Cafe Sci: Is Carbon Capture Realistic?

February 13, 2017

Is Carbon Capture Realistic?

Christopher Wilmer

Assistant Professor,
Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department,
University of Pittsburgh

Join University of Pittsburgh professor Chris Wilmer for a discussion of the future of carbon capture technology. This very active area of engineering research explores the development of technologies that can be retrofitted onto fossil fuel-based power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Retrofitting thousands of coal power plants across the globe would be a massive undertaking, and researchers need to know how feasible such a project would be.

In his talk, Wilmer will consider this problem from the molecular scale and ask what the most efficient carbon capture membrane would look like, whether it can realistically help mitigate global warming, and how it compares to existing technologies.

Wilmer is an assistant professor in the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on the use of large-scale molecular simulations to help find promising materials for energy and environmental applications.


Recorded Monday, February 6, 2017 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


Science News and Q’s Pilot — Seahorses, Antimatter, and Rivers

January 26, 2017

Hello, and welcome to Carnegie Science Center’s newest experiment in podcasting. This is a pilot episode of Science News and Q’s or “SNaQ” for short. It’s  a show designed to highlight science current events and answer user submitted science questions. We hope you enjoy this pilot and will share your feedback with us. Thank you and enjoy Science News and Q’s.


Science Headlines:

Spinning Black holes:

Zika Modeling:

Seahorse Genes:

Universal Rhythm:


In-Depth Discussion:

CERN Antimatter Spectroscopy:


Try It At Home:

Buy your own spectroscopy glasses!



Cafe Sci at Carnegie Science Center.


Recorded December 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


Light Up the Sky with Stars

December 12, 2016


Light Up the Sky with Stars


Diane Turnshek

Lecturer, Author, & Astronomer

How far do you have to travel to see the stars clearly? Join lecturer, author, and astronomer Diane Turnshek as she discusses how light pollution not only prevents us from living under a sky bright with stars, but also negatively impacts human health and the environment. Turnshek will examine how innovative science and technology can reverse this steady creep of sky glow, allowing us to view the same star-filled sky that all past generations did.

Diane Turnshek is a lecturer in the Department of Physics at Carnegie Mellon University and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh. She has published hard science fiction with a focus on space colonization and first contact. Her love of both astronomy and science fiction led her to crew the Mars Desert Research Station near Bryce Canyon, Utah in 2012, where she turned her attention to dark sky advocacy. Her fight against light pollution has taken many forms, including giving a TEDxPittsburgh talk. Turnshek is also a 2015 Dark Sky Defender award recipient, recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association for her contribution to light pollution mitigation.


Recorded Monday, December 5, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


The Science of Soccer Strength

November 18, 2016

Michael Whiteman
Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Director of Sports Science


The Science of Soccer Strength

Join Pittsburgh Riverhounds Director of Sports Science Michael Whiteman as he discusses truths and misconceptions about soccer athletes, and how energy systems develop in elite players. During his talk, Whiteman will discuss the various strengthening and endurance exercises soccer players go through to train their muscles and bodies for sports performance.


Whiteman is a Pittsburgh native and holds a certified qualification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Whiteman has trained various professional athletes including NFL players Antonio Brown and Terrelle Pryor. He has been the strength and conditioning coach for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USLPro soccer league since 2011. Whiteman also is the Director of Sports Science for the Riverhounds Development Academy.


Recorded Monday, November 7, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA. 


In the Blink of an Eye: The Neuroscience of Baseball

October 7, 2016

Timothy Verstynen

Carnegie Mellon University
"Neuroscience of Baseball"


In the Blink of an Eye: The Neuroscience of Baseball

How does the architecture of the brain allow us to learn complex skills and make fast decisions? What parts of neuroanatomy come into play when a person is trying to stop a 100-mph fastball with a piece of wood? Join Carnegie Mellon University Assistant Professor Timothy Verstynen as he discusses the brain science behind America's favorite pastime.

Verstynen is an assistant professor in Psychology at the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition at Carnegie Mellon University.


Recorded Monday, October 3, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


Old Drugs, New Tricks: Putting an End to Traditional Eye Drops

September 20, 2016

Old Drugs, New Tricks: Putting an End to Traditional Eye Drops


Morgan Fedorchak

Ophthalmic Biomaterials Laboratory


Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, expected to affect up to 3 million Americans by 2020. One of the main risk factors in glaucoma is an unsafe increase in intraocular pressure (IOP).  IOP reduction in patients with glaucoma is typically accomplished through the administration of medicated eye drops several times daily, the difficult and frequent nature of which contributes to patient adherence rates estimated to be as low as 30%.  Newer drug delivery methods for glaucoma aimed at improving patient adherence require clinician administration of invasive injections or implants. This talk will encompass the rational design and testing of a variety of controlled release systems for delivery of ocular drugs as well as the many significant considerations for translating these technologies to the clinic where they may benefit patients. In particular, discussion will focus on our team’s development of a completely unique formulation that provides one month of therapeutic levels of glaucoma medication from a noninvasive eye drop. We believe that this new treatment method may have the ability to overcome the issues inherent to traditional eye drop medication while avoiding the need for more invasive techniques.


Morgan Fedorchak is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Chemical Engineering, and Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Pittsburgh and the director of the Ophthalmic Biomaterials Laboratory. She attended Carnegie Mellon University where she obtained her B.S. in both Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering in 2006. She later earned her PhD in bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 under Dr. William Federspiel studying hemofiltration and medical devices. Subsequently, she was awarded a fellowship from the Fox Center for Vision Restoration to participate in a collaboration between Dr. Steve Little and Dr. Joel Schuman as a postdoctoral researcher in March of 2011. This work formed the basis for the development of a patent pending drug delivery system for glaucoma that was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal. Her research is currently supported by the National Eye Institute, the Cystinosis Research Foundation, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Medical Innovation, and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.

Recorded Monday, September 12, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


From River to Tap: Examining Local Water Quality

August 11, 2016

From River to Tap: Examining Local Water Quality


Gina Cyprych

Environmental Compliance Coordinator
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority

Water: We drink it every day. But have you ever stopped to think about just exactly where your water comes from and how it’s treated? Join Gina Cyprych, Acting Chief Water Quality Officer at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, as she discusses how Pittsburgh’s drinking water is captured from the Allegheny River and treated. The Authority must ensure that the highest quality water is reaching each person, but with the many competing regulations a water utility must uphold, how do they maintain simultaneous compliance given a variety of circumstances?

Cyprych has worked at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority for the past 11 years. She received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management from Columbia Southern University.


Recorded Monday, August 1, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


Spiders: Myths and Facts

April 5, 2016

Jonathan Pruitt

Assistant Professor
Department of Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology
University of California - Santa Barbara


Spiders: Myths and Facts

 Follow along with the slideshow here.

What’s it like to live in a spider society? Join University of California Santa Barbara Assistant Professor Jonathan Pruitt as he discusses "Spiders: Myths and Facts."

Sociality is rare in spiders. Pruitt’s research concerns one species of spider that lives in social groups and how social interactions between the arachnids impacts their behavior and environment.

Pruitt’s research explores the ecological consequences of individual variation in behavior for individuals, populations, and communities. Is aggressive behavior rewarded? What mix of docile and aggressive individuals is optimal for a community?

Pruitt’s research considers the role of individual differences in patterns of task allocation within societies, and how these patterns impact the long-term performance of groups in different environments. In non-social systems, Pruitt looks at how variation in behavior impacts species interactions across different ecological niches, in both terrestrial and marine systems.

Pruitt performed his graduate studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He then conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Davis. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California Santa Barbara.


Recorded Monday, April 4, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


Bridges: Connecting Researchers, Big Data, and High-Performance Computing

March 11, 2016

Nick Nystrom

Director of Strategic Applications, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center


Bridges: Connecting Researchers, Big Data, and High-Performance Computing


Inferring the causes of disease, tracking the survival of the human race, and enabling natural-language searches of video are just a few of the topics being tackled right here in Pittsburgh at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. Join us as we explore how the center uses big data and data analytics to better understand challenging problems.

As the center's Director of Strategic Applications, Dr. Nick Nystrom and his team develop hardware and software architectures to enable groundbreaking research, engaging in research and collaborations across diverse disciplines. At Café Sci, Nystrom will discuss researchers' use of PSC's newest resources, including "Bridges."

"Bridges" is a data-intensive high-performance computing (HPC) system designed to empower new research communities, bring desktop convenience to HPC, expand campus access, and help researchers facing challenges in Big Data to work more intuitively. Funded by a $9.65 million National Science Foundation award, Bridges consists of three tiers of large-shared-memory resources, dedicated nodes for database, web, and data transfer purposes, high-performance shared and distributed data storage, powerful new CPUs and GPUs, and the new, uniquely powerful interconnection network. From a software perspective, Bridges supports widely-used data analytic software such as R, Java, Python, and MATLAB, integration of Spark and Hadoop with HPC, and virtualization.

Nystrom will discuss the importance of converging Big Data and HPC and how Bridges is bringing HPC to nontraditional users and research communities.

Nystrom is also a research physicist in the Department of Physics at Carnegie Mellon University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, Math, and Physics and a PhD in Computational Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh.


Recorded on Monday, March 7, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


If You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist: Connections of Air and Climate Pollution with Policy Decisions

February 2, 2016

Neil Donahue

Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering

Director Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies at Carnegie Mellon University


If  You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist: Connections of Air and Climate Pollution with Policy Decisions


The effects of climate change, air pollution, and efforts by leaders to address these effects are pressing issues that pervade recent news-cycles – from climate talks in Paris to the increase in “red alert” days in Beijing. Dr. Neil Donahue will discuss “If  You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist: Connections of Air and Climate Pollution with Policy Decisions.”

Donahue is a Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University; and a Science & Engineering Ambassador with the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering. He directs the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research.

Climate pollution is mostly invisible and diffuse. More traditional air pollution — haze and smog — is visible and localized.  However, both cause a world of hurt, and addressing them together may be a key to making progress on both.  The “social costs” of pollution can be very high, with the costs of climate pollution distributed over the globe and over generations, while the social costs of air pollution bourn locally and immediately, including contribution to millions of deaths every year.

Donahue will discuss the role of three current research activities towards enabling decision-makers to consider the costs and benefits of policies that could affect both pollution types.  The research includes fundamental experiments about fine atmospheric particles at CERN, the particle-physics research institute in Geneva; a collaboration to model the life-cycle of carbon in regional pollution in China; and development of a decision support tool for city policy makers to compare policy “intervention” options in terms of costs and effectiveness for climate and air-pollution benefits.

Donahue seeks to understand how Earth's atmosphere works and how humans affect the atmosphere. He strives to help all graduating CMU students understand the climate problem and to apply their outstanding problem-solving skills to solutions of this enormous challenge.

Donahue’s research focuses on the behavior of organic compounds in Earth's atmosphere. The world experts in his research group study what happens to compounds from both natural sources and human activity when they are emitted into the atmosphere. Recently, the group’s research has focused on the origin and transformations of very small organic particles, which play a critical role in climate change and human health. Particles scatter light, influence clouds, and kill roughly 50,000 people each year in the U.S., mostly of heart attacks.

Donahue earned a degree in physics from Brown University and a doctorate in meteorology from MIT. He spent nine years as a research scientist at Harvard before returning to Pittsburgh in 2000.


Recorded on Monday, February 1, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.