Friday, August 15, 2014 @ 8 p.m.
Tickets - $7
There is far more to going fast than stepping on the accelerator. Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, author of The Physics of NASCAR and the blog Building Speed, set out to learn whether understanding the science of speed translates into being a good race car driver. That quest took her from race shops and materials labs all the way to the twenty-four degree banking of the Texas Motor Speedway where centripetal force suddenly became much more than numbers on a page. She learned that race car drivers - even if they do not use the terminology physicists use - cannot succeed if they don't have a really good understanding of some fairly complex physics. The need for advanced science is even more pronounced for the engineers and physicists who apply techniques like computational fluid dynamics and finite element analysis to simultaneously optimize speed and safety. The last part of the talk focuses on how popular culture (such as sports, music and art) can be used to raise interest in math and physics to a large audience and the lessons I've learned from working with television, print and satellite radio.
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. She was a professor of physics for twenty years, most of them spent at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln). During that time, she did research in magnetic nanomaterials, materials that are a thousandth the diameter of a human hair. In addition to fundamental studies of magnetic materials, her lab developed magnetic nanomaterials for medical diagnosis and treatment processes such as magnetic resonance imaging and chemotherapy. Her work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.
Diandra has been involved with science education for K-12 schools, future science teachers, and the public since her graduate school days. She directed projects to improve science education at all levels, supported primarily by the National Science Foundation. She has given numerous presentations for technical and non-technical audiences, including addresses for the public sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. She has appeared in outlets from ESPN and SPEED TV, TIME and Sporting News magazines, to professional society publications such as C&EN and the Materials Research Society Bulletin. She appears regularly on the SiriusXM Speedway satellite radio program to update listeners on scientific developments in NASCAR. Her blog can be found at buildingspeed.org/blog. She recently left academia to focus on writing and sharing science with the public.