This Is What Science Looks Like At NC State: Kristy Boyer

04.24.2014 | by Matt Shipman | Filed under Miscellaneous,Science | Comments: No responses |

Boyer (left) and two members of her research group. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Boyer.)

Boyer (left) and two members of her research group. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Boyer.)

Editor’s note: This is an entry in an ongoing series of posts that we hope will highlight the diversity of researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The series is inspired by the This Is What A Scientist Looks Like site. This submission comes from Kristy Boyer, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State.

My name is Kristy Boyer and my research focuses on how to build adaptive software systems that help people learn. I’m also a mom to two boys, a bass guitarist, a half-marathoner, and a scuba diver.

[Note: Boyer’s research has been covered by outlets from Wired to Polygon.]


This Is What Science Looks Like At NC State: Ann Ross

04.21.2014 | by Matt Shipman | Filed under Miscellaneous,Science | Comments: No responses |

Photo courtesy of Ann Ross.

Photo courtesy of Ann Ross.

Editor’s note: This is an entry in an ongoing series of posts that we hope will highlight the diversity of researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The series is inspired by the This Is What A Scientist Looks Like site. This submission comes from Ann Ross, a professor of anthropology at NC State.

CHASS researcher Ann Ross and a human skull.   PHOTO BY ROGER WINSTEADMy name is Ann Ross and I am originally from the Republic of Panama. I have a Chilean mom and a British father, but was born and raised in Panama. I am an ABFA-certified forensic anthropologist, which means that I study human bones. I use my expertise to help law enforcement solve crimes and have worked on issues ranging from war crimes in Eastern Europe to political violence in Latin America to identifying remains in the wake of natural disasters. I also examine human remains to help us learn more about historic and prehistoric cultures; bones can tell us things that were never written down.

I did my Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and a post-doc at the University of Florida in Gainesville. My current research at NC State is focused on developing new tools and standards for forensic identifications of human remains. The things I enjoy the most are traveling with my husband Craig and nine year old son Alex and spending time with our creatures. I have a great fancy for tailless cats and we share our home with Lady Pyewacket (Japanese Bobtail), Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (American Bobtail) and Sir Francis Drake (Manx) – all rescues, by the way. We also have a fancy for Chinese Shar Peis and share our home with our mini brush coat Izzy.


This Is What Science Looks Like At NC State: Doreen McVeigh

04.15.2014 | by Matt Shipman | Filed under Miscellaneous,Science | Comments: No responses |

Image courtesy of Doreen McVeigh.

Photo by Joe Zambon, courtesy of Doreen McVeigh.

Editor’s note: This is an entry in an ongoing series of posts that we hope will highlight the diversity of researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The series is inspired by the This Is What A Scientist Looks Like site. This post focuses on Doreen McVeigh, a Ph.D. student studying marine ecology at NC State.

Image: Doreen McVeigh

Photo: Doreen McVeigh

I am a second year Biological Oceanography Ph.D. student in Dave Eggleston’s Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab. My research studies larval dispersal of deep-sea methane seep invertebrates such as tubeworms, mussels, and clams throughout the Atlantic Ocean using computer modeling and molecular tools. The computer model combines biological and physical oceanographic factors to predict how these deep sea larvae spread across the ocean floor. Using the molecular tools, we can then determine whether the computer models are correct. The work enables us to go out to sea on research vessels and sample known methane seep sites at depths ranging from 600 to 3,500 meters, as well as participate in exploration of new sites with remotely operated vehicles and manned submarines.

Outside of the lab, I have two passions: SCUBA-diving and Irish dance. We work together in our lab supporting each other’s work, and some recent projects required scientific divers to sample oyster reefs throughout Pamlico Sound. As a scientific diver, I can support the research of coastal systems, and as a recreational diver it is possible to enjoy the biodiversity and natural beauty of marine life. Out of the water, Irish dance is a way to celebrate my Irish culture, foster friendship with other members of the community, and relieve stress through exercise. We work together as team and compete as solo dancers in competitions called feiseanna (pronounced fesh-ie-anna). Both recreational activities remind me to enjoy life, focus on challenges, and practice, practice, practice!


Why Captain America’s Shield Is Basically a Star-Spangled Supercapacitor

04.15.2014 | by Matt Shipman | Filed under Miscellaneous,Science,Technology | Comments: 6 responses |

Image credit: Marvel.com

Image credit: Marvel.com

Captain America’s shield is famous for absorbing tremendous amounts of kinetic energy, from an artillery shell to a punch from the Hulk – keeping Cap not only safe, but on his feet.  What’s going on here?

It’s tough to explain how the shield works, in part because it behaves differently under different circumstances. Sometimes the shield is thrown and becomes embedded in a wall; but sometimes it bounces off of walls, ricocheting wildly. Sometimes the shield seems to easily absorb tremendous force; but sometimes it is damaged by the attacks of Cap’s most powerful foes.

“However, from a scientific perspective, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about the first law of thermodynamics,” says Suveen Mathaudhu, a program manager in the materials science division of the U.S. Army Research Office, adjunct materials science professor at NC State University and hardcore comics fan. “Energy is conserved. It doesn’t disappear, it just changes form.

Image credit: Marvel.com

Image from Captain America By Ed Brubaker Vol. 2 Premiere HC (2011 – Present).
Release Date: February 21, 2012. Image credit: Marvel.com

“When enormous energy, such as a blow from Thor’s hammer, strikes Cap’s shield, that energy needs to go somewhere.”

Normally, that energy would need to be either stored or converted into heat or sound. But comic-book readers and moviegoers know that Cap’s shield usually doesn’t give off waves of heat or roaring shrieks (that shockwave from Thor’s hammer in The Avengers film notwithstanding).

“That absence of heat and sound means that the energy has to be absorbed somehow; the atomic bonds in the shield – which is made of vibranium – must be able to store that energy in some form,” Mathaudhu says.

For example, in the comics, no less an authority than Molecule Man insinuates that something about the shield’s molecular structure is “weirdest of them all.” Based on his observations, Mathaudhu notes that the shield essentially acts as a battery. (After all, the elemental power source Tony Stark “discovers” in Iron Man 2 is also vibranium.)

But the shield also appears able to function as a capacitor, able to handle large amounts of energy very quickly. (Oversimplified explanation: capacitors – like the flash on your smartphone – absorb and release energy quickly; batteries – like, well, batteries – absorb and release energy at controlled rates.)

This means that Cap’s shield is a supercapacitor (perhaps vibranium atoms assemble akin to graphene?), able to function as a hybrid of a battery and a capacitor.

But how does the shield release all that stored energy that it has saved up?

“If the energy is being stored in the bonds between the shield’s atoms, that could explain the variability in the shield’s physical characteristics,” Mathaudhu says.

For example, maybe its supercapacitor-like nature explains where the shield gets the energy it needs to ricochet off of multiple surfaces before returning to Cap’s hand (as it does so often in the comics) – or how the shield is able to unleash enough force in one blow to cut into the Winter Soldier’s super-strong bionic arm (as seen in the most recent Captain American movie).

Part of it is Cap’s strength, of course, but the shield itself appears to be playing a role.

Could tiny little atoms really contain that kind of energy? It’s important to remember just how much energy is contained in atomic bonds: both the atomic bomb and conventional nuclear energy facilities are powered by the splitting of atoms. [Note: Commenter St. Chris caught a mistake here – I conflated atomic bonds with nuclear bonds. Very different. His comment is here.]

And we’re all familiar with real-world examples of technology that converts kinetic energy into stored energy, like the flywheel and generator tech that uses the friction from stepping on the brakes in a Prius to charge the car’s batteries.

As is so often the case in comics, there’s a kernel of scientific truth here – Cap’s shield just takes it one step further.


This Is What Science Looks Like At NC State: Lynsey Romo

04.11.2014 | by Matt Shipman | Filed under Miscellaneous,Science | Comments: No responses |

Photo courtesy of Lynsey Romo.

Photo courtesy of Lynsey Romo.

Editor’s note: This is an entry in an ongoing series of posts that we hope will highlight the diversity of researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The series is inspired by the This Is What A Scientist Looks Like site. This post focuses on Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication.

My name is Lynsey Romo and I’m an assistant professor of interpersonal and health communication. I study communication about uncomfortable issues, particularly surrounding money, weight, and healthy but deviant behaviors (e.g., not drinking alcohol) in hopes of helping people talk about these matters more effectively.

In my spare time I enjoy hanging out with my dog Bruni, running (I recently qualified for the Boston Marathon), and traveling. Here’s a picture of me at the Great Wall.


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