Past Talks

March 22, 2021
Goodbye, p-value: Practical Bayesian Statistics to Replace Frequentist Statistics [Video]
Sean Koebley

We’ve all heard about the serious limitations of frequentist statistics: p-hacking, misinterpreted results, and unmet assumptions of normality, etc.. Bayesian statistics presents an alternative. In Bayesian statistics, using the powerful simplicity of Bayes’ theorem and modern computational muscle, the credibility of candidate parameter values is robustly reallocated to be most consistent with the data. In this seminar, after a brief introduction to the fundamentals of Bayesian statistics, we will apply our knowledge to that workhorse of experimental design: a comparison between two groups. We will execute both a standard t-test and a Bayesian estimation to determine the difference between groups, then compare the results.
March 15, 2021
Using Environmental Engineering to Benefit Coral Reefs [Video]
Liza Roger

When corals are under stress from elevated seawater temperatures it can cause oxidative stress which triggers the breakdown of the symbiotic relationship with their resident algae.The algae are expelled and the corals become ghostly white (i.e. coral bleaching). This can lead to coral death and disruptions to an important marine ecosystem. Can treating the oxidative stress save the coral? This talk will investigate whether coral bleaching can be treated with antioxidants delivered by engineered nanoparticles and how to go from theory to field applications.
March 8, 2021
Electron Microscopy: Basics and Applications [Video]
Tristan Raisch

Attend this How-to Talk to learn about all the things related to electron microscopy (EM). Dr. Raisch will cover how electron microscopy works, applications in scientific research, and what resources are available at VCU. This talk is perfect for those new to EM or new to EM at VCU.
March 1, 2021
Regional Climates: Using the Past to Understand and Predict the Future [Video]
Liza Roger

The everyday weather is forecasted by combining atmospheric data (temperature, humidity, etc.) and our understanding of atmospheric dynamics (land-air-water exchanges etc.). Predictions hinge on the accuracy of the data collected and their spatial resolution. These data can have poor regional scale, so scientists have utilized the natural production of hard structures in the ocean (corals, sea shells, etc.), in a discipline called sclerochronology, to investigate regional climates in parts of the planet where data are limited or hard to obtain. Attend this How-to Talk to learn how the Ocean’s record-keeping of Earth’s climate helps us understand regional climates of the past and future.
February 15, 2021
Leading the Learning in a Video Conference Session [Video]
Michael Forder

Explore the personal considerations, techniques, and tools that can be utilized to foster engaging video-based learning experiences. In the session we will look at how specific approaches to teaching over video, along with tools commonly found in video conferencing applications such as Zoom, can be leveraged to create learning experiences similar to and often better than what can be provided in a face-to-face setting.
Nov. 18, 2019
Designing Obstacle Avoidance Tools for the Visually Impaired Using Modern Technology [Video]
He Zhang 

This session will cover how to select and calibrate cameras for use in wayfinding and obstacle avoidance for use by the visually impaired community.
Nov. 11, 2019
Pictures and Numbers: How to Effectively Communicate Your Data [Video]
Tristan Raisch

How do you take the results of an experiment and present them so that someone else can understand the point you are trying to make? Whether it is microscopic images or numerical data, some choices must be made. In this talk, we discuss how we can approach quantifying and visualizing data and why the “right” way isn’t so much an objective reality but a method that answers a specific question.
Nov. 4, 2019
Putting the Pieces Together: Experimentally Evaluating Alternative RNA Splicing Variants [Video]
Melissa Hale

Alternative splicing (AS) results in different protein products from the same genetic code. How does the cell choose what to do? These choices are critical for proper gene expression. In fact, it has been estimated that AS is dysregulated in over half of all human genetic diseases. This talk will cover how to design and execute experiments to evaluate changes in AS patterns of target genes — globally with next-generation sequencing like RNASeq and in a targeted manner with techniques such as RT-PCR.
Oct. 28, 2019
Manuscript Mapping: A Method For Organization and Recall of Scientific Literature [Video]
Sean Koebley

Do you feel overwhelmed and outmatched by the task of keeping up with the scientific literature? In this How-To Talk, we will discuss techniques for managing the avalanche of literature in your library. We will first compare three major citation managers (Zotero, Mendeley, and Jabref), then introduce a system of “manuscript mapping” intended to aid in the interpretation and organization of your literature. Participants should bring their laptops or contact Stacey Wahl ( to reserve one.
Oct. 21, 2019
Introduction to Immunofluorescence Microscopy: Light at the End of the Tunnel
Sarah Thomas [Video]

This talk will cover the basics of immunofluorescence microscopy including rationale behind sample preparation, imaging, and determining the right controls.
Oct. 14, 2019
Using Photocross-linkers to Study Protein-Ligand and Protein-Protein Interactions [Video]
Urjita Shah [Video]

This How-to Talk will cover how to incorporate unnatural amino acids, that have photoactive properties, into endogenous proteins to study a variety of complex intracellular processes. These amino acids can be used to investigate protein-protein interactions, mapping ligand binding sites, and more.
Oct. 7, 2019
Incorporating Sex as a Biological Variable in Your Research and Grant Applications [Video]
Molly Hyer

Increasing evidence that sex differences are evident in disease rates and in response to treatments for these diseases pushed the NIH to mandate inclusion of females in research. This mandate, while seemingly obvious, can be difficult to negotiate if researchers have little or no experience working with females and/or with incorporating sex as an variable in research design. This talk would serve to outline a foundation for how to incorporate sex into your research design and in grant applications.
Sept. 30, 2019
How to Create a Website for Professional Networking: Going Beyond LinkedIn
Tamala Gondwe

As an academic, having a website or digital portfolio can be effective in sharing your research with a wider audience, and managing your online public image as a scholar. This How-to talk will provide steps for participants to build their own website with the Academic framework ( using RStudio and
Sept. 23, 2019
Crafting a Scientific story to Fit Your Audience [Video]
Stacey Wahl 

How do you captivate an audience with your research? Scientific storytelling is an art as much as it is a science. This talk will explore how to craft a presentation that, provides relevant background, creates a compelling story, and ensures that your audience will understand your science and will leave wanting more.
Nov. 12, 2018
Understanding and Performing Chromatin Immunoprecipitation (ChIP) for Analysis by qPCR [Video]
Sarah M. Thomas, Ph.D.

Attendees will be taken step-by-step through the process of ChIP-qPCR to investigate protein-DNA interactions. Troubleshooting tips will be discussed.
Nov. 5, 2018
How to Conduct Survival Analysis Using National Complex Survey and Vital Statistics Data
Tamala Gondwe, Ph.D.

This talk will describe statistical techniques that can be used on large datasets to assess relationships between health factors and mortality. Specific datasets discussed will include the US National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the National Death Index (NDI).
Oct. 29, 2018
Techniques for Scientific Presentations: How to Captivate an Audience with your Data [Video]
Sarah M. Thomas, Ph.D.

Learn how to communicate your data effectively in presentations, and obtain feedback for improvement.
Oct. 22, 2018
An Introduction to Echo Liquid Handler and Fluorescence Polarization as a Tool for Drug Screening [Video]
Pradip K. Singh, Ph.D.

The Echo Liquid Handler is an extremely precise, fully automated, non-contact tool for dispensing fluids. This talk will cover how to use it to automate fluorescence polarization and maximize drug screening capabilities.
Oct. 15, 2018
Connecting the Dots: Using Backwards Design to Create Cohesive Health Sciences Instruction [Video]
Sean Koebley, Ph.D., Jonathan Lindsay, Ph.D., and Stephen Wechman, Ph.D.

This talk will discuss the five components of backwards design and show you how to use this planning strategy to create effective assessments that reflect your learning goals.
Oct. 8, 2018
Introduction to Cryo-electron Microscopy
Kavita Iyer, Ph.D.

With rapid advancements in instrumentation and software for image processing, cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) has become an increasingly valuable tool in the field of structural biology. This talk will cover the basics of cryo-EM including sample preparation, data collection, image processing and 3D reconstruction.
Oct. 1, 2018
Let’s Do Some (gnu)Plotting!
Balaji Nagarajan, Ph.D.

Learn how to use gnuplot, a free command-line plotting tool, to create scientific graphs that can be easily edited. Attendees are required to bring a laptop. If you will need to borrow a loaner laptop, please contact This is a 90-minute session.
Nov. 13, 2017, noon – 1 p.m.
Proximity ligation assays: A powerful technique to detect protein-protein interactions and histone modifications [Video]
Salvador Sierra San Nicolas, M.D., Ph.D.

Proximity ligation assay (PLA) has become the assay of choice for demonstrating the proximity of a variety of proteins, including G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs), in cells and native tissue. Recently, this technique has been applied in native tissue to detect histone modifications in certain promoters, increasing the information (specific cells carrying the modifications) obtained by doing ChiP.
Nov. 6, 2017, noon – 1 p.m.
Implementing effective assessments of student learning in scientific teaching [Video]
Stacey Wahl, Ph.D. & Molly Hyer, Ph.D.

How do you know what your students know? This talk will cover how to conduct formative and summative assessments in large and small lecture formats to assess how well your students are understanding the course material. Participants will learn effective strategies that will improve their assessment capabilities. Small action = big change!
Oct. 30, 2017, noon – 1 p.m.
How to conduct community-based participatory research to address challenges related to ethnic minorities and their health
Morgan Maxwell, Ph.D.

Because ethnic minorities fare poorer across most health indices, it has become increasingly important to tailor research, interventions, and educational programming to meet the unique cultural needs of marginalized groups with limited resources. This session will cover how researchers can utilize community-based participatory research (CBPR) practices to strengthen study designs and more effectively achieve positive health outcomes within minority populations.
Oct. 23, 2017, noon – 1:30 p.m.
Exploring a protein structure using Chimera: Modeling missing loops
Balaji Nagarajan, Ph.D.

During this session, a case study will be used to demonstrate 3-D protein structure visualizations, and how to identify and model missing loops in Chimera, a molecular visualization and analysis tool. *Attendees are required to bring a laptop. If you will need to borrow a loaner laptop, please contact This is a 90-minute session.
Oct. 16, 2017, noon – 1 p.m.
Think like a scientist: Teaching your students how to organize scientific concepts [Video]
Jason Tan, Ph.D.

Students in the life sciences are often taught a wide range of content without being instructed on how researchers organize individual pieces of information into discrete conceptual domains to solve problems. Teaching and assessing this complex behavior can be challenging, but card sorting, an active learning technique, can be used to address this need effectively. As a result of attending this seminar, participants will 1) understand the basic components of card sorting and other related classroom assessment techniques that can help teach/assess student structuring of knowledge, 2) experience first-hand how these activities impact student learning, and 3) gain preliminary insights into how to use existing or customized card sort “decks” in their own classrooms.
Oct. 9, 2017, noon – 1:30 p.m.
Curve fitting in MATLAB
Anna Nagle, Ph.D.

Do you have data points that need to be fitted to a curve? This session will cover how to download MATLAB through VCU and will concentrate on writing code to optimize the parameters in an equation to fit a set of data points. We will utilize MATLAB’s fminsearch function, which is a Nelder-Mead simplex direct search method. *Attendees are required to bring a laptop. If you will need to borrow a loaner laptop, please contact This is a 90-minute session.
Oct. 2, 2017, noon – 1 p.m.
How to obtain a postdoc [Video]
Molly Hyer, Ph.D., Jonathan Lindsay, Ph.D., Morgan Maxwell, Ph.D., Khalilah Johnson, Ph.D., & John Ryan, Ph.D.

If you are a doctoral student, you know a postdoc is likely your next step following graduation, but do you know how to choose a postdoc that will help you accomplish your career goals? Do you know what you want from a postdoc, or how to find one? Through a panel discussion, learn from Dr. John Ryan, Associate Vice President for Research Development and head of the office of Postdoctoral Scholars at VCU, as well as a number of successful postdocs, about what you need to do to pick the best postdoc for you. This session is co-sponsored by VCU Career Services and will be moderated by Katybeth Lee, Associate Director, Health Sciences Career & Professional Development.
Nov. 7, 2016
The Active Learning Teaching Revolution: Technologies to Assist with Teaching STEM so That Your Students Actually Learn [Video]
Rebecca Martin, Ph.D.

Freely available technologies that can be used to assist with active learning techniques will be reviewed. Each technique will be utilized in class so that attendees can get a feel for how and when they can be used. New material will be covered in the updated version of this talk, if you attended last year’s presentation. Attendees are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop or an iPad.
Oct. 31, 2016
How to Obtain a Postdoc and Thrive In It [Video]
Sade E. Johns, Ph.D.

This talk will cover the steps needed to obtain a postdoc and how to prepare once you’re in a postdoc position. There will also be a discussion on how you can thrive as a postdoc in a scholarly environment.
Oct. 24, 2016
How to Study Protein-Ligand Interaction through Molecular Docking [Video]
Nehru V Sankaranarayanan, Ph.D.

Attendees will be introduced to molecular docking technology and will have an opportunity to work on a case study. Open source computational tools that can be used to study the interactions of protein-ligand complexes will be highlighted. Participants are required to bring a laptop to this talk. Loaner laptops are available in a limited quantity and may be requested by emailing prior to the event.
Oct. 17, 2016
Intro to R-package, Part 2 [Video]
Anna S. Nagle, Ph.D.

This session is a continuation of the previous week’s talk. Registrants are not required to attend Part 1, although viewing a recording of Part 1 prior to attending Part 2 is strongly encouraged. Please bring a laptop.
Oct. 10, 2016
Intro to R-package, Part 1 [Video]
Anna S. Nagle, Ph.D.

Download R and learn how to conduct common statistical tasks such as power analysis, normality testing, and comparing means and variances when your data is not normally distributed. Attendees are highly encouraged to bring a laptop to this talk.
Nov. 23, 2015
Causal analysis: How to examine mediation and moderation of treatment or experimental effects
Lance M. Rappaport, Ph.D.

Two critical areas of development in causal analysis pertain to identifying mechanisms in the course of change (i.e. mediation) and factors that alter the nature of a process (i.e. moderation). This talk will discuss current approaches in estimating mediation and moderation and will provide practical examples of their implementation. Attendees will learn how to design and conduct research to test for mediators and moderators of the effect of a treatment or experimental manipulation.
Nov. 9, 2015
CRISPR/cas9 genome editing
Chen Yang, Ph.D.

The groundbreaking significance of the CRISPR/cas9 genome editing technique in biomedical research applications will be explained. Step-by-step instructions on how to apply this technique in your research will be given.
Nov. 2, 2015
The active learning teaching revolution: Teaching STEM so that your students actually learn [Video]
Rebecca Martin, Ph.D., and Bianca Baker, Ph.D.

The importance of an evidence-based active learning approach will be considered, followed by a survey of active learning techniques. Freely available technologies that can be used to assist with those techniques will be reviewed as well. Each technique will be utilized in class so that attendees can get a feel for how and when they can be used.
Oct. 26, 2015
How to detect and isolate stem cells [Video]
Sarmistha Talukdar, Ph.D.

A quick overview of different types of stem cells will be given, followed by guidance on how to detect and isolate stem cells from different tissues. Mesenchymal stem cells and cancer stem cells will be discussed.
Oct. 19, 2015
Ambulatory assessment: Examining behavioral and physiological processes over time
Lance M. Rappaport, Ph.D.

Recent developments in technology have made it possible to collect physiological and behavioral data at higher frequency and in situations not otherwise feasible. Drawing on techniques such as time-series data, ecological momentary assessment and event-contingent recording, this talk will address the potential to offer novel insights in physiology, behavioral and medical research through statistical and experimental methodologies. Attendees will learn how to design and conduct research using ambulatory assessment to examine how processes of interest unfold over time and in naturalistic settings.
Oct. 12, 2015
Locomotor behavioral assessments
Pretal Muldoon, Ph.D.

What questions should you ask when deciding on a behavioral/locomotor test for rodents? This talk will cover how to determine which locomotor assay is best for your research, e.g. spontaneous activity, beam walking, rotorod, etc. Additionally, criteria to consider when determining the best test for translating an animal model to human conditions will be discussed.