Professors share research at TED-Talk inspired symposium


Fabian Fernandez

Engineering assistant professor Todd Humphreys gives a lecture at a research symposium on Tuesday evening. 

Christina Breitbeil

University professors presented their research in engineering and science Tuesday at the Student Engineering Council’s Research Symposium — in a manner which event organizers claim is the first of its kind. 

The symposium held the discussion in the style of TED Talks, a series of lesson-based conferences intended to spread ideas. Jacob Sacks, biomedical engineering junior and event organizer, said covering such a wide range of topics — from revisiting Metcalfe’s Law on the equation of the value of a network to researching stealth-hacking attacks on autonomous unmanned vehicles of the future — made this different from any previous research symposiums held at the University.

“[There have] been other research symposiums, but this is the first of these presented in a way so it is targeted toward a larger audience,” Sacks said. “It’s applicable to everyone, or at least something they can find interesting.”

Brent Iverson, chemistry professor and dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies, said the research he and others are currently working on, which focuses on binding DNA molecules by using complimentary charges, has the potential to create uses for DNA in the drug market.  

“You can think about treating the diseases we can’t treat today,” Iverson said. “You can think about cancer. You can think about retroviral diseases like HIV.” 

Biomedical engineering professor Stanislav Emelianov also presented on progress in the field of cancer research. Emelianov said he hopes to detect and treat cancer through completely noninvasive procedures.

“I’ve seen ‘Star Trek,’” Emelianov said. “They cure diseases without cutting skin. Why can’t we do that? Not only will we detect the diseases at the cellular and molecular level. We will start treating them … [With photoacoustic imaging], we hope to treat it without cutting the skin.”

In addition to highlighting ways research can advance the field of medicine, professors spoke on the potential for defense mechanisms against hackers and how research changed their own personal future. David Laude, chemistry professor and senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management, said his initial devotion to the research of different topics led to his realization that he desired to live a life full of constant change.

“I value the fact that I create error all the time in my life,” Laude said. “When I think about how my life worked out, I realize that, along the way, I was honoring these odd moments of epiphany … I’m no longer a famous scientist, but a guy that loves every day that I live.”