The Fellows of the College Natural Sciences and Mathematics hosts a Colloquium twice a year, where we select one of our faculty to talk about their fascinating research. We invite our members, their guests, and the community to listen and chat with the presenter.
Did you miss out on a previous talk, or want to watch it again? Here is our collection of recordings from previous Colloquia.
Dr. Andrea Balbas, Geological Sciences Department
April 20, 2022
Human space travelers often describe our planet from the vantage point beyond its atmosphere as a fragile blue marble. But, the story of Earth as told by rocks and geologic archives is one of resilience. Earth is quite tough.
The sediments deposited in ocean basins, the lava that cools to form volcanic islands, and the large boulders left behind from glacial ice that once occupied the mid-latitudes all record an ever-evolving planet that changes both slowly over geologic time and catastrophically on human timescales. Rocks tell the story of Earth's past because they record both the physical conditions they are exposed to and the chemical changes that happen constantly over millions of years.
We tease these tales from rocks and find that some of these changes occur reliably and repeatedly and others occur stochastically without notice. Yet over 500 million years, our planet has offered the rare and precious conditions that support life.
Dr. Andrea Balbas discusses the tools that geologists use to determine the ages of rocks and discusses examples from her research on gradual and catastrophic changes.
About Dr. Andrea Balbas
Andrea is captivated by the stories told by rocks, and she specializes in determining the formation age of geologic materials. Her research has focused on determining the timing and duration of dramatic magnetic field fluctuations, the past rate of cosmic radiation, the timing of megaflood events and more recently has focused on determining the origin of ancient volcanos deep in the Pacific Ocean.
To collect these ancient volcanic rocks, she participates in remote-operated-submersible expeditions that explore the deep flanks of seamounts to categorize the geology and biological communities. These exploratory dives are live streamed wherein she provides commentary on the observations in real time.
Andrea is also a passionate educator who focuses on engaging all students in class and believes that science is strongest when a diverse set of minds work together to solve problems.
Dr. Andrea Balbas is an Assistant Professor in the Geological Sciences Department.
Dr. Alex Klotz, Physics and Astronomy Department
November 5, 2021
DNA is best known as the carrier of genetic information, but its properties make it suited for the study of materials. Many modern materials are made of long stringy molecules called polymers, but most synthetic polymers are too small to study one molecule at a time. DNA is a very big naturally occurring polymer, and has been used as an experimental system to study the physics of polymers.
Dr. Klotz will discuss his work in this field, starting with an exploration of the physics of knots in DNA, which led him to his more recent work: the DNA of a parasite that is entirely knots, made of thousands of loops linked together like chainmail armor. Much like regular DNA has allowed us to learn more about polymers, these membrane-like DNA chainmail structures can tell us about the physics of a new class of emerging two-dimensional materials.
About Dr. Alex Klotz
Alex Klotz grew up in Toronto and received a bachelor's degree in physics from Queen's University, and a master's and Ph.D. in physics from McGill University in Montreal. He worked in the chemical engineering department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before starting in the physics department at CSULB in 2019, where he was recently the recipient of the Mayfield Award for Outstanding Teaching.
When not in the classroom or the lab, you may find him biking up Signal Hill or the San Gabriel riverbed.
Dr. Michael Harris, Biological Sciences Department
October 30, 2020
Popular culture has presented zombies as bloodthirsty monsters. But could the threat of a zombie apocalypse be real? Understanding this phenomenon is critical to public safety – your safety – and Dr. Michael Harris here to provide scientific perspectives.
Although actual triggers to the zombie state are not generally known, Dr. Harris describes how normal human Physiology can produce this transition. Distinctive zombie behaviors can be understood as derivatives of human origin. Dr. Harris addresses the discrepancy between slow and fast movement, zombie capacities for strength and endurance, why a compulsion for brains, and the peculiarities of zombie reproduction. Beyond general interest, these insights into the Biological basis of the zombie have practical applications for personal and civil defense. Our "deadicated" attention is needed. Informed today, alive tomorrow!
About Dr. Michael Harris
Dr. Michael B. Harris is an Associate Professor of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience in the Department of Biological Sciences at California State University Long Beach. He holds B.S. (Hons), M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Zoology from The University of British Columbia. Following Postdoctoral Fellowships at the University of Calgary School of Medicine and Dartmouth Medical School, he served 14 years on the faculty of the University of Alaska Fairbanks where he received the Teaching Excellence Award three times. He has 50 peer-reviewed academic publications, and a longstanding interest in the history of science.
Dr. Harris joined the faculty at CSULB in 2016.