Science on Saturday

Science on Saturday is a series of science lectures for middle and high school students. Each topic highlights cutting-edge science occurring at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The talks are presented by LLNL scientists in collaboration with local area high school science teachers. These presentations are offered in several locations. Admission is free of charge. Seating is on a first-come first-served basis.

Location: Bankhead Theater (2400 First St, Livermore, CA 94550)
Two Presentations: 9:30 AM & 11:15 AM; Download Flyer

February 2, 2019
Giving Your Brain a Voice: 
Engineering sensors that listen to brain cells

LLNL Scientists: Anna Belle, Allison Yorita
Teacher: Erin McKay, Tracy HS

Abstract: The human brain is composed of billions of cells that communicate through chemical and electrical signals. LLNL microelectrodes can interface directly with the brain to allow us to monitor and manipulate the dynamics of these brain signals. LLNL microelectrodes are flexible and microfabricated in dense arrays that allow them to collect large amounts of information over long periods of time in the body. We will go over how these arrays are microfabricated and their diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

Anna Belle is a research engineer in the Center for Micro- and Nano Technology and Bioengineering Center at LLNL. She received her Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her work focuses on developing biosensor arrays for research into neurological diseases and disorders. She has established the facility for in vivo testing of neurological biosensors at Livermore and is a member of the Kavli Institute for Fundamental Neuroscience.

Allison Yorita is a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Micro- and Nano Technology and Bioengineering Center at LLNL. She received her Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA where she worked on microfabricated devices to detect neurotransmitters and nucleic acids. Her research at LLNL focuses on microfabrication of neural devices, as well as studying and characterizing chemical sensing capabilities on flexible polymer probes. 

Erin M. McKay is a Biology teacher at Tracy High School in Tracy, CA. She received her B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Plant Biology in 2001 and her science teaching credential in 2002 from UC Davis. While attending UC Davis, she interned at AgraQuest. She began teaching at Tracy High School in 2002. She also is an instructor in the Bioscience Teacher Research Academy and Biotechnology Summer Experience for high school students at LLNL.

February 9, 2019
In the Mood: Deciphering complex brain signals

LLNL Scientist: Alan Kaplan
Teacher: Katherine Huang, Dougherty Valley HS

Abstract: The human brain contains approximately 86 billion neurons, and 100 trillion connections between those neurons. Despite our inability to image each neuron and determine their exact connective patterns, several approaches for noninvasive imaging of the living brain have been developed and utilized to great benefit. In this talk, we will explore the immense landscape of the human brain and quantify the brain in terms of data flow. Then we will describe engineering applications of recorded electrophysiological data. We will also explore methods for analyzing such data to determine the pattern of signals that arise during various activities and mood states.

Alan Kaplan is a research engineer and group leader for Computer Vision at the LLNL. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis in 2011. His research focuses on the development of methods for modeling complex data. He has worked on data driven approaches for nuclear particle detectors, imaging for real-time quality assurance, and neuroscience. His work in neuroscience involves the analysis of electrocorticographic signals, large-scale neuroimaging based connectomics, and predictive methods for traumatic brain injury. He is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). 

Katherine Huang teaches Honors Anatomy and Physiology, and Accelerated Biotechnology and Research at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon. She received her B.S. in Biology at UCLA and MAT at UC Irvine. She also works in the Science Education Program at LLNL, having instructed the Waksman Student Scholars Program, which works closely with Rutgers University to sequence novel duckweed DNA in hopes of discovering proteins for uses such as bioremediation.

February 16, 2019
Seed, Soil and Spread:
3D bioprinted model for metastatic brain tumors

LLNL Scientists: Monica Moya, Javier Alvarado, Karen Dubbin, William Hynes, Claire Robertson
Teacher: Melody McGill, Roosevelt Junior HS

Abstract: Cancer becomes highly dangerous when it spreads from its original site to a different vital organ. These secondary tumors called metastases are what kill most patients. Despite hundreds of years of research, it is not understood why, where, and how cancer spreads to organs like the brain. A major limitation in our current knowledge is how we study this process; most metastasis research is performed in mice. At LLNL, we are building systems to watch metastasis happen. Using 3D printing technology paired with advanced computer modeling, we create functional human brain blood vessels to monitor how cancer cells spread to the brain and form a tumor. This talk will describe how we bring together cancer biology, 3D printing and material science, to understand and hopefully prevent metastases in the future.

Monica Moya is a biomedical engineering in the Materials Engineering Division at LLNL. She received her B.S. from Northwestern University and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology. Currently, she works as the principal investigator and technical lead on three bioengineering projects. Her research interests include 3D bioprinting, biomaterials, organ-on-a-chip and integrating engineering and biology. 

Javier Alvarado is a bioengineering technician, contributing to several bioengineering projects at LLNL. Javier has a B.S. degree in Neuroscience & Behavior from UC Santa Cruz and later developed his molecular biology skills by earning a Biotechnology certificate at Ohlone College.  A summer internship at LLNL inspired his desire to learn engineering principles and their application to biological systems. His research interests include 3D cell culture, biomaterials, and applying 3D bioprinting techniques to model in vitro the neurovascular environment.

Karen Dubbin is a postdoctoral research staff member in the Engineering Directorate at LLNL. She obtained her B.Sc. in Materials Science and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Stanford University. She has training and expertise in developing and characterizing hydrogels/bio-inks for 3D printing and for delivery of spinal cord therapeutics.

William Hynes is a postdoctoral researcher at LLNL in the Materials Engineering Division. He received his B.S. in Biology from the University at Albany in 2009 and then attended the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute and receiving his Ph.D. in Nanoscale Engineering in 2016, where he focused on using engineering to enhance biology, and vice versa. He is currently a primary investigator on a project devoted to printing artificial aneurysms, and functions as the technical lead of the bioprinted blood brain barrier project. His research interests include exploring the wide applications of bioprinting, including developing living biosensors, examining bacterial behaviors, and tissue engineering.  

Claire Robertson is a Lawrence Postdoctoral Fellow in cancer bioengineering in the Materials Engineering Division at LLNL. Her research focuses on how extracellular matrix (a collection of structural proteins that surrounds all cells) signal to cells to regulate normal function, and how this goes haywire in cancer. She received a B.S. in Bioengineering and Mathematics from UC San Diego, then worked at Rady Children’s Hospital in Biomechanics for several years before completing her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at UC Irvine. She then started researching cancer biology at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory prior to coming to LLNL.

Melody McGill is the 7-12 Science Coordinator for Modesto City Schools and a STEM teacher and coach at Roosevelt Junior High School. She coaches the school’s First Lego League Robotics teams, Future City teams, and Science Olympiad teams. Melody received a B.S. in Liberal Studies from CSU Stanislaus and then achieved a M.A. in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University. She also works with the Science on the Screen program and serves as an instructor for the LLNL Teacher Research Academy program.

February 23, 2019
Crossing the Blood Brain Barrier: One byte at a time

LLNL Scientists: Tim Carpenter, Nicholas Be
Teacher: Dan Burns, Los Gatos HS

AbstractThe blood-brain-barrier (BBB) is a special structure in the body that helps to protect the brain from unwanted toxins and germs. Unfortunately, this barrier can also make it extremely difficult for therapeutics to reach their intended target within brain. This requires the modification of the therapeutic drugs to allow them to cross the BBB and enter the brain where they can reach their target and be effective. Testing which chemical modifications act to improve accessibility of therapeutics to the brain can be a long and expensive process. At LLNL, we are combining experimental techniques with computational methods, making use of some of the fastest supercomputers in the world, to speed up the process of optimizing therapeutics to cross the BBB.

Tim Carpenter received his combined Undergraduate/Masters degree in Biochemistry (MBiochem) from the University of Oxford in 2005, and his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford in 2008. Dr. Carpenter was a postdoctoral researcher at LLNL from 2009-2012. In 2012, he was converted to a Staff Scientist, and in 2017 was appointed Deputy Group Leader in the Biochemical and Biophysical Systems group within the Physical and Life Sciences Directorate at LLNL. He is interested in the modeling and biomolecular simulation of cellular membranes and membrane proteins. Additionally, he has been working on small molecule permeability studies, to investigate the energetic barriers associated with crossing a lipid bilayer, with a view to developing screening methods to accurately predict blood-brain barrier permeability in drug design.

Nick Be is a Scientist in the Biosciences and Biotechnology Division at LLNL. His research is focused on applying DNA-based techniques for studying human pathogens and microbiomes. Dr. Be received a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed postdoctoral training at Lawrence LLNL. He currently leads research efforts applying microbiome analytics toward infections in combat injuries. This research combines microbial analysis with statistical modeling to improve care for wounded service members. Dr. Be is involved in a range of bioscience research efforts, including identification of microbial signatures in DNA sequence data, techniques for detection of antimicrobial resistance, analysis of microorganisms in the environment and atmosphere, and exploring microbial content on the International Space Station. 

Dan Burns teaches physics at Los Gatos High School in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dan is a Faculty Scholar at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he conducts teacher workshops and gives scientific talks for the general public highlighting lab research. Dan leads PTSOS, an organization providing support to new physics teachers. A video of one of the PTSOS workshops about gravity went viral on YouTube and now has over 50 million views. Dan has done workshops and developed curriculum for NASA, the USGS, the SETI Institute, the SCCOE, EnCorps, and NMSI. Dan was selected by NASA to be an Airborne Ambassador for Astronomy and flew into the stratosphere aboard NASA’s Sofia 747. Prior to becoming a teacher Dan was an aerospace engineer for Lockheed/Martin where he developed advanced space systems. Dan has a BS in aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois, a physical science teaching credential from San Jose State University, and a master’s in instructional technology from the American College of Education.


Past Science on Saturday presentations can be viewed at the University of California Television network. 

The history of the Science on Saturday program topics and presenters are cataloged (an updated link coming soon).