Colloquium Lectures 2009

Energy For the Greenhouse World

Aristides A.N. Patrinos, Ph.D., President of Synthetic Genomics, Inc.

TUESDAY: January 13, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


Human activities are blamed for global climate change. The culprits are the ever increasing greenhouse gas emissions from land use changes and primarily from the burning of fossil fuels for energy production and use. The human interference in the climate system is now unequivocal and the most recent studies show an accelerating pace in the various manifestations of climate change. There is also some concern that some of these changes may be so abrupt so as to have catastrophic effects on human systems and the natural world.

Energy can be blamed for climate change and therefore how we should produce and use energy in the future will yield the solution to our problem. There will be no “silver bullet” to the energy challenge; instead we envision a “silver buckshot” solution that draws on innovations and breakthroughs across the energy technology spectrum. We need not give up on fossil fuels if we can figure out ways to capture and sequester carbon dioxide away from the atmosphere. Nuclear energy may still have a role in the future energy landscape. Certainly, we benefit from enhanced energy conservation and can expand the many applications of renewable energy. Biotechnology powered by modern genomics promises to be a disruptive technology for both energy production and carbon sequestration.

The world needs enlightened leadership and serious action across all sectors. The challenge is huge but the solutions are within the human reach.


Aristides A.N. Patrinos, Ph.D., is president of Synthetic Genomics, Inc., a privately held company founded in 2005 dedicated to developing and commercializing synthetic genomic processes and naturally occurring processes for clean, renewable alternative energy solutions that mitigate global climate change.

Dr. Patrinos was instrumental in advancing the scientific and policy framework underpinning key governmental energy and environmental initiatives while serving as associate director of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. He oversaw the department’s research activities in human and microbial genome research, structural biology, nuclear medicine and climate change. Dr. Patrinos played a historic role in the Human Genome Project, the founding of the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the design and launch of the DOE’s Genomes to Life Program, a research program dedicated to developing technologies to use microbes for innovative solutions to energy and environmental challenges.

Dr. Patrinos is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Meteorological Society, and a member of the American Geophysical Union, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Greek Technical Society. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including three Presidential Rank Awards and two Secretary of Energy Gold Medals, as well as an honorary doctorate from the National Technical University of Athens. A native of Greece, Dr. Patrinos received his undergraduate degree from the National Technical University of Athens, and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and astronautical sciences from Northwestern University.

The Dark Universe Challenge

Salman Habib Ph.D., Los Alamos National Laboratory

TUESDAY: February 10, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


Observations performed within the last two decades have revealed a Universe remarkable both for the extent to which it can be scientifically understood, as well as the extent to which it remains mysterious. More than ninety percent of the Universe is “dark”, composed of dark energy and dark matter — constituents that signal their presence only through gravitational interaction with light and normal matter. The twin mysteries of dark energy and dark matter are driving the development and refinement of cosmological observations to remarkable levels — to accuracies of the order of fractions of a percent. In this talk I will review the current state of the art in “precision cosmology”, outline some of the hurdles that must be faced, and present recent work on how they can be overcome.


Salman Habib completed his undergraduate education in physics at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 1988. He then took up a Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics National Fellowship at the University of British Columbia from 1988 to 1991. In 1991, he came to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) as a post-doctoral fellow, and became a technical staff member in Theoretical Division in 1994. He leads the Astrophysics and Cosmology Center (ACCent) at Los Alamos.

Habib’s work in cosmology has covered a wide scope, from the quantum generation of primordial fluctuations to analysis of observations of large-scale structures in the Universe. Recent research interests include supercomputer simulations of how structure forms in the Universe targeting the study of dark matter and dark energy with cosmological surveys, and advanced statistical methods for precision cosmological analyses combining observational data and high-resolution simulations.

Biologically-Inspired Materials: From Electroactive Polymers To Biomolecular Networks

Donald J. Leo Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

TUESDAY: March 3, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


Nature has produced a diverse array of materials with properties and functions that are superior to their engineered counterparts. The wings of birds flex and bend to enhance aerodynamic properties; cuttlefish can change color to be almost invisible in their surroundings; and tissue can heal autonomously when damaged. In the past two decades scientists and engineers have been making significant progress in the development of materials that have properties that emulate natural materials for the design of systems with biomimetic properties. In this presentation we will overview many of these advances in the context of developing biologically-inspired materials. Of particular interest will be the development of a class of materials known as electroactive polymers that exhibit properties similar to that of natural muscle. More recently, our research group has been making progress in the development of synthetic materials that incorporate biomolecules extracted from natural materials for the purpose of making biomolecular networks. We will overview these advances and discuss opportunities in the development of a new class of biologically-inspired materials with the ability to autonomously respond to their environment in a manner inspired by nature.


Don Leo is currently the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at Virginia Tech and also the Special Assistant to the Vice President for Energy Initiatives. He also holds an appointment as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His research interests are the synthesis, modeling, and control of active material systems, with particular interest in the field of electroactive polymers He is the author of the textbook Engineering Analysis of Smart Material Systems, published by John Wiley and Sons in 2007. He has been a faculty member at Virginia Tech since 1998, before which time he held appointments on the faculty of the University of Toledo (1997-1998) and as a Project Engineer at CSA Engineering, Inc. (1995-1997) in Palo Alto, CA. From 2005 to 2007 he was a program manager in the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). He is the author of over 130 papers, 60 of which have been published in archival publications. He is a member of ASME and is currently the Chair for the ASME Adaptive Structures and Material Systems Technical Committee.

Methane on Mars – Geology, Biology, Neither, or Both?

Dr. Michael J. Mumma, Goddard Center for Astrobiology, NASA-GSFC

TUESDAY: April 7, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


Living systems produce more than 90% of Earth’s atmospheric methane; the balance is of geochemical origin. Using high-dispersion infrared spectrometers at three ground-based telescopes, we measured methane and water vapor simultaneously on Mars over several longitude intervals in northern summer in 2003 and near the vernal equinox in 2006. When present, methane occurred in extended plumes associated with discrete active regions. In Northern mid-summer, the principal plume contained ~19,000 metric tons of methane, and the estimated source strength (? 0.6 kilogram per second) was comparable to that of the massive hydrocarbon seep at Coal Oil Point in Santa Barbara, California. By vernal equinox about one-half the released methane had been lost. Its possible origins will be discussed in the context of geologic and biologic terrestrial analogues.


At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr. Michael J. Mumma is a Senior Scientist in the Solar System Exploration Division, and is founding Director of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology, NASA Astrobiology Institute. His research interests emphasize atomic and molecular structure, planetary and cometary physics and chemistry, and the formation, evolution, and characterization of planetary systems. His work is largely directed towards evaluating the role of comets in delivering water and pre-biotic organic compounds to the young Earth, and to searching for biomarker gases on other planets. He pioneered the application of high dispersion infrared spectroscopy to comets, resulting in the first detections of cometary water, methane, ethane, and other native chemicals. With the NIRSPEC cross-dispersed echelle spectrometer at Keck-2, the world’s largest infrared-optical telescope, he now detects up to ten parent volatile species simultaneously along with numerous other components in comets. Dr. Mumma is the author or co-author of more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers. He is an elected Fellow of the American Physical Society. He twice received NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (1988, 1997), and in 1999 the International Astronomical Union named Asteroid 8340 “Michael J. Mumma” in his honor. He received the Alumni Citation for Distinguished Career Achievement from Franklin & Marshall College, one of only four Alumni so honored in 2008.

Transforming Organizations: How To Start an Innovation Movement

Michael L. Maness Vice President, Design and Innovation, Gannett Co., Inc.

TUESDAY: May 5, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


The focus of the talk will be on issues and strategies surrounding innovation in large organizations. Newspaper publishers like Gannett and NASA are similar in may significant ways from the perspective of fostering innovation. Both are large diverse organizations working in mature industries and have long histories of important contributions to the country. Both have a very dedicated workforce committed to making a difference in the world. They are also facing an accelerating pace of change – in both technology and society. Fostering innovation is one path toward facing these challenges. The experiences in transforming Gannett though innovation can be viewed in a broader context that could also benefit NASA.


Michael L. Maness is the vice president of Innovation and Design for Gannett Co., Inc. He also supervises Gannett’s Center for Design and Innovation (the DIG). He was previously the vice president of Strategic Planning for Gannett’s Newspaper Division since February 2006. Maness also served as a member of the DIG’s advisory team, evaluating employee ideas.

Previously, he was the market development coordinator at the Springfield (MO) News-Leader and served as Online and New Media manager at Springfield before becoming director of Online Services at The News Journal in Wilmington, DE.

He developed the industry’s first daily video newscast on the Web done without a television partner and also introduced online database marketing to this award-winning Web site. He was named to the Newspaper Association of America’s list of “20 under 40” and was a co-winner in 2007 of the Chairman’s Special Achievement Award at Gannett.

Before joining Gannett, Maness was an analyst and media consultant, a campaign manager and a marketing account executive. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Whither or Wither? – Innovation in Air Transportation

Dr. Bruce J. Holmes, Holmes Consulting LLC

TUESDAY: June 2, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


Fact: Over 400 bankruptcies occurred in U.S. airlines over the past three decades. Fact: The U.S. scheduled air carrier industry is consolidating from over 1,000 destinations in the 1900s to less than 500 in the early part of the 21th century. Fact: There are no longer any large-scale commercial investment banks in America. Given this landscape, what are the prospects for innovation in Air Transportation?

This presentation walks the audience through the past twenty years of industry and government investments in the technologies, policies, finances, and national strategies for air travel. These investments have inspired some of the first industrial and governmental efforts to transform the nature of air transportation since the introduction of the jet engine more than half a century ago. The speaker offers a view of the path of future innovations in air transportation systems.


Dr. Bruce J. Holmes of Holmes Consulting LLC supports a variety of industry, government and university clients in strategy, technology, aviation systems development, and partnerships. He also serves on the FAA Research, Engineering, and Development Advisory Committee supporting oversight of National Airspace Systems advancements. In 2007, Holmes joined DayJet Corporation, supporting the launch of the industry’s first per-seat, on-demand air carrier. In 2009, Holmes co-founded NextGen Sciences, LLC, where he serves as CEO and Chief Strategy Officer, bringing complex science tools into the world of 21st century air traffic management.

Prior to joining DayJet, Dr. Holmes retired from 33 years with NASA. A member of the federal Senior Executive Service, he served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on air transportation strategies, was instrumental in the strategic development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), and in the creation of the NASA AGATE (Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments) Alliance and the SATS (Small Aircraft Transportation System) Project. He has published over 70 technical papers and has received 4 patents and numerous NASA medals and professional society awards. He is also a Fellow and previous Engineer of the Year in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics as well as a Citation type-rated pilot and former flight instructor with 40 years civil aviation experience.

How We Remember Apollo

Dr. Roger D. Launius, National Air and Space Museum

TUESDAY: July 7, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


What is it about the Moon that captures the fancy of humankind? A silvery disk hanging in the night sky, it conjures up images of romance and magic. It has been counted upon to foreshadow important events, both of good and ill, and its phases for eons served humanity as its most accurate measure of time. This presentation discusses the Moon as a target for Human exploration and eventual settlement. It explores the more than 50-year efforts to reach the Moon, succeeding with space probes and humans in Project Apollo in the 1960s and early 1970s. It expends considerable effort analyzing how Americans have responded to the experience of Apollo and discusses efforts to make the Moon a second home, including problems and opportunities in the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration.


Roger D. Launius is senior curator in the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where he was division chair 2003-2007. Between 1990 and 2002 he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A graduate of Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, he received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in 1982. He has written or edited more than twenty books on aerospace history, including the Smithsonian Atlas of Space Exploration (HarperCollins, 2009). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Academy of Astronautics, and the American Astronautical Society, and associate fellow of the AIAA. He also served as a consultant to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003 and presented the prestigious Harmon Memorial Lecture on the history of national security space policy at the United States Air Force Academy in 2006. He is frequently consulted by the electronic and print media for his views on space issues, and has been a guest commentator on National Public Radio and all the major television network news programs.

Back to the Future – CSI Three Centuries Later

Dr. Michael J. Kelley

TUESDAY: August 4, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


Colonial-era folks in Virginia and elsewhere left extensive evidence of their doings, much of it unintentionally in the things they threw out. For those who can read it, those objects tell a story through their composition, structure and topography. The ever-expanding arsenal of materials characterization instruments provides powerful lenses to view ever more of the story’s text. Our region is uniquely positioned for such studies of the colonial era, with strong institutions in both the historical aspects and others in materials characterization. Collaboration among them has taken root and is growing, sharing facilities and programs. Students are benefiting especially.

Sugar production was a major economic activity in the colonial Caribbean creating, along with domestic needs, a large demand for pottery vessels that ultimately could met only by local production. The English colonists brought well-developed technology based on materials and methods used in the Old World. Enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa also contributed to the design and manufacture of local pottery industries in the early colonial era. Moreover, the Native Americans are known to have produced small-scale pottery before the arrival of Europeans in the region. Understanding the transition from English imports and original Native American products to a functioning local pottery industry holds significant interest for researchers studying the archeology of the colonial era.


Michael J. Kelley is Applied Research Program Manager in the FEL Group at Jefferson Lab and Professor of Applied Science at the College of William & Mary. He holds degrees in Physics (B.S.) and Materials Engineering (Ph.D.) from Rensselaer, and spent 26 years in DuPont Central Research and Engineering Research before coming to Virginia. His research and teaching have always focused on surface science and materials characterization, with applications to historical materials, antimicrobial surfaces, environmental contamination, laser-based processing, and advanced particle accelerators. He is adjunct faculty at Virginia Tech (Materials Science & Engineering) and Old Dominion University (Physics).

CLARREO: Cornerstone of the Climate Observing System

Stephen P. Sandford

TUESDAY: September 1, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


No abstract was provided.


Stephen P. Sandford was selected to be the Director of Langley’s Systems Engineering Directorate in October 2004. He is responsible for the management and direction of technology development, space and aeronautical flight systems development, and manufacturing of systems for the Center’s research mission.

After joining NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1986, he worked on the system design and several subsystems for the first spaceflight lidar (light detection and ranging), the Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment (LITE) on Shuttle. He also worked on the first fully calibrated, autonomous differential absorption lidar (DIAL) that flew on NASA’s version of the U-2. He has developed a patented laser frequency control technique, low loss optical filters and advanced piezo-electric motors. He has worked as a researcher, design engineer, system engineer, and project manager on small and large spaceflight components and systems and led and managed both science and engineering organizations.

Mr. Sandford received a B.S. in Physics from Randolph-Macon College, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from University of Virginia, and a M.S. in Optical Science from the University of Arizona.

Hurricane of Independence: The Untold Story of the Deadly Storm at the Deciding Moment of the American Revolution

Tony Williams

TUESDAY: October 6, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


Historian and Author Tony Williams has woven together a gripping and important tale about one of history’s deadliest hurricanes, which struck in 1775 and had a dramatic impact on the start of the American Revolution.


Tony Williams taught history for ten years in Ohio and Virginia and was recently a Fellow at Colonial Williamsburg Rockefeller Library. He has lectured widely about his book including C-SPAN’s Book TV, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Virginia Festival of the Book. His next book, Pox and the Covenant: Franklin, Mather, and the Epidemic that Changed America’s Destiny, will be published in April 2010. He lives in Williamsburg with his wife and children. Mr. Williams will sign copies of his book, which will be available for sale following the talk.

Unsteady hydrodynamics in bio-inspired propulsion

Dr. John Dabiri

TUESDAY: November 3, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


Jellyfish are the oldest, simplest, and arguably most successful species of swimming animal in the world. Yet they are primarily considered a nuisance on beaches or, at best, an attraction for aquarium-goers. I will describe how a biology-inspired approach to engineering has placed jellyfish at the center of efforts to build next-generation underwater vehicles. In particular, physical principles of unsteady vortex dynamics are extracted from laboratory and SCUBA studies of jellyfish, and are subsequently applied to the design of a propeller-driven, unmanned underwater vehicle. Improvements in hydrodynamic efficiency of up to 50 percent are achieved in experiments, demonstrating the potential of bio-inspired approaches to propulsion.


John Dabiri is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories and the Option of Bioengineering at Caltech. He graduated from Princeton University with a B.S.E. degree summa cum laude in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in June 2001. In September 2001, he came to Caltech as a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow, Betty and Gordon Moore Fellow, and Y.C. Fung Fellow in Bioengineering. Under the supervision of Professor Morteza Gharib, he earned an M.S. degree in Aeronautics in June 2003, followed by a Ph.D. in Bioengineering with a minor in Aeronautics in April 2005. He joined the Caltech faculty in May 2005. In 2008, he was selected as an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator for research in bio-inspired propulsion, and Popular Science magazine named him one of its “Brilliant 10” scientists. He was selected for a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2009.

Crazy Robots and the Students Who Build Them

NASA Knights Robotics Team

TUESDAY: December 1, 2009 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. Since 1992 the organization has sponsored annual robotics competitions, which combine sophisticated robotics with an athletic tournament atmosphere. In the flagship FIRST Robotics Competition, a new game is revealed in January each year; teams have six weeks to design and build a robot to compete in that game. Regional events begin in late February, culminating with the International Championships in April. Students and mentors from the NASA Knights will display their 2009 robot, show video from previous competitions, and talk about their challenging and exciting experiences.

Presented by

The NASA Knights robotics team has been participating in the FIRST robotics competition since 1997. Over the years the team has won several regional championships, and many awards, including multiple Johnson & Johnson Sportsmanship Awards, the General Motors Industrial Design Award, the Leadership in Control Award, and Delphi’s Driving Tomorrow’s Technology Award. Team members come from various area public, private, and home high schools. They meet together at New Horizons Regional Education Centers in Hampton, where they are led by Joanne Talmage. To support the NASA Knights, as well as robotics, electronics, and fiber optics classes, New Horizons has built a new robotics facility. NASA Langley Research Center and New Horizons are the team’s main sponsors.