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Thurs, Feb 15, 2018 – NNA2 #52: Fighting Phragmites, Buying BitCoin, & Celebrating Sitcoms

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Welcome back to another round of Nerd Nite Ann Arbor!! This month, Karen Alexander dissects the dangers of the phragmites invasion of the Great Lakes basin, Ryan Brase demystifies BitCoin, and Kat Johnson breaks down sitcom structure in this very special episode of NNA2! Be there and be square, friends!

When: Thursday, February 15 – doors 6:30 pm/talks 7:00 pm
Where: LIVE (102 S 1st St)
Cover charge? No way! AADL’s got this!

ry4an-brase-1_1Ry4an Brase – Bitcoin: A Bad Idea Annoying People Won’t Shut-Up About

Bitcoin is a clever idea buried under its own baggage. It’s got
over-zealous advocates, a history of drug use, serious privacy problems, tax trouble, smarter competitors, criminal involvement, environmental fallout, consumer dissatisfaction, retailer desertion, and a fundamental lack of academic credentials.  Still, it refuses to go away.  We’ll spend a little time talking about what Bitcoin is, more time talking about what it isn’t, and then cover some of the absurd events of the last nine years.
About Ry4an:
Ry4an is a midwest-native, Michigan-import software geek, who bought some Bitcoin back in 2011 because it seemed nifty. He’s a college-dropout married to a Ph.D./Professor and has a globally unique first name — which seemed like a good idea before the web existed.


karen alexanderKaren Alexander – Fighting Back Against a Monster Grass in the Great Lakes Basin
The Great Lakes basin is infested with an invasive grass species called Phragmites australis (the Common Reed).  To help land managers fight back against this aggressive monster grass, the Great Lakes Commission and the USGS Great Lakes Science Center are developing a new program called thePhragmites Adaptive Management Framework (PAMF). This presentation will introduce Phragmites and describe how the PAMF program will help address this basin-wide threat.
About Karen: 
Karen Alexander is a Senior Program Specialist at the Great Lakes Commission. Her main role is to work collaboratively with the United States Geological Survey to develop and implement the Phragmites Adaptive Management Framework (PAMF), a program initiated by the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative. Karen is the current co-chair of the OntarioPhragmites Working Group, and holds an Honors Biology degree and a Graduate Certificate in Ecosystem Restoration. Follow her on Twitter at @GLPhrag.


kat johnsonKat Johnson – 22 Minutes in 22 Minutes: Deconstructing the Sitcom from Cold Open to End Tag
Week after week, we tune into our favorite sitcoms. We expect and hope that our characters change little, fail often, and stay within the realm of familiarity. Nearly every episode of every successful sitcom follows the same basic formula of comfort, obstacle, failure, and a return to comfort—yet sitcoms as a medium are far from burning out. How does the formula work, and why does it keep us coming back for more?
About Kat:
Kat spends a huge amount of time watching the same shows over and over with endless enthusiasm. She is a 2017 graduate of The University of Michigan with a degree in Screen Arts in Cultures who would like nothing more than to work on a sitcom, and for there to be a Community movie. Amongst other things, she is a video editor, theater carpenter, and trivia host. Nerd Nite is her last day in Ann Arbor before moving into the great unknown, which is probably Chicago. You can find her at, @whoiskatreally on Twitter, and @picturesofspiders on Instagram.

NNA2 #51: Exciting Stories of Asteroids, Oscillation, and, Um, Excrement ????


Join us for THREE amazing speakers, and while we always say bring your nerd friends, text your biology and space nerd friends RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE. They’re gonna love this.
We’ve got Dr. Kelsey Cornelius explaining why your dog digs dung, Stephanie Hamilton touring us through the might of tiny things in outer space, and John Charpentier brings the Jessie Spano vibes — or maybe it’s Pointer Sisters Excitement? Either way, We’re SO EXCITED!
Grab a friend, buy a beer, and sit back and enjoy NNA2 #50!
When: Thursday, January 18 – doors 6:30 pm/talks 7:00 pm
Where: LIVE (102 S 1st St)
How much: $0. No cover. AADL’s got your back.


Kelsey Cornelius — All (Poop-Eating) Creatures Great and Small

Stephanie Hamilton — Ping Pong Balls, Bowling Balls, and What They Have To Do with the Solar System

John Charpentier — I’m So Excited: Excitable Media in Biology and Medicine

Kelsey Cornelius – All (poop-eating) creatures great and small: The warm and joyful memoirs of a lab animal vet.
Everybody poops. But did you know that some creatures eat that poop? And it can be a normal behavior?! Coprophagy, the eating of excrement, is commonly seen with many rodents, lagomorphs, pigs, primates, and even our beloved canines. Dr. Kelsey Cornelius, a laboratory animal veterinarian at the University of Michigan, knows all about rodents and rabbits ravenously dining on the dung. But, she was surprised to learn through her general practitioner classmates how commonly owners report their dogs for this repellent behavior. Come hear about these crap-loving creatures and what you can do if your dog digs the doo-doo.About Kelsey: Kelsey originally became fascinated with poop-eating when she was a young girl in Centerville, Ohio, at a cat-themed birthday party. Her patients now consist of animals that love to eat the guano (I bet you didn’t know all these poop synonyms). Kelsey is a veterinarian in her second year of a laboratory animal residency. Other than studying scat-snacking, Kelsey is passionate about animal welfare, public outreach, and porgs.
Stephanie Hamilton — Ping Pong Balls, Bowling Balls, and What They Have To Do with the Solar System
What if I told you that the smallest bodies in our solar system (that is, anything that isn’t one of the eight major planets) are actually the most important? Would you believe me? The discovery of the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune in the past 30 years has changed our view of the outer Solar System. Composed of small objects similar to asteroids, this region preserves the effects of past encounters with the gas giant planets, acting as a gravitational fingerprint of the history of the Solar System. Tonight, I’ll talk about the discoveries of Uranus and Neptune. Yes, I’ll even touch on everyone’s favorite Kuiper Belt Object, Pluto, and the revelations leading to its demotion to a dwarf planet. I’ll talk about how astronomers can use properties of the orbits of Kuiper Belt Objects, such as how big or oval-like they are, to learn about the history of our Solar System. Finally, I’ll tell you a little bit about my research using these objects to search for a new super-Earth planet in the very distant Solar System, Planet Nine! I hope that you’ll leave with a newfound appreciation for small asteroids and Kuiper Belt Objects and how they hold the key to unlocking the history of our Solar System while also pointing the way to new discoveries.
John Charpentier — “I’m So Excited: Excitable Media in Biology and Medicine” 
“What do the Mexican Wave, oscillating chemical reactions, and the male orgasm all have in common? Each exhibits the characteristics of an excitable medium! Come learn about this concept, how ubiquitous these systems are in nature, and how insight into how they work can be applied to other, seemingly unrelated problems in biology and medicine.About John: A Ph.D student in immunology at the U-M School of Medicine, John’s research focuses on the ways in which lymphocytes and other cells remodel their cellular membranes to ingest large quantities of extracellular fluid and materials, and the function of this uptake in cancerous and healthy cells. In addition to this work, John is a passionate advocate for scientific literacy and education and contributes to the U-M graduate student blog MiSciWriters.”

November 16 — NNA2 Faceoff Edition: NASA vs. Saturn, Henry Ford vs. Everyone, Healthcare vs. Hackers!


It’s NNA2’s 50th! The traditional gift to celebrate a 50th anniversary is gold, so please bring lots of it. It’s also the last NNA2 of 2017, so don’t miss it!
We have three great speakers – all talking about a different way to assert power. Diane Bouis will talk about breaking something in order to fix it, Eric Fitzpatrick will talk about the almighty gall of a civilization crashing a spacecraft into another planet – on purpose – and Rich Retyi and Brian Peters will tell the story of a man who rose to prominence by brute force. Grab a friend, buy a beer, and sit back and enjoy NNA2 #50!
When: Thursday, November 16 – doors 6:30 pm/talks 7:00 pm
Where: LIVE (102 S 1st St)
How much: $0, gee, thanks, AADL!
Diane Bouis — Can’t hack it? Bring a friend!
Richard Retyi & Brian Peters — Henry Ford’s Ann Arbor Enforcer
Eric Fitzpatrick — Cassini’s Final Destination


Diane Bouis — Can’t hack it? Bring a friend! Healthcare Innovation Through Hackathons
Everybody wants innovation. Lot’s of it. And ideally the type of disruptive innovation that changes the world and that the others haven’t thought of yet. But how do you come up with good ideas? How do people start companies?
Hackathons are a fun way to bring together a diverse community of people solve tough problems together and have fun doing it. We’ll go through some innovations that have come by applying unrelated expertise and talk about what you can do to bring the hackathon ethos to problems you’d like to help find solutions to.


About Diane: Diane is a nerdy kid turned scientist turned consultant.  At age 14 she told people she’d cure cancer and AIDS and clearly didn’t. But along the way – through an academic career in oncology and cardiology- she learned that great progress it’s not just about being smart but about engaging and inspiring others. She works as an innovation consultant at the Inovo Group and Co-founded A2 Health Hacks, a non-profit running healthcare hackathons in SE Michigan. And no, she can’t code.


Rich and Brian
Richard Retyi & Brian Peters — Henry Ford’s Ann Arbor Enforcer
Who would have guessed that a kid born to a poor family in Lower Town would one day rise in the ranks to stand at the right hand of the great Henry Ford, keeping assembly workers in line and firing pistols at pro-union demonstrators. Rough, tough and gruff Harry Bennett came within a hair of running the Ford Motor Company based on a resume as one of the greatest enforcers of all time. Hear his story and the story of the famed Bennett Castle, which still stands in Ann Arbor today.


About Rich and Brian: The fathers of the smash hit sensation podcast Ann Arbor Stories make their second appearance at Nerd Nite. Brian is co-owner of local indie label, Quite Scientific, and an all-around master of everything, while Rich is the communications and marketing manager at the Ann Arbor District Library and author of The Book of Ann Arbor: An Extremely Serious History Book, available at Literati Bookstore or on Amazon.

Eric Fitzpatrick – Cassini’s Final Destination

NASA recently crashed the Cassini space probe into Saturn. The probe contained about 90 pounds of a highly radioactive, non-naturally occurring substance: plutonium. We’d never do such a thing on our planet, so why did we do it to Saturn, especially when we have no idea if life forms of any sort may exist there? We’ll discuss the delicate environment of Saturn, the goals of the Cassini probe, and safer options for space exploration.


About Eric: Eric has spent 38 years studying the cosmos and has given astronomy lectures and instruction over those years. In addition to designing and building a telescope while he was in high school (which is still operational, btw), he is a strong advocate for dark skies and the importance of reducing light pollution.

Thursday, 10/19: Sugar, Cyberpunk, & Stimulation

nna2-2017-oct-shareableGather round, Nerds! Your friends at Nerd Nite Ann Arbor have more amazing speakers ready to shine a light on some spectacular topics!

Dr. Monica Dus force-feeds cake to fruit flies and while it turns out not to be great for the fruit flies, it IS really good for figuring out why humans get so hooked on sugar. Come face the horrors of your very own human biology!

Did you see Blade Runner 2049? Alex Kourvo did, and she has THOUGHTS about it. She’s actually got a lot to say about cyberpunk as a whole – so join us for the story of the birth of this science fiction genre.

Kulky Nakai is back with a talk about the psychology of human sexuality, delivered in her signature stimulating style. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (from laughing), you’ll relate, you’ll make meaningful eye contact with a friend.

This Nerd Nite A2 is not to be missed – it’s going to be sugary, science fiction-y, and above all, stimulating.

When: Thurs. 10/19/2017, doors at 6:30/talks at 7pm
Where: Live, 102 S. First St.
Cost: Nada! No cover thanks to the sponsorship of the Ann Arbor District Library!


monicaDr. Monica Dus – Let Them (fruit flies) Eat Cake
Fruit flies’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs (no, really, they are), but this is not why they love sugar. In our lab we feed cake to fruit flies to see what happens to their brains (#badlyexplainyourjob), and boy, a lot happens, and most of it is NOT good. Maybe this is why we all love sugar and can’t stop eating it. And if you are one of those weird people who doesn’t maybe stop by the lab so we can study you?

About Monica: I received my first microscope at age 7, a gift from my dad, and had an idyllic childhood in Italy pulling hair off Barbie’s and legs off bugs and looking at them under the microscope. What really kept me in science, however, was the pervasive beauty of the natural world. I still remember the first time, as a high school student, I heard about molecular biology: I was amazed by its beautiful complexity. Nearly twenty years later, I still haven’t found something that is man-made and more beautiful than the natural world, not even a Dolce and Gabbana dress. At 18 I left Italy for the USA, majored in Biology and Philosophy, got a Ph. D in biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and in 2015 started a lab at the University of Michigan where I also teach genetics and neuroepigenetics. My favorite things in life are dogs, desserts, philosophy and post-modern literature, pastel colors, fuzzy things, and unicorns.

AlexKourvoAlex Kourvo – Living in a Cyberpunk World
Cyberpunk was everywhere in the 1980s. It started in science fiction, but it influenced fashion, movies, comics, games, advertising, and architecture. After a decade of high-tech, neon-colored, future-looking pop culture, cyberpunk just…went away. Or did it? Could cyberpunk stories still be with us, hiding in plain sight?

About Alex: Alex Kourvo loves books. She writes them, reviews them, edits them, and teaches other people how to write them. She is the author of numerous short stories and the forthcoming “Detroit Next” series of near-future thrillers. She edits books for Fifth Avenue Press and helped start the Emerging Writers Workshop at the Ann Arbor District Library, where she teaches monthly classes for new writers. You can find Alex online at or follow her @AlexKourvo.

kulkyKulky Nakai: Psychology and Stimulation

About Kulky: Psychologist Kulky Nakai is more than a scholar, researcher, and clinician, she’s also a philosopher, creative writer, and entertainer who enjoys pushing socio-cultural boundaries and provoking common thought to the cutting edge. She recently launched her very own b/vlog and podcast titled “More To Be Revealed,” a space dedicated for exploring the unknown with a curious heart and a funny bone.

Sept. 21 – Let’s Get CRITICAL!

nna2-2017-sept-shareableHello, Nerd Nite A2 Friends! Join us Thursday, Sept. 21 at 7 pm at LIVE on First St. for NNA2 #48!!

LET’S GET CRITICAL: The extreme effects of commentary from the worlds of architecture, online harassers, and Gilded Age shut-ins

Join us as architecture expert Jessica Letaw takes us on a tour of the landscape famed critic Ada Louise Huxtable built, or, well, influenced. U-M School of Information Ph.D. student Lindsay Blackwell returns to NNA2 to reveal new research on what happens when online critique goes bad – like, harassment-and-doxxing-bad. Finally, NNA2 co-boss (and pinch hitter) Sara Wedell will tell the surprisingly sweet story of our much-overlooked 21st president and his relationship with his greatest critic. It’s going to be a great night! Bring a friend, a sense of curiosity, and plenty of constructive feedback and join us as we GET CRITICAL!

Jessica A.S. Letaw – Architecture Throwing Shade
Jessica is a marketing consultant for architects and builders, a freelance writer and speaker on green building and diversity in architecture, and spends most of the rest of her time…talking about architecture and the built environment.  She is a board advisor for several Ann Arbor nonprofits, has led the AADL’s Building Matters Workshops conversation series for the past two years, runs the “Ann Arbor Architecture” and “Ann Arbor YIMBY” Facebook pages, and as of this summer can say that she has successfully organized an architecture scavenger hunt.  She lives in the Mighty Fifth Ward with her rescue hound, Henry, and enjoys reading, gardening, good conversations, and well-made White Russians. Follow her on Twitter @jasletaw.

Lindsay Blackwell – An Eye For An Eye: When Online Harassment is Perceived to be Justified
lindsay blackwell
Lindsay Blackwell is a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan School of Information’s Social Media Research Lab. Her research explores misbehavior in online communities, including trolling and online harassment. Prior to graduate school, Lindsay enjoyed a career in social media marketing, where she won several awards for her work with clients like I Love New York. You can follow Lindsay on Twitter (@linguangst) or by visiting

Sara Wedell – Arthurian Legend: The Story of Our 21st President
IMG_5431 1Sara Wedell is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and a Nerd Nite Ann Arbor co-boss. She is happy to fill in when speakers cancel last minute as it allows her an opportunity to tell strange stories from history that she finds compelling. If you don’t like it, please consider applying to speak at Nerd Nite A2! Don’t worry about following her on Twitter, she never posts anymore.

August 17: Cycling, Schizophrenia, Soaring: The Science of Mind and Body

Join us Thursday, August 17 at LIVE for another great NNA2, where we’ll feature:

  • Andrew McAllister – The Science of Cycling*
  • Molly Simmonite – Schizophrenia, Explained
  • Jennifer German* – Solar Ecplise 2017
  • Anne Ryan – Aerial Acrobatics @ The Aviary

Doors at 6:30, talks at 7, and no cover, thanks to our sponsor, the Ann Arbor District Library! See you there!

Note 8/16: Unfortunately, our cycling speaker had to cancel, but we are SUPER EXCITED to swap in Jennifer German, a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador, who will be giving us all the lowdown on Monday’s Solar Ecplise

Donate! Vibrate! Refrigerate! The Scoop on Bone Marrow, Hysteria, and Ice Cream



July’s Nerd Nite A2 truly has it all, friends! Something serious, something sweet, and something sexy (but like… weird sexy.) Join us as Dawn Davis sets us straight on marrow – specifically, the experience of being a bone marrow donor. Kulky Nakai unveils the unexpectedly intimate history of hysteria and how doctors sought to treat this condition in females. Set your phones to vibrate, people, you don’t want to miss it. And for something sweet, ice cream innovator and entrepreneur Rob Hess of Go! Ice Cream breaks down the molecular magic for us all, and there might even be ice cream samples if everyone is very good and eats all their vegetables at dinner.

So! Be there, be square, and prepare for another great Nerd Nite Ann Arbor!

When: Thursday, July 20 – doors 6:30 pm/talks 7:00 pm
Where: LIVE (102 S 1st St)
How much: $0, Aw, thanks, AADL, you shouldn’t have!

Thursday, June 22: A Special Lightning-Round Nerd Nite at Top of the Park!

Join us at Ann Arbor Summer Fest’s Annex (on Washington) as some recent Nerd Nite audience faves return to the stage!

The lineup of talks includes: how being a scientist is different from studying science in high school, the insane world of romance subgenres, an examination of the concept of time (and how time is dumb), an international case of mistaken identity on Twitter, and a live performance of an episode of the excellent local history podcast Ann Arbor Stories.

Get there a little early, talks will start right at 7pm!

More details here

Mall Madness & Medical Mutations

nna2-2017-june-shareableIt’s thinking and drinking time again, my friends! Britain Woodman will be covering the Great Retail Space Race of Ann Arbor, recounting what has come, gone, and what will rise again. Laura Drislane will set the record straight on psychopaths – spoiler alert, what you’ve seen on TV is not a 100% accurate depiction of the condition. Long time NNA2 friend Brad Pingel will explain ways new antibiotics are disarming bacteria in a bid to undercut super-villainous superbugs.

It’s gonna be a great one, folks! Bring your friends, the overextended retail worker and the one you suspect of being a psychopath, leave your superbugs at home, and come enjoy another excellent Nerd Nite Ann Arbor!
When: Thursday, June 15 – doors 6:30pm/talks 7:00pm
Where: LIVE (102 S 1st St)
How much: $0, gee, thanks for sponsoring, AADL!

laura drislaneLaura Drislane – Psychopaths: Myths and Misconceptions
Media portrayals of psychopathic individuals are often sensationalized and inaccurate, leading to misconceptions about what this condition entails. This talk will cover what exactly a psychopath is (and is not), and the intersections between psychopathy and other phenomena, including psychosis and serial murder.
About Laura: Laura is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Florida State University in 2017. Her research interests include psychopathy, antisocial behavior, personality, and substance use. Outside of the lab, Laura can be found enjoying a craft beer at one of the local breweries or scouring the internet for the perfect canine companion. Check out @SSSpsychopathy or the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy.
britain woodmanBritain Woodman – Schemes From a Mall
I started a blog that is the talk of the town. By “the town,” I mean “my friends,” but I have a lot of friends in this town. I want to take a few minutes to discuss my influences, my past as a retail worker, and the interesting stuff I found when I went looking for a support group online. Please don’t leave, there’s still alcohol here.
About Britain: Britain Woodman grew up in Ann Arbor, moved away for a few years (for work), and came back at the beginning of this decade (also for work). He met (and hugged) two of the Last Poets at Rick’s, and the others are probably a little jealous. Check him out @Britain and learn about the A2 retail scene at
brad pingel

Brad Pingel – Pacifying Pathogens

While there is a myriad of different antibiotic agents available, almost every one of these agents falls into one of five modes of action. These mechanisms actively disrupt the growth of both helpful and harmful bacteria, facilitating a strong selection for mutations that can continually overcome our current roster of antibiotics. What if we could design antibiotics that only target the bad apples? Is it possible to slow down the evolution of resistance if we simply disable instead of destroy pathogenic bacteria? Can we clip the capes of the ever-growing population of superbugs?

About Brad: Brad is a recent graduate from the University of Michigan with a Masters in Microbiology and will be beginning his Ph.D at Balor College of Medicine in the fall. He is currently a researcher in the Schmidt lab at the University of Michigan and studies the interactions between bacteria and archaea in the human gut microbiome. Find him @bpingel31.

Genomes, Atoms, & Scientific Discovery

nna2-2017-April-shareableCalling all science geeks, nerds, dweebs, dorks, and goobers! For the second year running, Nerd Nite Ann Arbor is proud to partner with the Michigan State University Science Festival and RELATE to host a strictly-science evening.

On tap this year: RELATE alum Shweta Ramdas gives us the inside scoop on the kinds of information about our own genes can – and can’t – tell us about our health and ancestry. MSU’s own Zach Constan talks about how we study teeny tiny atoms – and why it matters for everything from your body’s function to nuclear science. Terry McGlynn will round us out by talking about when scientists make huge discoveries…by accident?! Going to be a great co-hosted edition of NNA2, so grab a buddy and a couple of brews, then head on down and join us for a science-tastic good time!

When: Thursday, April 20 – doors 6:30pm/talks 7:00pm
Where: LIVE (102 S 1st St)
How much: $0, thanks AADL!



Shweta Ramdas: “What your genome can say about you”

In the last decade, we suddenly have access to each position in our DNA. My talk will focus on what this can (and cannot) tell us: about ancestry, health, and behavior.

About Shweta: I’m a 5th year PhD student in the department of Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan. My research focuses on the genetic basis of psychiatric traits and aging.



Photos of NSCL at Michigan State University.Zach Constan: “A Supernova in the Lab: Nuclear Research at NSCL”

MSU’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) is one of the world’s leading rare isotope research facilities. How do researchers study atomic nuclei that are too small to see, exist for less than a second, and can’t be found on Earth? Simply accelerate them to half the speed of light, smash them, and then study the pieces. The secrets we learn could help explain what happens in exploding stars and the origins of elements in your body. In addition, MSU has begun constructing the $730 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a DOE Office of Science project to design and establish a world-leading laboratory that will push the boundaries of nuclear science.

About Zach: Zach Constan earned his Bachelor’s Degree in physics (1995) from Albion College, studied psychoacoustics for his Ph.D. in physics (2002) at Michigan State University, taught college astronomy for three years, and served as a church Youth Director. Now, as NSCL Outreach Coordinator, he gets to tell everyone about the exciting developments in nuclear science at MSU’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and future Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.


terryTerry McGlynn: “Unknown Unknowns, and how we make scientific discoveries”

Scientists do research to answer specific questions, but many of our biggest discoveries come out of the blue? How can scientists do research to make big discoveries when we don’t see them coming?

About Terry: Terry is a tropical biologist who does research to solve the biological mysteries involving ants and rainforests. He is a professor of biology at California State University Dominguez Hills and a research associate of the Natural History Museum of LA.