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

2019-2020 Young Scientist Roundtable Events

Tuesday, September 24 - Mechanics of the Foot and Injuries in Athletes

The foot and ankle are complex mechanical structures, often forgotten about and hidden underneath shoes and dirt. We depend on our feet to function normally. When we stress the foot and ankle that we often realize the problems and pain that can arise when something alters the normal mechanics and how our tendons and joints interact. Dr. Jeffrey Seybold, Foot & Ankle Surgeon with Twin Cities Orthopedics, will share basic biomechanics of the foot and ankle and apply this to an understanding of how the foot and ankle can stand the stress of running, respond to injuries of professional athletes, and affect how we decide on our next pair of shoes.

Foot Mechanics and Injuries in the Athlete Presentation

Monday, October 14 – Riding a Laser Beam to Alpha Centauri

Optics go beyond eyewear and lightbulbs. Fiber optics are fundamental to the operation of the internet, household lighting, and more. Lasers, with pulse lengths of one femtosecond, are used in eye surgeries and steel cutting and measuring gravity in collapsing black holes. Dr. James Leger, University of Minnesota College of Science & Engineering’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, will describe nanostructures that act as optical cloaks similar to Harry Potter’s famous invisibility cloak, huge telescopes may someday be held together in space using laser beams, and futuristic ideas in optics that include systems that can “see around corners” and whether it is possible to use laser light produced on earth to propel an interstellar spacecraft to Alpha Centauri.

Riding a Laser Beam to Alpha Centauri Program

Tuesday, November 12 – High-Resolution DNA Analysis: Enhancing Food Safety

Producers, distributors, and consumers place great emphasis on the identity, origin, purity, and safety of food products. The importance of sophisticated and robust tests to confirm label claims and ensure quality of products cannot be overstated. Emerging DNA sequencing technologies show great potential as a quality assurance tool by providing high resolution, comprehensive, and data-driven analysis at every level of food production. Strain-level microbial pathogen identification along with longitudinal sampling programs can be used to pin-point and track contamination events within facilities and help to guide mitigation. DNA sequencing also has utility in applications for authenticating ingredients and identifying adulterations in a variety of products. In this presentation we will discuss several case-studies utilizing DNA sequencing applications to improve confidence and assure quality of food production from the farm to the fork.

  • Presenter: Mr. Ken Oostra, CEO of Exact Scientific Services
  • Tuesday, November 12
  • 7:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Wayzata High School Auditorium 

Monday, December 9 - New Treatments for Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injury is devastating. There are many exciting advancements being made in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Current thinking is that there is not one single cure, but likely a combination of potential therapies that can be used. Dr. Ann Parr, Board Certified Neurosurgeon and faculty member in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience and the Stem Cell Institute, will share how her laboratory is using a combination of stem cells, scaffolding and electrical stimulation as potential therapies.

  • Presenter: Dr. Ann Parr - Board Certified Neurosurgeon and faculty member in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience and the Stem Cell Institute
  • Date: Monday, December 9
  • Time: 7:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Roundtable Part 2: 8:10-8:40 p.m.
  • Where: Wayzata Central Middle School

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - Man's Best Friend Helping to Treat Brain Cancer

There is groundbreaking work being done at the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Medical Center and Masonic Cancer Center in the treatment of brain tumors in dogs.  Dr. Liz Pluhar, Board Certified Veterinary Neurosurgeon and Director of the Canine Brain Tumor Clinical Trials Program, will discuss new immunotherapies that greatly extended survival of canine patients with Glioblastoma (GB) and how these are to be translated into trials in human GB patients. 

Dr. Pluhar received her D.V.M. from Oregon State University in 1989. She earned a master of science degree in molecular biology from Northern Illinois University. In 1999, she earned a Ph.D. in veterinary sciences/comparative orthopaedics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include improving total joint longevity, development of bone graft substitutes, the study of osteoclasts and bone graft incorporation, and the investigation of novel gene and immunotherapies for brain tumors

  • Presenter: Dr. Liz Pluhar
  • Date: Wednesday, January 15, 2020
  • Time: 7:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Roundtable Part 2: 8:10-8:40 p.m.
  • Where: Wayzata Central Middle School

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.