Local Honor Lectures


Learning to Think Like Scientists: Does Our Future as Humans Depend on it?

Suzanne Hendrich

Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, ISU
Thursday, November 8, 2012
7:00PM South Ballroom, Memorial Union


Suzanne Hendrich, a University Professor and current president of the Faculty Senate, will engage the audience in thinking about “thinking like a scientist” in both our daily lives and in solving some of our greatest global challenges such as food security, poverty, and building community. She emphasizes the need to clearly define problems, seek evidence, make evidence-based decisions, consider the broad impacts of decisions, and seek multiple perspectives. Hendrich teaches in the areas of food-borne toxicants and nutrition and conducts research on the effects of dietary and botanical constituents on gut health and inflammation. She joined the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition in 1987 and is a Lura M. Lovell Fellow working on dietary supplement safety education.


Self-assembling Polymers for Gene Delivery and Biomineralization

Surya Mallapragada


Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, ISU
Thursday, 1 December 2011
7:00PM Cardinal Room, Memorial Union


Surya K. Mallapragada is chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Stanley Chair in Interdisciplinary Engineering at Iowa State. Her research focuses on the development of new polymeric materials for medical applications, including neural tissue engineering, controlled drug and gene delivery, and as templates for biomineralization. The work has implications from cancer therapy to nerve regeneration to single-dose vaccines. Mallapragada is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. She is the recipient of an NSF Early CAREER Award and was named one of the World’s Top 100 Young Innovators, 2002, by MIT’s Technology Review Magazine. She earned her PhD in chemical engineering from Purdue University.

New chemistries for new lithium batteries for a green future: Why the Chevy Volt only goes 40 miles on a charge

Steve W. Martin
Anson Marston Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Thursday, 28 April 2010, 8:00 pm
Following the Sigma Xi Initiation Banquet – Scheman Building

While batteries have long been in everything from cars to portable electronics, they have also been their weak link. Expensive, short lasting, and holding limited charge, a marvelous combination for the profit seeking battery makers, these critical problems are now creating serious limitations in the world’s move towards greener, non-polluting energy sources. Better batteries are needed to help move the US and other countries off of crude oil as a portable energy source and batteries are equally critical in moving the world off of the mining and combustion of coal to renewable solar and wind energies. Hence, the potential opportunities for new high energy density, low cost, and long last batteries are enormous. In this talk, we will discuss why such batteries are not available yet and why, for example, the Chevy Volt (and other plug-in electric vehicles) can only go about 40 miles between full charges. We will also discuss new battery chemistries that hold the potential to break this paradigm of high cost and low performance.


Algorithmic Thinking in Biology

Prof. Vasant HonavarVasant Honavar
Professor, Department of Computer Science, ISU
Cardinal Room, Memorial Union
Thursday, 18 Nov 2010 at 8:00 pm

Iowa State professor of computer science Vasant Honavar directs the university’s Center for Computational Intelligence, Learning and Discovery. Much of his work is aimed at helping scientific researchers access, use and share massive amounts of data. Both NSF and NIH have funded Honavar’s advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and bioinformatics. These include developing algorithms and software that allow researchers to integrate and analyze dissimilar forms of data and thus collaborate across organizational and disciplinary boundaries. Honavar earned his PhD in computer science and cognitive science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Sigma Xi Lecture. More info

Moving Up: One Astronomer’s View of WhyWe Must do Astronomy from Space

Prof. Steven KawalerSteve Kawaler
Professor, Physics and Astronomy, ISU
Sigma Xi Initiation Banquet – Scheman Buliding
Thursday, 29 April 2010, 5:50 pm

Prior to the 20th Century, nearly everything we learned about our Universe was rooted in Earth- based study and observation from terra firma. Recognizing the fact that our atmosphere hampers the view of space, by the end of the last Century, astronomers had eagerly embraced observations from mountaintops, balloons, aircraft, and spacecraft. In the first few years of the 21st Century, it has become clear that “space is the place” as permanent astronomical observatories are providing undistorted views of the universe from radio through gamma-ray wavelengths.

Ultrasharp images from the Hubble Space Telescope, and views of the previously invisible Universe from Spitzer, Chandra, Fermi, and other smaller missions are indeed dazzling, but observations with other spacecraft provide another advantage – an uninterrupted view of phenomena for months or years at a time. The Kepler spacecraft is doing just that – enabling us to, for the first time, look for Earthlike planets around other stars. The same data can also be used to study “starquakes” and use them to obtain our first nearly-direct views of the insides of stars through the newly reborn field of “asteroseismology.”

Having spent much of my research time in the past two decades working with large networks of ground-based telescopes to try to obtain 24/7 coverage of stars, the move to space-based observations has been an exciting change. In this talk, I’ll explain why space is, indeed, the best place to go for asteroseismic data, and show how Kepler data from its first year of operation has produced some stunning new results. Sigma Xi Lecture.


Cooking, Fishing and Jogging through Phase Space: A Practical Guide to Discovering and Understanding New Materials

Prof. Paul CanfieldPaul Canfield
Distinguished Professor, Physics and Astronomy, ISU
Alliant Energy-Lee Liu Auditorium, Howe Hall
Thursday, 12 Nov 2009 at 8:00 pm

Paul Canfield, Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Robert Allen Wright Chair in Physics, has spent over has spent over a score of years in condensed matter physics, earning an international reputation for discovering and developing new materials. His work combines physics, chemistry, and metallurgy and is specifically focused on the properties of conducting and magnetic materials. In this lecture he will outline the basic philosophy and techniques needed to search for novel materials. These include a combination of intuition, experience, compulsive optimism and a desire to share discovery. The lecture will be general and include side comments, mildly slanderous asides and references to philosophers living and dead. Sigma Xi Lecture. More info

The Future of the Ames Aquifer Through the Eyes of Computer Modeling

Prof. William Simpkins
Geological and Atmospheric Sciences
Iowa State University
Initiation Banquet – Scheman Building
April 30, 2009 at 5:30PM

The Ames aquifer, a combined alluvial and buried valley aquifer, provides drinking water for the residents of Ames and Iowa State University, and treated water industry, golf courses, lawn watering, and a rural water district. In 2008, nearly 2.2 billion gallons of water were pumped from the aquifer. Although the city has continually expanded its well fields and water treatment facilities through the years to meet the demands of a growing population, water demands exceeding 10 million gallons per day have occurred during recent summer months. Because the current treatment plant can only provide 12 million gallons per day, the city has been examining water use, water treatment capacity, and the ability of the aquifer to meet future needs. A re- investigation of the hydrogeology of Ames aquifer was initiated in 2005. The results of that study suggest that the Ames aquifer can provide as much water as we need in the future under the present climate. However, this optimism is tempered by a number of factors. Future drought may strain our ability to supply water up to the projected 22 million gallons per day by 2063, particularly if additional industry and municipalities become interested in tapping certain parts of the aquifer. Reducing conditions in the aquifer mandate that well maintenance and rehabilitation will be needed to maintain production levels. In addition, the fast recycle time of water in the aquifer suggests that contaminants, particularly those entering the aquifer from the Skunk River and Squaw Creek due to pumping, may eventually pose a threat to water quality. The 3-D groundwater model provides a state-of-the-art view of how the aquifer works and a mechanism to protect this valuable water resource into the future.


Magnetic Refrigeration and Cooling:  An Energy Efficient and Green Cooling Technology for the 21st Century

Karl GschneidnerKarl Gschneidner
Ames Laboratory
Gallery Room, ISU Memorial Union

This talk will focus on magnetic refrigeration (MR), which offers the promise of improved energy efficiency and to be competitive with and eventually replace conventional gas-compression refrigeration technologies. Among its potential household uses are refrigerators/freezers, air conditioning, automotive climate control, and wine chillers. Large scale cooling would include industrial gas liquefaction, frozen food processing and storage, supermarket chillers, and large building air conditioning. In the past ten years there have been two significant advances: (1) that MR is a viable technology achieved a cooling power of 20 to 100 times larger than had been attained heretofore, and (2) the discovery of the giant magnetocaloric effect in several families of alloys which should make MR even more competitive. To date about 30 MRs have been built to test various concepts and ideas, including a proof-of-principle device, and several prototype near-room-temperature cooling machines. These various aspects will be discussed.

Mycorrhizae: The Helpful Fungi in Soils

Thomas LoynachanThomas Loynachan
Agronomy Department
Initiation Banquet – Scheman Building
May 1, 2009 at 7:30 pm

The soil beneath your feet is literally swarming with living organisms, some you can see but most you can’t. These eating, breathing, moving creatures are critical to ensuring the recycling of nutrients and carbon for future life, including humans. When microorganisms are mentioned, however, one normally thinks of disease or rot. How did plants survive for thousands of years without human application of fertilizers? This is a presentation about the ‘good guys.’ Low-input, sustainable agricultural production systems rely on recycling nutrients from plant and animal wastes or from biological inputs. One biological system for N (biological N2 fixation) has been well studied for its positive response in leguminous crops. A less-well understood biological system is the involvement of mycorrhizal fungi with higher plants. Two general types of associations exist: ectomycorrhizae that form associations with woody plants (fungi generally considered higher fungi) and endomycorrhizae that form associations with most all plants (fungi considered to be lower fungi). Both associations have extramatrical hyphae (threads) that effectively increase the adsorbing root surface for nutrient and water uptake, especially important for P nutrition of plants. Phosphorus is otherwise less available because of limited mobility in soil. Uptake of other elements also appears to be enhanced by involvement of mycorrhizae: Zn, S, Ca, Mg, Fe, K, and N. Although little studied, field work in Iowa shows that endomycorrhizal fungi are present in high numbers in most soils growing corn and soybeans. This biological system to provide nutrients was in place long before humans attempted to modify the edaphic environment for crop culture. A better understanding of these biological partners could be critically important in future years to help feed a growing world population with limited, finite resources.



Cyst Nematodes – Menace of Soybeans: How to Open a Can of Worms – Literally

Thomas Baum

Thomas Baum
Department of Plant Pathology
Gallery Room, ISU Memorial Union 
October 25, 2007 at 7:00 pm

The soybean cyst nematode, Heterodera glycines, is a serious pathogen problem in soybean production worldwide.  These parasitic roundworms hatch from eggs in the soil, penetrate into soybean roots and then feed only after they have ended a migratory phase inside the roots.  In order to support their sedentary feeding habit, which requires prolonged nutrient uptake form a single location within the host root, the nematode induces the formation of sophisticated feeding cells through the function of secreted effector proteins that alter plant physiology.  Exploring effector protein functions will allow the development of novel control mechanisms against this devastating pathogen.