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STEM Centre
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Science Week 2017: March 20th to 24th

Save the Date!

Science Week 2017

Teachers interested in bringing their classes to any of the talks should contact Ashley Rankin at

Unless specified otherwise, talks will take place in the Auditorium.

Talks and Activities

Monday, March 20th at 10am: The future for engineering starts with you!
Women in Engineering Society, Concordia University

They say engineering school is too hard. Students study all the time and don't have time to go out. Oh, and it's impossible to find a girl in a classroom! This is why we, FEMALE engineering students of Concordia University, are coming to Vanier in our free time to prove to you that engineering is not as hard and nerdy as it seems. We will also dispel any stereotypes, introduce Space Concordia and their involvement in engineering, share our personal experience as engineering students, and finally, we will answer your questions.

Monday, March 20th at 12pm: The Secretary Problem
Ivan Ivanov, Vanier College

Hunting for the ideal apartment requires a delicate balance between the regrets of "the one that got away" and "a stone left unturned". How do we know when to stop? We face these kinds of stopping decisions all the time: when searching for the most convenient parking spot, when responding to job offers, and in the even more fraught setting of dating. Algorithms exist prescribing decision strategies to deal with the tension between "looking" and "leaping" in an optimal way. Mathematically, at least, these stopping problems already have solutions. A paradigmatic example of an optimal stopping problem is the Secretary Problem. The goal is to hire the best secretary applying for a job and the hiring process is based on a sequence of interviews. The decision to hire or reject an applicant is made immediately after each interview and a rejected candidate cannot be hired at a later time. There is an optimal stopping rule for terminating the interview sequence, which solves the Secretary Problem. This and related optimal stopping rules are used in Economics, Finance, Computer Science, and in many other areas. Psychologists and economists, who have studied the decision behaviour of actual people in Secretary Problem situations, have discovered that most people tend to stop "looking" too soon.

Monday, March 20th at 2:30pm: Brain Imaging, Big Data, and Neuroscience: Insights on the incredible plastic brain
Dr. Mallar Chakravarty, McGill University

In the last three decades magnetic resonance imaging has been used to get insights on how the brain is structured and how it is wired. The accompanying explosion in computing and information technologies have allowed for an improved understanding of how the brain changes through maturation, through ageing, and in response to environmental factors (learning, pharmaceuticals, early life adversity, etc). Here I'll demonstrate how these neuro- and computer sciences come together to allow us to gain better insight into how the brain changes and why.

Tuesday, March 21st at 10am: GAPDH gene sequencing project: Guiding CEGEP students to develop an understanding of "real-world" scientific research
Michael Lindner-D'Addario, Olivia Mendelson, and Thomas Lo, Vanier College students

A group of students from the Honours Science GAPDH gene-sequencing project discuss their experience as they explain the importance of research in our society. In an effort to encourage more students to take part in research of their own, they will discuss benefits and common misconceptions about research, as well as how any dedicated student can get involved.

Wednesday, March 22nd during UB: Science Coffeehouse (D-301/STEM Centre)
Featuring performances by students and faculty & Robotics Bake Sale.

Wednesday, March 22nd at 1:30pm: From Eastern Canada to the Tropics: Paleoenvironmental Research at Bishop's University
Dr. Matthew Peros, Bishop's University

Climate change represents perhaps the greatest scientific and societal challenge of our time. Climate change scientists use a range of methods and techniques to understand how the climate system is changing and how ecosystems will be responding to these changes in the future. A critical line of inquiry that climate scientists employ is the use of climatic and environmental proxy data from geological sources--such as ice cores, tree rings, and lake sediments--to better understand the rates and magnitudes of natural climate variability over long timescales. This talk will introduce students to some of the basics of paleoclimatic research and also highlight three recent projects that are bring pursued by students and faculty at Bishop's University related to past climate and sea level change in both temperate and tropical environments.

Thursday, March 23rd at 8:30am: The True Cost of the Food on your Plate
Mark Reynolds

About to embark on his first season as an organic farmer in Quebec, Mark Reynolds will be discussing the current state of agriculture in North America. His talk will be looking at the economical, societal and environmental impacts of agribusiness in a local and a global context, as well as introducing his first hand experience of alternative food systems in Montreal and abroad.

Thursday, March 23rd at 10am: Building and Operating an Elevator to Space
Stephen Cohen, M. Eng., Vanier College

Since the first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched in 1957, mankind's presence in space has grown. However, our capacity to utilize space is very limited due to our singular method of space travel: rockets. Some decades from now a more sustainable and elegant transit system to space, known as a Space Elevator, may be established. The scope of such a project is immense and requires a tremendous amount of research and planning. This talk will describe the space elevator, explore some of its challenges, and focus on research that is currently underway.

Thursday, March 23rd at 12:30pm Pi-Day Event (D-301/STEM Centre) Pi Recital and Pie Eating Contest

Thursday, March 23rd 2-3:30pm (D-301/STEM Centre)
Keeping Science Creative - A Panel Discussion with the launch of the Vanier Science Journal

Co-presented by the Science Communication Collective and the Vanier Science Journal

Friday, March 24th at 10am: The Physics of Disasters
Nikolas Provatas, McGill University

Disasters in sea, air, space and rail travel have long captured the public's attention due to the sudden and shocking loss of life and the ensuing fear associated with the lack of control people feel about traveling in vehicles controlled by others, a fear exacerbated by media hype from television networks hungry for ratings. Interestingly, a great deal of transportation disasters in the past century have been caused by failure to properly understand important microstructure processes that govern the properties and functionality of advanced materials. In this talk, we will explore some popular disasters of the past century and explain their causes. In each case, we will explore how understanding the physics of materials has helped demystify the causes of such disasters and help prevent their reoccurrence. Along the way, the talk will also highlight how advances in modern experimentation and advanced computing have dramatically improved our ability to predict and control the properties of engineering materials.

Friday, March 24th at 1pm: Science, on Tourne! Engineering Competition (D-301/STEM Centre)
This year's challenge is to build an autonomous machine capable of picking up golf balls and placing them in a container. Teams will have 60 seconds to place as many golf balls as they can in a container measuring 22 cm in height x 45 cm in length x 29 cm in width. The winning team at each college will be invited to participate in the national final where many valuable prizes can be won.