Vermont Chapter
Sigma Xi

Seminars and Events


Distinguished Lecturer
for Fall 2013

Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky
Professor of Physics
West Virginia University


Diandra L. Leslie-Pelecky

Lecture Dates and Locations:

October 8, 4:00 PM,  101 Cheray Science Bldg., Saint Michael's College

Title: "Building a Perfect World*."

October 9, 7:00 PM,  Cabot 085, Science Complex (Across from Kreitzberg Library); Norwich University

Title: "The Science of Speed: Faster, Stronger and Safer^."

*Building the Perfect World: One (Very) Small Step at a Time (P,G)
Bigger may be better, but small is sensational. Nanomaterials, materials thousands of times smaller than a human hair, are rapidly expanding the realm of the possible. From smart self-cleaning materials to energy efficient lights that don't make you look pasty, nanomaterials are finding their way into consumer products from tennis rackets to face creams. What makes nanomaterials special isn't just their size - it is that their small size produces chemical and physical properties impossible to achieve in the same material when it is big. Gold isn't even gold-colored when you make it very small. Ideas that might have seemed science fiction just a few years ago - like tiny magnets that hold anti-cancer drugs near tumors - are right around the corner. Along with the amazing possibilities for technological advances comes the responsibility of thoroughly understanding these materials. The unexpected properties of nanomaterials mean that we are sometimes surprised by how our new creations interact with us, and the world around us. This presentation introduces the world of nanomaterials, uses some of the most fascinating materials as examples of what is possible now and what will be possible in the very near future, and examines what we are doing to ensure that we know not just what we can make, but what we should make.

^The Science of Speed: Faster, Stronger and Safer (P,G)
A group of racecars piloted by the best drivers in NASCAR enter Turn 4 at Chrlotte Motor Speedway going almost 200 mph. Without warning, one of the cars wiggles, and then slams into the wall. None of the cars touched, there were no engine failures, no flat tires, so what happened? This is the question that took Professor Diandra Leslie-Pelecky from the lab to the racetrack, speeding around Texas Motor Speedway (she calls it 'research') in an effort to understand why going fast is so hard. In her quest for understanding the science of speed, she met the mechanical engineers, aerodynamicists, chemical engineers, and physicists who have become critical participants in the high-stakes world of motorsports. Even drivers without engineering degrees develop an intuitive understanding of physics, "you don't keep your job long without a working knowledge of Newton's Laws of Motion." What she learned is that you can't win races without getting the math and science right. Here's where all the science you learned in high school (and wondered when you'd ever use) hits the road. If you've ever thought about knocking Lewis Hamilton or Jeff Gordon out of their ride, you might want to hear this talk before you make your move: without knowing the science, you're more likely to see the yellow flag than the checkered one.


Brief Bio

Diandra Leslie-Pelecky earned undergraduate degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of North Texas and a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from Michigan State University. After fourteen years at the University of Nebraska, she recently became Director of the West Virginia Nano Initiative and Professor of Physics at West Virginia University. There, her research seeks new ways to apply magnetic nanoparticles to make chemotherapy more efficient and decrease the side effects.

Her passion for making science understandable and relevant to the average person brought her to a second laboratory: the racetrack. The fact is that you can't win races without getting the math and science right. Her book, The Physics of NASCAR, was excerpted by TIME magazine and her work has been featured in everything from the New York Times to Sporting News magazine. She blogs at, explaining the math and science behind current events in motorsports.







Green Mountain
American Chemical Society
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