Recap of Geronimo Villanueva’s visit to CU on 4/4 – 4/5!

On April 4-5, CU Café and the Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences (APS) Department hosted two accomplished and well distinguished scholars, researcher Dr. Geronimo Villanueva from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and graduate student Hannah Kerner from Arizona State University (ASU).

Dr. Geronimo Villanueva’s research highlights include mapping the “heavy water” (deuterated water, D/H) content on Mars and the first detection of “heavy water” in a comet. He is also the group leader for future Mars studies by the James Webb Space Telescope, a co-investigator of the Exo-Mars Trace-Gas-Orbiter 2016 and has experience with three major space agencies, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Deutschen Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), the German Aerospace Agency. Dr. Villanuava obtained his PhD from Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensytemforschung and Freiburg University in Germany, his Master’s Certification from Clausthal Technical University in Germany and M.S.T.E in Atmospheric Radiometry from the Universidad Mendoza in Argentina.

During his visit, Dr. Villanueva met with APS and Geology faculty and students, researchers at the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), including members of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN) satellite team. Dr. Villanueva hosted an informal lunchtime discussion with APS grad students and CU Café members about the basics goals of his research and his career path. He depicted his initial interests in science, how he started his own business, left Argentina to pursue a PhD in Germany and eventually ended up in the United States of America. He has had a fascinating journey thus far! One main takeaway was that while initially he had issues as a young Argentinian supervisor of German elders, they eventually developed great relationships after they got to know him. His point was that no matter where you come from or your background, we can all get along, work together, and eventually develop strong personal bonds. Dr. Villanueva gave a captivating APS Colloquium talk that articulated the importance of a significant methane (CH4) detection on Mars and how heavy water (HDO) to normal water (H2O) ratios can be used to extrapolate the water loss rate of Mars. Dr. Villanueva finished each of his two day visit with dinners with APS and CU Café members.

Dr. Villanueva and Hannah Kerner before her talk.

Dr. Villanueva brought along Hannah Kerner, a first year PhD graduate student at Arizona State University (ASU) who studies exploration systems design. Hannah is the current Executive Director and former NewSpace Conference Program Manager for the Space Frontier Foundation, former Chair of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) and former instructor for a computer science course at her undergrad institution of University of North Carolina (UNC).

During her visit, Hannah presented her recent research on machine learning for autonomous image artifact recognition for future space exploration missions, the LunaH CubeSat mission and on gender bias in STEM. Hannah also led a lunch discussion on the various actions that can be taken to educate people on and to prevent future gender bias offenses. Topics ranged from small scale day-to-day lab work environment actions, to the university wide level. The discussion included professors and students in the CU Aerospace Engineering Sciences, APS students and CU Café members.

CU Café members with Dr. Villanueva and Hannah Kerner!

All in all, the visit went great! CU Café would like to thank everyone who contributed to making these series of events a tremendous success!

Did you miss the talk(s)? Never fear! Videos of both Dr. Villanueva’s and Hannah’s talks are below:


Kalai Mathee is coming to CU on Thursday 4/28!

Hi everyone! Are you ready for another great series of talks? Dr. Kalai Mathee is visiting campus next Thursday April 28th!
Dr. Mathee is a leader in her field; she has established an interdisciplinary research program focused on molecular pathogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a pathogen that is responsible for the high morbidity and mortality in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. She is very passionate about her research and how it might contribute to increasing CF patient quality of life. She is well respected nationally and internationally by researchers in multiple fields, including microbial and comparative genomics, Pseudomonas pathogenesis, alternate therapy using botanicals, microbial biofilm development, and regulation of microbial transcription.
In recent years, she has become increasingly interested in developing a holistic approach for a sustainable global health in lower and middle income countries as she strongly beliefs that health is the number one determinant for a healthy, prosperous and secure nations. Following a sabbatical in Pan American Health Organization-World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and Sabin Vaccine Institute, she returned to FIU to become the Founding Director of Global Health Consortium. Dr. Mathee is currently professor of Molecular Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in Florida International University.
Dr. Mathee readily admits that she derives strength and inspiration from her mentees that number more than 120. In 2011, she received the Mentor of the Year award. In addition, she was bestowed the highest honor of her career in FIU, the 2011 President’s Council Worlds Ahead Faculty Award in recognition of outstanding achievement as a student-centered professor who makes an impact and exceeds expectations. In 2014, she was one of the inaugural winners of the New England BioLabs Inspiration in Science Award. During her visit she will be joined by her postdoc Dr. Diansy Zincke, who will also be giving a talk.

Dr. Diansy Zincke is a postdoc in Dr. Mathee’s lab.

Details about all the talks are below:

  • Seminar One: Dr. Diansy Zincke will be talking about antibiotic resistance in JSCBB B432 at 10:30 am. Her talk is titled: “Characterization of a class D β–lactamase in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa.”
  • Seminar Two: Dr. Kalai Mathee will give her informal talk in Porter B121 at 12:15 pm. There will be free lunch provided! The title of her talk is: “A 10,000 mile journey from a small town in Malaysia to Miami.”
  • Seminar Three: Dr. Kalai Mathee will give a research talk as part of the MCD Biology seminar series at 4:00pm in Gold A2B70. The title of her seminar is: “Genes, Genomics, Greens and 65 Roses: The Pseudomonas aeruginosa Connection.”

We hope to see you at all of these talks next week! They’re going to be great!

A Conversation with Asian-Americans on Race

By Geeta Gandbhir and Michèle Stephenson,, April 5, 2016
In this installment of our “Conversations on Race” series for Op-Docs, Asian-Americans talk about how stereotypes unfairly confine them — particularly the one that brands them a “model minority.” As the subjects of our film explain, this perception not only devalues the experiences of other racial minorities, but it also renders the diverse experiences of Asian-Americans invisible…. Click here to watch the video, read the rest of the article, and check out the other videos in this series!

Follow your dreams

By Adriana Landeros,, January 25, 2016
About a year ago, I was sitting in a cell contemplating what I was going to do with my life. I was facing three felonies and a sentence of 1-20 years for drug trafficking. I knew I could do better than the life I was leading. I decided to write the judge and tell him I missed being in school and doing research. I told him if I was given a second chance, I would not repeat my mistakes, and I would return to the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) to finish my undergraduate degree.
During my time in jail, I truly began to appreciate reading. I was eager to learn. I subscribed to Science magazine and tried to stay current, so I would be able to ask my future professors questions and engage in conversations about the science news.
Fortunately, my case was dismissed, and I was set free after being incarcerated for seven months. I applied for readmission to UCSC and was accepted for the spring of 2015. Now I am back at UCSC with the same goal in mind but a different way of thinking.
Clearly, not everyone lands in jail, but I’ve met plenty of people in my journey to obtain a higher education that have made mistakes, taken wrong turns, and, well … messed up. I want to share with my fellow students four key concepts I have learned along the way to keep me on my path to a life of science—a life where I am following my dreams.
Read more here!

What’s your story? How did you get into science? Share in the comments section!

Geronimo Villanueva is coming to CU on 4/4!

Hi everyone! We hope you are enjoying your spring breaks! Our next seminar is just around the corner! On April 4th and 5th, we will be cohosting Dr. Geronimo Villanueva with the Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences department here at CU! NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and Catholic University of America (CUA) Research Assistant Professor, Dr. Geronimo Villanueva brings experience as a bilingual science communicator (Spanish and English). Dr. Villanueva’s recent research highlights include mapping the “heavy water” (deuterated water, D/H) content on Mars and the first detection of “heavy water” in a comet. He also is the group leader for future Mars studies by the James Webb Space Telescope, a co-investigator of the Exo-Mars Trace-Gas-Orbiter 2016 and has experience with three major space agencies, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Deutschen Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) the German Aerospace Agency. Geronimo will giving the Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences Department/CU Café Seminar Series colloquium talk on Monday, April, 4 2016 at 4 PM in the JILA Auditorium. This talk will focus on Mars’ evolutionary and habitability discoveries. Dr. Villanueva will also be discussing his career path over lunch (free food!) on Monday, April 4, 2015 at 12:30 – 1:30 PM in the Gamow Tower Reading Room (Duane Hall).

Dr. Villanueva is also bringing Hannah Kerner as his mentee for this trip. Hannah is a PhD graduate student at Arizona State University (ASU) with a focus on exploration systems design. Hannah is the current Executive Director and former NewSpace Conference Program Manager for the Space Frontier Foundation, former Chair of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SED) and former instructor for a computer science course at her undergrad institution of University of North Carolina (UNC). Hannah will be giving a talk on machine learning for future planetary exploration and her experiences as a woman in science and engineering on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 from 11 AM – 12 PM in JILA X317.

Mark your calendars for these three exciting seminars and stay tuned for more details as we get closer to April! We hope to see you there!

The five keys to a successful Google team

Julia Rozovsky,, November 17, 2015
A group of us in Google’s People Operations (what we call HR) set out to answer this question using data and rigorous analysis: What makes a Google team effective? We shared our research earlier today with the Associated Press, and we’re sharing the findings here, as well.

Over two years we conducted 200+ interviews with Googlers (our employees) and looked at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams. We were pretty confident that we’d find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team — take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right?

We were dead wrong. Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions. So much for that magical algorithm.

We learned that there are five key dynamics that set successful teams apart from other teams at Google:

  1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
  3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

Read more here…

Think about the teams you work on. Do they have these five elements?! Discuss in the comments!

Recap of Enrique De La Cruz’s visit to CU on 2/17!

Hello everyone! CU Café and the Molecular Biophysics Training program recently hosted Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University, Dr. Enrique De La Cruz. Also, we were privileged to host Dr. Eric Johnson-Chavarria, an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Enrique’s lab and WOW! what a great time we had. Here are a few of the highlights.
The day started with a seminar given by Eric about work he did for his PhD at Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and now under Enrique’s mentoring. Eric brought enthusiasm and knowledge to the room as he explained microfluidics and future implications of this technique in a talk titled: “Automated microfluidics for measuring single bacteria gene expression and actin cytoskeleton force dependence”. Following his talk, Eric talked about his current outreach efforts toward school-age children in which he hopes to instill a passion and curiosity for the sciences through the use of 3D printing technology.
Enrique gave a superb and inspiring career talk titled: “Was I supposed to make it here?” It was here that students and faculty got to know Enrique and hear about his journey to being a professor and scientist. Enrique kept it real, honest and unfiltered, as he explained how to make it in the science/academia game. His advice: succeed and don’t commit too far into the future. That is, don’t make a career decision until you have to. Enrique encouraged students to keep pushing forward and to not lose hope in their career endeavors. He brought it home by discussing frustrations and set-backs he had faced during his career journey, which allowed listeners to know that they are not alone.
Enrique’s engaging lay talk was a precursor to the warm and collaborative approach to his formal seminar titled: “How cells use chemistry and physics to break the bones that power their movement”. Enrique’s seminar proved to not only be engaging and informational; but was interdisciplinary and fun, with Enrique poking fun of and referencing the relevance (and sometimes irrelevance) of all scientific fields and using props to explain complex theories for everyone to understand. Enrique’s work is complex and dynamic, just like him! We would like to thank Enrique and Eric for coming to CU and inspiring young scientists to stay the course, to laugh and have some fun, and to sometimes think and remember why you started that journey in the first place. For more information on Enrique, check out the video below.

What does it take to be a mentor?

by Nirmala Hariharan,, February 1, 2016
Mentoring is one of the most crucial roles played by faculty on a day to day basis. As a mentor, you provide scientific and technical guidance, and serve as the pillar of support for your team of students, postdocs and trainees. Mentoring can consume a lot of your time, and be very demanding, but has several long term benefits that will help you run a successful lab. Here’s what a great M.E.N.T.O.R provides for their students.
Motivation. You’re the constant source of motivation for your team; you need to see the big picture and guide your team through the ups and downs. You’re the leader that inspires excellence and encourages scientific innovation. As a good mentor, you must recognise the true potential of your mentees – even if they don’t – and know how to bring out the best in them. In short, you should make them realise what they’re capable of.
Read more here…

Students and postdocs, who are your mentors? Which of these skills do they have? Which skills could they work on? How can we help our advisors become better mentors? Feel free to leave responses in the comments section!