Reserve the last Tuesday of each month to hear from some of the leading minds in science today. Massey University Auckland scientists and guest speakers take you into the fascinating world of scientific discoveries.

Venue: Sir Neil Waters Lecture Theatre, Massey University Auckland, Albany

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The Periodic Table from a quantum perspective

3 December 2019

The first periodic table of elements was proposed by Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev in 1869. It was based on arranging the elements in ascending order of atomic weight and grouping for similarities in chemical properties. It is considered to be most fundamental to chemistry. But in 2019 key questions remain unanswered: where does the periodic table end? What is quantum theory doing in this area? How can one predict the chemical and physical behaviour of superheavy elements?

Distinguished Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger is the director of the Theoretical Chemistry and Physics Centre and member of the Institute for Advanced Study. In this talk he will discuss the periodic table of the elements from a quantum perspective from Mendeleev to Ogansson.

The Science Learning Hub team has curated a collection of resources related to the periodic table of elements.

Coral reefs in a changing world

24 September2019

Reef-building corals are a delicate, but remarkably productive association between a cnidarian (similar to a sea anemone) and a colony of single-celled algae called zooxanthellae. This mutually-beneficial relationship is the powerhouse fuelling the coral reefs we see in tropical seas around our planet. Yet, corals, and all the biodiversity they support, are under threat from climate change.

Increases in ocean temperature cause the zooxanthellae to become toxic to the cnidarian host, and the hosts evict the zooxanthellae. The only hope for corals is that they can adjust to the new regime or move to cooler locations further from the equator. In this talk Dr David Aguirre will discuss some of the ongoing work to better understand the potential for corals to endure or outrun climate change.

How your DNA makes you, you

27 August 2019

Recent technological advances have made it possible to figure out the sequence of all three billion basepairs in the human genome. Scientists have since used this data to understand ancestry, to predict health outcomes and even solve crimes. Dr Olin Silander will discuss how these technological advances in DNA sequencing came about, how they help us to understand human history and ancestry, and whether knowing your genome sequence actually helps to predict how you look, feel, and behave.

The life of π

31 July 2019

In this talk, Professor Rod Downey, awarded the Rutherford Medal in 2018, will examine the history of how we began to understand the number pi over the last four millennia. This is also the story of the development of a branch of modern mathematics called analysis; a story still being told today.

Ecology and infectious diseases: a mathematical perspective

28 May 2019

In this talk Professor Mick Roberts will discuss how mathematics has been used to describe epidemics and pandemics. If you push an ecosystem too far the rules change. Parasites have been described as the dark matter in ecosystems, always there but often overlooked. Ecosystems may change for many reasons, including human actions and invasion by pests or pathogens. As ecosystems change new infectious diseases may emerge, and existing infections may reappear or change their host range. Mathematical models are necessary to unravel the complicated interactions between ecology and the epidemiology of infectious diseases.

The light fantastic: Dizzying interactions between light and matter

30 April 2019

In this talk Professor Bill Williams will discuss how Optical Tweezers work in stretching a single strand of DNA. Nature provides fascinating examples of nanotechnology, creating functional entities from the bottom-up; from molecules to materials and devices. But this is not the nanotechnology of miniature submarines and nano-bots; it is that of molecular biology, the wet nanotechnology of biopolymers and their assemblies. It is the nanotechnology of DNA condensation and transcription, of protein fibers and molecular motors. It is the physics of the nanoscale that is so elegantly exploited and Brownian motion that brings the dance to life.

Demented yeast and obese flies: model organisms in biomedical research

26 March 2019
In this talk Professor Sepp Dieter Kohlwein will discuss the use of model organisms. What do obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer have in common? Their causes root in an imbalance of highly complex mechanisms that control thousands of biochemical reactions in trillions of cells in the human body.

The complexity of these processes demands the use of ‘model organisms’ in biomedical research, such as yeast, fruit flies, or roundworms, to obtain a better understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms in healthy and diseased cells.

Biological clocks – adjustable time-keeping makes for good health

12 March 2019

In this talk, Professor Aneta Stefanovska will discuss technological advances in the monitoring of a variety of biological clocks and ways of modelling them mathematically. Today, thanks to the advances in visual and imaging technologies, we can as easily see ourselves from the inside as on the outside. Yet, our body involves not only structures, but also functions. The majority of them are rhythmical. The most obvious one is perhaps the sleep-wake cycle, also known as circadian. But there are many other rhythms, operating on different time-scales, such as the beating of the heart, breathing, brain activity and metabolic activity. The body is an orchestra of irregular rhythms in which the key to good functioning lies in their coordination.

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