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Stony Brook University

University Libraries STEM Speaker Series: Fall 2020

First Lecture

Guest Speaker: Dr. Carlos Simmerling, Department of Chemistry, and Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology

Title: "Using computer simulations to model the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein and block COVID-19 infection"

DateTuesday, September 22, 2020

Time: 1pm-2pm

Location: Online

Please register here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Lecture

Guest Speaker: Dr. Thomas Woodson

Title: "Should research have societal impact? Re-evaluating broader impacts with the Inclusion-Immediacy Criterion"

DateTuesday, October 6, 2020

Time1pm-2pm

Location: Online 

Please register here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Lecture

Guest Speaker: Dr. Neelima Sehgal, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Title: “IceCube and Understanding the High Energy Universe with Cosmic Neutrinos”

DateWednesday, November 18, 2020

Time1pm-2pm

Location: Online

Please register here.

First Lecture: Dr. Carlos Simmerling, Department of Chemistry, and Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology (www.simmerlinglab.org)

Title: "Using computer simulations to model the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein and block COVID-19 infection"

Coronaviruses (CoVs) are so named due to the similarity of their appearance to a crown, with small protrusions of “spike” proteins covering their surface. The virus uses these spikes as molecular keys to unlock entry into and infect a host cell. Spike proteins are the key target of neutralizing antibodies, but development of immunity is slow. Furthermore, antibodies tend to interact with the spike in the highly variable exposed regions, thus development of immunity to one CoV strain does not provide protection against another. We hypothesized that small molecule drugs could interact with the spike prior to immunity development, and block the conformational changes that are crucial to membrane fusion and infection. Modern drug discovery methods use structure to guide drug design, however these are hampered for COVID-19 because experimental structures are missing key regions for all coronavirus spikes, and none of the hypothesized membrane fusion steps have been directly observed. We are bridging this gap with computer models that can: complete the partial structures obtained from experiments, map the process of membrane fusion, and identify opportunities where drugs could block viral entry. Such drugs have the potential to be broadly neutralizing of all CoVs, leading to effective treatments for COVID-19, SARS, MERS as well as future pandemics caused by as-yet unknown CoVs. (www.simmerlinglab.org)

 

Our computer model of initial contact of ACE2 receptor on human cell (pink) and the viral spike (red/yellow/blue).

Biosketch:

Dr. Carlos Simmerling obtained his Bachelor’s degree (1991) and PhD (1994) in Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, performing early research on methods for computer modeling of biomolecules such as proteins. He then went on to a post-doctoral fellowship in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF, where he became a lead developer of the Amber biomolecular simulation software that is used in thousands of research labs worldwide. In 1998 Carlos joined the Chemistry department at Stony Brook University, where he is currently a Professor, and he became the Associate Director of SBU’s Laufer Center for Physical & Quantitative Biology. His NIH- and NSF-funded research focuses on development of improved simulation methods and models, and using these tools to study biomolecular recognition mechanisms. His articles on improving the physics used in biomolecular modeling have been cited nearly 10,000 times. Dr. Simmerling is currently the Marsha Laufer Chair of Physical & Quantitative Biology at Stony Brook University and a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

Second Lecture: Thomas S. Woodson, Department of Technology and Society

Title: "Should research have societal impact? Re-evaluating broader impacts with the Inclusion-Immediacy Criterion"

A major goal of government and non-profit scientific funding agencies is to support research and development (R&D) that has societal impact. The US National Science Foundation requires all grants to discuss their broader impacts and in Europe, policymakers and scientists assess the ethical value of research through the lens of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). Despite the prevalence of impact-based research funding and evaluation, these types of programs are not universally popular and there are steady debates about the importance of them. This presentation debates some of the pros and cons of evaluating research based on impact and then discusses a new evaluation framework called the Inclusion-Immediacy Criterion (IIC). The IIC better determines whether research helps marginalized communities, reduces inequality, and encourages inclusive innovation.

 

Biosketch:

 

Dr. Thomas S. Woodson is an assistant professor in the Department of Technology and Society at Stony Brook University. He investigates the effects of technology on inequality throughout the world and the causes/consequences of inclusive innovation. For the past 3 years he has focused on the relationship between innovation and inequality in 4 areas: nanotechnology, 3D printing, science funding and engineering education. Dr. Woodson received his B.S.E in electrical engineering from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in Public Policy for the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech).

Third Lecture: Dr. Neelima Sehgal, Department of Physics and Astronomy


Title: Unveiling the First Moments of the Universe's Creation with the Simons Observatory 

I will discuss how we are collecting the oldest light in the Universe, called the Cosmic Microwave Background, in order to determine what happened in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang.  We collect this light with microwave telescopes in the Atacama Desert in Chile.  I will discuss a new $100 million project to build the next generation of microwave telescopes in Chile, which will be called the Simons Observatory.  This new observatory has the potential to detect ancient gravitational waves that could unlock the mysteries of how galaxies and stars (and we) came to be.  The detection of this signal would also unlock the mysteries of how gravity works by providing direct evidence that gravity and quantum mechanics are joined at the highest energies.  I will also explain how work at Stony Brook plays a critical role in this research. 

Biosketch:

Dr. Neelima Sehgal is an Associate Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Stony Brook University.  She studies the Cosmic Microwave Background, which is the oldest light in the Universe, to determine what happened during the early Universe and to discover the properties of neutrinos and dark matter.   Dr. Sehgal received her B.S. in Physics and Mathematics from Yale University and her PhD in Physics and Astronomy from Rutgers University.   She was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford and Princeton Universities before joining the faculty at Stony Brook in 2012.  Her research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Event Organizer: Clara Tran, Head of Science and Engineering