Young Scientist Roundtable

Learn about exciting ideas and developments presented by professors and prominent experts.

Since 1992, Young Scientist Roundtable has brought over 250 scientists to thousands of Wayzata students on topics from the hydrogen atom to human joint replacement to food coloring.

All programs are always free and no registration is required. The main presentation begins at 7:00 p.m. and is generally followed by a "Roundtable Part 2" where students can participate in an in-depth discussion and question/answer session with the speaker.


Deb Slomkowski
Enrichment Manager

2018-2019 Young Scientist Roundtable Events

September 25 – Listening to Rock

We can think about fracture at various scales. The very large scale is an earthquake, and we often see its destructive effects. In Dr. Labuz’s lab at the University of Minnesota, they study microcracks that are millimeters in size with the goal of using waves called acoustic emission to evaluate how rock breaks. This understanding is useful in designing more economical ways to excavate rock and in protecting workers in underground mines.

Joseph F. Labuz, Ph.D., is a professor in and head of the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

October 8 – Tornadoes: Mathematics and Physics Behind Their Power

Tornadoes are produced when two differing air masses meet. Most tornadoes form during supercell thunderstorms from an intensely rotating updraft. According to the National Weather Service, a tornado is “a violently rotating column of air attached to a thunderstorm and in contact with the ground.” Mathematical models have become a core aspect of researching tornadoes.

Dr. Pavel Belik, professor in the Department of Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science at Augsburg University will talk about the mathematical forces in a tornado.

October 29 – Space Foods of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

For thousands of years, explorers and travelers have had to develop methods for preserving and carrying food for the journey. Refrigeration and canning have solved some of challenges, but space travel requires all new methods.

Vickie Kloeris is the manger of the Space Food Systems Laboratory at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

November 13 – NASA’s Stardust Mission: Bringing Comet Wild 2 to Earth

In 2004, the Stardust spacecraft made a close flyby of comet Wild-2 (pronounced “Vilt-2”), a frozen, largely unaltered collection of dust and gas left over from early in the solar system’s history containing records of the primordial material from which the planets and satellites subsequently formed.

NASA’s Stardust Mission returned to Earth in 2006 with a cargo of particles from Wild-2, the first samples of indisputably cometary matter available for laboratory study on Earth.

Join Dr. Russell Palma to hear some of the discoveries made by scientists since 2006 and how studies of these materials have led to revised models for how our solar system originated evolved.

December 12 – Rhythms of the Heart: From normal to abnormal and back again

Combining the most advanced and least-invasive rhythm management technologies improve and enhance patients’ lives. Management treatments may include physical maneuvers, medications, electricity conversion, or electro- or cryo-cautery. Dr. Kenneth Stein will share from his extensive clinical and research experience and broad knowledge of cardiac rhythm management.

Kenneth Stein, M.D., serves as Chief Medical Officer for Cardiac Rhythm Management at Boston Scientific.

January 16 – Keeping Bees on their Six Feet

Bees are pollinators and impact our food quality and food security in major ways. The health of honey bees is impacted by food supply, pesticides and diseases, which, in combination, can cause the collapse of bee colonies. Studying the health and behavior of honey bees helps researchers develop ways for bees to get back on their six feet.

Entomologist Marla Spivak, MacArthur Fellow and McKnight Distinguished Professor in Entomology at the University of Minnesota, studies the factors contributing to bee health.

February 4 - Detection of Landmines and IEDs Using Neutron Drones

An estimated 110 million landmines are in the ground from wars in over 30 countries. Landmines are responsible for over 4,000 civilian casualties each year, about half of which are children. Explosives in landmines and IEDs have a unique fingerprint, which can be detected by technology in unmanned drones.

Dr. Gerald L. Kulcinski and researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are constructing neutron drones that can be used to detect explosives as far as one meter below the surface or in vehicles.

March 4 - Megafauna Death and our Present Mass Extinction

Megafauna. They are giant animals such as mammoths, short-faced bears, and giant birds. Thought of as ancient, they shared our world until very recent times. Mammoths were alive a thousand years after the Great Pyramids of Egypt were built. Elephant birds remained during the Roman Empire and the last aurochs, the ancestor of modern cattle, died in 1627. What caused their extinction and what legacies have they left?

Roundtable Part 2: How have fossils of megafauna influenced even more than our scientific concepts? Many of our myths and legends of gods, giants, and monsters may stem from ancient discoveries of fossil remains.

Dr. Kent Kirby, Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota

April 9 - Sustainability of Plastics

The sustainability of plastics involves studying raw materials, processing, end-use applications, lifecycle issues, governmental regulations, and societal behaviors. The Center for Sustainable Polymers at the University of Minnesota pursues research aimed at developing new, practical chemistries, polymers, processes, and technologies that embrace sustainability. Dr. Ellison will discuss specific examples that will highlight green fiber manufacturing and recycling of multicomponent food packaging.

The Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota. His group’s current research interests include structure, dynamics and processing of micro- and nano-structured plastics, light-activated chemistry for thin film patterning and fiber manufacturing, and engineering sustainable processes and materials.

2017-2018 Young Scientist Roundtable Events

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – October 2, 2017

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a nerve compression syndrome caused by increased pressure to the median nerve at the wrist. Basically, the median nerve becomes pinched at the wrist. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the most common nerve compression in the upper extremity. As a hand and upper extremity specialist, Dr. Mark Wilczynski, MD, Orthopedic Surgery/Hand Specialist at TRIA Orthopaedic Center, understands how disorders of the hand and upper extremity affect those of all ages and negatively impact their quality of life.

Roving Mars Spirit, Opportunity and the Exploration of the Red Planet - November 2, 2017

In January of 2004, a team of 4,000 engineers and scientists developed twin robotic explorers named Spirit and Opportunity that landed on Mars. Their mission has lasted more than 13 years. Its objective is to search for evidence of past water and to determine if Mars ever had conditions that would have been suitable for life. Spirit and Opportunity both found strong evidence for long-ago water on Mars. Spirit’s mission ended after six years; Opportunity is still exploring the Martian surface.

Dr. Squyres will provide an up-to-date summary of the missions of Spirit and Opportunity, from their initial conception through their development, launch, landing and operations on the surface of Mars.

The Art and Technology of Caramel Color - November 14, 2017

Caramel color is one of the world’s oldest and most widely used color additives. Primarily through cooking sugar, a myriad of brown shades are obtained. While the concept of caramel color is fairly simple, there are a lot of complex reactions going on. Unfortunately, the reactions are poorly understood and outcomes are measured indirectly. The manufacturing of caramel color is still an art form even with a variety of science available. The presentation will look at how caramel color is made, what caramel is used in, what goes into designing a new product and what are the current challenges caramel manufacturers face.

Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs - December 4, 2017

Unlike natural disasters, infectious disease has the terrifying power to disrupt everyday life on a global scale, overwhelming public and private resources and bringing trade and transportation to a grinding halt.

Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology, explores in detail the resources and programs we need to develop if we are to keep ourselves safer from infectious disease.

An Orthopedic Surgeon is a ‘Carpenter’ – January 9, 2018

Learn about orthopedic surgery and sports-related injuries.

Allan F. Hunt, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine with a focus in arthroscopic shoulder reconstruction, shoulder instability, rotator cuff repair, total joints and cartilage resurfacing. Working with patients of all ages, Dr. Hunt’s areas of expertise include arthroscopic shoulder and knee reconstruction and adult shoulder, knee, and hip reconstruction.

Loss of Vision Resulting from a Retinal Disease – February 5, 2018

Our ability to see depends on many specialized parts of the eye working together to produce a visual image. Some older adults experience a loss of vision or even blindness when one or more of these specialized parts stops working. Dr. Ferrington is studying a retinal disease known as age-related macular degeneration, the number one cause of blindness in older adults.

Dr. Deborah Ferrington, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Ferrington has been at the University of Minnesota since 1999, where her research is focused on discovering the cause of and finding treatments for age-related macular degeneration.

Nourishing Health - Trust Your Gut – April 16, 2018

Joanne L. Slavin, PhD, RD
University of Minnesota Department of Food Science and Nutrition

Our health is dependent on the microbiota, the diverse and desirable organisms that live in our gut. Interest in modifying the gut microbiota has taken on new signi cance because nutrition research has established that changes in the gut microbiota are linked to obesity and other diseases. Dietary interventions do increase gut microbiome diversity; the examples include dietary ber, probiotics and prebiotics. Drugs like antibiotics impact microbiota and make re- establishment of the good bacteria necessary.

Joanne L. Slavin, Ph.D., RD, is a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota and teaches Advanced Human Nutrition. She has authored more than 300 scientific articles on dietary fiber, carbohydrates, whole grains, protein, snacking and the role of diet in disease prevention. Her 350+ worldwide presentations are a testimony that Dr. Slavin is a premium nutritionist on a global basis.