Background Image

Science Cafe'

In this Section

Science Cafe' now with 2 Locations for Spring of 2017.....

Wednesday evenings, 7:15 pm
St. Lawrence Valley Roasters & Jernabi's Coffeehouse 
11 Maple Street
Potsdam, NY  13676

Tuesday evenings, 7:15 pm
The Rushton Conference Room
Best Western University Inn
Canton, NY 13617

Local university professors and other professionals facilitate informal and lively public discussions of important science-related topics as part of the Science Café series. Join the conversation and relax with a cup of coffee or tea as topics from how to combat headaches effectively and why it is so hard to predict the weather and body language and its importance in everyday communication are covered. 

Spring 2017 Series Schedule

SCREAM, <cough>, whisper, <burp!>: The Science of Human Sound Production

Canton: Tuesday, Feb 7

Potsdam: Wednesday, Feb 8


Vocal communication is one of the defining characteristics of the human race. Be it through a joyous shout 

of celebration, a subtle grunt of disapproval, or a soft reverenced whisper, human voice is used in myriad ways 

to relay information, express emotion, and convey individual personality and identity. Join Dr. Byron Erath, 

Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering (CU), for a discussion about the science 

behind the noises we make, and how an engineering approach can yield important insight into 

the diagnosis and treatment of vocal disorders.



Epibiosis: The Tough World of Marine Invaders

Canton: Tuesday, Feb 28

Potsdam: Wednesday, March 1 


In the marine world, there is an ongoing battle for living space. Some species have won this battle 

by growing on top of competitors and utilizing their body surfaces as substrate. Overgrowth, or epibiosis, 

is certainly beneficial to the overgrowing species, but what about the species that is overgrown? Is this a beneficial 

or harmful arrangement? Join Dr. Linda Auker (Biology, SLU) as she discusses the impacts of epibiosis, with a focus 

on invasive species and the traits that allow them to compete effectively.



What is Mathematical Biology and Why is it Useful?

Canton: Tuesday, March 14

Potsdam: Wednesday, March 15 


During the half-past century, a new field of science called Mathematical Biology has emerged, where

questions at the interface between Mathematics, Biology and related disciplines are explored. Many

areas of Biology have been explored using math models, from interactions within cells to the spread of

human disease. Join Prof. Diana White (Mathematics, CU) as se describes successes in this discipline, 

as well her own attempts to use math to account for interesting behavior seen at the cellular level.



From Molecules to Medicine: How Drug Design Inspires Chemical Innovation

Canton: Tuesday, April 4

Potsdam: Wednesday, April 5


We currently have access to a growing list of medicines that are as diverse as the diseases they are designed 

to treat.  But even as we find new answers for previously debilitating illnesses, the cost of many medicines

keeps increasing, limiting the accessibility to the drugs needed for treatment. This paradox leaves many 

seeking alternative therapies, while others become engaged in fierce debates about pricing and regulation. 

Join the discussion with Dr. Samuel Tartakoff (Chemistry, SLU) as he looks at the process by which 

new medicines are discovered, how it fuels chemical innovation, and where that leaves us as consumers.



Unmasking Parkinson’s Disease

Canton: Tuesday, April 18

Potsdam: Wednesday, April 19


Known for causing small movements, shaking, and loss of facial expression, the occurrence of Parkinson’s 

disease is growing.  In 2003, researchers out of Washington University indicated that more than 13% of individuals 

with Medicare in our region had a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Experts are predicting that the number of people 

in the world with Parkinson’s will double by 2030. Join Clarkson University Clinical Assistant Professor of Physical 

Therapy and Parkinson’s Disease Foundation Faculty Scholar, Rebecca Martin, to learn more about the symptoms 

of Parkinson’s disease and what the health care field is doing to help.


Fall 2016 Series Schedule

Why you can't See the Forest for the Beech
Canton: Tuesday, Sept 13,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Sept 14,  7:15 pm 

 A walk through the woods of the North Country yields an unparalleled view of beech
sprouts, whose small but plentiful stems fill the forest understory with leafy green
in the summer, and snap the unwary traveler in the face during those cold
winter hikes. But it wasn’t always this 
way! What has happened over the last
century to convert this once-majestic forest tree to an 
invasive shrubby thicket,
and what is the impact on the biodiversity and functionality of our 
hardwood forests? Join Dr. Mariann Johnston of SUNY-ESF’s Wanakena campus
for a 
discussion about beech bark disease, the insects and fungi that cause it,
and current research
efforts on the subject.



Conservation in Protected Areas: From Central Africa to the North Country
Canton: Tuesday, Sep 27,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Sep 28,  7:15 pm 

Protected areas in the Congo forest in Central Africa have been called upon 
to do the same things as conservation easements in the North Country: protect 
our land and its uses for now and the future.  Join  Dr. Jessica Rogers, Assistant
Professor of Environmental Studies at SUNY Potsdam, for a discussion of
the state of protected areas in Central Africa and around the world, and
what we can do in our own backyard.



You're Probably Wrong! – The Unintuitive Nature of Randomness
Canton: Tuesday, Oct 18,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Oct 19,  7:15 pm 

Humans are good at a lot of things; having an accurate intuition for randomness 
is not one of them! How do we determine whether something is "random"? If we 
look at two different sequences of numbers, how do we tell whether one is
"more random" than the other, just by looking? And what does "random"
mean, anyway? Join Prof. Natasha Komarov (Mathematics, SLU)
as she helps us puzzle over randomness and probability, 
including interesting examples where intuition alone fails us spectacularly.   



Statistics and Data Analysis? Ignore us no More!
Canton: Tuesday, Nov 1,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Nov 2,  7:15 pm 

How much “Power” is needed to conduct a statistical test to produce 
confident results? The discipline where deviation is considered to be "Normal," 
we statisticians study it both "discretely" and "continuously," because we want to be 
"significantly different."  We love our averages yet strive to be at least 95% right. 
Ignore us no more!, join Prof. Sumona Mondal (Mathematics, CU) to decipher the
lingo and learn about the strengths and utilities of Statistics in every aspect of our life.



Whales to Wings: The Hydrodynamics of Humpback Whale Flippers
Canton: Tuesday, Nov 15,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Nov 16,  7:15 pm 


The Humpback whale is one of the largest animals on the planet, yet while hunting and 
swimming it is also one of the most graceful.  In this event, Mechanical and Aeronautical 
Engineering Professor Doug Bohl (CU) will explore how a natural adaptation may have
to the surprising agility of this animal. He will then discuss what humans can
learn about 
aerodynamics from the mighty humpback, and how we may apply that knowledge.


Spring 2016 Series Schedule


Smart Grid and Electric Vehicles
Canton: Tuesday, Feb 16
Potsdam: Wednesday, Feb 17

What if electric cars and meters could talk to each other? Meter: “How was your day?” Car: “Great! I charged at the station at Clarkson, then drove to Watertown…” to the more intimate, Meter: "Do you trust me?" Car: "Sure! I see that you've installed a patch for the latest virus going around..."  Join Assistant Professor Melike Erol-Kantarci (CU) as she explains why we might soon witness this type of communications and how it would improve our daily lives.

Adolescent Sexuality: Ignorance or Bliss?
Canton: Tuesday, March 8
Potsdam: Wednesday, March 9 

We know with certainty that abstinence-based sexuality education doesn't work, yet little is being done to offer young people the information and skills they need to become sexually healthy adults.  Recent research is creating a new paradigm for understanding youthful sexual behaviors, whereby the healthy, normative aspects of sexual development are being recognized and embraced.  Join Prof. Gary Kelly (CU) for a discussion of new, fresh perspectives on this timeless, important topic.

Making an Origami Crane Fly in 3D, from a Single Photograph
Canton: Tuesday, March 22
Potsdam: Wednesday, March 23 

Photo-editing software such as Photoshop has expanded creativity by allowing users to edit their photographs. However, such software is fundamentally limited to the 2D plane of the image. Join Prof. Natasha Banerjee (CU) as she discusses her research on 3D photo-manipulations, including re-arranging furniture, flipping taxi-cabs, re-orienting World War II planes, and making an origami crane come to life, all from a single photograph!

Nanoparticles for the Treatment of Chemical Overdoses
Canton: Tuesday, April 5
Potsdam: Wednesday, April 6

Patient overdoses of therapeutics given by physicians or taken by prescription, as well as unwise use of illicit drugs, is widespread and results in many thousands of deaths each year. Some of these problems can be successfully treated with microemulsions, or highly specialized nanoparticles. Join Richard Partch, Senior University Professor of Chemistry (CU), for a discussion of the state-of-the-art and the ongoing research on functionalized nanoparticles as antidotes for common chemical afflictions of human internal and external tissues.


Metal Pair Catalysts for Solar Fuels
Canton: Tuesday, April 19
Potsdam: Wednesday, April 20

Plants transform light, carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and sugar fuels, through the elegant process of photosynthesis.  Imagine the boon to the environment if we could only replicate that process! Join Chemistry Professor Adam Hill (SLU) to hear about the state of the art in artificial photosynthesis and the use of "heterobimetallic" materials – specially designed combinations of paired metals – in the effort to produce green energy.


Fall 2015 Series Schedule

How Immune Cells Collaborate to Protect Us
Canton: Tuesday, Sept 15,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Sept 16,  7:15 pm 

How does a vaccine work?  How are bacteria and viruses destroyed in our bodies? Why does the body sometimes attack its own tissues?  Join Dr. Kari Heckman from  St. Lawrence University as she introduces the cells of the immune system and explains how they work together to protect our bodies from disease without damaging our own tissues.

Big Data: Big Promise, Big Problems
Canton: Tuesday, Sep 29,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Sep 30,  7:15 pm 

The data that we record daily about ourselves through our cell phones, credit card purchases, emails, social media postings, etc., helps us connect with each other and improve our life quality. But we do not own nor control most of this data...  Join Prof. Jeanna Matthews (Computer Science, CU) as she discusses the good and the bad in this powerful information technology, including a number of cases – some inspiring, some terrifying – and what we can do as citizens to obtain the promise of big data while mitigating some of the worst problems

From Red Blood Cells to New Bio-Devices
Canton: Tuesday, Oct 20,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Oct 21,  7:15 pm 

Red blood cells zip through micron-wide capillaries almost friction-free, surviving hundreds of thousands of passages during their nearly 120-days lifespan.  Join Prof. Parisa Mirbod (CAMP, Clarkson University) as she describes the efforts to design new porous bio-devices – a boon for such practical applications as underground oil recovery and biomedical slow drug delivery – that are inspired by the amazing properties of the humble capillaries. 

Development and Function of the Digestive System
Canton: Tuesday, Nov 3,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Nov 4,  7:15 pm 


Most people only think of what goes in and comes out of the digestive system but are not familiar with what happens in between.  The digestive tract is one of our largest immune organs and it has its own neural system, earning it the nickname "the second brain.”  Join Clarkson University Professor of Biology Ken Wallace as he explains the organization and function of organs in the digestive tract as it develops from a simple tube during embryogenesis. 

Air Pollution in a Changing World
Canton: Tuesday, Nov 17,  7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, Nov 18,  7:15 pm 


How do we define the quality of our air?  How much of our air quality is dependent on what we do locally vs. regionally or even globally.  With the global migration of industrial activity, development of new emission control technologies, and changes in global climate, what can we expect for air quality changes in our neighborhood and around the globe? Join Professor of Mechanical Engineering Suresh Dhaniyala (Clarkson University) as he describes the current air quality standards and the evolution of US air quality over the last several decades and changes in global air quality currently underway.


Spring 2015 Series Schedule

Designing Nanobiomaterials for Cancer Therapeutic Delivery
Canton: Tuesday, Feb 17, 7:15 pm 
Potsdam: Wednesday, Feb 18, 7:15 pm

Chemotherapy and gene therapy are immensely valuable for cancer treatment. But how do the therapeutic agents reach the tumor sites and not act on healthy tissue? 
Join Clarkson University Professor He Dong (Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences) for a vivid discussion of her research on designing "smart" nanocarriers that 
specifically target our cancers, not us!

Are Mosquitoes More Attracted to Beer Drinkers?
Canton: Tuesday, March 10, 7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, March 11, 7:15 pm 

If more mosquitoes are attracted to beer drinkers than water drinkers in an experiment, how can we tell if the difference is "significant?"  The standard 
answer involves the p-value, a tricky concept.  Mathematics and Statistics Professors Patti and Robin Lock (SLU) tackle such questions through
an inspired use of computer technology and modern simulation techniques. Join them for a friendlier, more intuitive understanding of how to make sense
of statistical data.

Stopping GLOBAL WARMING with Advanced Porous Materials
Canton: Tuesday, March 24, 7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, March 25, 7:15 pm 

With the annual release of billions of tons of CO2 to our atmosphere the threat of global warming is real.  Using “green” energy sources such as hydrogen-fuel cells, our cars would emit just pure water!  We need advanced porous materials to store these alternative fuels and also to capture CO2 from our atmosphere. Join Clarkson University Professor of Chemistry Mario Wriedt as he describes his lab's research into porous materials design and their characterization through X-ray methods. 

The Architecture of Madness:  The St. Lawrence State Hospital
Canton: Tuesday, April 7, 7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, April 8, 7:15 pm

The St. Lawrence State Hospital in Ogdensburg opened in 1890 and remained in use until 1995 when it was largely abandoned. Designed to accommodate the "cutting edge" treatment technology of the late 19th century, the architecture outlived its purpose as mental health treatment evolved. Join Professor of Anthropology Jennifer Campbell (SUNY Potsdam) as she describes how architecture and medical practice converged in the late 1890's and how we engage with these relics today. 

Proteins Rock!
Canton: Tuesday, April 21, 7:15 pm
Potsdam: Wednesday, April 22, 7:15 pm

Proteins are the nanomachines that support all life processes.  Constructed from the instructions encoded by genes, there are thousands of different proteins found in all living organisms.  But because they are so small, they are hard to catch in the act!  Studying the motion of these tiny machines gives us insights on how they do their work.  Join the American Physical Society (APS) Blewett award winner researcher Dr. Monique Tirion to a fascinating tour of these amazing biomolecules.


Science Cafe


Wednesday evenings, 7:15 pm
St. Lawrence Valley Roasters & Jernabi's Coffeehouse
11 Market Street
Potsdam, NY  13676

Tuesday evenings, 7:15 pm
The Rushton Conference Room
Best Western University Inn
Canton, NY 13617

Science Cafe Logo

Science Cafe Poster Spring 2017 Schedule