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2022-2023 Lectures

Professor Maggie Delano

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

4:30pm, Scheuer Room

Improving Healthcare through Engineering Design and Methods

Engineering scholarship involves both technology design and the development of methods for the design and deployment of said technologies. As a computer engineer with a background in biomedical engineering and gender studies, my research emphasizes both design and methods, focusing on the ways that technologies can improve healthcare outcomes in an equitable manner. In this talk, I'll present my work in two areas: design of a wearable measurement system for chronic fluid overload management, and critical design scholarship on the use of sex and/or gender for medical machine learning applications. I'll discuss the clinical needs for chronic fluid overload management, the technical challenges to developing wearable monitors, and steps my research group is taking to address them. I'll also discuss how researchers, especially those in medical fields, can appropriately incorporate sex and/or gender into their research. I'll close with some comments on engineering design more broadly and the role of the liberal arts in engineering.

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Professor Jonny Thakkar

Thursday, October 27, 2022

4:30pm, Scheuer Room

Institutions and Idealism

In this paper I claim that institutions ought to foster an ethos of idealism among their members. Of course there is a sense in which most of us would prefer our colleagues and fellow citizens to display a refreshing optimism about the world rather than being weary cynics, but my claim is (hopefully) more specific than that. The basic thought is that very existence of institutions depends on people following their rules, yet those rules can never determine their own application. If an institution is to remain as the institution that it is, rather than changing into a different institution or simply decaying, its agents must therefore use their judgement to further its characteristic purposes. But to do that they need to ask themselves what those institutions are actually aiming at. That requires thinking about how an institution might best fit into the wider context of which it is a part, given its particular resources and capabilities as well its history and traditions. If this argument holds, then non-ideal, real-world institutions work best when represented by people who are idealists in a specific sense. This will be true of each and every agent and officer, not simply those at the top.

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Professor Barbara Thelamour

Thursday, November 3, 2022

4:30pm, Scheuer Room

Making the Invisible Visible: Psychology’s Contribution to Black Immigrant Racial Identity Scholarship

Black immigrants (i.e., those who come to the U.S. from African and Caribbean countries) make up nearly 10% of the Black population in the United States. Despite their growing presence, Black immigrants are underrepresented and often go unacknowledged in psychological research. As a consequence, it is implied that psychological constructs, like racial identity, that have been studied with Black Americans are generalizable to those with recent immigrant backgrounds. In this presentation, the focus is on Black immigrant racial identity through the lens of the three most influential racial identity theories in the last five decades--Nigrescence Theory, the Black/People of Color (POC) Racial Identity Models, and the Multidimensional Model of Racial Identity (MMRI). I will share which theory was most used to conceptualize racial identity, the construction of racial identity in Black immigrants, as well as how racial identity has been found to be related to psychological outcomes in Black immigrants. The presentation will end with future directions for this work and for ongoing efforts to research Black immigrant populations.

Student Speaker: Immaculata Daikpor '24

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Professor Hillary Smith

Thursday, November 9, 2022

4:30pm, Scheuer Room

Glass Stronger Than Steel: Experimental Investigations into the Physics of Glasses

Glasses take on many important roles, with applications ranging from rewriteable optical storage media and optical fibers, to high strength gorilla glass and metallic glass used in the screen and casings of smart phones. Connections between the physical properties of glasses and the underlying physics are heavily investigated, yet the nature of glass and the glass transition is “one of the deepest and most interesting unsolved problems in solid state theory [1].” This talk presents the work in my research group investigating the thermal properties of glasses- how they absorb heat from their surroundings- and the dynamics of glasses- how the absorption of heat controls the motions of atoms. I will introduce the strange world of glasses, present data we’ve collected in my lab here at Swarthmore and at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Lab, and describe our findings in the context of addressing physics’ long-standing struggle to describe the true nature of a glass.  [1] Anderson, P. W. Science 267, 1615 (1995).

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Professor Kathryn Riley

Thursday, January 26, 2023

4:30pm, Scheuer Room

Teaching an Old Method New Tricks: Advancing Analytical Chemistry Tools for the Analysis of Engineered Nanomaterials

The unique properties of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) have enabled their increased use for a range of environmental, medicinal, and commercial applications. Owing to their strong antibacterial properties, silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are one of the most widely used ENMs, leading to their release into the environment during production, use, and disposal. The commercialization of AgNPs has necessitated the development of quantitative analytical chemistry tools to evaluate the functional properties of AgNP-enabled products and assess their environmental impact. In the Riley Lab, we have developed a suite of analytical tools for the analysis of AgNPs based on a classical chemistry technique called electrochemistry. This talk will provide insight into how we have “taught an old method new tricks”, including novel applications of electrochemistry to measure AgNP properties from the bulk to the single nanoparticle scale.

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Professor Joshua Goldwyn

Thursday, February 16, 2023

4:30pm, Scheuer Room

New Perspectives on Neural Processing of Sound Source Location

One of the many functions of sound-responsive neurons in the brain is to create a sense of auditory space.  This can be useful for humans (when attempting to isolate a speaker's voice from a noisy background, for instance) and is essential for nocturnal or echolocating animals (those that rely on auditory cues to navigate their surroundings).  There is a "textbook" picture of parallel neural pathways that create auditory space: a low-frequency "channel" sensitive to timing-differences between the ears and a high-frequency "channel" sensitive to level-differences between the ears.  Emerging physiological evidence, however, is changing this long-held view.   I will discuss how I use mathematical modeling to study the specialized dynamics of neurons that create the sense of auditory space.  I will highlight new insights from this work including: how neurons can process microsecond-scale time differences at very high frequencies, and how neurons that process level-differences can extract timing information from brief sounds.  As I describe these specific projects, I will also offer some historical context regarding the rich history of mathematical modeling in neuroscience.

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Professor James Blasina

Thursday, March 23, 2023

4:30pm, Scheuer Room

Transmissions and Transgressions: The Voiced Body of Katherine of Alexandria in Medieval Devotions

Soon after the arrival of her putative relics in 11th-century Rouen, three distinct plainchant liturgies were composed in veneration of the apocryphal St Katherine of Alexandria. These musical repertories would become a vehicle of transmission for the cult of St Katherine, which soon became a transregional cultural phenomenon. By the turn of the fifteenth century, Katherine was arguably the second-most revered holy woman in Europe–after the Virgin Mary–a testament to the effectiveness of musical publicity. Various musical approaches to Katherine’s public theological disputation with the Roman Emperor and his all-star team of philosophers elicit questions about the meaning of women’s speech and subjectivity precisely at a moment of increasing surveillance and suppression. In this presentation, I interrogate how musical-liturgical representations of St Katherine were deployed for political, religious, and gendered purposes during the long twelfth century, arguing that any interpretation must consider an embodied Katherine, performed in song.

Student Speaker: Ava Pressmen '25

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Professor Vasanta Chaganti

Thursday, April 20, 2023

4:30pm, Scheuer Room

Tussles in User-Privacy and Internet Performance

The Internet is widely considered one of the most successful inventions of the 20th century. The Internet started as an academic experiment to send messages or "packets" between two (rather humongous) machines between UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute. Since then, the Internet has seen exponential growth, connecting millions of users globally across a plethora of devices -- laptops, mobiles, smart watches, and smart toasters! A testament to the founding principles of the Internet architecture. Yet, despite the tremendous success, the Internet consists of a patchwork of "quick-fix" solutions that fall short of addressing critical needs of scalability, privacy, and security. The Internet, by its very design, reveals highly sensitive personal identifiers, that are today both commoditized and exploited. In this talk,  I will discuss my research, on re-thinking the architectural design principles of the Internet, the Internet measurement studies we conducted to showcase network privacy issues for an end-user and finally, our research into designing privacy-preserving schemes to protect an end-users' network data, and the consequent trade-offs between user privacy and network data utility.

Student Speakers: Ziming Yuan '24 and Viktoriia Zakharova '24

View a Recording of Professor Chaganti's Lecture