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Strategies for Survival on Planet Earth

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The 2014 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science

"Strategies for Survival on Planet Earth" is the theme of the 2014 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, which is designed as a free minicourse for the general public. The lectures will take place on the four Saturday mornings in February from 11:00 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus.

The lectures will be given by scientists whose labs are expanding the frontiers of scientific knowledge in critical areas for human survival. Their research is focused on inventing alternative fuels, helping food crops adapt to climate change, preventing catastrophic asteroid attacks, and stopping a deadly disease that threatens to spread beyond the 100 countries it now ravages. The lectures include:


Salis_Howard_2014Engineering SuperMicrobes to Save Us

Howard M. Salis, Penn State

1 February 2014
11:00 a.m.
100 Thomas Building (map)

Howard Salis will reveal ways that his lab is working to engineer microorganisms in order to manufacture fuels, materials, and drugs from biorenewable and sustainable sources. Building a new industry to replace existing uses of petrochemicals remains a big challenge, but Salis will highlight both the challenges and the promises and benefits of building a sustainable biorenewables industry. He will show with recent research how physics, chemistry, and mathematics are being used to push the metabolism of microbes to the bleeding edge of economic competitiveness.



siel_mark_frontiers1-2014.jpgHot Chocolate: Helping the Cacao Plant Adapt to Climate Change

Siela Maximova and Mark Guiltinan, Penn State

8 February 2014
11:00 a.m.
100 Thomas Building (map)

By 2050, research predicts that a rise in temperature will drastically affect cacao production in major growing areas. Cocoa farmers, exporters, the industry, and consumers all will feel the impact if action to adapt to climate change is not taken. Farmers are especially vulnerable since cocoa is often their primary income source. The lecture includes the potential role of scientific research in developing adaptation strategies. Chocolate will be provided.



Stevenson_Frontiers_1-2014.jpgProtecting the Earth from Killer Asteroids

Rachel Stevenson, NASA

15 February 2014
11:00 a.m.
100 Thomas Building (map)

Large asteroids crashing into Earth have caused catastrophic damage, including the extinction of the dinosaurs and many other species. Now, an effort is underway to discover and characterize dangerous asteroids that are potentially hazardous to Earth. Learn more about this effort from Astronomer Rachel Stevenson, who is working on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's NEOWISE team. Since it started searching in 2010, NEOWISE has discovered more than 34,000 previously unknown asteroids and over 130 near-Earth objects.



Llinas_Manuel_2014Combating malaria: New Approaches to an Ancient Problem

Manuel Llinás, Penn State

22 February 2014
11:00 a.m.
100 Thomas Building (map)

With half of the world’s population at risk of malaria, it is one of the most pervasive diseases of modern humankind. Learn why malaria continues to ravage people in over 100 countries worldwide and why it remains a threat to the United States. This devastating disease is caused by the highly sophisticated single celled Plasmodium parasite, which invades and takes over the blood of humans. Manuel Llinás will outline major challenges in combating this global disease and will describe recent progress and cutting-edge approaches being used to combat the deadly malaria parasite.


The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science that is designed for the enjoyment and education of residents of the Central Pennsylvania area and beyond. For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information by telephone at (814) 863-8453 or by e-mail at jms1140@psu.edu. Use the links to the left to access more information about the Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, including archived recordings of previous lectures.

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