Nerd Nite #71 - The Science of Switch Feel

Push buttons, knobs, touchscreens…Every day, we interact with hundreds of different switches around us, to do everything from prepare our coffee, type out our emails, turn ON the lights, drive our cars and everything in between. But have you ever paused to think about what goes into designing each of those micro-experiences? Have you thought about makes them all feel a certain way? How do you quantify and specify ‘feel’? Join me to learn about what makes our world click. 

Nerd Nite #68 - The Brain "Wants" What The Brain Wants

Over the course of evolution our brains have become excellent at detecting rewards (e.g. food or a potential mate) in our environment and in turn generating motivation to obtain that reward. While this system was originally necessary for survival, it can easily become maladaptive in a world where access to rewards (such as high-calorie food, drugs and alcohol, gambling) are present in abundance. Unfortunately, this reward detection system can become hypersentitive in some individuals, in turn causing excessive desire and craving each time they come across a reward cue in their world.

Legacies Project Oral History: Thomas Overmire

Thomas G. Overmire was born 1926 in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father was a banker and the family saw firsthand the difficulties caused by the Great Depression. He served in the army during World War II before getting his BA from Indiana University in Bloomington. Overmire’s evolving career included teaching high school biology, getting his PhD, serving as a college dean, working at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, and writing a biology textbook, The World of Biology (1986).

Genetic Genealogy: Discrepancies in Your Family Tree

Using actual case studies, learn how you can use your DNA test results to detect and solve potential discrepancies in your family tree, such as mis-attributed parentage. The case studies illustrate the use of autosomal DNA, Y DNA and X DNA test results to support or refute your family tree.

Mary Henderson has 45 years of experience with traditional, document-based genealogy, and 6 years of experience with genetic genealogy.  She volunteers her services to adoptees seeking their birth parents and is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Nerd Nite #66 - Hidden Planets

Could there be a planet lurking at the edge of our Solar System that we haven’t discovered yet? Maybe! It’s happened before. In this talk, Larissa Markwardt explains how the orbits of objects we already know about in our Solar System can be used to infer the existence of yet unseen planets. Larissa also discusses the history and science of the discoveries of Neptune and Pluto, searches for other hypothetical planets (Planet X and Vulcan), and the current hunt for Planet 9. 

About Larissa: 

Nerd Nite #66 - Making the Impossible Possible: Lessons from Apollo

In 1962 under President Kennedy’s direction, our nation committed itself to “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” At the time, this goal was physically impossible. In order to accomplish this goal, it had to be broken down into component tasks. Accomplishing these tasks determined the mission objectives of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Samuel Carpenter discusses not only the accomplishments these early space exploration efforts, but also outlines a general process of how to take on impossible goals.

Nerd Nite #49 - Let Them (fruit flies) Eat Cake

Fruit flies’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs (no, really, they are), but this is not why they love sugar. In our lab we feed cake to fruit flies to see what happens to their brains (#badlyexplainyourjob), and boy, a lot happens, and most of it is NOT good. Maybe this is why we all love sugar and can’t stop eating it. And if you are one of those weird people who doesn’t maybe stop by the lab so we can study you?

About Monica: I received my first microscope at age 7, a gift from my dad, and had an idyllic childhood in Italy pulling hair off Barbie’s and legs off bugs and looking at them under the microscope. What really kept me in science, however, was the pervasive beauty of the natural world. I still remember the first time, as a high school student, I heard about molecular biology: I was amazed by its beautiful complexity. Nearly twenty years later, I still haven’t found something that is man-made and more beautiful than the natural world, not even a Dolce and Gabbana dress. At 18 I left Italy for the USA, majored in Biology and Philosophy, got a Ph. D in biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and in 2015 started a lab at the University of Michigan where I also teach genetics and neuroepigenetics. My favorite things in life are dogs, desserts, philosophy and post-modern literature, pastel colors, fuzzy things, and unicorns.

Nerd Nite #65 - A Tale of Two Lakes: Eutrophy in Western Lake Erie and Oligotrophy in Lake Michigan

In Western Lake Erie, massive mats of blue-green algae blossom every summer, stirring up memories of the 2014 Toledo Water Crisis with every reappearance. Meanwhile, in Lake Michigan, there are nearly as many invasive mussels in the lake as there are gallons of water. Each mussel is the size of a thumbnail and, under the right conditions, their combined force can filter the entire volume of water in Lake Michigan in less than a week. The resulting crystal clear waters are great for beachgoers but extremely problematic for the lake ecosystem.