Nerd Nite A2 #73: Seeing in Space, Ann Arbor Stories & Delectable Descriptors

HELLO! We’re excited to be back in the lovely outdoor space at YORK (1928 Packard St) on Wednesday, July 20th from 7:30-9 pm for more NNA2 action!

Jennifer German, NASA Ambassador (and so much more,) will tell us about space telescopes – how they work, what they see, where they’ve gone wrong, and how they’ve deepened our understanding of the universe!

Rich Retyi, AADL Marketing & Communications Manager and host of the Ann Arbor Stories podcast, will gather us ’round for a good ol’ fashioned local history storytime!

Sherlonya Zobel, AADL Associate Director and inveterate doer of research projects, will be laying out a banquet of linguistic weirdness to delight and – possibly disgust – you!

Make sure Wednesday, 7/20 @ 7:30 pm is on your calendar! It can be pretty sunny over there at York, so bring along sunscreen and don’t hesitate to come early to snag a seat in the shade and a refreshing beverage or two!

Nerd Nite A2 #72: AND WE’RE BACK!


Hey there, NNA2 pals! We’re delighted to dip our toes back into the event pool with a fantastic lineup including NNA2 alumni presenters: Jess A.S. Letaw, Sagar Kamat, and Rich Retyi! Many thanks to York for hosting us in their incredible outdoor space!

More NNA2 events are planned for this summer! So put Wednesday, July 20 and Wednesday, August 17 @ 7:30 pm, and you know what comes next. That’s right! Be there AND be square!


practicing social distancing and asking you to as well

Hello NNA2 Friends!

You know we love our audience, and that’s why we have taken the kind, generous, intelligent, responsible step of canceling everything!!!

In the meantime, stay home and join us in the FLATTEN THE CURVE CHALLENGE!

To satisfy your NNA2 content cravings, head on over to and enjoy videos of NNA2s past!

Now everyone go wash your hands!




Nerd Nite A2 #71: Disease Detection, Finding Feel, & Outdoor Art

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If, like most people, your New Year’s resolution is to go out to a  local drinking establishment at least once per month and, while there, learn about a variety of interesting topics with a group of equally-interested and interesting people, then NERD NITE A2 IS THE PLACE FOR YOU!  

In our lineup this month, we’ll learn how microRNAs can help pinpoint the presence of disease without requiring painful medical tests. Automotive engineer Sagar Kamat will explain what makes your car interface “click” – offering a window into the process of designing the knobs and switches we encounter every day.  Local street artist David Zinn will discuss his chalk art, outdoors as his medium, and why he doesn’t fear the rain. You don’t want to miss this month, so grab a friend, grab a seat, and join us for NNA2 #71!!

When: Thursday, 1/17/20

Doors at 6:30/talks at 7 pm

Where: LIVE, 102 S. First St

Cost: Zero dollars, friends, so come on out!

Quicker, more accurate detection of microRNAs for diseases 

MicroRNAs have the potential to disease biomarkers that can serve their purpose without the need of invasive, painful tests. My technique serves to be a quicker, more effective way of detecting them.

sagar kamatThe Science of Switch Feel – What makes a switch click-ass – Sagar Kamat

Push buttons, knobs, touchscreens…Every day, we interact with hundreds of different switches around us, to do everything from prepare our coffee, type out our emails, turn ON the lights, drive our cars and everything in between. But have you ever paused to think about what goes into designing each of those micro-experiences? Have you thought about makes them all feel a certain way? How do you quantify and specify ‘feel’? Join me to learn about what makes our world click. 

About Sagar: Sagar is an Automotive engineer by the day, where he helps craft the next generation of automotive user interfaces, and an all-out nerd by night, susceptible to frequent trips down the black hole of the internet reading about the vaguest of topics. Currently going through a podcast phase, he finds it difficult to carry on a conversation without, at least once, saying ‘Have you heard this podcast…..” . You can read his blog at or find him on Twitter at @sagarkamat.   

david zinnHow to avoid Making Art while still being an artist – David Zinn

While drawing in public, I have had countless conversations with random strangers about Art and being an artist, and mostly about how almost everybody thinks they aren’t one and can’t make any. I will endeavor to prove that everyone in the room was or is an artist, I will explain how my father’s desire for peace & quiet in restaurants defused my own Fear of the Blank Canvas, and I will answer the eternal question asked of every sidewalk artist: “But won’t you be sad when it rains?”

About David: David Zinn is a life-long A2 townie, an alumnus of the U-M Residential College, and a former freelance commercial artist who currently makes his living by drawing on sidewalks with chalk. He is as surprised by this as you are. Follow him on Twitter @davidzinn_art.

Nerd Nite A2 #69: The Universe, the Berlin Wall, and Cellular First Responders

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Hello NNA2 family! Gather ’round for our next event in which physics grad student Taylor Baildon dives into humanity’s first glimpse of the universe. Biology PhD student and RELATE member Fatima Javed will introduce us to neutrophils, the cells that initiate the healing process within our bodies. Engineer/amateur historian Andrew Huster will mark the 30th anniversary of the demise of the Berlin Wall with a look at Germany’s “edifice of fear.” But we’re not afraid! So come on out and learn something eye-opening, old or neu(trophil) from this great lineup! Bring a friend, grab a drink, and sit back for another great Nerd Nite A2!

When: Thursday, 10/17/19

Doors at 6:30/talks at 7 pm

Where: LIVE, 102 S. First St

Cost: No cover charge, AADL’s got this!

Fatima Javed - Web pic_250Understanding Our Bodies First Responders

Have you ever gotten a paper cut Or injured yourself while cooking, biking etc.? Our normal response to this injury is clean the wound and put a band-aid on to prevent infection. And then in a couple days, our body will heal itself. Ever wondered what happens inside your body when you injure yourself? Well, in this talk you will learn about the specialized cells, called neutrophils, that help start the healing process when you injure yourself.

About Fatima: I am a third year PhD. Candidate at the University of Michigan in the department of Cell and Developmental Biology. My work focuses on understanding the inner workings of our body’s first responding cells, called Neutrophils. I love research and talking to people about science. But when I am not in lab, I enjoy watching TV, reading fiction novels and cuddling with my cat. Follow Fatima @javedfatima2.

HusterLies, Ideologies, and Technicalities: The History of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall stood for twenty-eight years as the stark manifestation of the division between east and west. On the eve of the 30th anniversary of its fall, we’ll take a look back into the history of this “edifice of fear”: how and why it came about, how it remained, its effects on the city and the world, its astonishingly sudden demise, and what has happened since it came down.

About Andrew: Andrew is an electrical engineer by day. By night, he indulges in various eclectic interests, one of which is twentieth-century history. For his day job, he writes code that makes cars drive themselves. He maintains a list of cool band names at You can follow him on Twitter at @ahuster.

NNA2 #68: What Your Brain Wants, the Inner Life of Solar Cells, & Why Dogs Are So H*ecking Good

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What’s brighter than the sun? What’s more complex than the brain?? What’s gooder than a doggo??? NOTHING, that’s what? But ALSO nothing brings them all together quite like Nerd Nite A2!! U-M chemistry grad student Emily Mueller will explain one weird trick to make solar cells last longer. U-M psychology PhD candidate Erin Naffziger will explain how your brain processes craving and desire. Laura Witkowski and Jane Wolff, owners of Good Wolff Dog Training, will talk dog behavior and training. Join us for good times and good company! Bring a friend, grab a drink, and sit back for another great Nerd Nite A2!

When: Thursday, 9/19/19

Doors at 6:30/talks at 7 pm

Where: LIVE, 102 S. First St

Cost: No charge, Ann Arbor District Library’s got this one covered!

emily muellerEmily Mueller – A Marvelous Mix: how a key ingredient makes solar cells last longer!

Solar cells help us get energy from the sun, which is a renewable energy source, instead of fossil fuels, which are a finite energy source. But did you know that there is a type of solar cell that can bend? That can be transparent? That could be rolled up and stored in your pocket? These devices are called “plastic solar cells” because they are made with materials similar to plastics. In this talk you’ll learn about how these unique solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. You’ll also discover that these solar cells have a dark side: they wear out quickly (after ~ 2 years)! The reason for this is that there are two ingredients in the solar cell that need to be mixed together for it to function best, but these ingredients separate over time (like oil and water). I add a polymer (a big molecule) to the solar cells that helps the two cell ingredients stay mixed together and makes the solar cells last longer! 

About Emily:

I am a 4th year Ph.D. student in the Chemistry department at UM where I make and study polymers for solar cells. I suspect that I may be solar powered myself because I feel best when I am outdoors (swimming, hiking, biking)! I also enjoy reading anything I can get my hands on, cooking things from scratch, and making music. 

erinErin Naffziger – The brain ‘wants’ what the brain wants

Over the course of evolution our brains have become excellent at detecting rewards (e.g. food or a potential mate) in our environment and in turn generating motivation to obtain that reward. While this system was originally necessary for survival, it can easily become maladaptive in a world where access to rewards (such as high-calorie food, drugs and alcohol, gambling) are present in abundance. Unfortunately, this reward detection system can become hypersentitive in some individuals, in turn causing excessive desire and craving each time they come across a reward cue in their world. In this talk we will address how and why this reward system can become dysregulated in some individuals. Answering these questions will help scientists discover new treatment options for individuals living with addiction or psychiatric disorder. 

About Erin:

Erin is a PhD Candidate in Biopsychology at the University of Michigan studying how the brain creates the psychological processes: desire and craving. She wants to know how motivation is generated in the brain and how it may become dysregulated in mental illnesses. When she’s not playing with rats or using lasers to activate the brain, she enjoys true crime podcasts and hanging out with her elderly cat. 

jane and lauraJane Wolff and Laura Witkowski – Way More Carrot, A Lot Less Stick: How to REALLY be your dog’s best friend

“What is my dog thinking?” There’s a lot of misinformation, pernicious myths, and general confusion about how to train dogs. Understanding how dogs process the barrage of information in their environment is the first step in separating the good from the bad when it comes to dog behavior. We will talk about the two ways dogs learn and how to harness that knowledge to get more of the behaviors you like and less of the ones you don’t – without ever hurting or scaring your dog.

About Jane and Laura:

Jane and Laura of Good Wolff Training are both Certified Professional Dog Trainers and graduates of the highly regarded Academy of Dog Trainers. They use humane, field-tested, science-based methods for dog training and behavior modification. Laura and Jane love working with shelter dogs, teaching group training classes, and helping owners better understand dog behavior and better enjoy life with them. Jane also specializes in separation anxiety and is a Certified Separation Anxiety trainer. Laura is a stand up comedian and has a way of bringing humor and levity to challenging behavior problems. Find them on Instagram @goodwolfftraining.

NNA #67: Biopsychology, Data Ethics, & Comic Books

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Another Nerd Nite A2 is coming your way! This one features U-M PhD candidate in biopsychology Sofia Carrera explaining how neurotransmitters affect our behavior and feelings, U-M engineering PhD candidate Ben Swerdlow discussing the moral quandaries that may occur when algorithims are applied to the sheer quantity of personal data that is collected, and Ryan Tamaroff walks us through the history of comic books.

When: Thursday, 8/15/19

Doors at 6:30/talks at 7 pm

Where: LIVE, 102 S. First St

Cost: This one’s on your friendly neighborhood Ann Arbor District Library!!

NNA2 #66: Blast Off: Exploring Outer Space!!!!!

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It’s an all-star, all-SPACE lineup for this round of NNA2, friends! In honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we are exploring the final frontier with three amazing talks!

Electrical engineer Jordan Budhu will walk us through the communication tools used by exploration rovers to beam their findings back to Earth’s eager audiences. Space enthusiast Sam Carpenter will be telling the story of NASA’s Apollo missions. Astronomy PhD candidate Larissa Markwardt will outline the search for as-as undiscovered planets lurking at the edges of our solar system.

It’s going to have SCIENCE! It’s going to have HISTORY! It’s going to be STAR*-STUDDED! (*As in, you know, gas balls.) It’s going to be fun and interesting and eye-opening and great so text a friend now and tell them you’ll see them there!

When: Thursday, 7/18/19

Doors at 6:30/talks at 7 pm

Where: LIVE, 102 S. First St

Cost: Free! With love, from your friends at the Ann Arbor District Library!

 jordanJordan Budhu – Talking to Other Planets: Antennas for Satellites and Planetary Exploration Rovers

Billions of dollars are spent on developing spacecraft and planetary exploration rovers to probe the universe or visit other planets, however, the most important component on these spacecraft is the communications antenna. This talk will explore the concept of electromagnetic radiation and the fundamental working principles of antennas. Then we will discuss some designs for planetary exploration rovers and satellite spacecraft. The listener will leave with an understanding of how an antenna radiates and how we use them to communicate with space-borne instruments. 

About Jordan: 

He received his M.S. degree in electrical engineering from the California State University, Northridge, California, USA, in 2010, and the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA, in 2018. He is currently a Research Fellow in the Radiation Laboratory at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. In 2011 and 2012, he was a Graduate Student Intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In 2017, he was named a Teaching Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research interests are in antenna theory, computational electromagnetics algorithms, and scattering from inhomogeneous, anisotropic materials. Dr. Budhu’s awards and honors include the 2010 Eugene Cota Robles Fellowship from UCLA, the 2012 Best Poster award at the IEEE Coastal Los Angeles Class-Tech Annual Meeting, the 2018 Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science Excellence in Teaching Award at UCLA, and the first place award for the 2019 USNC-URSI Ernst K. Smith Student Paper Competition at the 2019 Boulder National Radio Science Meeting.

Carpenter-Headshot-MHSPSamuel Carpenter – Making the Impossible Possible: Lessons from Apollo

In 1962 under President Kennedy’s direction, our nation committed itself to “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” At the time, this goal was physically impossible. In order to accomplish this goal, it had to be broken down into component tasks. Accomplishing these tasks determined the mission objectives of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. I will discuss not only the accomplishments these early space exploration efforts but I will also outline a general process of how to take on impossible goals. You will be able to apply this process in your own lives in order to achieve your ‘impossible’, whatever that happens to be. 

About Samuel:

Samuel is a Pennsylvania native who recently relocated to Ann Arbor from Portland, OR. Throughout a career in academic research and volunteering as a prehospital medical provider, he has maintained an avid interest in space exploration history as well as current progress of existing space programs. Find him on Twitter @carpensa1.

larissaLarissa Markwardt – Hidden Planets

Could there be a planet lurking at the edge of our Solar System that we haven’t discovered yet? Maybe! It’s happened before. In this talk, I will explain how the orbits of objects we already know about in our Solar System can be used to infer the existence of yet unseen planets. I will also discuss the history and science of the discoveries of Neptune and Pluto, searches for other hypothetical planets (Planet X and Vulcan), and the current hunt for Planet 9. 

About Larissa: 

Larissa is a PhD candidate in Astronomy and Astrophysics and NSF graduate research fellow at the University of Michigan. She studies tiny, faint, and distant space rocks in our Solar System, specifically Earth Trojans and Kuiper Belt Objects. In her free time she likes to go hiking and kayaking, play board games, and watch Stargate. Find her on Twitter @LarMarStar.

NNA2 #65: Linguistics, Lakes, and Love of Kittehs

nna2 65 introAnd we’re back! June’s Nerd Nite A2 has it all – little-known language facts, a battle for the GREATEST Lake (water quality issue), and a deep, objective examination of why cats are, scientifically, just the best.

Linguist and standup comedian Emily Rae Sabo will teach us 10 things we need to know about language, including why English spelling is so W-E-I-R-D. Research technician Christine Kitchens will break down the water quality issues plaguing two of the Great Lakes, specifically, too much algae and not enough algae. Cat lover Jessica Amey will discuss feline domestication, variances by breed, and anatomical traits, such as relative cuteness of kitty toe beans.

Join us to laugh at language, marvel at lake ecosystems, and celebrate cats just being cute and great all the time, scientifically speaking, of course. Bring a friend, grab a beer, and settle in for another great NNA2!

When: Thursday, 6/20/19
Doors at 6:30/talks at 7 pm
Where: LIVE, 102 S. First St
Cost: Free! This night out is sponsored by the Ann Arbor District Library!

Christine KitchensChristine Kitchens: A Tale of Two Lakes: Eutrophy in Western Lake Erie and Oligotrophy in Lake Michigan

In Western Lake Erie, massive mats of blue-green algae blossom every summer, stirring up memories of the 2014 Toledo Water Crisis with every reappearance. Meanwhile, in Lake Michigan, there are nearly as many invasive mussels in the lake as there are gallons of water. Each mussel is the size of a thumbnail and, under the right conditions, their combined force can filter the entire volume of water in Lake Michigan in less than a week. The resulting crystal clear waters are great for beachgoers but extremely problematic for the lake ecosystem. In this talk, we’ll discuss some of the causes of eutrophy (too much vegetation) in Western Lake Erie and oligotrophy (too little vegetation) in Lake Michigan and how lake-wide management strategies for one problem can exacerbate another.

About Christine:
Christine Kitchens is a research technician at the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research at the University of Michigan. She graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science from North Carolina State University and an M.S. in Conservation Ecology from the University of Michigan. While she performs a variety of tasks at the cooperative institute, she primarily spends her days helping monitor and understand harmful algal blooms in Western Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron. When she does manage to find some free time, she spends it running around doing more volunteering with the Huron River Watershed Council and other various local environmental organizations, playing video/board games, and basically being a massive nerd in all facets of life.
Emily SaboEmily Rae Sabo – 10 Things you Need to Know about Language

You speak a language, so you know everything about how language works, right? Wrong! In this talk, we’ll cover the Top 10 things most people don’t know about language. In doing so, I’ll dispel several common myths and reveal some fascinating facts about the systems we use every day to communicate with each other. If you’ve ever wondered how many languages there are in the world, why language death is on the rise, where grammar comes from, or how it is that kids learn language so effortlessly – this talk is for you! Or, if you simply find yourself in need of a few high-quality conversation starters for your upcoming work party, this talk will prepare you to explain what exactly the Bilingual Advantage is, why British accents sound smart, how whistled languages work, whether Spanglish is a language, which high-profile court case was a glaring example of linguistic discrimination, and why English spelling is such a mess.

About Emily:

By day, I’m a researcher and PhD student of Linguistics at The University of Michigan. By night, I’m a local standup comedian at dive bars near you. In my work as a linguist, I compare how monolingual and bilingual listeners respond to various types of lexical ambiguity and speech errors in order to investigate the cognitive mechanisms that underlie language processing as well as the social priming that modulates how people perceive Spanish-accented English in the U.S. today.

jessica ameyJessica Amey – Cats: A look into the feisty feline

We’ll take a look into domestication of cats, cultural influences and a few cat anatomy characteristics. There will also be interactive trivia on different cat breeds.

About Jessica:

Jessica loves cats and will have prizes for cat trivia winners.

We’re taking May off! See you in June!

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