Physics and Astronomy Colloquium Schedule

Spring 2023 Colloquium Schedule

Thursdays at 1:45
This page will be updated throughout the semester.

If you would to join the Physics and Astronomy Department Colloquium email list, please send Yu Gong a note.

January 19th, 2023

Title: Data driven model discovery of the CAR T-cell killing dynamics of cancer

Speaker: Dr. Alex Brummer (in-person at RITA 387)


In the development of anti-cancer therapies, quantitative mathematical models of cellular interactions are pivotal tools for understanding treatment efficacy.   Conventional efforts to validate and interpret models of cancer cell growth and death hinge on first proposing a precise mathematical model, then analyzing experimental data in the context of that chosen model.  In this talk I will present an implementation of recently developed dynamical systems methods to instead discover the most explanatory mathematical model term-by-term.  I will highlight how the use of power series expansions plays an essential role in matching this modeling framework with experimental results.  These methods are used on in vitro experimental data of T-cells genetically engineered to target and kill patient-derived brain cancer cell lines. Our modeling predicts key aspects of the interaction dynamics of cancer cell and T-cell populations. Importantly, we show how the different mathematical models identified can be interpreted biologically in relation to different T-cell functional responses, whether individuals or pairs of T-cells are binding to cancer cells, and various growth models for either of the T-cell or cancer cell populations (e.g. Logistic and Allee models).

January 26th, 2023

Title: The Process and Benefits of an REU Experience

Speaker: Zeth Soppelt (in-person at RITA 387)


The purpose of this talk is to highlight my recent experience at the University of Hawaii’s Astronomy REU. REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates) are highly competitive summer programs hosted by a myriad of institutions throughout the US and funded through the NSF (most typically). The knowledge, connections, and friends made during an REU are unmatched, and any undergraduate student would benefit immensely for this program. In this talk, I will be highlighting my research briefly, but I will go over in more detail the application process, the social aspect of an REU, the funding opportunities, and the demographics of my REU ‘class.’

February 2nd, 2023

Title: Electronic and molecular approaches for neural recording: deciphering the brain in space and time

Speaker: Dr. Dingchang Lin - Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering (via Zoom)


Resolving neuronal activity in space and time is a long-sought capability in neuroscience, which is, however, still hard to achieve using existing technologies. In this talk, I will share with the audience our strategies toward this goal via innovations at the device and molecular levels. In the first part of my talk, I will start by introducing our recent development of ultraflexible neural probes that exhibit extraordinary biocompatibility and the capability of chronic single-unit recording. I will then share our new implantation modality that can nonlinearly deploy our probes into the brain with minimal surgical lesions. The modality allows conformal coverage of nonlinear brain structures or circuits using microelectrode arrays and therefore enables high-density neural recording along designated trajectories. In the second part of my talk, I will switch to our recent endeavors in developing protein “ticker tapes” for the longitudinal recording of cellular events. The technology exploits activity-dependent transcriptional activation to convert neural activities into fluorescently readable signals in cells. The signals can be recorded by protein nanodevices genetically encoded in individual cells for retrospective retrieval. This strategy provides an attainable path toward organ-wide longitudinal mapping at the single-cell level.

February 16th, 2023

Title: Quest for the Nature of the Neutrino

Speaker: Dr. Reyco Henning - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (in-person at RITA 387)


Neutrinos are remarkable particles. They are the only known fermions that interact only via the weak force and have unusually small but finite masses. Although we have learned much about their nature over the past decades, fundamental question remain. A key one is whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles. Surprisingly, this is a very difficult property to test experimentally, and the current best experimental method is to search for neutrinoless nuclear double-beta decay (NDBD). Just demonstrating the existence of a single NDBD decay would prove that neutrinos are Majorana fermions. In this talk I will give a brief overview of neutrinos physics and NDBD, followed by a discussion of the experimental challenges and current international efforts to search for NDBD, with an emphasis on efforts led by groups at the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory in Durham, NC.

March 16th, 2023

Title: Addressing the Digital Divide for Wellness through Networked Wearables & Robotics

Speaker: Dr. Ryan Integlia - The Citadel (in-person at RITA 387)


A discussion of ongoing efforts to address the digital divide for wellness through networked wearable devices and robotics. The implementation of wearables and gaming as a user interface will be presented to help improve engagement for wellness activities. The wearable device in this case is complemented by a service support robot to extend user engagement and provide means to enhance accessibility for remote wellness activities. Lastly, some future work will be discussed.

April 20th, 2023

Title: Interstitial fluid flow in brain cancer: implications for disease progression and treatment

Speaker: Dr. Jessica J. Cunningham - Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Virginia Technical Institute (in-person at RITA 387)


Fluid flow in the brain is an emerging area of research with implications in Alzheimer’s, aging, brain homeostasis, human growth and development, and cancer. Specifically in glioblastoma (GBM), the most lethal brain tumor, increased intratumoral pressure and corresponding increases in interstitial fluid flow from the tumor to the healthy brain tissue is an active predictor of cellular invasion and a defining factor of its resistance to therapeutic intervention and poor patient prognosis. Using standard of care magnetic resonance imaging and computational flow field analysis, a unique quantitative analysis of interstitial fluid flow in GBM progression and treatment is presented. This novel understanding of the role of interstitial flow could guide physicians in treatment planning to aggressively target certain areas with surgery or anti-tumor chemotherapies, potentially delaying or preventing the fatal recurrence of disease.