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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, December 15, 2020

Ritu Raman, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Langer Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology



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).

Zoom Meeting Details

Meeting Opens:
6:00 PM CDT

Presentation Starts:
6:30 PM CDT

Direct Link:

Meeting ID:
973 5175 1651


One-tap mobile:
+13126266799,,97351751651# US (Chicago) | +16468769923,,97351751651# US (New York)

Upcoming Events

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.