Downtown Science Café @ Magpie's Gourmet Pizza

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Series Title: Shining a Light on Chemistry

Every day we depend on light, whether it is light from the sun or electric lights, but we don’t often think about that light from a scientific perspective. Light comes in a many different wavelengths – what scientists call the electromagnetic spectrum. Scientists use different wavelengths of light to discover how our world works. In this series, graduate students from the UA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry who are all members of the Alpha Chi Sigma professional fraternity for chemistry, will talk about what we can discover using different wavelengths of light.



Spring 2018 Schedule of Talks:

Tuesday, January 16, 6:00 p.m.

Seeing through Paintings: Manipulating Light to Unlock Cultural Secrets

Dr. Lynn CarterPresenter: Kristen Watts, PhD Student, Chemistry

People are often captivated by the outer surface of a painting—the subject matter, the technique, the colors. But, there is frequently a hidden, unknown story that lies beneath that surface that is usually only encountered when paintings are studied by art conservators. Modern imaging techniques take advantage of the different penetration depths and absorption capabilities of the different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum in order to nondestructively look beneath a painting’s surface. Using light from the infrared to x-rays, chemists can begin to look at the original sketches underneath the canvas paint as well as finding evidence for “hidden paintings” that an artist might have chosen to paint over or cover up. 

Tuesday, February 20,  6:00 p.m.

X-Ray Vision: Observing Crystals at the Atomic Level

Dr. Alfred McEwenPresenter: Kara Saunders, PhD Student, Chemistry

A range of chemical information can be obtained by studying how X-ray light interacts with crystalline materials. For example, X-rays can be used to determine the chemical composition of a substance (X-ray photoemission spectroscopy) and X-rays can be used to determine crystal structure (X-ray diffraction). X-ray diffraction has historical significance-- it was used to determine the structure of DNA-- and has given us the ability to visualize crystals down at the atomic level.



Tuesday, March 20, 6:00 p.m.

The Universe's Untold Tale: Probing Space with Microwaves

Bashar RizkPresenter: Mark Burton, PhD Student, Chemistry

There are numerous different environments in space, each with their own harsh conditions in which unusual molecules can be formed. Microwaves are emitted when molecules rotate and because every molecule rotates differently, this technique is a great way to probe the chemistry of space. Probing the variety of molecules within these different intergalactic environments could prove useful in determining what chemistry was present during the formation of earth, possibly answering the question of how life on Earth started. 


Tuesday, April 17, 6:00 p.m.

Harnessing the Sun: Creating Power from Light

Tod LauerPresenter: Jimmy Stanfill, PhD Student, Chemistry

We live in a world where every second trillions of Watts of power rain down for free from the sky above…yes, that amazing gift of nature is of course from our Sun, but how can we take advantage of this reality? This talk will be about the revolutionary technology of solar panels – how they work photo-physically, what special materials they need, and how the next generation of panels may change (and save) the world.


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