School of Math, Science, and Health Professions

March 3, 2016

Dr. Arieh Warshel, Nobel Laureate (2013) in Chemistry Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, University of Southern California How to Model the Action of Complex Biological Systems on a Molecular Level and Win a Nobel Prize

March 21, 2016

Dr. Lance Fogan Clinical Professor of Neurology, University of California, Los Angeles Physicians, the Brain, Health and Disease

March 28, 2016

Dr. Naomi Fraga Director, Conservation Programs at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Wild about Monkey Flowers (and other California wildflowers): An Exploration of Monkey Flower Diversity and the Flora of California

April 12, 2016

Dr. David J. Whalen Associate Professor, University of NorthDakota Satellite Communications: The Economic Star of the Space Age

April 21, 2016

Mr. James Norris Consulting Engineer/Owner, Interwolf Engineering Unraveling a Mystery: The Question of the Slithering Stones of Death Valley

April 26, 2016

Dr. William Latter Associate Director, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)Mission Operations Observing Infrared Light from the Ground, Space, and in the Air - How Infrared Astronomy has Opened Our Eyes

May 2, 2016

Dr. Seth Riley Wildlife Ecologist, National Park Service at Santa Monica Mountains Effects of Urbanization and Fragmentation on Wildlife Populations in a National Park in Southern California: from Newts to Mountain Lions

Thursday, March 3, 2016

7:00 PM

Performing Arts Center 

Dr. Arieh Warshel, Nobel Laureate (2013) in Chemistry

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, University of Southern California 

How to Model the Action of Complex Biological Systems on a Molecular Level And Win a Nobel Prize


Despite the enormous advances in structural studies of biological systems, we are frequently left without a clear structure function correlation and cannot fully describe how different systems actually work. This introduces a major challenge for computer modeling approaches that are aimed at a realistic simulation of biological functions. The unresolved questions range from the elucidation of the basis for enzyme action to the understanding of the directional motion of complex molecular motors.
The lecture will provide a background of Dr. Warshels long path for the Nobel Prize and connect it to the advances made by him and his coworkers. The advances will be described by rewiring the progress in simulating biological functions, starting with the early stages of the field and the development of QM/MM approaches for simulations of enzymatic reactions (1). We provide overwhelming support to the idea that enzyme catalysis is due to electrostatic preorganization and then move to the renormalization approaches aimed at modeling long time processes, demonstrating that dynamical effects cannot change the rate of the chemical steps in enzymes (2). Next we describe the use of our electrostatic augmented coarse grained (CG) model (2) and the renormalization method to simulate the action of different challenging complex systems. It is shown that our CG model produces, for the first time, realistic landscapes for vectorial process such as the actions of F1 ATPase (3), F0 ATPase (4) and myosin V (5). It is also shown that such machines are working by exploiting free energy gradients and cannot just use Brownian motions as the vectorial driving force. Significantly, at present, to the best of our knowledge, these studies are the only studies that reproduced consistently (rather than assumed) a structure based vectorial action of molecular motors. We also describe a breakthrough in CG modeling of voltage activated ion channels (6). We also outline a recent simulation of the tag of war between staled elongated peptide in the ribosome and the translocon as an illustration of the power of our CG approach (7). The emerging finding from all of our simulations is that electrostatic effects are the key to generating functional free energy landscapes. Finally, we present some thought on the future of the field, taking drug resistance as an example (8).

  1. Electrostatic Basis for Enzyme Catalysis, A. Warshel, P. K. Sharma, M. Kato, Y. Xiang, H. Liu and M. H. M. Olsson, Chem. Rev., 106, 3210 (2006).
  2. Coarse-Grained (Multiscale) Simulations in Studies of Biophysical and Chemical Systems, S. C. L.Kamerlin, S. Vicatos, A. Dryga and A. Warshel, Ann. Rev. Phys. Chem. 62, 41 (2011).
  3. Electrostatic Origin of The Mechanochemical Rotary Mechanism And The Catalytic Dwell of F1-ATPase, S. Mukherjee and A.Warshel, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 108, 20550 (2011).
  4. Realistic simulations of the coupling between the protomotive force and the mechanical rotation of the F0-ATPase, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 109, 14876 (2012).
  5. Electrostatic origin of the unidirectionality of walking myosin V motors, S. Mukherjee and A. Warshel, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, ,110, 17326-17331 (2013).
  6. Converting Structural Information into an Allosteric-Energy-Based Picture for Elongation Factor to Activation by The Ribosome, A. J. Adamczyk and A. Warshel, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA ,108, 9827 (2011).
  7. Simulating the pulling of stalled elongated peptide from the ribosome by the translocon, A. Rychkova, S. Mukherjee, R. P. Bora, and A. Warshel, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA , 110, 10195-10200 (2013).
  8. Prediction of Drug Resistance muation of HIV Protease, H. Ishikita and A. Warshel, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 47, 697-700 (2008).


Chemical reactions involve bond breaking, where electrons leap from one atom to another, and it is difficult for chemists to describe such processes by very fast computer programs that treat the atoms and bond as classical balls and sticks. On the other hand, it is possible to use quantum mechanical program electronic structure calculations, but such calculations are too expensive to be used in describing reactions in large molecules and proteins.

What Dr. Arieh Warshel, and his colleagues achieved starting back in the 1960s when computers were still primitive by modern standards was the creation of computer programs that took the best of both classical and quantum physics and merged them into a working system. These multiscale models can, for instance, simulate how a drug couples to its target protein in the body. The computer performs detailed theoretical calculations at a quantum level, only on those atoms in the target protein that interact with the drug. The rest of the protein is painted in using classical physics. 

Scientists can now let computers perform most of the work in accurately predicting chemical processes in very large systems, thereby saving time, energy and the materials used in conventional laboratory experiments. Inevitably, such cost-saving software has proved invaluable, not only in the medical/pharmaceutical fields but in industrial research, whether by enhancing the performance of catalytic converters on cars or translating the study of natural photosynthesis to improvements in photovoltaic cells for solar panels. 

Dr. Arieh Warshel was born at Kibbutz Sde-Nahum in the Beit She'an Valley in northern Israel (then the British Mandate of Palestine). He served in the tank regiment of the Israeli army during both the Six-Day War of 1967 and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, rising to the rank of captain. He juggled his military duties with his academic studies at the Technion in Haifa, where he elected to study chemistry based on an off-the-cuff suggestion by a friend. He went on to receive his BSc degree, summa cum laude, in 1966 the same year he married his wife Tamar, with whom he has two daughters. He earned his MSc (1967) and PhD (1969) in chemical physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, working under the institutes director Shneior Lifson, who won the 1969 Israel Prize for his consistent force field method, one of the major theories behind systematic computer modeling of large molecules.

Monday, March21, 2016

7:00 PMDr. Fogan

BYKH 105 

Dr. Lance Fogan

Clinical Professor of Neurology, University of California, Los Angeles Physicians, the Brain, Health and Disease Abstract

This presentation highlights how medical students are educated and how physicians are trained to use their knowledge to diagnose and treat their patients. Physicians learn the nature of symptoms and illnesses by skillfully directed questions even more than from the physical examination. Dr. Fogan will describe the tools we use and how they are used. Alzheimers disease, concussions, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and epilepsy are among the conditions depicted in brain scans, EEGs and other tests that will be demonstrated.He will touch upon medical history through descriptions of disease in William Shakespeares characters that are accurate and astounding. 

We must always be mindful that medicine is an art as much, or even more, than a science. The humanity in the profession is the source of great satisfaction for physicians as well as in diagnosing and treating, ever mindful not to cause further harm. 


Dr. Lance Fogan earned his BA in his hometown at the State University of NY at Buffalo majoring in Anthropology and Linguistics, followed byhis medical degreeat the same university. A tropical medicine experience for two and one-half months, working with an Australian GP at the jungle Anglican Mission hospital in Eroro, Papua New Guinea, was accomplished between his 3rd and 4th years of medical school in 1964. He toured Asia and Europe for the next six weeks, arriving home to become engaged and begin a married life of fifty years. Lance completed three years of neurology training at Case Western Reserve University Hospitals in Cleveland prior to beginning his career as a clinical neurologist and then chief of service at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Panorama City, CA from 1971-1997. He has since retired but continues teaching as Clinical Professor of Neurology at UCLA. As a resident of the Santa Clarita Valley since 1972, Lance exhausted COCs English Departments evening classes from 1977 through 2001. His paper, the Neurology in Shakespeare, won the American Academy of Neurologys History of Neurology First Prize in 1988. It was developed in COCs Shakespeare classes over six years. His life continues to be enriched by participating in a private writing/literature class each Saturday in his mentors Los Angeles home since 2000. A family memoir currently is up to 620 pages. DINGS, a dramatic novel created in this class, teaches epilepsy. The reader follows a family on its joint clinical and emotional journey to discover why their bright eight-year-old is failing third grade. The boys non-convulsive blank-out seizures are not recognized. DINGS was published in 2013. His play, And, Aint I a Woman? was performed at COC in April, 2015. Its a black transgender woman telling her life story to her psychiatrists departmental conference (theater audience). A new play seeking a performance venue has just been completed.

Monday, March28, 2016

7:00 PM

BYKH 105 

Dr. Naomi Fraga

Director, Conservation Programs at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden 

Wild about Monkeyflowers (and other California wildflowers): An Exploration of Monkeyflower Diversity and the flora of California


Plants placed in the genus Mimulus L. (Phrymaceae), as traditionally defined, are commonly known as monkeyflowers. These charismatic plants are exceedingly diverse in western North America with over 150 of the nearly 200 species worldwide occurring here. Nearly 60% (ca. 100) of the species native to western North American occur in California. However, Mimulus has recently undergone significant changes in taxonomy, leaving the name Mimulus virtually absent from the California flora. In this presentation, Dr. Naomi Fraga will present an overview of these changes and provide information on how to identify the three new genera that are recognized in California: Erythranthe, Diplacus and Mimetanthe and how these differ from Mimulus in the strict sense. Dr. Fraga will also provide an overview of monkeyflower diversity in California, including information on rare monkeyflowers and new species in the genus Erythranthe. At least eight new species of Erythranthe native to California have described in the past five years and many of these are rare species of conservation concern. At least 66 species of monkeyflowers (Erythranthe and Diplacus) are currently listed by U.S. government agencies and native plant societies as sensitive, rare, or endangered, making Mimulus a group of conservation concern. An evaluation of species discovery and its implications for conservation will be presented, with insight from recent taxonomic studies in Erythranthe. Results of this study will inform a taxonomic revision that also incorporates evidence from morphology and ecology.


Naomi Fraga, Ph.D. serves as Director of Conservation Programs at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, where she provides leadership for the Conservation Program and directs the field studies program. In this capacity, she works closely with federal, state, and local agencies to provide information needed for on-the-ground management including baseline botanical surveys, monitoring, and developing conservation strategies and management guides for plant species. Her research interests include plant geography, conservation biology, pollination biology, and rarity in endemism. Naomi currently serves on the board of Southern California Botanists. Naomi completed her Ph.D. in Botany at Claremont Graduate University in 2015 and holds a M.S. in Botany from Claremont Graduate University and a B.S. in Botany and Biology from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

7:00 PM

BYKH 105 

Dr. David J. Whalen

Associate Professor, University of North Dakota

Satellite Communications: The Economic Star of the Space Age Abstract

When NASA began its first long-range planning in 1959, it was already clear that satellite communications would be a commercial success.There would be technological hurdles, regulatory hurdles, and political hurdles, but no funding hurdles.The initial issues were orbit and power.AT&T, probably the most sophisticated of potential communications satellite operators, experimented with low-earth-orbit (LEO) passive satellites (reflectors), but decided that their first experimental satellite would be active: the received signal would be re-amplified before being sent back to earth.A better idea from Hughes Aircraft Company allowed their satellite to reach geosynchronous-earth-orbit (GEO): remaining fixed over the equator in a 24-hour orbit.The first communications satellites weighed a few tens of kg and generated a few tens of Watts.Modern communications satellites weigh several tons and generate several kilo-Watts of power.

NASAs budget is less than $20 billion.The black space budget is perhaps twice that. Commercial space revenues exceed $200 billion.Satellite communications is ubiquitous.A 50 mbps link can be established almost any place in the world. 

Biography Dr. David J. Whalen is entering phased retirement after eight years in the UND/JDOSAS Space Studies Departmentof which he was the chair from 2007-2010. While at UND, professor Whalen finished his book on COMSAT (The Rise and Fall of COMSAT, London, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015), wrote a chapter on applications satellites in Steven J. Dick and Roger D. Launius, eds., Societal Impact of Spaceflight (Washington, NASA, 2007), authored several articles for Quest: The History of Spaceflight, and has submitted many conference papers. He was nominated for both the undergraduate and graduate teaching awards. He recently received the Mentor of the Year award from the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI). He is an Associate Fellow of the AIAA. Prior to coming to UND, Professor Whalen worked for over thirty years in the satellite communications industryboth for manufacturers and operators. His engineering career peaked as vice-president engineering for AsiaSat. Before that, he was a Naval Flight Officer in South East Asia, for which he received several Air Medals. Professor Whalen has a BA in Astronomy (Boston University), an MS in Astronomy (University of Massachusetts), an MBA (College of William and Mary), and a PhD in Science, Technology, and Public Policy (George Washington University). He recently received a BA in Classics at the UND May Convocation. Thursday, April 21, 2016 7:00 PMJames Norris

BYKH 105

Mr. James Norris Consulting Engineer/Owner, Interwolf Engineering Unraveling a Mystery: The question of the Slithering Stones of Death Valley Abstract

Six years ago, Mr. James Norris began what he thought would likely be a lonely and quixotic effort to discover what motivates a few otherwise ordinary desert rocks to wander around a remote desert dry lakebed.This presentation will discuss how his team of citizen scientists devised an experiment that ultimately succeeded in solving a long standing geologic mystery. It is a story of persistence and hard work, punctuated with strokes of amazingly good fortune. It is also the story of a growing team of curious people having a wonderful time exploring how our small planet works.


Mr. James Norris is a consulting engineer based in Santa Barbara. He studied Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University and then began a career developing instrumentation for science and industry. Since 1995, he has been a partner in Interwoof, a research and development outfit. Jims career has spanned a number of fields, ranging from electro optics to soil science, rock core flow analytics to nano structure fabrication. He has had a life-long interest in the sciences, particularly meteorology and geology, which surely led to his interest in the activities of the stones of Racetrack playa. In his spare time, Jim is an avid cyclist, soaring pilot and desert naturalist.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 7:00 PM

BYKH 105

Dr. William Latter Associate Director, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy Mission Operations ObservingInfrared Light from the Ground,Space, and in the AirHowInfraredAstronomy has Opened Our EyesAbstract Infrared Astronomy is a comparatively new area of research that has changed our entire view of the Universe and how it works. This presentation will first make an introduction to the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and how we can learn from it. A brief history of infrared astronomy, how it came to be, how it has changed, and how technology has enabled it will be presented. In 1983, with the launch of the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), the field of astrophysics changed drastically in just 10 months of data acquisition. The impact of IRAS will be highlighted, as will astronomical images from the Infrared Space Observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Herschel Space Observatory - all dedicated infrared space telescopes. Finally, we will discuss the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) - NASA's premier far-infrared observatory. SOFIA is a Boeing 747 SP carrying a 2.7 meter infrared dedicated telescope that it takes to altitudes as high as 45,000 feet, where the obscuring water vapor is reduced by 99.9% of the sea level amount. Flying out of nearby Palmdale Airport and Armstrong Flight Research Center, SOFIA is the only far-infrared observatory planned for the foreseeable future. Its uniqueness and versatility will be highlighted. Biography Dr. William (Bill) Latter is the lead for all of SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) Mission Operations. That is everything related to operating the Observatory for science - telescopeoperations, mission planning, instrument operations, ground support operations, science instrument laboratories, science instrumentpreparation and support, and all of the other activities that make it possible for SOFIA to acquire science data. Bill came to SOFIA after manyyears of developing and leading the NASA Herschel Science Center, the U.S. support facility for the Herschel Space Telescope mission. Priorto that, he helped develop the Spitzer Science Center science operations systems and was lead for the Multiband Imaging Photometer forSpitzer Instrument Support Team. Bill is an astrophysicist, who did his PhD work at the University of Arizona, where he was introduced to infrared astronomy by the likes ofProf.George Rieke, Prof. Frank Low, Dr. Erick Young, and others. Though research is no longer his top priority, when he can do so, his research interestsinclude atomic and molecular processes in astrophysics; chemical processes in rapidly evolving astrophysical systems; early and late stagesof stellar evolution including chemical processes in circumstellar envelopes of mass-losing stars, and the mass-loss process; planetary nebulaformation and chemistry. In his spare time, Bill is an active ultra-distance runner (distances beyond the 26.2 mile marathon distance) and ultra-distance cyclist. He even has completed theextremely difficult Badwater Ultramarthon course (135 miles across Death Valley to Mt. Whitney) during the extreme heat of August. In a searchfor more punishment, Bill will be going back for more in the near future.

Monday, May 2, 2016

7:00 PM

BYKH 105 

Dr. Seth Riley

Wildlife Ecologist, National Park Service at Santa Monica Mountains 

Effects of Urbanization and Fragmentation on Wildlife Populations in a National Park in Southern California: from Newts to Mountain Lions Abstract The role of national parks is to preserve the natural resources present in the parks, including the wildlife resources. At Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA), a national park next to Los Angeles, the primary challenges for effective wildlife conservation are understanding and mitigating the effects of urbanization, including habitat loss and fragmentation. We have been studying a number of different wildlife communities in and around the park for 15-20 years. Southern California is home to many diverse wildlife communities, and we have been pleased to find that much of this diversity still exists in the park, despite intense and widespread development in surrounding areas. However, we have also documented multiple threats to wildlife communities in this urban landscape. Stream amphibian populations are threatened by altered stream structure and permanence, which allows exotic predators to persist in urbanized watersheds. Fragmentation results in the loss of terrestrial reptile species from smaller habitat patches, particularly larger snakes. For some of the more widespread species that remain even in smaller patches (e.g., western fence lizards), we have seen that fragmentation is already associated with significant genetic differentiation. These genetic effects of fragmentation are evident even in a bird, an animal that we might presume could fly over urban barriers to mitigate the effects of development. Finally, for the most wide-ranging, and therefore potentially vulnerable group, mammalian carnivores, we have seen that species such as coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions are surprisingly adaptable to development. Yet carnivores too face significant threats. Toxicants, specifically anticoagulant rodenticides, are present at high levels in all three species, and these toxicants can have significant population-level effects. Finally, roads and development form major barriers to movement for carnivores, leading to significant reductions in gene flow. Our long-term studies have shown that there is great value in preserving urban wildlife communities in Southern California, but that significant challenges remain.


Dr. Seth Riley grew up in Washington, D.C., where he first became interested in wildlife by way of snakes. He graduated in 1988 from Stanford University with a B.A. in Human Biology, concentrating in Animal Behavior and Ecology. From 1988-1990, Seth worked as a wildlife biologist for the National Park Service at the Center for Urban Ecology in Washington. He worked on a number of urban wildlife issues there, focusing particularly on the behavioral, population, and disease ecology of urban raccoons. Dr. Riley then went to the University of California, Davis for graduate school, where he graduated with a Ph.D. in Ecology in 1999. His dissertation work was on the ecology of bobcats and gray foxes in urban and rural areas of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, just north of San Francisco. 

After graduating Seth worked as a post-doctoral fellow at Davis studying hybridization between native and introduced tiger salamanders in the Salinas Valley of California. At the beginning of 2000, Seth began in his current position as Wildlife Ecologist with the National Park Service at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in southern California. His current projects, all related to the impacts of urbanization and fragmentation on wildlife, include a bobcat telemetry study, a mountain lion GPS telemetry study, stream surveys for amphibians, pitfall/drift fence trapping to determine terrestrial reptile and amphibian distribution and abundance, and a number of projects on the impacts of freeways on wildlife.Seth also has an adjunct position at UCLA, where he advises students and teaches graduate seminars.Seth co-edited a book on Urban Carnivores, for which he co-authored seven chapters, which came out in 2010, and a book on the effects of roads on smaller wildlife species, which came out in 2015.

A special thank you is extended to the following faculty/staff members for assisting with the Spring 2016 Series: Mary Bates (Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences), Jeannie Chari (Biological Sciences),Kelly Cude (Biological Sciences), Christine Hirst (Astronomy), Deborah Levine (Astronomy/Physical Sciences), Patricia Palavecino (Biological Sciences),and Elizabeth Hernandez (Biological Sciences/Physics).