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  • richardmitnick 10:31 am on March 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Heavy California rains par for the course for climate change, Stanford   

    From Stanford: “Heavy California rains par for the course for climate change” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    March 21, 2017
    Ker Than

    Here’s a question that Stanford climatologist Noah Diffenbaugh gets asked a lot lately: “Why did California receive so much rain lately if we’re supposed to be in the middle of a record-setting drought?”

    When answering, he will often refer the questioner to a Discover magazine story published in 1988, when Diffenbaugh was still in middle school.

    The article, written by veteran science writer Andrew Revkin, detailed how a persistent rise in global temperatures would affect California’s water system. It predicted that as California warmed, more precipitation would fall as rain rather than snow, and more of the snow that did fall would melt earlier in the season. This in turn would cause reservoirs to fill up earlier, increasing the odds of both winter flooding and summer droughts.

    “It is amazing how the state of knowledge in 1988 about how climate change would affect California’s water system has played out in reality over the last three decades,” said Diffenbaugh, a professor of Earth System Science at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

    Diffenbaugh, who specializes in using historical observations and mathematical models to study how climate change affects water resources, agriculture, and human health, sees no contradiction in California experiencing one of its wettest years on record right on the heels of a record-setting extended drought.

    “When you look back at the historical record of climate in California, you see this pattern of intense drought punctuated by wet conditions, which can lead to a lot of runoff,” said Diffenbaugh, who is also the Kimmelman Family senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “This is exactly what state-of-the-art climate models predicted should have happened, and what those models project to intensify in the future as global warming continues.”

    That intensifying cycle poses risks for many Western states in the decades ahead. “In California and throughout the Western U.S., we have a water system that was designed and built more than 50 years ago,” Diffenbaugh said. “We are now in a very different climate, one where we’re likely to experience more frequent occurrences of hot, dry conditions punctuated by wet conditions. That’s not the climate for which our water system was designed and built.”

    Viewed through this lens, the recent disastrous flooding at Oroville Dam and the flooding in parts of San Jose as a result of the winter rains could foreshadow what’s to come. “What we’ve seen in Oroville and in San Jose is that not only is our infrastructure old, and not only has maintenance not been a priority, but we’re in a climate where we’re much more likely to experience these kinds of extreme conditions than we were 50 or 100 years ago,” Diffenbaugh said.

    It’s not too late, however, for California to catch up or even leap ahead in its preparations for a changing climate, scientists say. Diffenbaugh argues that there are plenty of “win-win” investment opportunities that will not only make Americans safer and more secure in the present, but also prepare for the future.

    California could, for example, boost its groundwater storage capacity, which research at Stanford shows to be a very cost-effective method for increasing water supply. This would have the dual benefit of siphoning off reservoirs at risk of flooding and storing water for future dry spells. It would also help jurisdictions reach the groundwater sustainability targets mandated by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

    Diffenbaugh also sees opportunities to increase water recycling throughout the state. “Our technology has advanced to a point now where we can create clean, safe water from waste water,” he said. “In fact, work here at Stanford shows that this can now be done using the organic matter in the waste water to provide an energy benefit.”

    Diffenbaugh stresses that reaping the full benefits of these investments requires a recognition that the climate of California and the West has changed, and will continue to change in the future as long as global warming continues.

    See the full article here .

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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 9:10 am on March 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Stanford, Stanford engineers use soup additive to create a stretchable plastic electrode   

    From Stanford: “So long stiffness: Stanford engineers use soup additive to create a stretchable plastic electrode” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    March 10, 2017
    Shara Tonn

    .
    Courtesy Bao Research Group
    Access mp4 video here .
    A robotic test instrument stretches over a curved surface a nearly transparent, flexible electrode based on a special plastic developed in the lab of Stanford chemical engineer. Zhenan Bao.

    Chemical engineer Zhenan Bao is trying to change that. For more than a decade, her lab has been working to make electronics soft and flexible so that they feel and operate almost like a second skin. Along the way, the team has started to focus on making brittle plastics that can conduct electricity more elastic.

    Now in Science Advances, Bao’s team describes how they took one such brittle plastic and modified it chemically to make it as bendable as a rubber band, while slightly enhancing its electrical conductivity. The result is a soft, flexible electrode that is compatible with our supple and sensitive nerves.

    “This flexible electrode opens up many new, exciting possibilities down the road for brain interfaces and other implantable electronics,” said Bao, a professor of chemical engineering. “Here, we have a new material with uncompromised electrical performance and high stretchability.”

    The material is still a laboratory prototype, but the team hopes to develop it as part of their long-term focus on creating flexible materials that interface with the human body.

    1
    A printed electrode pattern of the new polymer being stretched to several times of its original length (top), and a transparent, highly stretchy “electronic skin” patch forming an intimate interface with the human skin to potentially measure various biomarkers (bottom). (Image credit: Bao Lab)

    Flexible interface

    Electrodes are fundamental to electronics. Conducting electricity, these wires carry back and forth signals that allow different components in a device to work together. In our brains, special thread-like fibers called axons play a similar role, transmitting electric impulses between neurons. Bao’s stretchable plastic is designed to make a more seamless connection between the stiff world of electronics and the flexible organic electrodes in our bodies.

    “One thing about the human brain that a lot of people don’t know is that it changes volume throughout the day,” says postdoctoral research fellow Yue Wang, the first author on the paper. “It swells and deswells.” The current generation of electronic implants can’t stretch and contract with the brain and make it complicated to maintain a good connection.

    “If we have an electrode with a similar softness as the brain, it will form a better interface,” said Wang.

    To create this flexible electrode, the researchers began with a plastic that had two essential qualities: high conductivity and biocompatibility, meaning that it could be safely brought into contact with the human body. But this plastic had a shortcoming: It was very brittle. Stretching it even 5 percent would break it.

    Tightly wound and brittle

    As Bao and her team sought to preserve conductivity while adding flexibility, they worked with scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to use a special type of X-ray to study this material at the molecular level. All plastics are polymers; that is, chains of molecules strung together like beads. The plastic in this experiment was actually made up of two different polymers that were tightly wound together. One was the electrical conductor. The other polymer was essential to the process of making the plastic. When these two polymers combined they created a plastic that was like a string of brittle, sphere-like structures. It was conductive, but not flexible.

    The researchers hypothesized that if they could find the right molecular additive to separate these two tightly wound polymers, they could prevent this crystallization and give the plastic more stretch. But they had to be careful – adding material to a conductor usually weakens its ability to transmit electrical signals.

    After testing more than 20 different molecular additives, they finally found one that did the trick. It was a molecule similar to the sort of additives used to thicken soups in industrial kitchens. This additive transformed the plastic’s chunky and brittle molecular structure into a fishnet pattern with holes in the strands to allow the material to stretch and deform. When they tested their new material’s elasticity, they were delighted to find that it became slightly more conductive when stretched to twice its original length. The plastic remained very conductive even when stretched 800 percent its original length.

    “We thought that if we add insulating material, we would get really poor conductivity, especially when we added so much,” said Bao. But thanks to their precise understanding of how to tune the molecular assembly, the researchers got the best of both worlds: the highest possible conductivity for the plastic while at the same transforming it into a very robust and stretchy substance.

    “By understanding the interaction at the molecular level, we can develop electronics that are soft and stretchy like skin, while remaining conductive,” Wang says.

    Other authors include postdoctoral fellows Chenxin Zhu, Francisco Molina-Lopez, Franziska Lissel and Jia Liu; graduate students Shucheng Chen and Noelle I. Rabiah; Hongping Yan and Michael F. Toney, staff scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Christian Linder, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering who is also a member of Stanford Bio-X and of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute; Boris Murmann, a professor of electrical engineering and a member of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute; Lihua Jin, now an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles; Zheng Chen, now an assistant professor of nano engineering at the University of California, San Diego; and colleagues from the Materials Science Institute of Barcelona, Spain, and Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology.

    This work was funded by Samsung Electronics and the Air Force Office of Science Research.

    See the full article here .

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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 9:45 am on March 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Fault Slip Potential (FSP) tool, Stanford, Stanford scientists develop new tool to reduce risk of triggering manmade earthquakes   

    From Stanford: “Stanford scientists develop new tool to reduce risk of triggering manmade earthquakes” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    February 27, 2017
    Ker Than

    A new software tool can help reduce the risk of triggering manmade earthquakes by calculating the probability that oil and gas production activities will trigger slip in nearby faults.

    A new, freely available software tool developed by Stanford scientists will enable energy companies and regulatory agencies to calculate the probability of triggering manmade earthquakes from wastewater injection and other activities associated with oil and gas production.

    “Faults are everywhere in the Earth’s crust, so you can’t avoid them. Fortunately, the majority of them are not active and pose no hazard to the public. The trick is to identify which faults are likely to be problematic, and that’s what our tool does,” said Mark Zoback, professor of geophysics at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. Zoback developed the approach with his graduate student Rall Walsh.

    1
    Four wells increase pressure in nearby faults. If a fault is stable, it is green. If a fault is pushed toward slipping, it is colored yellow or red depending on how sensitive it is, how much pressure is put on it, operational uncertainties and the tolerance of the operator. (Image credit: Courtesy Rall Walsh)

    Oil and gas operations can generate significant quantities of “produced water” – brackish water that needs to be disposed of through deep injection to protect drinking water. Energy companies also dispose of water that flows back after hydraulic fracturing in the same way. This process can increase pore pressure – the pressure of groundwater trapped within the tiny spaces inside rocks in the subsurface – which, in turn, increases the pressure on nearby faults, causing them to slip and release seismic energy in the form of earthquakes.

    The Fault Slip Potential (FSP) tool that Walsh and Zoback developed uses three key pieces of information to help determine the probability of a fault being pushed to slip. The first is how much wastewater injection will increase pore pressure at a site. The second is knowledge of the stresses acting in the earth. This information is obtained from monitoring earthquakes or already drilled wells in the area. The final piece of information is knowledge of pre-existing faults in the area. Such information typically comes from data collected by oil and gas companies as they explore for new resources.

    Testing the tool

    Zoback and Walsh have started testing their FSP tool in Oklahoma, which has experienced a sharp rise in the number of earthquakes since 2009, due largely to wastewater injection operations. Their analysis suggests that some wastewater injection wells in Oklahoma were unwittingly placed near stressed faults already primed to slip.

    “Our tool provides a quantitative probabilistic approach for identifying at-risk faults so that they can be avoided,” Walsh said. “Our aim is to make using this tool the first thing that’s done before an injection well is drilled.”

    Regulators could also use the tool to identify areas where proposed injection activities could prove problematic so that enhanced monitoring efforts can be implemented.

    The FSP software program will be made freely available for download at SCITS.stanford.edu on March 2.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 2:33 pm on February 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Electrochemistry, Nuclear energy may come from the sea, , Stanford   

    From physicsworld.com: “Nuclear energy may come from the sea” 

    physicsworld
    physicsworld.com.com

    Feb 23, 2017
    Sarah Tesh

    1
    Seawater supplies: carbon–polymer electrodes can extract the sea’s uranium. No image credit.

    Uranium has been extracted from seawater using electrochemical methods. A team at Stanford University in California has removed the radioactive material from seawater by using a polymer–carbon electrode and applying a pulsed electric field.

    Uranium is a key component of nuclear fuel. On land, there are about 7.6 million tonnes of identified uranium deposits around the world. This ore is mined, processed and used for nuclear energy. In contrast, there is 4.5 billion tonnes of the heavy metal in seawater as a result of the natural weathering of undersea deposits. If uranium could be extracted from seawater, it could be used to fuel nuclear power stations for hundreds of years. As well as taking advantage of an untapped energy resource, seawater extraction would also avoid the negative environmental impacts of mining processes.

    Tiny concentrations

    Scientists are therefore working on methods to remove and recover uranium from the sea. However, the oceans are vast, and the concentration of uranium is only 3 μg/l, making the development of practical extraction techniques a significant challenge. “Concentrations are tiny, on the order of a single grain of salt dissolved in a litre of water,” says team member Yi Cui. Furthermore, the high salt content of seawater limits traditional extraction methods.

    In water, uranium typically exists as a positively charged uranium oxide, or uranyl, ion (UO2+2). Most methods for extraction involve an adsorbent material where the uranyl ion attaches to the surface but does not chemically react with it. The current leading materials are amidoxime polymers. The performance of adsorbents is, however, limited by their surface area. As there are only a certain number of adsorption sites, and the concentration of uranium is extremely low compared with other positive ions like sodium and calcium, the uranium-adsorbent interaction is slow and sites are quickly taken up by other ions. Furthermore, the adsorbed ions still carry a positive charge and therefore repel other uranyl ions away from the material.

    Electrochemical answer

    Cui and his team turned to electrochemistry and deposition for a solution to this problem. In a basic electrochemical cell, there is an electrolyte solution and two submerged electrodes connected to a power supply. By providing the electrodes with opposite charges, an electrical current is driven through the liquid, forcing positive ions to the negative electrode, and electrons and negative ions to the positive electrode. At the negative electrode, called the anode, the positive ions are reduced, meaning they gain electrons. For most metallic ions, this causes the precipitation of the solid metal and is often deposited on the electrode surface.

    In their electrochemical cell, the team used an anode made of carbon coated with amidoxime polymer, and an inert partner electrode. The electrolyte was seawater, which for some tests contained added uranium. By applying a short pulse of current, the positive uranyl, calcium and sodium ions were drawn to the carbon–polymer electrode. The amidoxime film encouraged the uranyl ions to be preferentially adsorbed over the other ions. The adsorbed uranyl ions were reduced to solid, charge-neutral uranium oxide (UO2) and once the current was switched off, the unwanted ions returned to the bulk of the electrolyte. By repeating the pulsed process, the researchers were able to build up the deposited uranium oxide on the electrode surface, no matter what the initial concentration of the solution was.

    Removal and recovery

    In tests comparing the new method to plain adsorptive amidoxime, the electrochemical cell significantly outperformed the more traditional material. Within the time it took the amidoxime surface to become saturated, the carbon–polymer electrode had extracted nine times the amount of uranium. Furthermore, the team demonstrated that 96.6% of the metal could be recovered from the surface by applying a reverse current and an acidic electrolyte. For an adsorption material, only 76.0% can be recovered with acid elution.

    Despite the researchers’ success, there is a long way to go before large-scale application. To be commercially viable, the benefits of the extracted uranium must outweigh the cost and power demands of the process. Furthermore, the process needs to be streamlined to treat large quantities of water. “We have a lot of work to do still but these are big steps toward practicality,” Cui concludes.

    The extraction method is described in Nature Energy.

    See the full article here .

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    PhysicsWorld is a publication of the Institute of Physics. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application.

    We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications.
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  • richardmitnick 2:23 pm on February 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 10 global challenges, , , Stanford, Stanford Catalyst for Collaborative Solutions   

    From Stanford: “Stanford Catalyst for Collaborative Solutions focuses on 10 global challenges” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    February 16, 2017
    Michael Freedman

    The Stanford Catalyst for Collaborative Solutions plans to award $12 million to four interdisciplinary teams, each committed to working in collaboration on projects that will make headway on one of 10 global challenges.

    1
    Senior research engineer Jennifer Hicks, right, in discussion with Ilenia Battiato, assistant professor of energy resources engineering, at a workshop in the d.school designed to help faculty meet one another and start to identify common research interests as part of the Stanford Catalyst for Collaborative Solutions. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

    When Stanford Engineering conducted its school-wide strategic planning program two years ago, one of the main outcomes was the identification of 10 major global challenges on which it would like to have a significant impact.

    10 Grand Challenges

    How can we ensure that humanity flourishes in the cities of the future?

    The world’s urban population is projected to increase from 3.9 billion to 6.3 billion by 2050, making up 66 percent of the entire global population. Today’s urban areas provide a disparate quality of life and quality of services to their populations, and they inflict a mostly adverse impact on our natural environment. Our challenge is to design and re-engineer our urban environments for the future to provide modern services in ways that allow humans and nature to flourish.

    How can we engineer matter from atomic to macro scales?

    The history of human civilization has always been associated with new materials. However, materials are necessary but not sufficient: They need to be affordably and safely manufactured at scale and integrated into engineered devices and systems to create value for society. We seek to engineer matter – at all scales – for affordable and sustainable energy conversion, storage and use; new ways to improve human health and quality of life; and new approaches to creating affordable, clean and drinkable water.

    How can we use autonomy to enable future technologies?

    In an era of continued industrialization, urbanization and globalization, much higher levels of autonomy in a variety of engineered systems are emerging. But the scientific, technological, legal and ethical knowledge required is not yet available to infuse higher levels of autonomy into many of these systems. Moreover, the societal implications of much higher levels of systems autonomy in our daily lives – such as the potential for significant loss in employment – are not well understood. To address such challenges and achieve effective solutions, it will be necessary to integrate engineering disciplines with expertise throughout the university.

    How can we use our strength in computation and data analysis to drive innovation?

    In recent decades, computation and data analysis (CDA) have become critically important in nearly every field of science and engineering. CDA is also increasingly widespread in medicine, the social sciences, the humanities and beyond. Our challenge is to harness domain expertise throughout the university, especially unique access to large data sets and high-performance computing, to provide opportunities for CDA-based innovation that cross traditional boundaries.

    How do we achieve effective yet affordable healthcare everywhere?

    Health care concerns pose tremendous challenges to humanity, but evolving technological trends present tremendous opportunities to address these challenges. New products and processes are emerging that will change how we deliver health care, and remote monitoring and telemedicine are creating a sea change in the role of the physician. Leveraging ongoing transformations in healthcare data, personalized medicine, and preventative care to provide low-cost, high-quality health care globally will require a new level of interdisciplinary collaboration.

    How do we create synergy between humans and engineered systems?

    Engineering exists to serve humanity, and as advances in information, communication and sensor technologies permeate our lives, the interface between us and our technology is becoming both richer and more complex. But how well do these technologies understand what we want? Our challenge is to manage the complex interface needed for technology to discover, understand and adapt to individual, social and cultural values over time.

    How do we secure everything?

    For all the good the digital revolution is producing, it also is bringing new threats and increasingly sophisticated attacks on everything from personal finances to national elections. We currently lack a deep enough understanding of how to engineer such systems securely, and yet many physical systems, once deployed, will remain in place for decades or longer. We must therefore figure out today how to ensure security into the future and how to rapidly deploy those solutions once they are developed.

    How do we sustain the exponential increase in information technology performance?

    Exponential advances in the performance, integration density and energy efficiency of computing systems fueled the information technology (IT) revolution of the 20th century. However, predicting the fate of IT systems from our current trajectory raises more questions than answers. For example, there is no clear roadmap for how we will manage the exponential growth of such data without consuming excessive amounts of power. Solving challenges such as this will require coordinated breakthroughs from materials to the underlying mathematics of computing.

    How do we provide humanity with the affordable energy it needs and stabilize the climate?

    One of the greatest challenges humanity will face this century is providing the world’s growing population and economy with the clean and affordable energy it needs. In a business-as-usual scenario, there are no solutions to provide this energy while reducing greenhouse emissions so that the global climate can be stabilized. Our challenge is to combine technology, financing, market structure, business models, policies and studies of consumer behavior to accelerate deployment of carbon-free energy generation while dramatically reducing consumption of electricity and transportation fuels.

    How good can we get at engineering living matter?

    A global research community has formed with the goal of making biology easy to engineer. We can now foresee achieving exponential improvements in our capacity to engineer living systems and more powerfully harness life’s intrinsic capacity for organizing atoms. Such capacities could be used to remake our civilization’s supply chains; open new frontiers in medicine; and enable the otherwise impossible, such as exploration on Mars. However, positive outcomes will require that ethical, political, and cultural implications of these new technologies are henceforth considered as an essential research activity alongside the science and engineering.

    But how? The issues highlighted were exceedingly complex, focusing on things like how to ensure humanity flourishes in the cities of the future and how to achieve effective yet affordable healthcare everywhere. Solving them would require not just ingenuity but the ability to bring together expertise from multiple disciplines and perspectives from Stanford, industry and the public sector.

    To help achieve this audacious goal, the school has now launched the Stanford Catalyst for Collaborative Solutions. To start, the initiative will provide up to $12 million to four teams, each of them committed to working in collaboration on projects that will make significant headway on one of the 10 grand challenges.

    This spring, Catalyst director John Dabiri and his team of advisors will identify and fund the first two projects, each receiving up to $3 million over three years, with two more teams to be identified for funding in early 2018.

    Leveraging expertise

    “This is an exciting opportunity to leverage Stanford’s expertise across all seven schools in collaborative pursuit of solutions to big challenges that are normally addressed piecemeal if at all,” said Dabiri, a professor of mechanical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering. “The Catalyst represents a bold investment by Stanford, and it has already proven to be a powerful convening force, bringing together faculty from nearly every discipline, most of whom are meeting for the first time.”

    The proposals, due March 17, will be evaluated in part on teams’ willingness to take risks and explore ideas beyond the bounds of traditional research, according to Dabiri, and to an equal measure on their plan to “initiate and sustain meaningful interdisciplinary collaborations within the School of Engineering, across the university and beyond.”

    Teams must include at least one member of the Stanford Engineering faculty as a member of the project leadership team. Beyond that, Dabiri said, teams should be composed of those best suited to working together to solve the problem rather than from any particular background. Teams are required in their proposals to address how every member of the team will interact with one another, and show how each individual is integral to the success of the project.

    2
    Jenny Suckale, assistant professor of geophysics, listens as law Professor Amalia Kessler shares during an exercise in the Catalyst seminar at the d.school. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

    To kickstart the initiative, Dabiri and his team recently held a series of workshops during which several dozen faculty members from throughout the university participated in a series of collaborative exercises to help faculty from different schools and departments meet one another and start to identify common research interests.

    “Communicating across disciplines is not always straightforward,” said d.school Executive Director Sarah Stein Greenberg, who led the workshops and serves on the Catalyst advisory board. “So we are engaging participants with a variety of tools to help foster unexpected connections and encourage new ideas to start to flow.”

    In one warm-up exercise, Stein Greenberg asked participants to share in small groups how they’re known in their fields and how they’d like to be known. The goal, she said, was to help participants accelerate the normal rate of getting to know one another and to have a forum to explore their own aspirations and motivations and expose themselves to potential collaborators.

    In another exercise, she asked participants to sketch out their disciplines to show the various intersections with other areas of expertise. In small-group discussions, participants explored how their individual disciplines combined, overlapped or stood apart from other fields. Participants began to see how the complex challenges of the world are most often solved in collaboration rather than in isolation.

    “The workshop was a great opportunity to meet fascinating people from other schools and departments across the university whom I would never encounter through the normal course of my research and teaching, given how specialized we all tend to be,” said law Professor Amalia Kessler.

    Meaningful collaboration, bold risks

    At the workshops, organizers asked participants to consider in small groups and bring their own expertise to bear on the issue of how humanity can flourish in the cities of the future. “It was very interesting to see that despite our disciplinary differences,” Kessler said, “colleagues specializing in civil engineering and risk management and I ended up agreeing that a core hindrance to meaningful change of any kind is deep-rooted, institutionalized forms of structural inequality.”

    4
    Doctoral candidate Chris Ford, Professor Larry Leifer and Assistant Professor Sindy Tang, all of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, work on one of the exercises in the Catalyst workshop. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

    Economist Garth Saloner, former dean of the Graduate School of Business, said that one important feature of the Catalyst initiative is that it will provide workshops, forums, conferences and dinners to facilitate the formation of cross-disciplinary teams that don’t already exist.

    “Many of the societal challenges that social scientists are interested in require a deep understanding of technology or have solutions that are in part implemented through technology. Enabling faculty in different schools who have different pieces of the puzzle to find one another will be a unique and core feature of the Catalyst model,” said Saloner, who serves on the Catalyst advisory board.

    Dabiri notes that the outcome of the projects will vary depending on the team. For some it may include development of a new technology; for others it may be the implementation of a policy mechanism. The key, he said, is that by providing funding that explicitly requires meaningful collaboration and encourages the kinds of bold risks that do not normally get funded, the Catalyst can be a model for high-impact and interdisciplinary research.

    An equally important outcome, he said, is that it will create a new network of faculty, staff and students working collaboratively to solve the world’s most urgent challenges.

    “Our primary goal at this stage is to encourage participation from all parts of the Stanford community through the program funding and other activities to come,” he said.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

    Stanford University Seal

     
  • richardmitnick 1:04 pm on February 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Enabling early detection of diseases is one of the greatest opportunities we have for developing effective treatments., Lab on a Chip, Microfluidics electronics and inkjet technology combine to make this possible., Stanford   

    From Stanford: “Scientists develop ‘lab on a chip’ that costs 1 cent to make” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    Feb 6 2017

    Jennie Dusheck Tel
    650-725-5376
    dusheck@stanford.edu

    Margarita Gallardo
    650-723-7897
    mjgallardo@stanford.edu

    Microfluidics, electronics and inkjet technology underlie a newly developed all-in-one biochip from Stanford that can analyze cells for research and clinical applications.

    1
    Rahim Esfandyarpour helped to develop a way to create a diagnostic “lab on a chip” for just a penny.
    Zahra Koochak

    Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a way to produce a cheap and reusable diagnostic “lab on a chip” with the help of an ordinary inkjet printer.

    At a production cost of as little as 1 cent per chip, the new technology could usher in a medical diagnostics revolution like the kind brought on by low-cost genome sequencing, said Ron Davis, PhD, professor of biochemistry and of genetics and director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center.

    A study describing the technology was published online Feb. 6 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Davis is the senior author. The lead author is Rahim Esfandyarpour, PhD, an engineering research associate at the genome center.

    The inexpensive lab-on-a-chip technology has the potential to enhance diagnostic capabilities around the world, especially in developing countries. Due to inferior access to early diagnostics, the survival rate of breast cancer patients is only 40 percent in low-income nations — half the rate of such patients in developed nations. Other lethal diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, also have high incidence and bad patient outcomes in developing countries. Better access to cheap diagnostics could help turn this around, especially as most such equipment costs thousands of dollars.

    “Enabling early detection of diseases is one of the greatest opportunities we have for developing effective treatments,” Esfandyarpour said. “Maybe $1 in the U.S. doesn’t count that much, but somewhere in the developing world, it’s a lot of money.”

    A two-part system

    A combination of microfluidics, electronics and inkjet printing technology, the lab on a chip is a two-part system. The first is a clear silicone microfluidic chamber for housing cells and a reusable electronic strip. The second part is a regular inkjet printer that can be used to print the electronic strip onto a flexible sheet of polyester using commercially available conductive nanoparticle ink.

    2
    The lab on a chip comprises a clear silicone microfluidic chamber for housing cells and a reusable electronic strip — a flexible sheet of polyester with commercially available conductive nanoparticle ink. Zahra Koochak

    “We designed it to eliminate the need for clean-room facilities and trained personnel to fabricate such a device,” said Esfandyarpour, an electrical engineer by training. One chip can be produced in about 20 minutes, he said.

    Designed as a multifunctional platform, one of its applications is that it allows users to analyze different cell types without using fluorescent or magnetic labels that are typically required to track cells. Instead, the chip separates cells based on their intrinsic electrical properties: When an electric potential is applied across the inkjet-printed strip, cells loaded into the microfluidic chamber get pulled in different directions depending on their “polarizability” in a process called dielectrophoresis. This label-free method to analyze cells greatly improves precision and cuts lengthy labeling processes.

    The tool is designed to handle small-volume samples for a variety of assays. The researchers showed the device can help capture single cells from a mix, isolate rare cells and count cells based on cell types. The cost of these multifunctional biochips is orders of magnitude lower than that of the individual technologies that perform each of those functions. A standalone flow cytometer machine, for example, which is used to sort and count cells, costs $100,000, without taking any operational costs into account.

    Potential to democratize diagnostics

    “The motivation was really how to export technology and how to decrease the cost of things,” Davis said.

    The low cost of the chips could democratize diagnostics similar to how low-cost sequencing created a revolution in health care and personalized medicine, Davis said. Inexpensive sequencing technology allows clinicians to sequence tumor DNA to identify specific mutations and recommend personalized treatment plans. In the same way, the lab on a chip has the potential to diagnose cancer early by detecting tumor cells that circulate in the bloodstream. “The genome project has changed the way an awful lot of medicine is done, and we want to continue that with all sorts of other technology that are just really inexpensive and accessible,” Davis said.

    The technology has the potential to not only advance health care, but also to accelerate basic and applied research. It would allow scientists and clinicians to potentially analyze more cells in shorter time periods, manipulate stem cells to achieve efficient gene transfer and develop cost-effective ways to diagnose diseases, Esfandyarpour said. The team hopes the chip will create a transformation in how people use instruments in the lab. “I’m pretty sure it will open a window for researchers because it makes life much easier for them — just print it and use it,” he said.

    The work is an example of Stanford Medicine’s focus on precision health, the goal of which is to anticipate and prevent disease in the healthy and precisely diagnose and treat disease in the ill.

    Other Stanford co-authors of the study are graduate students Matthew DiDonato and Yuxin Yang; postdoctoral scholar Naside Gozde Durmus, PhD; and James Harris, PhD, professor of electrical engineering.

    The research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (grant HG000205).

    The departments of Biochemistry and of Genetics also supported the work.

    See the full article here .

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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 9:06 am on February 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Ecological models, Ecologically informed decisions, Greenhouse gas emissions, In the past 10 years China invested over $100 billion in conservation efforts, Most important flood control sandstorm control provision of abundant water (for drinking irrigation and hydropower) stabilization of soil and biodiversity, Natural Capital Project, Prosperity and well-being depend on nature, Stanford, The future of human civilization depends on getting this right, Water purification, Which lands would be most valuable if set aside for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services   

    From Stanford: “China to protect areas of high ecological importance identified by Stanford researchers” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    February 2, 2017
    Jackie Flynn

    1
    Besides smoggy cities, China includes areas of natural beauty such as Jiuzhaigou National Park, in Sichuan Province. (Image credit: Zhiyun Ouyang)

    China leads the world in greenhouse gas emissions. Its biggest cities are shrouded in smog. And the country’s population is 1.4 billion people and growing. At least to the rest of the world, China isn’t known as a leader in environmental mindfulness.

    Research from Gretchen Daily, professor of biology at Stanford University, is helping to change that.

    Daily’s research, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used eco-mapping software to identify places of high ecological importance for the country. Chinese leaders are using Daily’s analytics to establish a series of protected areas, the first of their kind, as a part of their 21st-century ecological initiative.

    “It’s a historic moment in the evolution of Chinese civilization. It’s marked by a recognition that the singular focus on mainstream economic growth over the last century has come at a tremendous cost,” said Daily, who is also Bing Professor in Environmental Science.

    Guidance, not a price tag

    The software used in this study was created by researchers at the Natural Capital Project. Co-founded by Daily, the project is a joint effort among Stanford University, the University of Minnesota, The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund. The project’s mission is to identify and conserve areas of high ecological value across the globe.

    By using a series of ecological models, the software rates areas based on their ability to sustain human life. For example, a forest provides water purification, flood control, and climate stabilization – all services that support human life.

    “Our partners started asking, ‘Where does biodiversity matter for how ecosystems function within China?’ Essentially, we wanted to better understand which lands would be most valuable, if set aside for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services,” said Steve Polasky, co-author of the paper, co-founder of the Natural Capital Project and professor of ecological and environmental economics at the University of Minnesota.

    2
    Stanford Professor Gretchen Daily and Zhiyun Ouyang of the Chinese Academy of Science are among co-authors of a report on areas of China which deserve protection due to their high ecological importance. (Image credit: Courtesy Zhiyun Ouyang)

    In this case, the team identified five different vital life support services in China: flood control, sandstorm control, provision of abundant water (for drinking, irrigation and hydropower), stabilization of soil, and biodiversity. Then, the team mapped which areas of China were most valuable, ecologically speaking, to its people.

    The goal isn’t to “put a price tag on nature,” said Daily, but to provide a practical approach for guiding land use, infrastructure investment and siting, urban planning, investment in water supplies, and other realms of decision-making.

    “Today, nature is too often ignored. It’s sometimes held up as infinitely valuable, and more typically we say it’s not valuable at all, and give it a score of zero in cost-benefit analysis,” Daily said. “Neither position is helpful. We need to shine a light on the many ways in which prosperity and well-being depend on nature, systematically and for setting priorities.”

    China’s investment in conservation

    The national park system, expected to be formally proposed to Chinese leadership this summer, is only a part of China’s 21st-century environmental goals. In the past 10 years, China invested over $100 billion in conservation efforts. Currently, the country is paying 200 million people to protect or restore ecosystems as part of its eco-compensation program – the biggest eco-payment system in the world. The country is now developing and testing a new metric to measure the contribution of nature to human well-being, called Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP).

    “China is going further than any other place in so many ways. They are really trying to harmonize local well-being with long-term societal security and prosperity,” Daily said.

    The team identified priority areas including the lower streams of the Yangtze River, the Min-Zhe-Gan and Wuyi mountains, Nanling, and west and south Yunnan in the southern region. These areas were, for the most part, not a part of China’s existing nature preserves and captured only 10-13 percent of the country’s most ecologically valuable sites.

    Ecologically informed decisions

    While the Natural Capital Project’s software is already being used in 80 countries, Daily said she hopes that other countries will follow China’s example and adopt ecologically informed decision-making processes.

    “There are many countries pursuing green growth. What we’ve developed could be readily adapted and mainstreamed across all countries,” said Daily. “If that were to happen, I mean, that’s the ultimate dream here.”

    There is a growing fear among researchers in environmental science that crucial ecological systems, like the climate system that warms the Earth, are going to collapse. Valuing the services that nature provides isn’t just beneficial for the economies of countries, argues Daily, but is essential to humanity’s survival.

    “The future of human civilization depends on getting this right,” she said.

    Daily is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Co-authors of the paper include Weihua Xu, Yi Xiao, Jingjing Zhang, Lu Zhang, Hua Zheng Ling Jiang, Yang Xiao, Xuewei Shi, Enming Rao, Fei Lu, Xiaoke Wang and Zhiyun Ouyang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Wu Yang, Zhejiang University; Vanessa Hull and Jianguo Liu, Michigan State University; Zhi Wang, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Nanjing; and Stephen Polasky, University of Minnesota.

    The research was funded by the Ministry of Finance of China, the Paulson Institute, the Heren Foundation, the National Capital Project and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 9:51 am on February 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Stanford   

    From Stanford: Women in STEM – “Q&A with Provost Persis Drell” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    2.1.17
    No writer credit

    1
    Persis Drell


    Access mp4 video here .

    Today, Feb. 1, Persis Drell becomes provost of Stanford University. A longtime member of the Stanford community, Drell was appointed to the post in November by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, succeeding John Etchemendy.

    Drell, a physicist, most recently served as dean of the Stanford School of Engineering and previously as director of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

    Drell sat down with Stanford Report to discuss her approach to the job of provost, which serves as the university’s chief academic officer and chief budgetary officer and works in close partnership with the president to provide overall leadership for the campus. Video excerpts of the conversation are also available on this page.

    What do you expect to focus on first as you step into the role of provost?

    I think the most important thing really early on is to get to know the faculty, staff and students across the campus.

    I have been at Stanford for a while, since 2002, so there are parts of the university I know well. But even the parts I know well, I’ve realized how dramatically different they are in culture. And so I’m expecting the parts of the university I don’t know so well are going to be even more diverse in terms of their culture. To do my job, I’ve got to learn what’s important to them, how they do things, how to communicate with them. That’s very, very high on the agenda. For the students, it’s really important for me early to reach out to them so that they get to know me as not some nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Building 10. Then when issues come up, which they will, we’ll deal with each other as people, and not as adversaries.

    We’re kicking off a long-range planning process for the university, and that process will be incredibly important to set the guideposts for where we want to be and what we want to do over the next decade. And, I also have to learn the day-to-day job of the provost! That’s going to be learning the details of the budget, and I’m already engaged in that now. And it’s going to be the academic responsibilities of how we ensure the quality, the breadth, the diversity that we value so much.

    How do you envision the partnership you’ll have with President Tessier-Lavigne?

    Marc and I are very aligned when it comes to our value system and our principles. He has a line he uses that I find inspiring, which is: Given the gifts we have here at Stanford, we have a responsibility to use those gifts to make the world better. So his vision for where he wants to take Stanford I feel totally aligned with.

    That said, our styles are totally different! And I think that’s a strength. I just think that’s a strength. John Etchemendy and John Hennessy had totally different styles. But they were aligned in where they were going. Marc and I diagonalize on different axes, but that diversity of styles, I think, with an alignment of where we want to take the university, is the best I could hope for.

    The recent executive order on immigration has been a major concern on campus. What are your views on that subject?

    I value and will work to support all members of our community. That absolutely includes members of our Muslim and immigrant communities, who are among the communities feeling particularly vulnerable now. Marc, John and I issued a statement of principles that I hope people will read and that captures my thinking. I am deeply troubled by policies that restrict the broad flow of people and ideas across national borders, or that have the effect or appearance of excluding people based on religion or ethnicity. Such policies are antithetical to our mission and values as an institution, and to my personal values.

    You have a scientific background, but you also have a love of the humanities and include chamber music among your hobbies. How important is breadth in undergraduate education at Stanford?

    So, my career is in physics. I majored in math and physics. But I have always enjoyed the humanities. If I’m sitting at home with some time on my hands, I do not pick up a scientific journal to read. I pick up a novel. I happen to like 19th-century novels; that’s my preference. A lot of what I do, a lot of what all of us do, is deal with people. Even as a scientist, I’m dealing with people. I learn about people in reading a novel. I learn about people’s passions and emotions by playing music, and interacting with people and playing music.

    And so I think there’s a false choice people are presented with, that you’re either going to be the scientist or you’re going to be the humanist. I think all of us need parts of both, and I try to live my life that way.

    I think breadth in undergraduate education is absolutely critical. I was just having the discussion with a freshman recently who was looking at a winter quarter schedule of physics, computer science, math and another course. She was thinking about dropping her IntroSem [Introductory Seminar]. I told her, drop physics and take the IntroSem! I could just tell that she was really excited about the IntroSem, that it could take her in whole new directions. She thought she wanted to be an engineer, but she’s only a freshman. Getting breadth early, so that she can actually see what she really is interested in, is incredibly important. I do think this is something we could do better here at Stanford: helping our students understand how important breadth is, and then helping them explore early in their time at Stanford.

    What are you like to work with? What can the campus community expect from you?

    I’m a very direct person. I say what I think, and that’s the way I like to deal with people. I value transparency a lot.

    And I value, above all else, the team. Probably the thing I enjoy the most about managing is that you have a team of people, and with each one, they have tremendous skills. And you want to understand those skills and then help them use those skills to do things that even they couldn’t have imagined they could do. But then everybody also has weaknesses, so you want to protect them from their weaknesses and also let them know you’re always there to support them. Figuring out how to get a diverse team of people together to work to a common goal is about the most fun thing I can imagine doing.

    You often have spoken about the importance of diversity and inclusion. How do they enrich the education and research missions of Stanford?

    Diversity is incredibly important to us here at Stanford. It’s a core value of the institution. And I’ve learned that why diversity is important can actually vary across the university. One of the things I’m doing now, as I go around and meet faculty from around the university, is starting to ask them, why is diversity important to them? Why is diversity important to the humanities? To the natural sciences? To the social sciences? I think an important part of our learning experience is being able to articulate the answer to that question.

    In the School of Engineering, we were able to discover and articulate that being diverse was actually critical to our success as engineers. You need to have a breadth of thought and approach and background to understand the problems that need to be solved. You need a breadth of thought, background, approach in order to see what solution will fit in the context of the society where you want to implement your technical solution. Both of those require diverse teams of people and diverse approaches.

    In terms of inclusion: One of my former physics students wrote this fabulous blog titled, “No, I Am Not Lost.” She wrote about how as a computer science major, a young African American woman, she would walk into Gates [Computer Science Building], and it would be a matter of a minute or two before somebody asked her if she was lost. That was a bit of a wake-up call for me on how we need to be welcoming and supportive to all of our students.

    I feel that it is absolutely important for the success of every member of our community to ensure that they feel they belong here. I particularly feel this for our students. We do a fabulous job of admitting one of the most diverse undergraduate populations of any university. These students are terrific. We need to make sure that every single one of those students understands that they belong here and we are supporting them to be successful. And that’s fundamentally what inclusion means for me.

    Your predecessor, John Etchemendy, served as provost for nearly 17 years. Does his time in the office impact how you approach the role?

    John, for me, has been the heart and soul of this university for the time I’ve been here, since 2002. John convinced me, inspired me, encouraged me to do things that I didn’t know I could do. He saw opportunities for me that I couldn’t see for myself. And he encouraged me and supported me to be successful in really difficult and challenging times. He is my model, my inspiration, for the best kind of leadership at Stanford.

    What are you most excited about as you take on the role of provost?

    What I am most excited about as provost is where we’re going to be five or 10 years from now. We have a fabulous foundation. But we also have an institution that is not complacent and is ready to do what it takes to move to the future.

    We have fabulous faculty here. They are innovative, imaginative, they range the spectrum from brilliant individual contributors to leading large teams. We value all of them, enormously. And I view a primary responsibility of the provost (a) to ensure the continued quality and excellence of those faculty, and (b) to figure out what we can do at the university level to support our faculty to achieve their aspirations. That is what carries Stanford to its future and keeps us great.

    We have a staff that is absolutely fundamental to the success of the university and enormously dedicated to supporting the faculty and students. They are a central part of the future of the university, too.

    I think we’re blessed right now to have a student body that really and truly wants to make the world better. They are impatient for change. I want to encourage their aspirations to make the world a better place. I want to encourage their impatience. And I want to work with them to achieve their goals.

    Prepared remarks by Persis Drell at the ‘Reinvigorating Community: An Inauguration Day Gathering’ event.

    “Hello. I am Persis. Every four years, we inaugurate a President, and every four years, I take this moment to reflect on what it means to be an American. For each of us, it means something different. I just want to share with you what it means to me. This is a personal story. Each of you will answer the questions I am about to address in a different way.

    The first question I ask myself is: What do I mean when I say I am an American?

    I get asked all the time – where does your name “Persis” come from? Are you Greek? Are you Persian? And I always answer, well, the word “Persis” is Greek and it means “a woman from Persia,” but I’m not Greek and I’m not Persian, I’m American. I’m a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

    For me, being American has nothing to do with the accident of being born in Boston. It has much more to do with the mixing pot of values, cultures and backgrounds that I emerged from.

    To me, being American means that my father’s parents were not born in this country. They fled racism and religious persecution in Eastern Europe. They left everything behind and came to this country determined that their children would grow up in freedom and get an education.

    My mother’s mother was one of six sisters and one brother growing up in Rushford, Minnesota. My great grandfather died young, and the family had a very difficult time, splitting up and living with various relatives to have a roof over their heads. Amazingly for the early 1900s, the family prioritized education, even for the daughters.

    To me, being American means that the six sisters could pull each other up the educational ladder, one by one. The oldest sister, my great-aunt, was named Persis, which is where I got my name. It is a family name and has nothing to do with being Greek or Persian. It is in the Bible and was in the family for generations.

    My mother’s father was a planter in Mississippi and his family was on the losing side in the Civil War. We don’t really know how he and my Minnesota grandmother met. She was a schoolteacher.

    Being American – to me – means that two of my grandparents were Jewish. Two were Protestant.

    My father grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and worked his way through college, going to Princeton as part of the Jewish quota allowed in at the time.

    My mother was born and raised in rural Mississippi. And her mother insisted she had to go north and get an education. And she did, at Wellesley College.

    My parents met at University of Illinois where both were pursuing graduate studies. I always marvel at random chance that brought them together from such different backgrounds.

    To me, being an American means that my family is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and education has been the great enabler for us regardless of our background.

    And while my parents’ story seems a series of improbably random occurrences, I believe it is the norm and not the exception. And I believe many of you have similar family stories with equally random events deciding the course of your lives. And I don’t think those stories could have been written so many times in any other country but ours.

    And education, for so many of us, has been the route to personal happiness, professional happiness, and perhaps most satisfying, the route to being able to contribute to society.

    And when I say I am an American, I mean that my arms are open to the people who arrive on our doorsteps today, with the same dreams for the future that two of my grandparents had when they arrived here 100 years ago.

    The great strength of our country is that so many of us have backgrounds similarly or even more diverse. This diversity of backgrounds and thought and approach is not only this nation’s heritage, our shared experience, but it is our strength as a country. This country is built on a foundation that you have a place here regardless of your background. You have an opportunity to learn and grow — not only for yourself but so that you may contribute to the common good. By bringing people together from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, we stand stronger.

    The second question I ask myself is: What does being an American mean to me?

    I believe we live in the greatest country in the world. And I believe this country is great because of the opportunities that exist here and the freedoms we have.

    Now let me be very clear. Inequity and injustice are not abstract concepts in our country. They are real and they affect real people.

    Could the opportunities in our country be better? Yes! Could our society be more equitable? Yes! Are there injustices in our society? Yes! Are there many, many things that could be better in our society today? Yes! Are there many injustices in the world that we have a responsibility to make right? Absolutely!

    What makes me think this country is great is my faith in our continuing ability to make the future better than the past. And that is because of our democratic process. Our democratic process, enshrined in the Constitution, affords us rights and responsibilities that I believe empower us to help mend these injustices, create a more equitable society with greater opportunity for all, and together tackle the world’s urgent challenges.

    Democracy is messy and it is hard, but I believe that the opportunity always exists to make our country and our world better. So for me, being American means never losing my optimism about the future.

    My optimism is based on the progress I have seen in my lifetime. My optimism is based on the potential I see in the people in this room. In fact, you give me the most hope about the future! Some of you dedicate your careers and lives to supporting and conducting research and teaching, and advancing the goals of this institution. Others of you will stay for a few years, graduate, and then go off and do amazing things with your lives elsewhere.

    But every one of you, and each of your colleagues and friends here at Stanford, have made a commitment to the importance of education. And so it is your energy, your dedication, your values — you are the source of my greatest optimism.

    You must believe in the future and you must work to make the world better. Believe in and work for what is best in people. Be positive about the contributions you are making. Use your education to build the country worthy of your aspirations. Work to ensure that others can receive similar educational opportunities so that together you can build a more just, equitable, and peaceful world.

    The future of this country is yours. Embrace it!”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 11:38 am on January 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Physicist Peter Graham, , Stanford   

    From Stanford: “Stanford physicist suggests looking for dark matter in unusual places” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    January 12, 2017
    Amy Adams

    Most experiments searching for mysterious dark matter require massive colliders, but Stanford physicist Peter Graham advocates a different, less costly approach.

    1
    Physicist Peter Graham recently received a Breakthrough New Horizons Prize for his novel approach to particle physics. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

    For decades, particle physics has been the domain of massive colliders that whip particles around at high speeds and smash them into one another while teams of thousands observe the results. These kinds of experiments have produced great insights into forces and particles that make up the physical world.

    But Stanford physicist Peter Graham is advocating a much different approach – one that could be faster and cheaper than massive colliders, and that may be able to detect previously elusive forms of physics like dark matter.

    Graham pointed out that colliders cost tens of billions of dollars and come along so rarely that there might only be one new collider built in his lifetime. His approach evokes a time when physics could be carried out on a tabletop by one or two people and produce results in just a few years.

    “It’s going back to that in some ways, but using very different types of technologies and different approaches,” said Graham, who is an assistant professor of physics. “It’s a new direction for looking for the most basic laws of nature.”

    Graham, who is also a collaborator with the elementary particle physics division at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, recently received a Breakthrough New Horizons in Physics Prize for his novel direction, which he hopes more people will join. He spoke with Stanford Report about why physics needs new types of experiments, what dark matter might be and how he hopes to detect it.

    You’ve said that your experiments explore new physics. What does that mean?

    The standard model of particle physics is everything we’ve discovered. It explains almost every experiment ever done over gigantic scales, from nuclei to galaxies.

    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.
    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    There’s really just a very few things it doesn’t explain, which we call new physics. We know there is stuff out there beyond what we’ve seen, like dark matter, and new fundamental laws. Those are the things we are trying to discover.

    Dark matter is one form of new physics you might be able to detect. Can you explain what dark matter is and why physicists believe it exists?

    Initially, people realized that there’s much more gravity pulling in on galaxies than they could account for. Either the laws of gravity were wrong, which was possible, or there was something else that we don’t know about pulling on the galaxies. Either way, you can’t explain it with what we know.

    There’s now a lot of evidence that our understanding of gravity isn’t wrong, and instead there’s some new kind of stuff that physicists have named dark matter. It’s been a major goal in physics to understand dark matter and come up with new types of experiments to try to detect it. But you have to have some guesses about what it might be if you are going to find it. It’s a universal point in science that you have to have some idea what you are looking for in order to know how to go about looking for it.

    What are some of the theories about what dark matter might be?

    There is a lot of evidence for two candidates, called WIMPs and axions. You can look for WIMPs [weakly interacting massive particles] with more traditional techniques, like the giant colliders, and that attracted a lot of attention.

    There was just one experiment looking for axions and it only looked at part of the possible axion spectrum. It was a scary scenario that axions might be the dark matter and there might be no way to detect them. Axions are very difficult to search for because they don’t interact much with our experiments.

    Dark matter could also be some crazy new kind of particle, or a combination of WIMPs and axions, or even collections of black holes. We don’t know.

    What motivated you to think about alternate ways of exploring new physics?

    Part of the motivation is that the big colliders are important but they are also getting expensive to build. In addition, we are realizing that some new theories about dark matter really couldn’t be discovered at colliders.

    My work has been to take techniques from other fields of physics and use them in particle physics. The Breakthrough Prize is really nice because it brings a stamp of approval and could really help us get this new experimental direction going.

    Can you give me an example of one type of experiment you’ve designed?

    People had thought about one approach to detect axion dark matter and it did a good job for higher mass axions, but could not possibly see lower mass axions. We came up with a new technique to detect low mass axions. It involved combining NMR [nuclear magnetic resonance], which is commonly used in medical applications, and magnetometry, which is a very precise tool for measuring magnetic fields. We use NMR to amplify the axion signal so that the magnetometer can pick it up.

    We’ve already started building this experiment, and it could generate results in a few years. It’s very exciting because these kinds of experiments can produce results on short time scales.

    Why is it important to explore these new frontiers in physics?

    Humanity has always stared up at the stars and wondered why we are here. These kinds of questions, like the nature of dark matter, tell us about the birth of the universe, why the whole universe is here.

    But a part of it for me is also that I want to be making some contribution. One example of how basic physics helps people came from quantum mechanics. I’m sure at the time they thought it was a pure physics exercise and had no relation to human health. Well, we learned quantum mechanics and now we have MRI machines and PET scans. I would say that’s a really important lesson. Humans are creative and we do find ways to use new information.

    See the full article here .

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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 10:13 am on January 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Here’s how to build a whirligig, Inspired by a whirligig toy Stanford bioengineers develop a 20-cent hand-powered blood centrifuge, , , Stanford   

    From Stanford: “Inspired by a whirligig toy, Stanford bioengineers develop a 20-cent, hand-powered blood centrifuge” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    January 10, 2017
    Kris Newby

    Stanford bioengineers have developed an ultra-low-cost, human-powered blood centrifuge. With rotational speeds of up to 125,000 revolutions per minute, the device separates blood plasma from red cells in 1.5 minutes, no electricity required.


    Access mp4 video here .
    Inspired by a toy, Stanford bioengineers have developed an inexpensive, human-powered blood centrifuge that will enable precise diagnosis and treatment of diseases like malaria, African sleeping sickness and tuberculosis in the poor, off-the-grid regions where these diseases are most prevalent. Video by Kurt Hickman

    Here’s how to build a whirligig: Thread a loop of twine through two holes in a button. Grab the loop ends, then rhythmically pull. As the twine coils and uncoils, the button spins at a dizzying speed.

    Now, using the same mechanical principles, Stanford bioengineers have created an ultra-low-cost, human-powered centrifuge that separates blood into its individual components in only 1.5 minutes. Built from 20 cents of paper, twine and plastic, a “paperfuge” can spin at speeds of 125,000 rpm and exert centrifugal forces of 30,000 Gs.

    “To the best of my knowledge, it’s the fastest spinning object driven by human power,” said Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford.

    A centrifuge is critical for detecting diseases such as malaria, African sleeping sickness, HIV and tuberculosis. This low-cost version will enable precise diagnosis and treatment in the poor, off-the-grid regions where these diseases are most prevalent.

    The physics and test results of this device are published in the Jan. 10 issue of Nature Biomedical Engineering.

    No electricity required

    When used for disease testing, a centrifuge separates blood components and makes pathogens easier to detect. A typical centrifuge spins fluid samples inside an electric-powered, rotating drum. As the drum spins, centrifugal forces separate fluids by density into layers within a sample tube. In the case of blood, heavy red cells collect at the bottom of the tube, watery plasma floats to the top, and parasites, like those that cause malaria, settle in the middle.

    Prakash, who specializes in low-cost diagnostic tools for underserved regions, recognized the need for a new type of centrifuge after he saw an expensive centrifuge being used as a doorstop in a rural clinic in Uganda because there was no electricity to run it.

    “There are more than a billion people around the world who have no infrastructure, no roads, no electricity. I realized that if we wanted to solve a critical problem like malaria diagnosis, we needed to design a human-powered centrifuge that costs less than a cup of coffee,” said Prakash, who was senior author on the study.

    Inspired by spinning toys, Prakash began brainstorming design ideas with Saad Bhamla, a postdoctoral research fellow in his lab and first author on the paper. After weeks of exploring ways to convert human energy into spinning forces, they began focusing on toys invented before the industrial age – yo-yos, tops and whirligigs.

    “One night I was playing with a button and string, and out of curiosity, I set up a high-speed camera to see how fast a button whirligig would spin. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Bhamla, when he discovered that the whirring button was rotating at 10,000 to 15,000 rpms.

    After two weeks of prototyping, he mounted a capillary of blood on a paper-disc whirligig and was able to centrifuge blood into layers. It was a definitive proof-of-concept, but before he went to the next step in the design process, he and Prakash decided to tackle a scientific question no one else had: How does a whirligig actually work?

    The other string theory

    Bhamla recruited three undergraduate engineering students from MIT and Stanford to build a mathematical model of how the devices work. The team created a computer simulation to capture design variables like disc size, string elasticity and pulling force. They also borrowed equations from the physics of supercoiling DNA strands to understand how hand-forces move from the coiling strings to power the spinning disc.

    “There are some beautiful mathematics hidden inside this object,” Prakash said.

    Once the engineers validated their models against real-world prototype performance, they were able to create a prototype with rotational speeds of up to 125,000 rpm, a magnitude significantly higher than their first prototypes.

    “From a technical spec point of view, we can match centrifuges that cost from $1,000 to $5,000,” said Prakash.

    In parallel, they improved the device’s safety and began testing configurations that could be used to test live parasites in the field. From lab-based trials, they found that malaria parasites could be separated from red blood cells in 15 minutes. And by spinning the sample in a capillary precoated with acridine orange dye, glowing malaria parasites could be identified by simply placing the capillary under a microscope.

    Bhamla and Prakash, who recently returned from fieldwork in Madagascar, are currently conducting a paperfuge field validation trial for malaria diagnostics with PIVOT and Institut Pasteur, community-health collaborators based in Madagascar.

    A frugal science toolbox

    Paperfuge is the third invention from the Prakash lab driven by a frugal design philosophy, where engineers rethink traditional medical tools to lower costs and bring scientific capabilities out of the lab and into hands of health care workers in resource-poor areas.

    The first was the foldscope, a fully functional, under-a-dollar paper microscope that can be used for diagnosing blood-borne diseases such as malaria, African sleeping sickness and Chagas. To date there are 50,000 foldscopes in the hands of people around the world, and a spinoff company recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to ship 1 million more.

    The second was a $5 programmable kid’s chemistry set, inspired by hand-crank music boxes, which enables the execution of precise chemical assays in the field.

    Prakash’s dream is that these tools will enable health workers, field ecologists and children in the most remote areas of the world to carry a complete laboratory in a backpack.

    “Frugal science is about democratizing scientific tools to get them out to people around the world,” said Prakash.

    Prakash is also a member of Stanford Bio-X and Stanford ChEM-H, a senior fellow at the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health and an affiliate of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

    Other co-authors on the paper are Brandon Benson, Chew Chai, Georgios Katsikis and Aanchal Johri.

    This work was supported by the Stanford-Spectrum Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a Stanford School of Medicine Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Pew Foundation, the Moore Foundation, a National Science Foundation Career Award and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) New Innovator Award.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

    Stanford University Seal

     
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