Current Speaker Series

We are extremely excited to again work with Ada’s Technical Books and Town Hall Seattle again for our 2019 UW Science Now Speaker Series!  Our lineup includes graduate students from a variety of UW departments.

April 2, 2019: Rachel Kubiak & Taryn Black

Obesity and diabetes change a person’s risk for active tuberculosis (TB). Rachel Kubiak presents findings from her time in India which showed that TB was much more common among obese people with diabetes—but people with diabetes can also be of a healthy weight. Since more people fall into this category, the burden of TB caused by diabetes is similar in normal weight and obese people. Kubiak offers research advocating for TB screening for all people in India with diabetes, regardless of their weight.

How much are Greenland’s glaciers changing, and how fast? Taryn Black shares research from mapping the changes in these glaciers over the course of years—and even weeks. Most of these glaciers are retreating, but Black reveals that in the late 1990s they started retreating much faster. She considers the potential reasons for this widespread diminution of Greenland’s glaciers, weighing factors such as rising air temperatures, ocean temperatures, or causes as-of-yet unknown.

Tickets and more information available at the event page on Town Hall


April 11, 2019: Robyn Emery, Trevor Harrison & Kali Esancy

Our genes make up who we are. They control everything from hair color to height, as well as our susceptibility to certain infections such as Tuberculosis (TB). TB remains a top fatally infectious disease worldwide despite millions of dollars spent on antibiotics to eliminate it. The main problem, says Robyn Emery, is that there is only one vaccine against TB, which is a hundred years old. Emery suggests that a solution to developing a stronger vaccine may lie within our own genes. She presents research on the genes involved in inflammation, exploring the ways they make a person more or less susceptible to TB. By better understanding our bodies’ reactions and susceptibility to TB, we can take major steps towards developing a more effective vaccine.

Humans live on and around coastal waters, interacting with them for recreational, commercial, and spiritual purposes. To understand the health of our waters, we must observe how they function—how tides, currents, and waves move nutrients and pollutants. Trevor Harrison introduces the microFloat, an inexpensive, underwater drifting sensor platform capable of taking measurements in energetic coastal waterways like Puget Sound. He discusses the difficulties of taking measurements in these environments, some other ways we make observations, and how the new data offered by microFloats will help improve our understanding of coastal water circulation.

How do our nervous systems tell the difference between a handshake and a hot stove, or an itchy mosquito bite and a painful bee sting? Kali Esancy explores how somatosensory neurons accomplish this task. Esancy shares research on somatosensory neurons—the cells of our nervous systems that detect environmental stimuli like temperature, touch, itch, and pain—highlighting the differences between two groups of neurons that relay itch and pain sensations.

Tickets and more information available at the event page on Town Hall


April 23, 2019: Mengying Zhang, Will Pollock & Yaamini Venkataraman

Science has long been fascinated with the concept of nanomachines—extremely small and sophisticated robotic engineers that can travel into the brain to deliver drugs, repair injuries, or detect signs of disease. According to Mengying Zhang, nanoparticles may be the key to making this a reality. However, their application raises several critical questions. How do they behave? How do they interact with cells? Are they toxic? Zhang discusses her work to understand nanoparticle behaviors in the developing brain, and how this knowledge can be applied to design a tracking system for viruses, brain derived vesicles, and more.

Records of landslides go back almost as far as written human history. Despite living with landslides for thousands of years, we still have a poor grasp on how to predict when, where, and how large they will be, much less their impact on us and the things we care about. Will Pollock joins us to present his research on forecasting landslide-related damages to inform land use decisions by citizens and policy-makers.

The Pacific Northwest loves oysters—we grow them, we eat them, and we depend on them to protect our shorelines. However, oysters are endangered by rapidly acidifying oceans. Recent studies have shown that oysters do have some sort of environmental ”memory”—the way oysters respond to their environment can be passed down to the next generation. Yaamini Venkataraman takes the stage with research exploring how and why this occurs environmental memory occurs. She shares findings that may help us understand whether oysters will not only survive but thrive in future ocean conditions.

Tickets and more information available at the event page on Town Hall