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Virtual SCI Café

Virtual SCI Café

A joint project of the McWane Science Center and Research Civitan at UAB, SCI Café lets you meet and interact with science professionals and learn about their work. You’ll hear from scientists in Alabama and across the country, discover the exciting research they’re conducting, and have the opportunity to pose questions during live interactive presentations.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, SCI Café has gone online. Presentations are hosted via Zoom. The meeting ID and password will be posted here approximately one week prior to each presentation. Meetings open at 6:00 PM Central Time, with presentations starting at 6:30 PM.



Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Lindsey Rustad, PhD

Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service

Water in a Changing World: Forest Ecology meets Art and Music

How can we foster new scientific discoveries while simultaneously promoting education, conservation and shared stewardship of natural resources? Lindsey Rustad of the USDA Forest Service introduces us to “Water in a Changing World,” a program that uses real-time environmental sensor data to create data visualizations and musical sonifications of the water cycle. Learn the neurobiology of how the integration of arts and science can increase understanding of pattern and process in ecological data; and how it forms an inviting approach to educating and connecting the public with water science and environmental literacy.

Learn about Water in a Changing World □→

About the Presenter

Dr. Lindsey Rustad is a Research Ecologist for the USDA Forest Service Center for Research on Ecosystem Change in Durham, NH, co-Director of the USDA Northeastern Hub for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change, Team Leader for the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in NH. She received a B.A. in Philosophy at Cornell University in 1980, an M.S. in Forest Science at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences in 1983, and a Ph.D in Plant Science in 1988 at the University of Maine. She is a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, and recently received the 2018 USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station’s award for Distinguished Scientist and the 2018 USDA Forest Service Deputy Chief’s award for Distinguished Science. Her areas of expertise include biogeochemistry, watershed studies, climate change impacts, advanced environmental sensor systems, and the integration of art and science. Dr. Rustad has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters and has led several international research coordination networks.

Zoom Meeting Details

Meeting Opens:
6:00 PM CDT

Presentation Starts:
6:30 PM CDT

Direct Link:

Meeting ID:
992 7572 2223
One-tap mobile:
+13126266799,,99275722223# US (Chicago) | +16468769923,,99275722223# US (New York)

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Yamina Pressler, PhD

Soil Scientist & Educator, California Polytechnic State University

Discovering the Soils Beneath Our Feet Through Science and Art

Soils are everywhere, and because of that, they often fade into the background. Yet, soils are home to some of the most biodiverse communities on Earth and provide fundamental ecosystem services to humanity. In this talk, I will discuss the diversity, complexity, and heterogeneity of soils across landscapes — and demonstrate how soil scientists use this understanding to study how soils form, how they function, and how they might change in the future. In this context, I will share research findings on how soil biodiversity responds to environmental change and reflect on how I use both science and art as tools for strengthening our connection to soils and soil biodiversity.

About the Presenter

Dr. Yamina Pressler is a soil scientist, writer, educator, speaker, and artist who is on a mission to make soil a household name. As an educator and scholar at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Yamina shares her enthusiasm for soil science and ecology with undergraduate students while studying the many ways that soil organisms control how soils form and function. Yamina is always looking for creative ways to tell science stories and strengthen our connection to soil through art, writing, photography, and film. Yamina holds a B.S. in Environmental Management and Protection from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Colorado State University. She worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Texas A&M University prior to returning to Cal Poly in 2019. When she’s not doing science, you can find Yamina running, watercolor painting, and spending time with her loved ones in the desert.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Ritu Raman, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Langer Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Biohybrid Robots

Biological materials sense and respond to their environment. When you exercise, you get stronger. When you cut your skin, you heal. But the built environment and the machines that surround us don’t do this… why not? Because they aren’t built with biological materials, like we are! What if, instead of building machines with metals and plastics, we built machines powered by biology? This is the motivation underlying the new field of biohybrid design which is revolutionizing robotics, medicine, and the world around us. This talk will introduce you to robots that use living skeletal muscle to move and walk around, the first demonstrations of their kind. Unlike traditional robots made of synthetic materials, these biohybrid robots dynamically adapt to their environment, and can do things like exercise to get stronger and recover completely from damage. They are one of the first applications of the emerging discipline of biohybrid design, a field that promises building with biology will shape our technological future.

About the Presenter

Dr. Ritu Raman is an engineer and writer with a passion for biohybrid design: building machines powered by biological materials that work with the human body to fight disease and damage. She received her B.S. magna cum laude from Cornell University and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow advised by the renowned Prof. Robert Langer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She holds many awards for scientific innovation, including receiving a L’Oréal USA Women in Science Fellowship and being named to the Forbes 30 Under 30: Science and the MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35 lists. Ritu grew up in India, Kenya, and the United States where she learned to appreciate and thrive in diverse and dynamic environments. She is passionate about increasing diversity in STEM and has championed many initiatives to empower women in science, including being named a AAAS IF/THEN ambassador and founding the Women in Innovation and STEM Database at MIT (WISDM).

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Jessica Fagerstrom, PhD, DABR

Medical Physicist, Northwest Medical Physics Center

Bananas, Superheroes, and Radiation

Have you ever heard of any superheroes from comic books or movies that got their powers from radiation? What is radiation and why does it matter in everyday life? It turns out that ionizing radiation, the kind of radiation that can do damage to DNA, can have some pretty big effects on our health. That’s why radiation can be a powerful tool when it comes to treating cancer. Medical physicists working in radiation therapy make sure that radiation is delivered safely and effectively to target tumor cells. And while medical physicists don’t work with radioactive spiders or big green hulking heroes, they do perform a very important job to make sure that patients get the care they need.

About the Presenter

Dr. Jessica Fagerstrom is a Medical Physicist who is passionate and committed to treating cancer patients with the highest quality healthcare. Through her work at the Northwest Medical Physics Center, Dr. Fagerstrom ensures that radiation is delivered safely and effectively. Dr. Fagerstrom is board certified in Therapeutic Medical Physics through the American Board of Radiology and is an active member of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. She earned her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her previous work took her to Hawaii where she was a clinical physicist at Queen’s Medical Center. Dr. Fagerstrom enjoys volunteering with young students, encouraging the next generation to pursue a career path in Medical Physics and other STEM professions. She also loves hiking, marathon running, and snorkeling with her husband, family, and friends.