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Purdue University Superheroes of Science

Superheroes of Science is a Purdue University College of Science program that highlights STEM content, provides professional development opportunities for science teachers, and delivers learning experiences for students.



Check out the latest episodes of Science from the Experts, our Superheroes of Science podcast: 

How Anthropologists Know What You Ate and Where You Came From!

When a crime takes place, it seems natural that collecting DNA evidence would be a necessary part of the investigation. But what happens if there isn’t any DNA to collect, or DNA evidence is available but there isn’t a reference to use with the evidence? Melanie Beasley, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Purdue University, explains how the use of stable isotopes provides strong evidence to help members of law enforcement answer the question, “Who was this person?” Additionally, Beasley explains the field of biological anthropology which studies how humans interact with their environment.

How Scientists Measure Radioactive Isotopes PLUS Touring a Clean Room

Dr. Ryan Ickert, senior research scientist with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, describes how radioactive isotopes are used to determine the age of rocks and minerals in a field of study known as geochronology. When scientists knowing the rates of decay of elements such as uranium, thorium, and potassium, they can use this information as a type of clock to determine the age of materials as far back as the beginning of our Solar System!

Sea Level Rise in North American Coastal Regions: Impacts upon Coastal Aquatic Ecosystems

 Dr. David A. Padgett is an Associate Professor of Geography and Director of the Geographic Information Sciences Laboratory at Tennessee State University. Dr. Padgett discusses Sea Level Rise in North American Coastal Regions: Impacts upon Coastal Aquatic Ecosystems. Discussions included evidence of sea level rise, climate change, impacts on aquatic ecosystems, and the loss of critical wetlands ecosystems habitat.

Dr. Padgett’s shared presentation (Google Slides): 


Wildfire Recovery: How to Become Fire-adapted

 Dr. Ronnie Schumann, Associate professor in the Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science at the University of North Texas, tells us that there is “No such thing as a natural disaster”. In this interview, we learn about disaster science, recovery from disasters, and how to become fire-adapted.


The Real Story Behind Asian giant hornets known as Murder Hornets or Halloween Hornets 

The story of the Asian giant hornet, or murder hornet, starts with an email: “I found a bug...what is it”? Dr. Gwen Pearson runs the Human Insect Interaction Lab for Purdue Entomology and candidly discusses many common myths associated with the hornets. Dr. Pearson also explains a convincing argument for describing the insects as Halloween hornets instead of Murder hornets.  

The Washington Department of Agriculture

Science World - Hornets          

Science World Lesson Plan  

Math - Hornets                

Math Lesson Plan


Mapping the Guts of Volcanoes: A Collaborative Effort

What do the guts of a volcano look like? According to Jonathan Delph, Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, it depends on the geoscientist you ask. Delph walks us through several illustrations showing the ways different geoscientific disciplines might view magmatic structure: Geochemistry (process-focused), Petrology (field-focused), and Seismology-focused. Additionally, Delph reveals a recent paradigm shift in scientific thinking about the underground composition of volcanoes.


Using Deep Learning and Blockchain Technologies to Improve Cybersecurity

Advancements in technology are creating infinite opportunities for improvements to cybersecurity. Jin Wei-Kocsis, Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Technology with Purdue Polytechnic Institute and Director of the Cyber-Physical-Social Systems Design Lab, explains both Deep Learning and Blockchain technologies and how these technologies intersect with cooperative and secure computing.


The process of visualizing data: why we need it and how it provides insight to big data

Data is all around us! What can we do to make this data meaningful and understandable without making it complicated and overwhelming? Vetria Byrd, Assistant Professor of Computer Graphics Technology with Purdue Polytechnic Institute and Director of the Byrd Data Visualization Lab joins us to discuss data visualization, building data visualization capacity, and the 4 V’s of big data.


 Quantum Mechanics Explained: Wave Mechanics are all Around You

 Tillman Kubis, the Katherine Ngai Pesic & Silvaco Research Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University, explains how Quantum mechanics is “simply” wave mechanics. Kubis explains and provides examples of the presence of particle physics all around us. He also advises that considering the wave-particle duality, and being open to the hybrid nature of waves and particles, can help us better navigate events in everyday life (think traffic jams, see link below).   

Traffic simulator tool

Traffic simulator (ring setup)

Video link to the traffic wave without a bottleneck

More modern version of link above

 How to Help Prevent Hackers from Stealing Your Information

Do you know all the ways you can be hacked? Dr. Ida Ngambeki, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Technology and Executive Director of Purdue Cyber Education Network Training Resources (CENTR) at Purdue Polytechnic Institute, explains many different types of social engineering including vishing, shoulder surfing, and watering holes. Dr. N presents strategies we can use to protect ourselves and provides examples of dialogue to help us navigate awkward social interactions with politeness while avoiding any compromises to our cyber hygiene.


Fireworks: How they’re made, what enhances colors, and building a shell.

Explore the science that goes into firework displays with Paul Smith, Director of Lecture Demonstrations for the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University. Smith describes the anatomy of firework shells, explains the chemicals used in making fireworks, and covers the requirements needed for getting licensed to build fireworks. Smith also gives a great explanation of the role that science has played in enhancing firework safety!

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