2019 Science Festival Panels

Submitted by dahlonegascience on Wed, 02/21/2018 - 18:11

Location: Shenanigans Irish Pub (upstairs)

Date: Saturday, March 2nd

Times: See below


All panels will be held upstairs at Shenanigans Irish Pub on Saturday March 2nd at the specific times indicated below.  Join us for breakfast, lunch, or a snack and get ready for some great science discussions!  Bring some of your own questions to be discussed, or generate new questions as our science specialists discuss these topics!  Please arrive early ad order a beverage or food to enjoy during the talks. Supporting our event hosts supports us!  Panelists will be available on the Shenanigans patio after each panel presentation for an informal Q&A.


Morning Panels:

10:00 am – Our Blue Planet:  Living and Non-living System Interactions

The rocks in the earth, the plants, animals and bacteria, the oceans, and even the atmosphere and clouds in the sky: the Earth’s living and nonliving systems are intimately connected. This panel will discuss the (sometimes surprising) ways that Earth’s systems are interconnected, and the ways that human activities are affecting those connections.


  • Dobrusia Bialonska (UNG, microbiology)
  • Mattias Johansson (UNG, biology)
  • Chris Seminack (UNG, geology, intense coastal storms)
  • Marshall Shepard (UGA, atmospheric science)
  • Nancy Dalman (UNG, biology, MODERATOR)


11:15 am – The Science of Space Exploration

Fly through the solar system with us to learn what science we pursue and discover when we explore space with humans and robots, seeking to answer the fundamental questions:  Where did we come from? How did our Universe form? What other worlds exist? How do we get there? And how can humans survive in space?


  • Laura Forczyk (astrophysics, space)
  • Larry Gibson (UNG, biology)
  • Trina Ray (NASA JPL, engineer)
  • Kim Steadman (NASA JPL, engineer)
  • Allison Smith (UNG, astronomy, MODERATOR)


Afternoon Panels:


12:30 pm – What’s Lurking in your Genome?

These days just walking through a pharmacy or surfing the internet can make you wonder what’s lurking in your genome. If you’ve ever wondered “should I do a DNA test?!” come spend the afternoon discussing the current trends in genetics with human genetics experts! We’ll take a tour through the human genome to discuss topics including genetic evolution, human-virus gene interactions, and the current ethical considerations in the field of genetics.

  • Jacob Appel (Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NYC)
  • Adam Davis (UNG, evolutionary and developmental genetics)
  • Alison Kanak (UNG, genetics)
  • Katie Lang (CGC Cancer Genetics Program Coordinator)
  • Clarke Miller (UNG, biology, MODERATOR)


1:45 pm – Exploring the Energy Frontier

It is estimated that the world energy consumption is equivalent to approximately 14 billion tons of oil equivalent (14 Btoe) per year.  In order to support economic growth and reduce the impact of fossil fuels on the planet, we need to develop and deploy a variety of clean energy alternatives.  The panel will explore a wide range of such alternatives including renewable sources such as solar, hydroelectric, wind, and biomass and nuclear energy from fission and ultimately fusion.

  • Olu Ajala, PE, (Research Engineer, Southern Company Services)
  • Paul Cunningham (Entrepreneur/Owner, Energy Systems & Design)
  • Ed Erickson (Retired Executive/Consultant)
  • Thomas Vogel (UNG, physics)
  • Sarah Formica (UNG, physics, MODERATOR)


3:00 pm – The Story of Our Universe: From the Big Bang to Stars and Planets

Our observable universe is roughly 90 billion light years across with trillions of galaxies, each made up of hundreds of billions of stars orbiting supermassive black holes. The origin of our vast universe can be traced back to a primordial soup of elementary particles, the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago. Come spend the afternoon to explore the story of our universe from elementary particles to stars and planets.

  • Greg Feiden (UNG, stellar structure and evolution)
  • Nathan Harrison (UNG, physics)
  • Allison Smith (UNG, radio astronomy)
  • John Wise (GT, computational astrophysics)
  • Mark Spraker (UNG, physics, MODERATOR)


4:15 pm – Tales from NASA JPL Spacecraft Operations 

Decades of working spacecraft operations, and dozens of stories: Christmas day surprises! Terror in the wee hours of the morning! Transcendent joy while crashing into Saturn! Come hear our guests discuss their varied experiences working spacecraft operations on missions exploring Mars, Saturn, and the edges of the solar system.

  • Trina Ray (NASA JPL, engineer)
  • Kim Steadman (NASA JPL, engineer)
  • Sonny Mantry (UNG, physics, MODERATOR)