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STEM Scholars Lecture Archive

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Discovery of Potential: Tiny Earth and Antimicrobials

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Dr. Enid González-Orta, Professor of Biological Sciences and the Director of the Science Educational Equity Program at Sacramento State, will present her work from her participation in a national course-based undergraduate research (CUREs) network.

The world today is facing many challenges, two of which are the lack of new antimicrobial to combat multi-drug resistant pathogens and the lack of a robust STEM workforce. Tiny Earth, an initiative based out of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, is tackling this challenge by providing an authentic learning experience for students where they search for new antimicrobials from soil and develop scientific proficiency. Dr. Enid Gonzalez-Orta is a Tiny Earth Partner Instructor and Sacramento State students have participated in Tiny Earth since 2018. Come and learn more about how Dr. González-Orta implements this course and the discoveries that she and her students have made to face the challenges of tomorrow.

View the Discovery of Potential: Tiny Earth and Search for Antimicrobials at Sacramento State

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Cooperation and Confrontation: The Social Order of Primates

Thursday September 29, 2022

Assisant Professor Clara J. Scarry, Department of Anthropology at Sacramento State, will discuss her current research on primate behavioral strategies and group interactions.

For many primates, relations between social groups can be fraught with tension that can escalate to aggression as individuals seek to defend access to critical resources and opportunities. This cooperative front in the face of opponents is often difficult to maintain, and greater numbers do not always equal greater success. Instead, competing desires of co-defenders can create variability in individuals’ willingness to assist in a collective effort. By looking at the expression of between-group aggression and within-group social bonding among other primates, we can begin to understand how situations and environments may have influenced our ancestors, establishing the capabilities and predispositions upon which human society depends.

View Cooperation and Confrontation: The Social Order of Primates

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Understanding the Grandeur of Spiral Galaxies

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Assistant Professor Alexander Pettitt, Department of Physics and Astronomy at Sacramento State, will discuss researching spiral galaxies using computer simulations.

Spiral galaxies are some of the most brilliant objects in the night’s sky. Despite over a century of detailed study these galaxies still hold a great many mysteries. What drives the wealth of different shapes they display? What effects to they have on each other when they interact gravitationally? What role does a galaxy’s shape have in determining its ability to act as a “star formation engine”? As with any science, the best way to answer these questions is to perform experiments. Unfortunately, their colossal size limits the methods of study within a laboratory setting. Instead, computer simulations are used to replicate galaxies and provide a virtual laboratory in which we can study these galaxies in great detail and under many different conditions.

View Understanding the Grandeur of Spiral Galaxies Lecture


Taking the Ocean's Temperature

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Associate Professor Amy Wagner, Department of Geology at Sacramento State, will detail the research being conducted in her lab on the ocean and climate change, how modern changes fit into the context of past ocean conditions, and how that information might help us foresee future changes.

The world’s oceans absorb over 90% of the excess heat in the Earth’s system. In 2020, the globally averaged surface ocean temperature was the 3rd-highest on record since 1880. Additionally, 18 of the warmest global annual surface ocean temperatures have been recorded in the past 20 years. The recently released UN-led Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report estimates the Earth is likely hotter today than it has been in the last 125,000 years, with global temperatures increasing by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution began. Dr. Wagner and her students have been working to understand past ocean conditions around the globe and across many timescales, using a broad array of instrumental techniques to find out if our oceans can continue to take the heat of ever-increasing global temperatures.

View Taking the Ocean's Temperature Lecture


Building Resilience and Grit in the COVID-19 Era

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Professor Joyce Mikal-Flynn will examine methods for effectively dealing with the hardships and adversities we are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our world and we as individuals have been experiencing enormous stress due to the 2020 global pandemic causing economic despair and fracturing our communities. How we address these pressures and hardships is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Current trauma studies are finding, given the right tools and firm determination, one not only survives these difficult times and events, they can come through them stronger and better able to face tomorrow’s challenges. It ultimately becomes the vehicle for a transformative experience providing individuals the opportunity to creatively restructure themselves and find meaning in life. To gain insight into this concept, Dr. Mikal-Flynn will provide supportive evidence in addressing how to effectively deal with and use hardships, adversities, and even major traumatic events in a productive, positive manner to bring about resilience, grit, and growth.

View Building Resilience Lecture

STEM Climate Lecture Card

Who Started the Fire? 2000 Years of Climate, Fire & Native Californians

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Assistant Professor Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson, Department of Geography at Sacramento State, will detail her current research on the effects of indigenous traditional land management practices using low intensity surface fires on California’s mountainous forests.

For millennia people have altered landscapes across North America, often through the regular use of fire. Ethnographic accounts document widespread use of low-intensity surface fires by Native Californians, but the effects of these fires on shaping the composition of California’s mountainous forests remains largely unknown. Today’s forests have thick, fire-prone understories, but historic accounts and photographs show “park-like settings” in the Sierra Nevada. We know the modern overgrown forest is a result of fire suppression policies begun in the late 1800s, but what caused the open, park-like settings before then? Could indigenous traditional land management practices really have been enough to alter California’s forests, or were the open forests purely the result of climate?

View Who Started the Fire Lecture


Using Fruit Flies to Identify Autism Risk Factors

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Assistant Professor Kimberly Mulligan, Department of Biological Sciences at Sacramento State, will detail her current research aimed at studying the molecular causes of neurodevelopmental disorders, like autism, using fruit flies as a model organism.

There is mounting evidence that the interaction of environmental chemicals with specific genetic susceptibilities is linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which is estimated to affect 1 of every 59 children born in the United States each year. Yet, identification of specific environmental chemicals that interact with genes to cause autism remains a critical gap in our understanding of ASD etiology. Given that there are over 80,000 chemicals in use with little to no toxicological data, the field critically needs an efficient method for investigating chemicals to identify those that confer risk of ASD. Using the fruit fly for toxicological assessment, Dr. Mulligan’s research seeks to determine if chemicals commonly found in plastics affect neurodevelopmental phenotypes associated with ASD.

View this lecture here

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Beneath the Ice: Exploring a Subglacial Lake in Antarctica

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Assistant Professor Kathryn Kasic, Department of Communication Studies at Sacramento State, will detail the documentary films of the SALSA (Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access) expedition to reach and explore Lake Mercer in Antarctica.

Though it is one of the most remote places on our planet, Antarctica greatly affects our globe through its influence on climate and ocean systems. Yet Antarctica’s subglacial environment has been so scarcely explored that we know more about the surface of Mars. In 2007 NASA satellite imagery revealed over 300 lakes in Antarctica hidden beneath thousands of feet of ice. In 2018-19 a group of scientists funded by a National Science Foundation grant, set out to explore a subglacial lake twice the size of Manhattan, to uncover clues about climate change and the possibility of life in this inhospitable environment. Kathy Kasic, Assistant Professor and Co-PI, will discuss the documentary films of this expedition that tell the story of this important research.

View Subglacial Lake lecture

STEM SIRIUS Lecture Card

Getting "SIRIUS" With STEM Education Reform

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Professor Kelly McDonald, Department of Biological Sciences at Sacramento State, will discuss national efforts to reform undergraduate STEM education and how the SIRIUS project is advancing those efforts.

Pressing societal issues like human health, energy sustainability and environmental change require a diverse workforce trained to solve complex, real-world problems. Current educational models often consist of fragmented learning experiences, taught as discipline-specific knowledge that lacks relevancy beyond course borders. To create this future workforce, Dr. McDonald and her colleagues created the Sustainable Interdisciplinary Research to Inspire Undergraduate Success (SIRIUS) Project. The overarching goal of the SIRIUS project is to provide all STEM students with an opportunity to study a local and relevant problem - human impacts on the American River Ecosystem.

View the SIRIUS lecture

STEM Wetlands Lecture Card

Here Today-Gone Tomorrow: A Global Perspective of Seasonal Wetlands

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Professor Jamie Kneitel, Department of Biological Sciences at Sacramento State, will detail his current research addressing the impact of environmental factors and human activities on the animals and plants of seasonal wetlands.

Seasonal wetlands and ponds are important for their unique biodiversity and benefit humans by improving water quality, nutrient recycling, and groundwater recharge. They are found globally but are very common in the Mediterranean climates of the world (Mediterranean region, California, South Africa, Chile, Southwest Australia). These ecosystems are experiencing many threats, including habitat loss, invasive species, and pollution. The conservation challenges of seasonal wetlands across these regions parallel each other and therefore understanding their ecology is vital for better management.

View the Wetlands lecture

STEM Groundwater Lecture Card

Can California Avoid Groundwater Bankruptcy?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Professor Amelia Vankeuren, Department of Geology at Sacramento State, will discuss her current research on California’s groundwater supply and methods to provide future sustainability.

Groundwater is a critical resource for California, providing 30% to 60% of our annual freshwater, but for 100 years we have been withdrawing at a rate much faster than it has been replenished. Decades of over-pumping combined with a growing population and more erratic surface water availability due to climate change makes water insecurity the new normal. To increase groundwater storage and provide some consistency to the water supply, Dr. Amelia Vankeuren and her team of students are investigating ways to bank the extra surface water during wet years as groundwater that can be tapped during dry years - but will it be enough?

View the Groundwater lecture

STEM HIV Lecture Card

Using Chemistry to Combat HIV

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Professor Katherine McReynolds, Department of Chemistry at Sacramento State, will discuss current work being conducted in her lab towards the development of new molecules as potential topical anti-HIV agents.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was first discovered in the early 1980’s as the causative agent of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Since then, nearly 76.1 million people have been infected with HIV, and 35 million have died from AIDS. While the treatment of HIV/AIDS through antiretroviral drugs has led to a significant decrease in the mortality rate, there is still no cure available, and no vaccine to prevent new infections. Moreover, the fact that 40% of infected individuals worldwide are unaware of their HIV status, makes it of the utmost importance that new drugs or preventative agents be developed and added to the existing arsenal.

STEM Election Lecture Card

Counting on the Results: The Math of Elections

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Assistant Professor Jay Cummings, Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Sacramento State, will examine the complexities of modern elections.

This lecture focuses on a handful of real elections that highlight some surprising electoral oddities. For instance, in the 2000 election Ralph Nader was a clear spoiler – if he hadn’t run then the winner would have very likely changed. Most recently, did a spoiler or the electoral system itself play a part in the election of President Trump? This presentation will explore this idea in depth and show how a simple theorem about election theory shook the foundations of political science, dismayed idealistic democrats, and fully deserved the Nobel Prize in Economics that it earned.

View the Election lecture