Archive for March 2015

March 23 – 27

Monday, March 23rd

Seminar: The evolution of resistance to Bt corn in the Western Corn Rootworm
Lex Flagel – Evolutionary Biologist from Monsanto
RNS 410 4:00 PM

The Western Corn Rootworm (WCR) is a major corn pest leading to annual economic losses of more than 1 Billion dollars in the US. Monsanto produces transgenic corn varieties expressing insecticidal toxins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt corn) that are widely used to control WCR. Because of their effectiveness, these Bt corn varieties have grown popular in the past decade. However, widespread cultivation of Bt corn places intense selection pressure on WCR to evolve resistance. Instances of resistance to Bt toxins in WCR have been reported since 2011. I will describe our strategy for combating the spread Bt resistance. Specifically, how we apply principles from genetics and evolutionary biology to understand resistance and to improve insect resistance management strategies.

MSCS Colloquium:  A Provably “Jam–proof” Algorithm for (Almost) Filling Space
Christopher Ennis, Normandale Community College
I will describe, demonstrate, and prove a few things about an elegantly simple algorithm, due to John Shier, for the disjoint but otherwise random placement of successively smaller copies of an arbitrary shape inside a larger bounded region (“the frame”).
After presenting several aesthetically pleasing examples of the algorithm at work, I’ll give a simple rigorous proof of the one-dimensional version of Shier’s conjecture. Using the one-dimensional proof as a springboard, I’ll sketch the outline of a proof for the two-dimensional case, in which disjoint circular discs are placed randomly within a circular frame. The methods used involve nothing beyond familiar concepts from elementary calculus. I’ll also mention some open questions, suitable for investigation by undergraduates.
3:30 p.m. RNS 310 (cookies and conversation at 3:15p.m.)

Tuesday, March 24

No Seminars

Wednesday, March 25

Physics Colloquium
From Protons to Pictures: A Physicist in Medical Imaging
Kay Pelletier ’10, Ph.D. Candidate, Biomedical Engineering at Mayo Graduate School
2:00 pm RNS 210

Biomedical imaging research brings together physicists, engineers, biologists and chemists to develop techniques that directly impact patient care. Technological advances have made it possible to create images at scales from single molecules to the whole body. Medical images are used for a wide range of purposes from mapping brain function, diagnosing disease, measuring blood flow and metabolism, visualizing cellular function and more. This talk will introduce how medical images are made, and how they are used in clinical practice. A technique developed by physicians, engineers, physicists and mathematicians is capable of quantifying the mechanical properties of biological tissue. My research uses this technique, called Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE) to investigate the stiffness of tumors. It is commonly known that tumors are stiffer than the surrounding normal tissue. This talk will describe how the tumor mechanical properties change with successful treatment, and how this can be used to improve the outcome for the patient.

Thursday, March 26

What: Informal Conversation about Pathways and Possibilities in Science Education
Where: RNS 426
When: Thursday, March 26, 11:30-12:30

Are you planning to major in science?  Do you enjoy spending time with youth?  You can probably think of a teacher you’ve had who made a difference; have you ever thought you might be interested in teaching others?

If so, it’s a good time to start thinking about opportunities in science education.  At St. Olaf, you can become a licensed middle or high school science teacher.  Besides being a fulfilling job, science teachers are in demand.  While there are many paths to becoming a science teacher, there are some big advantages to the licensure program at St. Olaf.

If you’d like to talk about what it’s like to be a science teacher and about possibilities and pathways to a teaching license, please drop in for an informal conversation with Emily Mohl, assistant professor in biology and education.

Questions?  Contact Emily Mohl,, RNS 432.

Friday, March 27

No Seminars

March 16-20

Monday, March 16

MSCS Colloquium:  From YouTube to the Riemann Zeta:
Projects in Parallel and Distributed Computing
Xandra Best ‘15, David Crisler ‘18, Chris Hinton ‘18, Matthew Johnson ‘16, Joseph Jung ‘16, and Eric Oseid ‘17

Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences  Washington University School of MedicineParallel and distributed computing is all around us, and has many faces.  All of today’s computers use parallel computing, for example when a computer has more than one “core,”  or uses a graphics card to show screen images. Also, we all rely daily on web services such as search or maps that are constructed using distributed computing, in which multiple networked computers interact with each other to perform operations.  This talk features five presentations from the Interim 2015 Parallel and Distributed Computing course (PDC, CS 300) that demonstrate many faces of PDC, including multi-core, GPU, and cluster computing, with topics ranging from the Pi Calculus theory of message-based communication to applications to circle packing in Physics, machine learning/neural networks, scheduling of music lessons, and textual analysis of YouTube video comments. 3:30 p.m. RNS 310 (cookies and conversation at 3:15p.m.)

Tuesday, March 17

No Seminars

Wednesday, March 18

Physics Colloquium:  Why Should You Care About Nuclear Fusion?
Dr. David H. Crandall,
Retired after 40 years experience in fusion-related physics for the Department of Energy
2:00 p.m., RNS 210

MSCS Recital: 
Talented faculty and students
Everyone is welcome to join in for a fun, entertaining talent show. The event is a relaxed evening of food, and amusement.
7:00 p.m., Ytterboe Lounge

Seminar: The Sports Medicine Club is hosting a guest lecture. Dr. Joel Boyd, current team physician for the Minnesota Wild, will be discussing his career as an orthopedic surgeon and how it pertains to the Minnesota wild and the USA Olympic hockey team.
4:00 p.m. in RNS 356 B.

Thursday, March 19

(This will count as a Chemistry Seminar) Pre-Health Seminar: Speaking for the Dead: The Medical Examiner and The Investigation of Death
Andrew M. Baker, MD, Chief Medical Examiner Hennepin, Dakota and Scott Counties.
7:00 p.m. in RNS 310 Refreshments will be served, bars and hot chocolate.
Hosted by the Piper Center and the Chemistry and Biology Departments

Psychology Allport Award Talk: Time of Our Lives
Dr. Aaron Sackett ’00 Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of St.Thomas, Opus College of Business.
Few if any of our beliefs and behaviors are immune to the impact of time.  Dr. Sackett will present some of his own research examining the interplay between time and psychological processes involving goals, forecasts, performance, satisfaction, and enjoyment.  He will also discuss his path from his time as a St. Olaf psychology major to becoming a professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas.
7:00 p.m,, Regents Hall 150

Friday, March 20

No Seminars

March 9-13

Monday, March 9

Seminar: Experience and sensory input interact to affect mating behavior in female rats
Professor Sarah Meertz, Carlton College, Assistant Professor of Psychology
4:00 PM RNS 410

The study of naturally rewarding behaviors, such as mating, can inform our understanding of the neural circuits underlying motivation and reward.  However, the specific sensory inputs and the role of sexual experience on the display of mating behavior in female rats is not well understood. This talk discusses experiments that explored the effect of disrupting sensory transmission, repeated sexual experience, and the combination of experience and sensory disruption on the display of mating behavior in female rats. Together, these studies suggest that the sensory input during repeated mating encounters affects the pattern of paced mating behavior that develops with sexual experience.

Speaker:DavidBanks, Professor of the Practice of Statistics at Duke University.  He specializes in data and text mining, Bayesian risk analysis, and public policy.  He also serves on the Human Rights Data Analysis Group.

MSCS Colloquium: Mining Text Networks
David Banks, Professor of the Practice of Statistics at Duke University
Many applications (the Internet, Wikipedia) concern networks of documents. We mine the corpus that consists of all U.S. political blog posts in 2012. The intent is to use recent advances in dynamic network modeling to improve the topic discovery, and recent research on text mining to improve the network modeling. We describe a preliminary analysis based on the subset of blog posts that concern the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and then a full analysis of the entire corpus, at a lower level of resolution.
3:30p.m., RNS 310

Tuesday, March 10

No Seminar:

Wednesday, March 11

No Seminar:

Thursday, March 12

NO Seminar 

Friday, March 13

Chemistry Seminar: No More Nucleophiles: Direct, Selective Cross Coupling of Electrophiles
Daniel J. Weix, Associate Professor of Chemistry, University of Rochester
3:00 p.m. refreshments, 3:15 seminar will begin in Time, Room

MSCS Pi Day!
In celebration of Pi Day (which is officially on March 14), Pi Mu Epsilon will be providing pies during community time and will last until the π runs out!
10:10am, RMS Cliff Lounge

March 2 – 6

Monday, March 2


Title: Diversity and flexibility of visual processing in the retina

Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences  Washington University School of Medicine
Vision begins in the retina. Photoreceptors translate changes in photon flux into changes in glutamate release, the language of neurons. This signal is then processed by a diverse array of neural circuits, which parse information into spike trains of ~20 retinal ganglion cell types (RGCs). RGCs are the only output neurons of the eye and the sole source of visual information for the brain. Research in my lab is trying to decipher what RGC spike trains tell the brain about the visual world and how circuits in the retina detect the features encoded in RGC spike trains.

I will discuss three studies from my lab, which highlight the remarkable diversity of computations in the retinal circuits and reveal unexpected flexibility in their output in different lighting conditions.
RNS 410 4:00pm

MSCS Colloquium: Celebrating Women’s History Month
A showing of the documentary “Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II”
In 1942, when computers were human and women were underestimated, a group of female mathematicians were recruited to complete secret research for the US Army. This documentary shares the little known story of the women and technology that helped win the war and usher in the modern computer age.
3:30 p.m., RNS 310 (cookies and welcome at 3:15p.m.)

Tuesday, March 3

No Seminar:

Wednesday, March 4

Physics Seminar: C3PO: Customizable Computer Coaches for Physics Online
Evan Frodermann, ’02, University of Minnesota
2:00 pm  RNS 210

Thursday, March 5

Chemistry Seminar: Natural Biomarkers for Monitoring Bioenergetics in Living Cells
Dr. Ahmed A. Heikal, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Swenson College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota-Duluth
Reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) is a key cofactor in energy metabolism pathways and a myriad of oxidation-reduction reactions in living cells. NADH is naturally fluorescent and its emission is rather sensitive to protein binding. As a result, NADH autofluorescence would allow for noninvasive and ultimately quantitative monitoring of energy metabolism in living cells. In this seminar, I will highlight our efforts in establishing NADH as a natural biomarker for cellular energy metabolism, mitochondrial anomalies and related health problems. Macromolecular crowding effects on enzyme binding reactions with NADH will also be discussed using a combination of both fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy methods.
3:00 p.m. refreshments, seminar to begin at 3:15 p.m., RNS 310

Psychology Speaker
Derek Peterson, Founder and CEO of the Institute for Community & Adolescent Resiliency. ICAR-US offers education, materials, and support to individuals (adults and youth), schools, agencies, communities, and statewide organizations in their youth development related work. And specializes in three areas:

  • Creating measurable supports for each individual youth
  • Increasing caring and connection within school environments — THE critical component to ANY systemic school reform effort
  • Working to support caring and connected communities

6:30 p.m., Buntrock 143

Friday, March 6

No Seminars