Preview of Grad Slam semifinal round 2: April 18

by Nicole Poletto, Professional Development Peer
Monday, April 17, 2017 9:00 AM

The Grad Slam semifinals continue with round 2 on Tuesday, April 18. Join us to see why #gradslamisbae and cheer your fellow graduate students on as they vie for a spot in the final round. Here's a preview of what's to come... be sure to follow us on Facebook for live updates on the winners of each round.

Semifinal Round 2

Tuesday, April 18 | 3 to 4 p.m.
SRB Multipurpose Room

Becca Best | Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
Unraveling an Unexpected Effect of Tau at Microtubule Ends
Dysregulation and disfunction of the microtubule-associated protein tau is a hallmark of many neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. However, while functional tau is a crucial component of neuronal health, many mysteries remain regarding tau's mechanistic role in cells.  My research focuses on characterizing tau's normal physiological functions in order to better understand how disruption of these functions leads to neurodegeneration. I will discuss recent findings that illustrate a surprising structural effect of tau on microtubule ends as well as the implications of these findings in the context of neurodegeneration.

Brandon Isaac | Materials 
Light Circuits for Mobile Communication
I will be discussing the use of silicon and indium phosphide photonic devices to achieve high data rate communication for mobile devices.  We use silicon as a photonic signal processor, and InP as an optical to electrical converter and low pass filter.  This approach will hopefully be used in 5G mobile communication.  

David Miller | ​Geography
Plants, Cities, and Satellites: High Resolution Mapping of Carbon Uptake by Urban Vegetation
With modern satellite remote sensing methods, it has become possible to map carbon uptake (i.e. photosynthesis) across the earth's surface at a global scale, which is highly important for understanding where carbon goes in our environment. However, a very important land area tends to be left out: cities, which are expanding globally and where many of us live. I will show how I use high resolution satellite imagery and other data sources to estimate carbon uptake across a large metropolitan region, and demonstrate the importance of my research in light of anthropogenic climate change and urban development.n 2014, the Salvadoran population surpassed Cubans to become the third largest Latina/o population in the U.S. The children of Salvadoran immigrants have come of age in the United States following their parents' migration out of war-torn El Salvador in the 1980s. Today, Salvadorans in Southern California define their ethnic experiences in contrast to those of the Mexican-descent Latina/o majority and they locate their affinity to Salvadoran culture through the privileges that their U.S. citizenship affords them.

Eric Jorgensen | Theater Studies
Reacquired: I, Thou and the American AIDS Play
The corpus of dramatic material written about and in response to HIV/AIDS is a chronicle of both the past and the present of the pandemic.  But an encounter with this corpus on the stage by virtue of the living theater, transforms the relationship with the disease from that of an object (the unchangeable) to that of an experience (the unbound).

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.

James Giammona | Physics
Building Early Embryos in the Computer
The arrangement of cells in early embryos varies between species. Even at only 4 cells, urchins are in a square while mice are in a pyramid. I simulate a model of the early embryo to understand how life generates these different arrangements by varying physical properties of the cells like adhesion. I'll end by explaining how this simulator can also help us better understand cancer metastasis.

Laura Reynolds | Earth Science
Pollution and Pollen: Evidence of Human Influence in California Sediments
Humans have drastically shaped the California coastline over thousands of years. Pollution markers and exotic pollen preserved in sediments can help differentiate post-industrial sediments from pre-industrial sediments-- this helps us tease out which environmental changes are due to human influence from those related to natural variability. Some scientists have recently argued that globally recognized pollution horizons mark the beginning of a new geological epoch: the anthropocene. In grad slams past I have talked about natural hazards-- this time I will be focusing on human impact on coastal environments.

Leah Foltz | Biomolecular Science & Engineering
Personalized Medicine: How to Cure Blindness with Your Own Cells 
While the idea of adapting treatment for individual patients has been around for centuries, recent strides in stem cell research have made personalized medicine a reality. Since 2006, scientists have mastered methods for reprograming adult cells into stem cells. In my research, I use stem cells created from the skin of a patient with an inherited blinding disease. With gene-editing technology, we can correct the disease-causing mutation to better understand what goes wrong and to potentially use these cells as a personalized treatment.  

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.