Fredston-Hermann Environmental Science & Management
How Far Can Marine Species Shift their Ranges in Response to Climate Change? 
In recent decades, species all over the world have shifted their ranges in response to climate change, seeking their preferred temperature conditions as their historic ranges become less hospitable. Predicting which species will shift, and to where, is critical for conservation, because range-shifting species may cross state or national boundaries and be exposed to less sustainable management, or interact with new species with cascading effects through entire ecosystems. Most concerning are species that die out on one edge of their range due to the changing climate, but cannot spread into a new area on the other range edge due to some barrier. Although these barriers to dispersal are most visible on land (e.g. mountain ranges, urbanized areas), the oceans contain invisible barriers of their own – resulting from prevailing currents that direct where larvae can and cannot go – that substantially influence how much species can shift their ranges in response to climate change. 

Jeremy Hanes | Religious Studies
What Goddesses Can Tell Us About Epidemics and How We Respond to Them
South Asian goddesses such as Sitala became prominent figures during the early modern period when major transitions in society forced populations to adapt as  food scarcity increased, causing infectious diseases like malaria, cholera, and smallpox to became major health concerns. Stories about these goddesses highlighted the social equalizing nature of disease- even the highest gods were struck down by illness!- and the necessity for rulers and leaders to take a direct interest in people's health and economic well-being. With the rise of religious and secular objections to vaccination in the US, examining the social consequences and the inherent instability of children's health in particular, these stories not only show how pandemic diseases spread but affected everyone eventually. This study will show that humane and compassionate preventative measures like vaccination and alleviating childhood malnutrition to properly inform dissenting individuals of the very real consequences of ignoring childhood illnesses can be adapted using religious imagery and suggests how health experts can better tailor their message to reaching underserved segments of society.

Amanda Kaczmarek | Psychological and Brain Sciences
Tylenol and Advil Effects on Mental Rotation
Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen) are two widely-used, over-the-counter medications used to treat minor pains or reduce fever. Recent research suggests that Tylenol may have broader psychological effects, such as how we visualize people who are in our “ingroup” or “outgroup.” We wanted to determine if this difference might be due to Tylenol’s effect on social information processing, or on visual ability. We conducted a double-blind study comparing Tylenol, Advil, and placebo and found that taking Tylenol seems to hamper the ability to perform a spatial reasoning task.

Sara Lafia | Geography 
Spatial Discovery: Linking Geographic Footprints to Topic Spaces
What do ancient ruins, contested political boundaries, and soil moisture measurements have in common? On the surface, they might not seem to correspond much, but if we can see where on Earth these observations are made, we quickly realize that they can literally overlap quite a bit! My research focuses on enabling the serendipitous spatial discovery and integration of research data. By mapping the places and topics extracted from data descriptions, views of where research occurs are linked to what research is about, revealing the “spatial aboutness” of data.

Katja Siepmann | Global Studies
Banned Woman’s Art During National Socialism
This research project aims to rediscover and re-canonize the work of female – and other marginalized – visual artists that were subject to the Nazi's defamatory and repressive measures within the degenerate art campaign. Historians have systemically forgotten these woman artists and consequently portrayed the “degenerate artist” as an exclusively masculine phenomenon. Focusing on the micro-histories of the banned German female avant-garde, my research de-centers Nazi cultural history and emphasizes women's agency to produce cultural symbols and heritage--and to resist patriarchal authority. 

Pratik Soni | Computer Science 
Thwarting Man-in-the-Middle Attacks -- So That You Don't Get Fired!
Someone intently listening to your conversation over a secure channel may seem like a futile task. However, when that someone has the ability to *meaningfully* tamper your secure conversation then $h%t gets real. In this talk, we will define the powers of such a someone, referred to as woman-in-the-middle, and describe a specific tool that cryptography offers to tame the woman-in-the-middle. More precisely, we will look at a core cryptographic primitive called commitment scheme --- digital analogue of sealed envelopes --- and the properties such envelopes must possess in order to resist woman-in-the-middle attacks.