Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Flight System Manager
Mars Curiosity Mission
On August 5, 2012, NASA landed the one ton Curiosity rover inside Gale Crater on the surface of Mars. The landing marked the first use of the 'sky-crane' system, as well as the end of an eight month interplanetary cruise from Earth and beginning of an exciting two year surface science mission. Updates from the landing and the surface science mission to-date will be presented.
Mr. Matt Wallace grew up in various towns in New Jersey and the suburbs of Washington D.C. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984 with a B.S. in Systems Engineering and served five years as a line officer in the U.S. submarine force fast attack fleet. Matt left the Navy to go to graduate school at Caltech, where he received an M.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1991, prior to coming to JPL.
At JPL, Mr. Wallace is currently the manager for the Mars Science Laboratory project. Wallace and his team are responsible for overseeing the development of spacecraft systems for the current Mars rover, code named Curiosity, which launched from Kennedy Space Center in November 2011 and landed on the Martian terrain in August 2012. Wallace has made significant contributions to other robotic planetary missions and three Mars rover missions, including management of the assembly as well as test and launch operations team for both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. He also handled surface mission operations for the Opportunity rover after it landed on Mars in 2004.
Matt supported Cassini power system activities and advanced mission concepts, then worked in various capacities on the Mars Pathfinder lander and rover engineering teams. He was one of the operations coordinators for Sojourner during the MPF landed mission. Matt also worked for several years at Orbital Sciences Corporation, holding various systems and program management positions on remote sensing satellite programs before returning to JPL in 2001.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
UCSD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
The Sun and Global Climate Change
The Earth’s climate depends on both the Sun, which provides the energy input, and on the composition of the atmosphere, which traps radiation and maintains a habitable temperature regime. Consequently, the Sun is often a source of confusion in the climate change issue. It is common for climate change deniers to “blame the Sun” for the increasing global temperatures and changing weather patterns we have seen. This presentation will clarify how the Sun has actually influenced climate change over the historical record. Throughout the past century, while greenhouse gas (GHG) abundances have been steadily increasing and influencing Earth’s climate, the Sun has remained relatively bright and constant in its output. Solar cycles have been steadily active, with instantaneous sunspot numbers at solar maximum exceeding 100 in every cycle since 1893 (Cycle 13). The climate warming we have experienced since the beginning of the modern industrial era cannot be attributed to the Sun. However, the recent minimum between Cycles 23 and 24, and NASA predictions of a substantially lower sunspot number at the 2013 solar maximum, suggest that the Sun’s recent bright and quiescent period may be ending. Studies of recent solar cycles, and astrophysical studies of nearby solar analogs, suggest a 40% chance of the Sun entering a new Maunder Minimum sometime in the Twenty First Century. During the historical Maunder Minimum (1645-1715), meteorological data from Europe and proxy records from global oceans indicate a substantially cooler climate, attributable to decreased solar radiation. In our lifetime, we may therefore see a period of solar dimming in conjunction with increasing GHG abundances. A new Maunder Minimum would not entirely offset the projected GHG-induced warming, because the GHG effect is at least three times larger than best estimates of the solar radiation decrease. Instead, the complex interactions between radiative balance and atmospheric dynamics yield unusual regional patterns of pronounced warming versus cooling. The reality of the Sun’s influence on climate is timely and an interdisciplinary field of study.
Dr. Dan Lubin is a veteran of three Antarctic and two Arctic field campaigns, including the National Ozone Expedition, the 1994 Arctic Ocean Section, and the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic (SHEBA) program. After his bachelor's degree in Physics from Northwestern University, Dr. Lubin earned an M.S. in Astronomy and Astrophysics in 1988 and Ph.D. in Geophysical Sciences in 1989 from the University of Chicago. He joined the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) in 1990 as a postdoctoral researcher and has been affiliated with SIO as a Research Physicist since 1993, currently as the Associate Director. In addition to maintaining research interests in polar field instrumentation, remote sensing, and astronomy, Dr. Lubin also serves as an Engineering Duty officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and is a senior lecturer at the University of California, San Diego.
Dr. Lubin’s research interests lie in the areas of satellite remote sensing of Earth's polar regions, the application of global climate model simulation to the polar regions, and new instrumentation and techniques for space-based remote sensing. His group is currently examining Aerosol-Cloud-Climate Interactions in the Arctic, the influence of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) on meteorology and climate change over the Antarctic Peninsula, and the development of radiometric instrumentation for polar climate research.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
CSUN, Department of Geological Sciences
Fossil Treasures of Santa Clarita Valley
Rocks and their fossil contents are vastly different between the southern part (Eastern Ventura Basin) and northern part (Soledad Basin) of Santa Clarita Valley. The reason is primarily the San Gabriel Fault, which bisects the valley. Movements along this fault, as well as along the associated San Andreas Fault, juxtaposed marine (ocean) deposits in the southern part of the valley against mostly non-marine (river and lake) deposits in the northern part. Even though the two basins were created at approximately the same time, they have had very different geologic histories.
In the southern part of the valley, marine environments (deep-ocean floor to shoreline) dominated the geologic history. Fossils are mostly seashells that are between 50 to 3 million years old. The earliest ones (early Eocene) are scarce and were transported by currents from shallow, subtropical waters into deeper waters. Eight million years ago (late Miocene), deep cool marine waters were present, and microscopic single-cell diatoms and fish scales (scarce) accumulated. Five million years ago (early Pliocene), a deep-water submarine canyon existed, and near the head of this canyon, abundant shallow-marine gastropods (snails) and bivalves (clams) lived, as well as sand dollars and shark teeth. Some of the latter are from the largest meat-eating shark of all time,Carcharocles megalodon, whose teeth can be 7 inches long. Three million years ago (late Pliocene), the southern part of the valley was covered by a shallow-marine delta, where abundant oysters and scallops lived, as well as some barnacles and sand dollars. During the last three million years, this shoreline slowly retreated to the west and is now located near Ventura.
In the northern part of the valley, grasslands adjacent to rivers dominated the geologic history. Fossils are scarce and mostly land mammals. The oldest fossils are about 23 million years old (early Miocene), and the deposits they occur in were originally near what is now the U.S.A.-Mexican border. These fossils are sheep-like "oreodonts," four-foot-tall browsing camelids, and three-toed horses. Twelve million years ago (late Miocene), there were bear dogs, hyena-like dogs, saber-tooth cats, small rhinoceroses, one-toed horses, "giraffe" camels, and long-jawed mastodons. For a time, there was also a large freshwater lake containing small gastropods and some leaves (washed into the lake). Ten million years ago, a shallow arm of the ocean covered most of the northern part of the valley. Associated fossils are fish, fish scales, some gastropods, large oysters, large mussels, scallops, sea turtles, and some transported land plants.
Professor Squires obtained his B.S. and M.S. in geology from the University of New Mexico and his Ph.D. in geobiology from Caltech. After a post-doctorate appointment at JPL, he began teaching at CSUN (California State University Northridge) and has been a faculty member there for 38 years. His main research interests are the evolution and ancient geographic distribution of Late Cretaceous, Eocene, and Pliocene shallow-marine gastropods (snails) and bivalves (clams). He has numerous publications and has been the mentor of many undergraduate and graduate students. He is a long-time resident of Santa Clarita, and several of his papers concern the local geology.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences
Associate Director for Research, The Brain Research Institute
University of California, Los Angeles
Reward, Interrupted: Inhibitory Control and its Relevance to Addictions
Addiction is a disease; it is defined, medically and scientifically, as a clinically-impairing pattern of compulsive and inflexible reward seeking. All addictions involve the pursuit of rewards (whether they be drugs, food, sex or thrill) that almost all humans find pleasurable, yet only a small proportion of people become addicted to these things. Our research focuses on a number of important questions. We examine why – biologically – it is so hard for some to resist the attraction of drugs, even when they are trying very hard to do so. We study the brain mechanisms that contribute to vulnerability and resilience to addiction. We seek to understand how brain molecules contribute to addiction and how they can be targeted to disable its hold on the individual. This talk will deal with an assortment of these issues and attempt to show how neuroscientific research can inform our social understanding of a long misunderstood disease.
Dr. J. David Jentsch received his Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from Yale University and has been on the faculty in the Department of Psychology at UCLA since 2001. He is now a Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences as well as the Associate Director for Research of the Brain Research Institute. His work on the neuroscience of substance abuse has been recognized by the 2010 Joseph Cochin Young Investigator Award from the College on the Problems of Drug Dependence and the 2011 Jacob P. Waletzky Award for Innovative Research on Drug Abuse and Alcoholism from the Society for Neuroscience.
In addition to maintaining an active research and teaching program focused on behavioral neuroscience, neurogenetics and psychopharmacology, Dr. Jentsch has played a national role in scientific advocacy around the issue of humane use of animals in biomedical research and discovery. He formed the group Pro-test for Science and contributes to the mission of several research advocacy groups, including Speaking of Research and Americans for Medical Progress. In addition, his efforts to promote scientific advocacy have been recognized by the 2012 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Dr. Jentsch’s lab conducts research on the genetic and neurochemical influences on cognitive control abilities in laboratory animals; in addition, he closely collaborates with clinical neuroscientists in order to undertake translational research that spans levels of analyses and model systems, forwards and back translating data between animal models and human subjects.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Performing Arts Center
Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA 91125
Fundamental Research to Commercial Products:
Applications of Olefin Metathesis Catalysts
The olefin metathesis reaction was discovered in the 1960's as a method for the inter-conversion of hydrocarbons. The nature of the catalysts and the mechanism of the reaction were unknown. Fundamental studies of the possible mechanisms of the transformation led to the development of well-defined catalysts that would promote the transformation. Evolution of the catalyst structures resulted in the formation of a family of catalysts based on ruthenium that promote the reaction under practical conditions and in the presence of a variety of functionality. The availability of a catalyst that promotes scrambling of the fragments of a carbon-carbon double bond by a metathesis reaction in the presence of a variety of functional groups and under normal reaction conditions has opened a variety of applications that range from the production of tough polymers that are seeing a variety of uses to the production of highly functionalized pharmaceuticals. The catalysts facilitate synthesis of olefinic materials and have few side reactions. Part of their use in "Green" chemistry has been their application to the conversion of renewal materials to useful chemicals.
Dr. Robert Grubbs, an organic chemist whose work on catalysis has led to a wide variety of applications in medicine and industry received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemistry from the University of Florida, followed by his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Columbia University. He spent a year at Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow and then joined the Michigan State University faculty in 1969. He joined the faculty ranks at the California Institute of Technology in 1978 with full tenure as a professor and has been the Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry since 1990. His research focuses on: organometallic syntheses and mechanisms, organic syntheses, and polymer syntheses.
In 2005, Dr. Grubbs earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis. Metathesis is an organic reaction in which chemists selectively strip out certain atoms in a compound and replace them with atoms that were previously part of another compound. The end result is a custom-built molecule that has specialized properties that can lead to better drugs for the treatment of disease or better electrical conducting properties for specialized plastics. In particular, Dr. Grubbs has worked on olefin metathesis. Prior to this work, metathesis was poorly understood and of limited value to scientists. Dr. Grubbs developed powerful new catalysts for metathesis that enabled custom synthesis of valuable molecules, such as pharmaceuticals and new polymers with novel materials properties. This pioneering work has led to industrial and pharmaceutical methods that are more efficient and less wasteful, simpler, and more environmentally friendly.
A special thank you is extended to the following faculty/staff members for assisting with the Spring 2013 Series: Jeannie Chari (Biological Sciences), Teresa Ciardi (Physical Sciences/Astronomy), Vincent Devlahovich (Geology), Ann Kressin (Chemistry), and Elizabeth Hernandez (Biological Sciences/Physics).