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.


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.


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.


Expeditions and Species Discovery in the Amazon

December 9, 2015
Jose Padial

William and Ingrid Rea Assistant Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles
Carnegie Museum of Natural History


Expeditions and Species Discovery in the Amazon


For centuries, the Amazon has captivated naturalists, including a Pittsburgh-based scientist who has lead expeditions to tropical forests and discovered fascinating new species of amphibians and reptiles. Dr. Jose Padial, the William and Ingrid Rea Assistant Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, will discuss “Expeditions and species discovery in the Amazon”.

The Amazon has been a top destination for naturalists attracted by the diversity of life forms occurring in these forests and by the endless possibilities for discovery. Most species of birds, mammals, frogs, fishes, and invertebrates known in the world live in the tropical rainforests of the Amazon. Still, many areas of the Amazon remain poorly explored, and scientists working in these areas are discovering dozens of new species each year.

Padial will explain how he organized expeditions to the tropical forests of the Andes and the Amazon in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia that uncovered new species of amphibians and reptiles. These discoveries involved traveling to remote locations in the jungle and using scientific methods such as comparative anatomy, DNA barcoding, or bioacustics. His discoveries are helping us to understand the enormous diversity of life forms in the Amazon.

Padial, the William and Ingrid Rea Assistant Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, focuses on the systematics of amphibians and reptiles. He earned his PhD and bachelor’s degree in biology at University of Granada in Spain. He also studied zoology at Ruprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg, Germany, and at Institüt für Zoologie of the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg, Germany.

The video mentioned during the talk shows daily at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Earth Theater. It will be linked here when it becomes available in its finished form online

Recorded on Monday, December 7, 2015 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

Rain, Rivers, and Resources: How Watersheds Change Drinking Water

November 12, 2015

Jeanne M. VanBriesen
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University




Rain, Rivers, and Resources: How Watersheds Change Drinking Water


Follow along with the slide show here.

How do everyday choices impact the water supply? Carnegie Mellon University professor and Carnegie Science Award winner Dr. Jeanne M. VanBriesen will discuss her research in ““Rain, Rivers, and Resources: How Watersheds Change Drinking Water” on Monday, Nov. 9, from 7 – 9 pm, at Carnegie Science Center.


Rivers teem with fish and plants, offer a space for recreation, and provide the source of the water we drink. Rain water, on its way to rivers, runs across watersheds. Watersheds are land surfaces that house activities such as mining, farming, producing electricity, and building homes. These activities pose a challenge to maintaining high quality water for ecosystems, recreation, and potable water supply. VanBriesen will talk about engineering systems that manage the quality and quantity of water resources. She’ll discuss how the choices people make around energy resources in our watersheds affect the options to treat drinking water.


VanBriesen, who serves on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, is the Duquesne Light Company Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research is in environmental systems, including detection of biological agents in water systems and impacts of energy extraction. 


She earned her bachelor’s degree in education and her master’s and doctorate degrees in civil engineering from Northwestern University. She is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Delaware and has served on the board of the Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors. Earlier this year, VanBriesen was awarded the Environmental Award in the Carnegie Science Awards program for her water quality research.

Recorded Monday, November 9, 2015 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

Checking the World’s Software for Exploitable Bugs

October 6, 2015

David Brumley

President & Director
Carnegie Mellon Univeristy’s CyLab


Checking the World's Software for Exploitable Bugs

To Carnegie Mellon University’s David Brumley, hacking is “not something just bad guys do.” Brumley, a professor and director of the CyLab Institute at Carnegie Mellon University will discuss the important science behind hacking at Carnegie Science Center’s next Café Scientifique on Monday, Oct. 5, from 7 – 9 pm.

Brumley and his team at Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab (cyber security lab) envision a world in which software is automatically checked for exploitable bugs, giving people the ability to trust their computers. The demand for cybersecurity professionals is growing, and Carnegie Mellon University is working to train students interested in the field.

Brumley is an associate professor who focuses on software security, with appointments in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the Computer Science Department.

He is the faculty mentor for the CMU Hacking Team Plaid Parliament of Pwning (PPP), which is ranked internationally as one of the top teams in the world. Brumley’s honors include a 2010 NSF CAREER award, a 2010 United States Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from President Obama, the highest award in the U.S. for early career scientists, and a 2013 Sloan Foundation award. Brumley is the 2015 winner of the Carnegie Science Award in the University/Post-Secondary Educator category. He was lauded for recognizing the need for novel approaches to STEM education, leading him to spearhead picoCTF, a national cyber security game and contest targeted at exciting young minds about computer security.

Brumley attended the University of Northern Colorado for his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Stanford University for his master’s degree in computer science, and, most recently, CMU for his PhD in computer science. At Stanford, he worked as a computer security officer, solving thousands of computer security incidents in a four-year span.


Recorded on Monday, October 5, 2015 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


CATTfish and Flamingo, a new way to measure water quality from CMU

September 17, 2015

Dave Speer

President & Co-Founder
MellonHead Labs


CATTfish and Flamingo, a new way to measure water quality from CMU

Why does water quality matter to you? Carnegie Mellon University start-up MellonHead Labs will explain water quality issues and what part can we can play in the water economy.

Dave Speer, president and co-founder of MellonHead Labs will speak about: Water quality issues facing Pittsburgh and the nation, how CMU is involved and water and environmental programs, how these programs function and are supported/funded, and the future of water quality monitoring, technology, and IoT (internet of things).

CATTfish was created by the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. The CATTfish system provides a simple and easy way to track water quality at home.

In 2014, a new venture, MellonHead Labs, was formed to bring this innovative environmental sensing product to market. The sensor is used by both citizens and industry to track water quality changes over long periods of time and large geographic areas. Cloud-based visualization of large data sets allows easy interpretation of results.

Speer is a fourth-generation Pittsburgher who attended University of Delaware for his undergraduate degree, George Washington University for graduate school, and Carnegie Mellon University for his business launch and start-up founding.

Recorded on Monday, September 14, 2015 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


“Wily Land Snails of Pennsylvania: Where Do They Live and Which Are Rare?”

August 17, 2015

Dr. Timothy Pearce

Assistant Curator & Head, Section of Mollusks
Carnegie Museum of Natural History


"Wily Land Snails of Pennsylvania:
Where Do They Live and Which Are Rare?"

Follow along with the slideshow HERE.

A local scientist's work is dramatically increasing what we know about Pennsylvania's 129 land snail species. For the Pennsylvania Land Snail Atlas Project, Dr. Timothy Pearce collected 17,472 records of Pennsylvania land snails from modern field work and museum specimens, documenting thousands of new county records. Many minute species are now known to be widespread, although they previously seemed to be rare. Dr. Pearce, assistant curator and head of the section of mollusks at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, will discuss his work in, "Wily Land Snails of Pennsylvania: Where Do They Live and Which Are Rare?" at Café Scientifique.

Dr. Pearce gained an important historical perspective on ecology while working toward a master's degree in snail paleontology at University of California at Berkeley, then he continued studying snail ecology for a PhD at University of Michigan. During a year-long post-doctoral study in Madagascar, he helped find more than 600 undescribed land snail species. During his first curator job at the Delaware Museum, he was awarded that institution's first National Science Foundation grant. His current research at Carnegie Museum of Natural History ecological snail studies in the northeastern and northwestern regions of the United States and in Colombia, South America.


Recorded Monday, August 10th, 2015 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.


Cafe Sci: “Solid-State Lighting: Energy-Efficient Alternative?”

March 11, 2015

Solid-State Lighting: Energy-Efficient Alternative?

Professor Robert F. Davis

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Carnegie Mellon University

In the future, when we flip a light switch, could it turn on a solid-state light, rather than an incandescent or fluorescent bulb?

Incandescent and fuel-based lamps convert less than 5 perfect of the energy they consume into visible light; the remainder emerges as heat. Fluorescent lamps achieve a conversion efficiency of about 30 percent. Each is an engine for converting the earth’s energy resources mostly into waste heat, pollution, and greenhouse gases. The increasingly precious energy resources and the significant threat of climate change demand that we reduce the energy and environmental cost of artificial lighting.

Solid-state lighting is the direct conversion of electricity to visible white light using semiconductor materials and light emitting diodes. It has the potential to be the much-needed energy efficient technology of the future. Currently being tested in some environments, solid-state lighting needs more research, engineering, and technological development to increase efficiency, lower its heat generation, and achieve a light color that’s accurate and pleasing to the human eye.

Robert F. Davis is John and Clare Bertucci Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. He received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. His research interests include: growth and characterization of wide band gap semiconductor thin films and devices; growth and characterization of chemical sensors; and atomic layer deposition of inorganic materials. He has edited or co-edited seven books, authored or co-authored more than 270 chapters in edited proceedings or in books, published more than 400 peer reviewed papers in archival Journals and given more than 170 invited presentations.

Recorded Monday, March 9th 2015 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA


Cafe Scientifique: “Smart Traffic Signals”

February 3, 2015

Dr. Stephen F. Smith

Research professor in the Robotics Institute and Director of the Intelligent Coordination and Logistics Laboratory
Carnegie Mellon University


Smart Traffic Signals

Traffic congestion in United States metropolitan areas is an increasing problem, now estimated to cost travelers $121 billion annually in lost time and fuel consumption, and to release 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. In this talk, Dr. Stephen F. Smith will describe recent research aimed at addressing this problem through smart traffic signals. A smart traffic signal perceives approaching traffic in real time and dynamically allocates green light time to move all current traffic through the intersection as efficiently as possible. Signal plans are coordinated with neighboring smart signals. Smith will summarize how this technology works, present results obtained from an initial experimental deployment of smart traffic signals in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and discuss future opportunities for smart signal systems to exploit emerging connected vehicle technology (which will shortly enable direct communication between traffic signals and vehicles) to enhance the safety and mobility of urban travelers.

Smith is a research professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where he is director of the Intelligent Coordination and Logistics Laboratory. Smith's research focuses on the theory and practice of next-generation technologies for planning, scheduling, coordination, and optimization. For the past several years, he has directed the SURTRAC (Smart URban TRAffic Control) adaptive traffic signal control project, which has developed a decentralized system for real-time optimization of urban traffic flows. Current research with SURTRAC focuses on optimization of traffic flows involving passenger vehicles, buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists, and on integration of smart signal control with connected vehicle technology.


Recorded Monday, February 2, 2015 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA