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2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Conference – “Why Science Matters”

In lieu of class meetings, students selected from the following sessions. Mandatory attendance requirements was set by each faculty (FYI: every student must attend no less than two talks).  Registration for individual sessions was required due to space constraints. Registration is now closed.  

Thank you to our 2018 Speakers

Hudson River Ecotoxicity
Frances Belmonte PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Olin 301,11:00AM and 2:00PM
Pollution in the Hudson River has been well documented. From 1947 to 1977, General Electric facilities located on the Upper Hudson released polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the river. In 1983, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the lower 200 miles of the Hudson River a U.S. Federal Superfund site because of PCB contamination. Since then, the adverse effects from the pollution, particularly in Hudson River fish species, have been studied extensively. One such species is the Atlantic tomcod, which has been a useful fish model for assessing Hudson River contaminants. Ongoing studies of the Hudson River as well as cleanup efforts have led to habitat restoration and an increasingly well-informed public, all of which are necessary for protecting the Hudson River.
Fluids and Biology - an Intersection of Engineering and Science
Clayton Byers

Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
PhD Candidate, Princeton University
Olin LC 208, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
Fluid flows are all around us, covering and involving all aspects of life. From the flow of blood through your veins to the trade winds carrying dust and pollen across oceans, we interact with fluid flows on a daily basis. The biological world is heavily influenced by, and heavily influences the flow of fluids. While the study of fluid dynamics often concerns itself with solving mathematically intense problems in fundamental setups, we find that simple explanations lie in these interactions between biology and fluid flows. This talk will cover a range of topics, from the simple to complex, the micro-scale (bacteria) to macro-scale (oceans), and the theoretical to the realizable.


The Science of Sleep and Wakefulness
Speakers: Bel Casivant MSN, ANP, Ilona Snyder MSN, FNP, Andrea Provan MSN, FNP
Health Services, Bard College
Olin 202, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
The biology of sleep has intrigued humans for centuries. The historian A. Roger Ekirch has uncovered references to sleep patterns in sources from Homer to Plutarch to John Locke. Maslow included sleep at the base of his 1943 Hierarchy of Needs as a fundamental physical requirement for human survival. More recent scientific research has begun to identify the biochemistry of sleep, and the short and long term effects of sleep deprivation on the body. We will explore what happens to our brains when we sleep and when we do not sleep enough, and discuss how much sleep is necessary. We will describe the current research on the biology of sleep and wakefulness, and examine the effects of drugs (prescribed, borrowed, over the counter, and recreational) and technology on the quality of sleep. Finally, we will discuss how one can maximize on the quality of sleep you get, what to do when you cannot fall asleep, or when you simply do not have enough time to get the sleep you need.

Common birth interventions and the neonate microbiome: effects of home vs. hospital birth
Joan Combellick​ CNM, MPH, PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Midwife, Hudson River Healthcare
OlinLC 120, 9:30AM
Background: Hospitalization for delivery is considered a foundation of obstetric care. In the U.S. more than 99% of deliveries occur in the hospital.  Currently there is limited investigation of how the neonatal microbiome develops in the absence of all interventions, including hospitalization for delivery.
Aim: To characterize the intestinal microbiota of newborns following home and hospital delivery and to investigate differences related to hospitalization during the first month of life.
Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted to compare breast-fed vaginally delivered infants born at home (n=10) or in the hospital (n=10). Consecutive sampling was performed on infant feces at 7 time points from delivery through day 28. The V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene of 212 samples was sequenced using Illumina MiSeq platform. Sequences were analyzed using the QIIME pipeline.
Conclusions: Hospitalization for birth alters the gut microbiota of neonates. The gut microbiome differed significantly between home and hospital born neonates (PERMANOVA p=<0.005), with babies born at home showing higher colonization of normal organisms ( Bacteroides, and Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, and Lactobacillus,) at one or more time points after the first week of birth, and lower proportions of Clostridium (Day 21), Enterobacteriaceae family (Day 28). More research is needed to determine the health significance of these differences. These results are relevant to health care policies that support home birth in low-risk women and may suggest a restructuring of the hospital environment to more closely resemble the home for the normal, physiologic and evolutionarily-refined process of birth.  

Microhydro Power from the Saw Kill
Matthew Deady PhD
Citizen Science Faculty and Professor of Physics, and
Director of the Physics Program, Bard College
Hegeman 107, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
Utilizing a $1,000,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a group at Bard College, including undergraduate physics research students, is investigating the feasibility of installing small hydroelectric generators on Bard’s two dams on the Saw Kill.  The studies underway include engineering, environmental, economic, community reception, and regulatory aspects of microhydropower.  This presentation will be both a progress report and an articulation of the larger goals of the program.

The Contemporary Politics of Ancient Atomism
William Dixon PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor, Political Studies and
Director of the Language and Thinking Program, Bard College
Olin 301, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
This talk will explore the ethical and political concerns of ancient atomism, with an eye toward thinking through their implications for contemporary politics. Most commonly associated with the Greek philosophers Democritus (c.460-370 BCE) and Epicurus (c.341-270 BCE), and the Roman poet Lucretius (99-55 BCE), the atomists held that all reality was fundamentally matter and void, and that this fact held crucial implications for individual well-being and political justice. Central to the practice of natural science, according to the ancient atomists, is the rejection of what they called “Religious Fear,” which they argued could be achieved through the systematic contemplation of nature. We will critically engage some of the major elements of ancient materialism and discuss how this tradition might inform contemporary debates over climate change, democracy, and socio-economic inequality.

Fighting for Life: A Public Health Revolutionary in Early 20th century New York
Helen Epstein PhD
Visiting Professor of Human Rights and Global Public Health, Bard College
Albee 106, 2:00PM
Meet Sara Josephine Baker, a public health pioneer who graduated from America’s first medical school for women and went on to create New York City’s Bureau of Child Health. At the time, thousands of babies died every year from killer diseases like measles, pneumonia and diarrhea.  Baker's programs saved 90,000 children between 1908 and 1920, decades before the discovery of most modern vaccines and antibiotics. How did she do it? 

Climate Change: Where We Are Headed and How to Change the Future
Eban Goodstein PhD
Director, Graduate Programs in Sustainability, Bard College
ALB B102, 11:00AM and 2:00pm
The most astonishing and under-reported fact of the last three years is that the planet has heated up half a degree F.  At the same time, dramatic declines in the cost of renewable energy have opened up a pathway to dramatic reductions in global warming pollution. What will the future look like if we don’t change course? And how can policy tools and business strategies create a different future? This talk will consider the latest science and most effective solutions to the civilizational challenge of climate change.

Farmers, Antibiotics and Zombies: The symbiotic relationships between ants and microbes
Neil Greene PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School
Hegeman 106, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
Symbiosis is defined as the interaction between two organisms and can manifest in many distinct ways depending on the nature of the relationship. Mutualism is one such symbiotic relationship that refers to a beneficial interaction whereby both individuals act in a way that is advantageous to the other. In contrast, parasitism refers to an interaction that disproportionately benefits one individual at the expense of the other. In this talk, I will describe examples of mutualism and parasitism by focusing on the interactions between certain species of ants, fungi and bacteria. In the first, I will describe the mutualism that exists between leafcutter ants and specific types of fungus. The ants provide nutrients and a hospitable environment within the ant colony for the fungus to grow and, in turn, the fungus acts as a food source for the ants. Furthermore, the ants utilize bacteria (Pseudonocardia species) that produce toxic chemical compounds in order to protect their fungal crop from other disease-causing microbes. Thus, this represents a multi-faceted symbiosis between the ants, bacteria and fungus. In the second example, I will discuss how a parasitic fungus (Ophiocordyceps species) infects its ant host and dramatically changes the ant’s behavior in order to complete its lifecycle. Through these examples, I hope to introduce the fundamental concepts of symbiosis and highlight the complexity and beauty of interactions between the macro- and microscopic worlds.

Growing human cells outside of human bodies: From HeLa cells to Organoids
Katie Harris PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Chicago
Olin 203, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
Human bodies are built from trillions of cells. These little building blocks of life are irresistibly fascinating. How do they know what jobs they should be doing? How do they know where in the body they should be living? How do they use and store energy? In order to answer these questions, scientists study human cells outside the human body, where they can closely examine them. It took decades to find a way to keep human cells alive outside a human body. In this talk, I’ll introduce you to the scientific challenges that researchers met and the accompanying ethical challenges that they have sometimes failed in the quest to study cells. We’ll learn about the story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells, without her consent, became the first immortal cell line. From there, we will follow the remarkable scientific advances in growing human cells, ending with cutting edge technology that allows scientists to grow miniature organs, or organized groups of cells, in the laboratory from a tiny piece of human tissue. In addition to the uncountable number of medical advances that have come from this line of research, understanding the complexity of the cells making up your own body and the biological world around you is a valuable and awe-inspiring experience.

There’s a Microbe for That?!
Fatemah Hermes PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Adjunct Faculty, Biology, Parkland College
OlinLC 118, 12:30PM
Microbes lead diverse and versatile lives. Some thrive in extreme environments, such as the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, or the freezing arctic ice caps. Others live in temperate soils and marine environments, or in and on other living organisms. Wherever they’re found, microbes perform essential biochemical reactions, some of which we’ve been able to hijack for our benefits. Think of cheese, yogurt, bread, pickles and beer … all brought to us by microbes! We continue to study microbial metabolism in the hopes of either finding or coercing microbes to help us solve our modern day problems. Can we get microbes to make clean endless energy for us, or degrade pollutants, or produce treatments for tough diseases like cancer? In this talk we’ll count down to the coolest, strangest, weirdest microbes that we know of. You’ll be left wondering what else is out there!     
The Search For Novel Anticancer and Antibacterial Drugs
Swapan Jain PhD
Citizen Science Faculty and Associate Professor of Chemistry and
Director, Chemistry and Biochemistry Program, Bard College
Olin 101, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
Research in our laboratory focuses on the interactions of small molecules (pharmaceutical drugs) to DNA and RNA in humans and bacteria.  Our overarching goal is to test the effectiveness of potential drugs against cancer as well as bacterial infections.  In this interactive presentation, I will discuss some of our recent findings in the following two areas.
Anticancer drugs: The recent design of metal compounds having combinations of ruthenium, iron, and platinum metals is motivated by the prospect of incorporating antineoplastic and antimetastatic activities into a single compound. We have compared the efficacy of novel metal complexes in their targeting of biologically relevant RNA in humans.  Our work shows that these metal compounds bind to RNA in a sequence specific manner and inhibit vital processes such as transcription and translation.
Antibacterial drugs: Just like a light switch, certain RNA molecules in bacteria can also function as an ON / OFF switch when a small drug binds to them.  These drugs can turn ON or OFF specific RNA functions by changing RNA structure.  I will discuss the synthesis of these drugs and their interactions with a Gram Positive bacterium called Bacillus subtilis.

Science Trek: To Know What No Human Has Known Before
Deborah Keszenman MD PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Professor of Biophysics, CENUR Noroeste, Salto, Uruguay
RKC 102, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
Science is a method and a field of knowledge that empowers mankind, as said in Star Trek “to go where no man has gone before.” As a child, I was motivated by this television series and it became my dream to understand the world around me in a more profound way. The four pillars of this series are exploration, discovery, diversity, and collaboration. I was especially inspired by Dr. McCoy and his gadgets. I followed that inspiration to Medical School and to receive an MD. During my studies, I realized how widespread science truly is. In order to know more about the world around me, understanding more about science was needed. Science is in everything; from tanning at the beach, to cancer treatment, even in space. With this mindset, that science is the key to understanding the natural world, I delved more into scientific studies and received a Masters and PhD in Biophysics in Uruguay, specializing in DNA damage and repair. These studies involved damage caused by radiation, which was of interest to me but also to NASA and the Department of Energy. At Brookhaven National Lab we studied the biological effects of charged particle radiation, that has applications not only space travel but also in cancer treatments. At the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) we researched the effects of space radiation on DNA. This is very important work that has led to breakthroughs in the medical field as well as in space research. Radiation can even be of impact to the food we eat. Now, I am in Salto, Uruguay studying natural products and the impact of UV radiation on biological system of interest in agriculture. Science is a trek that has yet to finish.  

Using Poop to Cure Sepsis, and Other Rousing Stories from Grad School
Sangman Kim

Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
PhD Candidate, Immunology, University of Chicago

Olin 202, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
Sepsis, or organ dysfunction caused by an over-exuberant immune response against infection, is the most common cause of death in the modern intensive care unit, and the costliest medical condition in the United States. Despite considerable efforts to develop treatments and clarify its underlying biology, mortality rates persist and the prevalence of sepsis is reportedly increasing, making the discovery and validation of novel therapies imperative.
Employing two clinically-relevant mouse models of sepsis, we demonstrate that merely by transplanting feces from healthy mice (fecal microbiota transplant), we can reverse the course of otherwise lethal sepsis. During this talk, I will detail the mechanisms behind how fecal microbiota transplant can drive the systemic clearance of pathogens, and I will elucidate some of the joys and perils that await the intrepid individuals that are considering graduate studies in science.

Arsenic and Old Lace: How the Birth of Forensic Science Drove Murder-By-Poison Out of Favor
Alexis Lainoff
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
PhD Candidate, Oral and Craniofacial Science, University of California

RKC 100, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
Prior to the early 1800’s, it was very difficult to detect toxic substances in a cadaver. For this reason, murder by poison was often undetectable, and poison was a popular killing implement that could be employed without suspicion. The burgeoning field of chemistry would hinder the ease of this particular form of homicide. Chemists isolated and identified chemical elements, compiling them in the ever-expanding Periodic Table of Elements, and determining the products that different combinations yielded. Although the earliest chemists were not on the hunt for poisons specifically, the quest for detection methods soon found its demand. Metallic poisons such as arsenic were the first such toxins for which detection techniques were developed, starting in the 1830’s. The advancing field of chemistry developed not only means of detecting old poisons, but also a deadly assortment of new ones. An arms race emerged: Old tricks of the trade were quickly relinquished, and modern ones rapidly adopted. Plant alkaloid-based poisons rose in popularity, which led to a new focus on how to identify them in corpses. By the late 1800’s, toxicology had emerged as a new, increasingly significant aid to criminal investigations.
The early twentieth century brought new challenges for the first forensic scientists of the United States as industrial innovation produced a novel array of exotic lethal compounds. Virtually every industry involved yielding poisonous compounds in its production process. These poisons were not always unfortunate byproducts, to be removed once their lethal capacity was discovered. The US government produced some toxic chemicals for the express purpose of poisoning. World War I saw the inception of poison gas as a weapon of war for the first time. During Prohibition, patrons of speakeasies rolled a dangerous set of dice with every cocktail, as the illicit derivation of alcohol from industrial sources was partially enforced through the government-sponsored addition of poison these compounds as a warning to bootleggers and drinkers alike. This was the historical context in which forensic chemistry first emerged as an established science.  

Science as a Method for Everyday Life
Heather Lawrence, MEd
Education Administrator, NYC Department of Education
Olin 203, 2:00PM
Science is essential to supporting individuals as they understand themselves and their place in the world. Science instruction is CENTRAL to developing inquiry and self-efficacy. A functioning science classroom is a place where students build social skills, responsibility, resilience, ​and reflection. Without science education students' knowledge of the natural world and themselves is limited to two dimensional guesses or assumptions about how the world work.  My goal in our conversation is to outline concretely how science supports child and adolescent development and propose simple questions and daily questions to bring the experience and beauty of science in to one's daily life at every age.
Heather L. Lawrence is an Education Administrator for the NYC Department of Education.  A Brooklyn native, Heather is excited to bring her passion for schools and her commitment to children in New York State. She has served students in New York City Public Schools for 20 years. As a Curriculum Developer; Staff Developer; a Developer of New Schools and School Leaders; a Special Education teacher; Programmer; and Principal, Heather regularly leveraged the strengths of students, staff and systems to capitalize on every asset. She is excited to use data and identify opportunities for the Brooklyn South Field Support Center to continue differentiating services and address district needs. She is a contributor, strategist and collaborator committed to generating extraordinary results for children and families nationally.

How did I get here? The story behind my journey in science
Sonny T M Lee PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago
Olin 205, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
I have a secret. I was a business graduate, and worked in the advertising industry, but I never contemplated a career in science. I want to take this opportunity to tell you about my personal journey through science.
The beginning of my journey into science started at the end of my creative career. I remember feeling unchallenged, and was looking for directions about my future. There wasn’t an epiphany, no signs – it was just a simple step I took one summer, and I was convinced that I wanted to become a scientist. My motivations were very simple—I love the process of science!
I’m currently working on microbiome projects using two different model systems – the coral and gut microbiome. I used fecal microbiota transplantation to study the mechanism of succession and competition in the microbial world. Due to my past experiences, I can
communicate my research to a wide audience – from scientists to my parents, helping people understand issues that we are experiencing in our world today.
Ultimately, I want each of you to understand that science really isn’t one dimensional nor is it directional —you can do so many things with a career in science. Whether it be teaching, research, or saving the world, a career in science has a spot for each and everyone of you!

Gentle Giants
Camila Lopez-Anido PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Postdoctoral Scholar, Biology Department, Stanford University
Olin 201, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
Plants surround us, and our very existence relies on them. Yet, we often take plants for granted. In this talk, we will explore how plants influence the global climate, and how the global climate influences plants. Along with sharing a bit about my research on stem cells and plant development, I will discuss unique features of plants that make them extraordinary organisms.

Imprisonment by Big Data
Mohammad Mohammad PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Adjunct Professor, Le Moyne College and Cayuga Community College
Hegeman 102, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
You will be soon converted to data to better understand you. You will know your genome and its secrets, your proteome and its revelations, your epigenome and its untold stories, and your blood and its warnings.  You will know that you are a habitat for foes and friends. Others will know about things about you that you may not know; like your unfiltered, unseen behavior and beyond. This new frontier of knowledge is due to advancements in tools that generate big data about you (extremely large data sets).  
I will explore with you a wide range of topics related to big data, from its acquisition to its use and potentially misuse. But, I will focus on recent advances in big data science and its impact on healthcare, and biomedical research. Finally, as other new established sciences, I will present diverse challenges, current debates, and enormous opportunities within this newly emerging field. I will refer to the human genome research as an example for aforementioned points, and how the big data will eventually lead to personalized healthcare.

Play as Research: Taking Child's Play Seriously
Carol Garboden Murray
Early Childhood Specialist and Director, Abigail Lundquist Botstein Nursery School, Bard College
   Sally Chakwin, Bard '15
Campus Children's Center Preschool Teacher
Hegeman 204, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
In society, play is often contrasted with ‘work’ and characterized as a type of activity that children do because they are immature. Play is seen as something they will out grow as they become adults. However, at nursery school we see play as a highly intelligent model for scientific thinking. In this presentation we will share how viewing child's play as research has inspired a deeper appreciation for the experience and emotions that characterize learning such as curiosity, the unknown, doubt, error, confusion, joy, theory, vision, fantasy, and discovery.

How to Construct a Better Conspiracy Theory... through Citizen Science.
Daniel Newsome PhD
Citizen Science and Bard Prison Initiative Faculty, Bard College
Albee B102, 9:30AM
When it comes right down to it, we believe what we want to believe. HIV was created in a lab by some governmental or corporate organization with the objective of killing Blacks and gays. It's a relatively simple theory that enlists unknown super-powerful people who have somehow harnessed science to further their eugenic goals. The simplicity is attractive–Bad guy with a weaponized virus. It's a James Bond villain, stroking a white cat and laughing maniacally while twisting his waxed moustache. What's not to like? It also explains a lot. Exhibit A: Gay men got AIDS first. Exhibit B: Then Black men and women got it. Exhibit C: I.V. drug users got it too. Therefore: Racist bad guy[s] with a weaponized virus must be the cause. This is solid abductive reasoning. The hypothesis simply and efficiently explains the conclusion based on relevant evidence. Of course the problem with abductive reasoning is that any number of stories may fit the evidence, especially when the evidence is incomplete or has been edited with bias. Then along comes science with new evidence saying, "HIV came from African chimpanzees." What is a person to think? Can the racist-bad-guys-with-weaponized-virus theory absorb this new information? Sure. The Oral Polio Vaccine tests of the late 1950s… in Africa… grown in monkey tissue… infecting potentially hundreds of thousands of Africans. (No doubt Oliver Stone has optioned the screenplay.) Can this theory keep absorbing new information as it arises? Is there a punch line to this seemingly infinite regression? Come and see.
Beyond Code: The Changing Way We Command Computers
Keith O'Hara PhD
Associate Professor of Computer Science and
Director of the Computer Science Program, Bard College
OlinLC 118, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
Coding has been the distinctive property of electronic computers for eighty years.  The universality, economic efficiencies, and cultural pervasiveness of the modern computer all stem from this single fact: computers are programmed.  Yet, the act of programming these machines is cumbersome and error-prone; sometimes compared with spell casting or wizardry.  Although "high-level" languages were a huge leap forward for programming, other innovations enabled us to use and control computers without explicitly coding. From point-and-click graphical interfaces to recent efforts to train computers using machine learning, computer programs that improve with experience. Programs that don't need to be programmed have been a holy grail of computing. We will discuss the implications of a computer culture with those who code and those who do not.
Hands-on Horticulture*
Amy Parrella
Horticulture Supervisor/Arboretum Director, Bard College
Meet on steps in front of Olin
9:30AM Work with Bard’s Horticulture Department in our campus Arboretum. Winter is a great time to take care of our historic tree collection. Assist full time staff with tree work on the college campus.

11:00AM  Winter Tree Identification – Take a walk with Bard’s Horticulture Department staff to identify campus trees using buds, bark, berries and branches.
*Both of these activities are weather dependent – If there is a heavy snowstorm, Bard Horticulture staff will be busy plowing and shoveling campus roads and walks and won’t be able to participate on the day of the event. Registered participants will be notified via e-mail if sessions are to be canceled.
I am not a scientist, but...
Katherine Peterlin
Policy Analyst, Federal Emergency Management
Department of Homeland Security
Olin 205, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
What do the feeding habits of humpback whales, the chemical properties of ammonium nitrate, biometrics, and the dirty side of a hurricane have in common? Nothing.  Nothing at all, except that they are all things that I have had to know for work.  I am not a scientist, but throughout my professional career, science literacy, or at least the ability to understand basic principles, have helped me do my job better.  Having worked in television, national security, foreign policy, and emergency management I can say with certainty that STEM subjects are unavoidable.  This will be a conversation about the strange places science appears in public policy (space weather? check, ebola pathology? check, plate tectonics? check), doing science experiments in the office, and the fun and frustration of being well informed.  
Katherine Peterlin is a Policy Analyst for FEMA at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Prior to taking the position, she worked as a Strategic Planning Analyst for the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) at DHS advising on issues related to infrastructure protection, cyber security, and biometrics. Katherine has held several positions at DHS including roles with the Office of the Undersecretary [NPPD] and Office of the DHS Counterterrorism Coordinator, as well as working as an International Affairs Specialist focusing on multilateral affairs and the Asia/Pacific region.  She has also served as a member of the National Security Council (NSC) staff at the White House in both the Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) Directorate and the Office of Legislative Affairs.  Prior to joining the Department, she worked as an Associate Producer and Assistant Editor at the National Geographic Society.  Katherine has a B.A. in International Politics and a M.A. in Strategic Communications both from American University.  

S.E.X - Science, Exercise, and the X Factors
Darnell Pierce
Director of Residence Life, Bard College
Albee 106, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
S.E.X! I know what you're thinking, but this type of S.E.X is like no other S.E.X. That's right, this session will explore the Science behind Exercise, and all of the "X" factors that contribute to fitness and wellness. Often the "stepchild" of science, exercise science is one of the most utilized forms of science. The ways in which our bodies are stimulated and respond to exercise are vast and complex. If you're looking for a more complete understanding of S.E.X and how you can manipulate the science (and nutrition) behind your fitness and wellness endeavors, this session is for you.

Sanguine Machines
Haley Ramsey PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Hegeman 204, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
“Within there runs blood,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings, aspirations,
(Do you think they are not there because they are not express’d in parlors and lecture-rooms?) “
—Walt Whitman, I sing the Body Electric
Despite its importance and physiological diversity, little interest is given to blood; its origin, its components and their functions.  You will learn about the life of a blood cell, as it’s birthed from the blind recesses of the bone marrow into a crowded subway of vasculature. With millions of years of evolution behind them, these cells complete their daily transit with almost certain futures. While some live for years, others may live only a few days. Regardless of their defined roles within the human body, specific mutational and mechanical events may lead to their early demise.
Following an introduction to the key players in hematopoiesis, a second portion of our lecture will cover events in leukemic pathology. Learn what some of the newest therapies are for these hematopoietic diseases, and some of the groundbreaking and controversial research techniques used to study their etiology.
CRISPR/Cas9 – A Targeted Genome Editor Redesigning the Future of Molecular Biology
Lakshmi Sundararajan
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Vanderbilt University
OlinLC 115, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
Every person with access to the internet, television or even the radio has heard something about the magical tool that is CRISPR/Cas9. The efficiency of the CRISPR/Cas9 technique has redefined how we think about targeted genome editing. For a few decades now, molecular biologists have strived for a technique that can edit a genome accurately and efficiently. RNAi, Zn Finger nucleases, and TALENS are some of the techniques used widely for editing the genome. CRISPR/Cas9 is right now being used effectively to delete genes, introduce new DNA sequences, reactivate genes and control gene activity in genomes across species. CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat) utilizes Cas9, a nuclease derived from Streptococcus pyogenes that can be directed to a specific location in the genome using a single guide RNA sequence complementary to the target site. Cas9 then cleaves the DNA at a specific location making it possible to manipulate it for further use. The implications of this technique as a medical tool are insurmountable. A targeted genome editor can be used to treat various genetic disorders including cancer. However, can such a perfect tool have a darker side too? What excites us all about the CRISPR/Cas9 technique is its efficacy but if a tool is so efficient who draws the line regarding what we can use it for. Is it ethical to merely restrict this method to treating diseases or can one extend it further to change something else in our genome that we desire or dislike? And, can there be any side effects in the future due to CRISPR/Cas9 like for example can it make a gnome unstable. There are several questions, good, bad and thought provoking following the advent of this truly ‘magical’ technique of CRISPR/Cas9 that we should continue to explore to better utilize it. NOTE: 40 people may attend each session.

Space Biology
Deborah Tobiason PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Associate Professor and Chair of Biology Department, Carthage College
Olin 309, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
Space biology is an active area of research, investigating the effects of microgravity and increased radiation levels on various organisms.  Future missions to Mars and extended stays on the International Space Station necessitate investigating the impact of conditions in space on organisms such as humans, plants and microbes. For over 50 years, humans have been sent into space; yet studies of space biology were limited until the ISS began orbiting the Earth in 2000. Human research projects involving the astronauts, plant based projects and microbial based projects on the ISS will be discussed. Questions that we will explore include: Which microbes are on the ISS, how do they get there and how can microbial levels be controlled? How do the experiments conducted in space help us understand organisms here on Earth and prepare us for future extended missions in space?
Cancer and Immunity
Joanna Wardwell-Ozgo PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Postdoctoral Fellow, Emory University School of Medicine
Olin 204, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
Cancer, or uncontrolled cell growth, is a deadly and costly disease. In 2016 an estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed and an estimated 500,000 people died from cancer related deaths. In 2010, the national expenditure for cancer related care was 125 billion dollars. Despite a national push to cure cancer over 40 years ago, we still do not possess a detailed knowledge for why or how a cell becomes cancerous. Possessing this information would help to improve many aspects of cancer treatment including developing better and earlier diagnosis methods and creating more effective therapies. One aspect of cancer biology, treatment, and detection that is garnering interest is how cancer intersects with the immune system.
In this lecture we will explore three vignettes of the intersectionality of cancer and immunity including 1) cancers linked to virus infections 2) how cancer cells evade the immune system and 3) how current therapies are aimed at exploiting the immune system to fight cancer.

Potatoes and the Irish Potato Famine – An endless search for resistance?
Erin Weber PhD
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hegeman 201, 11:00AM and 2:00PM
In the mid-19th century, “the Irish (potato) famine…which killed nearly one-eighth of the entire population, was proportionally much more destructive of human life than the vast majority of famines in modern times.” (Donnelly, J. 2011. Caused by a fungal infection called Late Blight, it destroyed the potato crop across Europe, and was devastating to the 2/3 of the population for whom it was a dietary staple. While more than 150 years have passed, the same pathogen remains a scourge on the potato crop. An estimated $6.7 billion dollars is lost per year due to Late Blight. Over the years we have tried to breed new resistant potatoes. Unfortunately, new evolved strains of Late Blight have emerged in parallel. While fungicide treatment and traditionally bred cultivars are the most effective current practice, these do not equal a permanent solution. Heavy use of chemical treatments has increased the instances of fungicide-resistant strains, and traditional potato breeding has struggled to add resistance to commercial potato varieties without making a potato that no one wants to eat. One way to address these issues is genetic engineering. Recently, genetic modification has generated pathogen-resistant, commercial potato varieties.  In this talk, we will review the basics of the pathogen that caused the Irish Potato Famine and how modern agriculture practices lead to the selection of susceptible potato varieties. We will also talk about the methods and controversy surrounding the development of new resistant potatoes and prospects for the future.

Life in Weird Places
Danielle Widner
Citizen Science Faculty, Bard College and
PhD Candidate, Yale University
RKC 101, 9:30AM and 12:30PM
What are the most extreme places we see life on earth? What does that mean for the possibility of life on other planets? Come learn about organisms that survive volcanic hot springs, the arctic permafrost, deep-sea geothermal vents, and even the vacuum of space!
What does science do/what can science do for us?
Speakers​ ​Joan Combellick, CNM, MPH, PhD; and Jozsef Meszaros, JD, PhD
OlinLC 115, 12:30PM
For most of human history, experimentation has guided people in solving problems presented by the natural world. Simple trial-and-error learning made many technological innovations possible. Today, people expect solutions to problems that are often subtle, contingent, and in many cases, created by humanity itself. Moreover, the cost-benefit calculations about technologies are perpetually in flux based on cultural shifts. Panelists will discuss how and why science has become indispensable in the production of modern technologies, such as obstetric interventions, ‘mandatory’ vaccination programs, hurricane forecasting, and psychiatric drugs.
The discussion will begin with panelists describing their backgrounds. Then, they will offer a brief history of real world scientific innovations (good and bad) that they have encountered in their unique practices. Panelists will discuss impediments to integrating sound science with emerging technologies and present proposals for overcoming these obstacles, including making science more accessible and uncovering biases in the presentation of scientific evidence.

What is science literacy and why do we need it?
Speakers:  Fatemah Hermes, PhD; and Jozsef Meszaros, JD, PhD
Moderator: Conor Dempsey, MPhil
Hegeman 102, 2:00PM
Is science literacy the new literacy? Everywhere we look we are bombarded with scientific “facts” and “findings”. From biodegradable plastics, to climate change, to habits that have “been shown” to improve our memories. Is this science? Where did this unprecedented interest in science come from? To what extent do we need to understand and deal with science? Is science taking over other ideologies? Or is it the other way around? The panel will be moderated by the organizer of the New York chapter of Science for the People, a leftist science organization. Panelists will begin with discussing their relevant experiences with science literacy, inviting audience members to offer their own accounts. The conversation will then progress through the various ways non-scientists receive scientific knowledge (popular science books, movies, Ted talks, Citizen Science!), how these non-scientists regard “scientific expertise”, and whether the politicization of certain scientific areas should be lauded or avoided. Examples will be drawn from law, science, and current events. Scholarly research and the proposals of different commentators will be presented and discussed.
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