A Frontiers in Science Lecture to celebrate 2019, the International Year of the Periodic Table

Why do atoms behave the way they do?   Why do electrons form “shells,” as seen in the periodic table? 

Why does the first shell hold 2 electrons, the second 8, and the third 18: twice the square numbers 1, 4, and 9? 

It took many years to solve these mysteries, and a lot of detective work in chemistry, physics, and ultimately – once the relevant laws of physics were known – mathematics. 

Other mysteries remain unsolved, like the mass of the heaviest possible element. This talk will give a quick tour of these puzzles and some of the answers.

About the Speaker
John Baez is a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Riverside, who also works at the Centre for Quantum Technologies, in Singapore. His Internet column “This Week’s Finds” dates back to 1993 and is sometimes called the world’s first blog. 

Baez used to work on quantum gravity and pure mathematics. In 2010, concerned about climate change and the future of the planet, he switched to working on a general theory of networks that appear in human-engineered and biological systems. 

About Frontiers in Science Lectures
Lectures in this series are intended to inform, engage, and inspire students, faculty, staff, and the public on developments, breakthroughs, and topics of general interest in the sciences and mathematics. Lecturers tailor their talks for nonexpert audiences.

About the Periodic Table Frontiers in Science Lecture Series
Throughout 2019, the College of Sciences will bring prominent researchers from Georgia Tech and beyond to expound on little-discussed aspects of chemical elements:

  • Feb. 6, James Sowell, How the Universe Made the Elements in the Periodic Table
  • March 5, Michael Filler, Celebrating Silicon: Its Success, Hidden History, and Next Act
  • April 2, John Baez, University of California, Riverside, Mathematical Mysteries of the Periodic Table 
  • April 18, Sam Kean, Author, The Periodic Table: A Treasure Trove of Passion, Adventure, Betrayal, and Obsession 
  • Sept. 12, Monica Halka, The Elusive End of the Periodic Table: Why Chase It
  • October 31, Taka Ito, Turning Sour, Bloated, and Out of Breath: Ocean Chemistry under Global Warming 
  • Nov. 12, Margaret Kosal, The Geopolitics of Rare and Not-So-Rare Elements
Closest public parking for the April 2 lecture is Visitors Area 4, Ferst Street and Atlantic Drive, http://pts.gatech.edu/visitors#l3  
Refreshments are served, and periodic table t-shirts are given away, after every lecture

Event Details


The School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Presents Dr. Peter Webster: Emeritus Professor, GA Tech

Global Climate Synergies and Synchronization:A Potential Vorticity Substance Perspective

For decades, it has been thought that the tropics and the extratropics were relatively independent. If there was a connection it was thought, incorrectly, to be through some form of a zonally symmetric Hadley Circulation. Further, the two hemispheres, vastly different in geography, one mainly ocean, the other with a far greater landmass, have been assumed to be relatively independent. Yet, total annual rainfall rate or volume in each hemisphere is the same within 2%.

The annually averaged top of the atmosphere radiation budget is also nearly identical. Reponses to asymmetric forcing (one hemisphere greater than another) appears to produce a near-identical interhemispheric response. The question then becomes how can this synchronization take place? Is there an overriding physical constraint?

It evolves that these global structures can be best understood in terms of the conservation of potential vorticity substance that is conserved even in the presence of diabatic heating and dissipation (as distinct from potential vorticity that may not be conserved). This understanding allows the “impermeability theorem” of Haynes and McIntyre (1987) to a wide range of problems such as: the communication between the extratropics and the tropics, communication of signals between hemispheres and the synchronization of the response.

The possible relevance of these ideas to dynamic meteorology, climate dynamics and climate change (including paleoclimate), and perhaps planetary atmospheres, will be discussed.

This work comes from joint research with Drs. V. Toma and S. Ortega.

Event Details


To celebrate 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table, the College of Sciences and the Georgia Tech Office of the Arts have partnered to infuse the 2019 Clough  Art Crawl with the spirit of the periodic table. 

The annual Art Crawl serves as a unique opportunity for Georgia Tech students to showcase their artistic talents. The theme for the Spring 2019 exhibition is Art Meets Science. In conjunction with Georgia Tech's year-long celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements, a special section of the Spring exhibition will be devoted to art inspired by the periodic table or a chemical element.

The Art Crawl features art from all students in the following categories:

Visual Art – drawings, paintings, and photography
Digital Art – code-based art, animation, film, and graphic design
Structural Art – sculpture, architecture, crafts, and textiles
Literary Works – poetry/prose, comics, and short stories
Performance Art – dance, live instrumentation, vocal performance, music production, and theater

The exhibit will open on March 14, 2019, at 4 PM. The Art Crawl will award prizes to winners in each category. In addition, College of Sciences will present awards for the top submissions in the special section on the periodic table. Winners will be announced on March 25, 2019.

The visual, digital, structural, and literary art works wil be exhibited through July 31, 2019 at Clough Commons. 

Event Details


March 1, 2019 | Atlanta, GA

The following is from the article By Cassidy Villeneuve on March 1, 2019

It’s not every day that a student takes the time to officially thank their professor for a great project. But that’s what Dr. Jennifer Glass’ student at Georgia Institute of Technology did after learning how to write Wikipedia articles as a class assignment. The thank you came in the form of a certificate of appreciation issued through Georgia Tech’s Center for Teaching and Learning. In conjunction with the certificate, the student wrote:

Dear Dr. Glass, Thank you for being such an enthusiastic teacher throughout the year, and for challenging our class to go out of our comfort zones with the Wikipedia project. I thoroughly enjoyed each lesson as well as the project, and I am so excited for EAS [Earth and atmospheric science] classes to come. Have a wonderful break!

You can read the entire article here.


Postseismic Response Following the 2012 Mw 7.6 Nicoya, Costa Rica Earthquake

Characterization of the surface deformation related to the 2012
moment magnitude (Mw) 7.6 Nicoya earthquake was undertaken using
continuous and campaign Global Positioning System (GPS) observations. This
location is uniquely situated to monitor megathrust conditions as the peninsula
extends to within 60 km of the trench. The entirety of the postseismic and
relocking period were considered, totaling 5 years. Seismic observations were
also included, to cumulatively elucidate the timing and spatial extent of

The evolution of complex life is an inherently multidisciplinary problem encompassing a wide range of topics, including:

  • How do new levels of the biological hierarchy evolve?
  • How do interactions between individual organisms contribute to complex phenotypes and behaviors?
  • How do social behaviors evolve?
  • How do evolutionary novelties emerge and evolve?
  • How do organisms drive geochemical cycles and how do geochemical changes influence evolution?

This conference brings together scientists from different backgrounds to discuss these and other important topics about one of the most salient aspects of life: the evolution of complexity.

Register at http://eclife.biosci.gatech.edu/registration/ 

Conference Program

Below are the topics and confirmed speakers for the conference sessions.The detailed program will be available by April 15, 2019. Please check back at http://eclife.biosci.gatech.edu/program/ for updates.

The evolution of biological complexity

Mechanisms driving evolutionary innovations

Social evolution across scales

Evolutionary transitions

Dynamics and evolution of Earth-systems

Principles of social evolution

Origins and nature of life

Information dynamics in evolution

Organizing and Scientific Committees

The members of the organizing and scientific committees are graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and professors from three schools within the College of Sciences of Georgia Tech.

Organizing Committee

Scientific Committee

More information at http://eclife.biosci.gatech.edu/

Event Details


February 25, 2019 | Atlanta, GA

What is earthquake “music”? Can coral reefs devastated by climate change be saved? Does science support the supposed benefits of meditation?

ScienceMatters, the podcast of the College of Sciences, brings more tales of curiosity and discovery. Season 2 is now live at sciencematters.gatech.edu.

All episodes are available for instant listening. However, the ScienceMatters quizzes will follow the episode order. Follow the College of Sciences on Facebook and Twitter (@GT_Sciences, #sciencematters) to find quiz questions and meet winners.

Stars of Season 2

Season 2 features five of the College of Sciences’ award-winning faculty and one of its enterprising postdoctoral researchers.

  • When the Earth’s tectonic plates collide and slide, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Professor Zhigang Peng takes data from seismic sensors and creates “earthquake music.” The results can help scientists learn more about what goes on beneath our planet’s crust.
  • There’s more to meditation than just chanting mantras in your favorite yoga studio. Practitioners claim the benefits include better mental and physical health. Do the data back those claims? School of Psychology Professor Paul Verhaeghen examines the science behind meditation.
  • Glaucoma usually affects older people, but a form of the eye disease can strike younger patients, including children. That keeps School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Raquel Lieberman hard at work studying wayward proteins that may hold the key to new treatments for the second-leading cause of blindness.
  • One of the top algae scientists in the world, award-winning School of Biological Sciences Professor Mark Hay, examines the mortal peril facing the world’s coral reefs in a two-part episode. The first part gives a grim prognosis. But the second part offers hope that the coral reefs could heal themselves – if given the chance.
  • With incessant curiosity, David Hu discovers physics among water-walking geckos, bridge-building ant, and urinating zoo animals. Hu, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Physics, has a joint appointment with the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. This conversation is an edited excerpt from the Uncommon Engineer podcast. Our thanks to Steven McLaughlin, podcast host and dean of the College of Engineering.
  • Kennda Lynch studies ancient lakes on Earth that serve as stand-ins for Mars’ formerly flooded craters. The School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences postdoctoral researcher helps NASA look for potential landing sites on the Red Planet.

Join the ScienceMatters Quiz for Fun Prizes

Although all episodes are now available, we will feature episodes in sequence for the ScienceMatters quiz.

Each week on a Wednesday, we will post a question about the week’s episode. We invite you to submit answers at sciencematters.gatech.edu, until Tuesday noon of the following week.

We will choose a winner randomly from all correct entries. We will announce and notify the lucky winner on the following Wednesday.

Winners will receive exclusive ScienceMatters gifts.

Questions will be posted on the College of Sciences’ Facebook page (@GTSciences) and Twitter feed (@GT_Sciences) and at sciencematters.gatech.edu.

The weekly quizzes will start on Wednesday, Feb 27. We will pause during spring break and resume on March 27. The last quiz will be posted on April 17. The last winner will be named on April 24.

February 22, 2019 | Atlanta, GA

The monthly series "My Favorite Element" part of Georgia Tech's celebration of 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, #IYPT2019GT. Each month a member of the Georgia Tech community will share his/her favorite element via video.

Amit Reddi is an assistant professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He is an inorganic chemist interested in the roles metals play in biology. Up to 50% of all proteins require a metal for their proper functioning. Yet, only about a dozen metals are encounterered in biology.  

That so few metals allow proteins to function in hundreds of different ways is what drew Reddi to research: to better understand how proteins and metals interact to achieve diversity in protein function.

On the other hand, the metals crucial to protein function are also toxic to cells when they are not handled properly in the cell.  At Georgia Tech, Reddi studies how entire cells and organisms are able to use metals productively fashion, without suffering their toxicity.

His favorite element is .... Watch the video!

Renay San Miguel, communications officer in the College of Sciences, produced and edited the videos in this series. 

Other videos in this series are available at https://periodictable.gatech.edu/.

January 2019: Jeanine Williams, biochemistry major and track star


This interdisciplinary colloquium and networking event has two goals: (1) to forge connections across Georgia Tech straddling the boundaries between technology development and hypothesis testing in the search for life’s beginnings and (2) to explore collaborative ideas among participants.

The event has two sections: (1) space exploration technology and planetary science and (2) the chemistry and biology of the origins and the search for life. The event comprises presentations and talks by early-career scientists – graduate students, undergraduates, and postdoctoral fellows – working in the exciting fields of space and planetary science, engineering, and astrobiology across Georgia Tech and greater Atlanta.

Confirmed Plenary Speakers

Distinguished members of the global astrobiology community will deliver plenary lectures. Confirmed speakers include:

Kevin Hand is a deputy project scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He founded the nonprofit organization Cosmos Education and was its president until 2007.

As a planetary scientist and astrobiologist, his research focuses on numerical modeling, laboratory experiments, and instrument development to advance our understanding of the physics and chemistry of icy moons in the outer solar system. He is also interested in characterizing the connection between terrestrial cryosphere processes and the climate change record.

He is currently involved in projects connected to NASA’s Europa mission which will conduct detailed investigation on whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.

Sara Walker is an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University (ASU). She is deputy director of ASU’s Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and associate director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems.

She co-founded the astrobiology-themed social website SAGANet and is a member of the board of directors of Blue Marble Space Institute of Science.

Her work centers on in the origin of life and how to find life on other worlds. She is most interested in whether there are “laws of life” – related to how information structures the physical world – that could universally describe life here Earth and other planets.

She is active in public engagement in science, with appearances at the World Science Festival, the television series “Through the Wormhole,” and the public radio program “Science Friday.”

Paul Steffes is a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He performed his doctoral research at Stanford University, where he concentrated on microwave radio occultation experiments using the Voyager and Mariner spacecraft, with specific interest in microwave absorption in planetary atmospheres.

In 1982, he joined the faculty of Georgia. His research, focusing on microwave and millimeter-wave remote sensing and radio astronomy, has been sponsored by NASA, NSF, the SETI Institute, and industry.

He has been involved with numerous NASA missions, including Pioneer-Venus, Magellan, the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS), the High Resolution Microwave Survey (HRMS), and Juno (Jupiter Polar Orbiter).

Registration and Abstract Submission

Registration for the 2019 Exploration and Origins Colloquium is open. Please note:

  • Abstracts must be no more than 2000 characters including spaces.
  • Abstracts will be accepted as written, so please check for spelling and grammar.
  • No e-mails or PDF uploads are allowed.

To submit an abstract and register as a presenter, click here.

For general registration (for those who are not presenters), click here.


Keynote and oral presentations will take place in room 1005, Krone Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB), 950 Atlantic Drive, NW, Atlanta. GA 30332.

The poster session and networking event will be in held in the first- and second-floor atriums of the Molecular Science and Engineering Building (MoSE), 901 Atlantic Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30318.

For more information, visit the website here. For other questions, contact us

Organizing Committee

  • Peter Colin, postdoctoral fellow, School of Biological Sciences
  • Zijian Li, Ph.D. student, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Tyler Roche, Ph.D. student, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Micah Schaible, postdoctoral fellow, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Pengxiao Xu, Ph.D. student, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • George Zaharescu, postdoctoral fellow, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Martha Grover, professor, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Event Details



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