Matt Murbach

Matthew Murbach, co-founder of Battery Informatics, Inc.

Matthew Murbach, founding president of the ECS student chapter at the University of Washington (UW) and motivating force behind the launch of the ECS Data Sciences Hack Day, has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the area of energy. According to Forbes, Murbach was recognized for his work “to commercialize battery management breakthroughs to enable faster charging, finer control over degradation and longer lifetimes.”

Murbach is co-founder of Battery Informatics, Inc. and a PhD student in chemical engineering at the University of Washington. Murbach’s PhD research is exploring new ways to diagnose the state of health in batteries, a critical and expensive asset in the emerging low carbon energy economy.

Battery Informatics is a next-generation battery management company focused on capturing the maximum value of energy storage through software solutions. The company is licensing UW intellectual property to extract the maximum value from these battery assets over the whole battery lifecycle. Just this month, they are flipping the switch on their first customer installation.

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By: Kevin Elliott, Michigan State University

Scientists these days face a conundrum. As Americans are buffeted by accounts of fake news, alternative facts and deceptive social media campaigns, how can researchers and their scientific expertise contribute meaningfully to the conversation?

There is a common perception that science is a matter of hard facts and that it can and should remain insulated from the social and political interests that permeate the rest of society. Nevertheless, many historians, philosophers and sociologists who study the practice of science have come to the conclusion that trying to kick values out of science risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Ethical and social values – like the desire to promote economic development, public health or environmental protection – often play integral roles in scientific research. By acknowledging this, scientists might seem to give away their authority as a defense against the flood of misleading, inaccurate information that surrounds us. But I argue in my book “A Tapestry of Values: An Introduction to Values in Science” that if scientists take appropriate steps to manage and communicate about their values, they can promote a more realistic view of science as both value-laden and reliable.

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By: Jane A. Flegal, University of California, Berkeley and Andrew Maynard, Arizona State University

Hollywood’s latest disaster flick, “Geostorm,” is premised on the idea that humans have figured out how to control the Earth’s climate. A powerful satellite-based technology allows users to fine-tune the weather, overcoming the ravages of climate change. Everyone, everywhere can quite literally “have a nice day,” until – spoiler alert! – things do not go as planned.

Admittedly, the movie is a fantasy set in a deeply unrealistic near-future. But coming on the heels of one of the most extreme hurricane seasons in recent history, it’s tempting to imagine a world where we could regulate the weather. Despite a long history of interest in weather modification, controlling the climate is, to be frank, unattainable with current technology. But underneath the frippery of “Geostorm,” is there a valid message about the promises and perils of planetary management?

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Shirley Meng on Sustainable Power

Our guest on this episode of the ECS Podcast is Shirley Meng, professor of NanoEngineering at the University of California, San Diego. Meng founded the Sustainable Power and Energy Center, the goal of which is solving key technical challenges in distributed energy generation, storage, and power management.

Meng is also the principal investigator of Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion research group. Her group is focused on functional nano and micro-scale materials for energy storage and conversion.

She talked to Rob Gerth, ECS’s director of marketing and communications.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Podbean, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher and Acast.

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By: Timothy J. Jorgensen, Georgetown University

Ask people to name the most famous historical woman of science and their answer will likely be: Madame Marie Curie. Push further and ask what she did, and they might say it was something related to radioactivity. (She actually discovered the radioisotopes radium and polonium.) Some might also know that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. (She actually won two.)

But few will know she was also a major hero of World War I. In fact, a visitor to her Paris laboratory in October of 1917 – 100 years ago this month – would not have found either her or her radium on the premises. Her radium was in hiding and she was at war.

For Curie, the war started in early 1914, as German troops headed toward her hometown of Paris. She knew her scientific research needed to be put on hold. So she gathered her entire stock of radium, put it in a lead-lined container, transported it by train to Bordeaux – 375 miles away from Paris – and left it in a safety deposit box at a local bank. She then returned to Paris, confident that she would reclaim her radium after France had won the war.

With the subject of her life’s work hidden far away, she now needed something else to do. Rather than flee the turmoil, she decided to join in the fight. But just how could a middle-aged woman do that? She decided to redirect her scientific skills toward the war effort; not to make weapons, but to save lives.

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By: Melanie Ohi, University of Michigan and Michael Cianfrocco, University of Michigan

Many people will never have heard of cryo-electron microscopy before the announcement that Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson had won the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work developing this technology. So what is it, and why is it worthy of this honor?

Cryo-electron microscopy – or cryo-EM – is an imaging technology that allows scientists to obtain pictures of the biological “machines” that work inside our cells. Most amazingly, it can reconstruct individual snapshots into movie-like scenes that show how protein components of these biological machines move and interact with each other.

It’s like the difference between having a list of all of the individual parts of an engine versus being able to see the engine fully assembled and running. The parts list can tell you a lot, but there’s no replacement for seeing what you’re studying in action.

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Our guest today, James Fenton, is the director of the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida – the nation’s largest and most active state-supported renewable energy and energy efficiency institute.

Fenton is also the current secretary of the ECS Board of Directors.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.

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ECS shows its vision for the future of academic publishing

Open Access WeekECS is celebrating International Open Access Week by giving the world a preview of what complete open access to peer-reviewed scientific research will look like. ECS is taking down the paywall October 23-29 to the entire ECS Digital Library, making over 132,000 scientific articles and abstracts free and accessible to everyone.

This is the third consecutive year ECS will take down its paywalls during Open Access Week, an annual event organized by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. Eliminating the paywall during Open Access Week allows ECS to give the world a preview of the potential of its Free the Science initiative.

Free the Science is ECS’s move toward a future that embraces open science to further advance research in our field. This is a long-term vision for transformative change in the traditional models of communicating scholarly research. ECS last opened its digital library in April 2017 for the first ever Free the Science Week.

“ECS is working to disseminate scientific research to the broadest possible audience without barriers,” says Mary Yess, ECS chief content officer/publisher. “Through Open Access Week, we’re able to once again highlight a new scholarly publishing model that promotes authors and the science they do.”

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By: John C. Besley, Michigan State University; Anthony Dudo, University of Texas at Austin, and Shupei Yuan, Northern Illinois University

Communication

Most scientists say they got into science to make the world a better place and recognize this means sharing what they learn with a range of other people. But deciding to engage also means deciding what to communicate, and it’s at this stage that things get complicated.

Scientists’ most important communication decision may be figuring out their goals. Do they want to help shape local, state or national policy discussions? Do they want to influence individual behavior, such as diet choices, medical decisions or career paths?

Big-picture goal choice is, however, relatively simple, as it likely originates from scientists’ research, resources and personal preferences.

As public engagement researchers, we suggest the quality of science communication actually hinges on a second set of decisions. Scientists need to figure out what specific, immediate objectives they want to achieve through their communication efforts.

In our view, objectives are a bit tricky because they’re often left unstated and defy easy metaphors. In planning a dinner, they’re not the specific dishes you choose (we’d call those “tactics” or “activities”) and they’re not the goal of a satisfying meal. Instead, you set objectives in the planning phase when decisions are made to start with something savory and light, move on to something satisfying, and finish with something sweet and fun.

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Alan Alda on Communicating Science

Our guest on this episode of the ECS Podcast is Alan Alda. You might know him from the 1970s and 80s because of the TV show MASH or in the last few years from appearing on The Blacklist, The Big C, or as Uncle Pete on the show Horace and Pete.

He hosted the PBS show Scientific American Frontiers for 13 years. Alda is a film and TV director, screenwriter, and author; as well as a six-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner.

He is also the founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, the goal of which is to help scientists learn to communicate more effectively with the public. His latest book is: If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating.

Alan Alda talked to Rob Gerth, ECS’s director of marketing and communications.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Podbean, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher and Acast.

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