STEM Speaker Series and Events

2020-2021 STEM Speaker Series

UIC Can Help You Engineer Your Future
Tue., Jan. 25, 2022, 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm

Join this livestream, hosted by Yeow Siow, PhD, (a popular professor and all-around great person to know), to find out and ask any questions you have about the mechanical and industrial engineering department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Come learn about the future of engineering. Register in advance to receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

You'll have a chance to meet two faculty members:
Pranav Bhounsule, PhD (mechanical engineering) and
Heejin Jeong, PhD (industrial engineering)
plus current students from each major. It's our goal to make sure you have all the information you need to join us at UIC this fall.

Wastewater Surveillance for COVID-19 – A Regional Effort
FEB 1, 2022, TUE, 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm

Rachel Poretsky, PhD, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, UIC

Register in advance for this online meeting at  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Wastewater based epidemiology (WBE) monitoring potential pathogens in sewers and waterways provides a rapid and cost-effective means to monitor COVID-19 infections in cities. As sewers and treatment plants collect wastewater from entire urban regions, WBE provides a means to monitor COVID-19 across large geographic areas and millions of people. Because SARS-CoV-2 RNA is excreted by pre- and asymptomatic individuals, WBE provides advance warning and more complete assessments of the COVID-19 epidemic than traditional testing. Combining distributed wastewater sampling with hydraulic modeling enables early-stage tracing of outbreaks back to local source locations with high infection rates. Moreover, deep gene sequencing enables tracking strain-level variation in SARS-CoV- 2 and other viruses, distinguishing local outbreaks from new imported cases. We established a prototype wastewater surveillance system for large urban areas like Chicago, with the objective of increasing precision in several ways. The first is to analyze the large, complex sewer systems in order to develop a strategy for sampling within the sewer system at points where the flow represents well-defined sub-populations at a scale that is useful for local public health response. The second is to use computational modeling techniques to map viral load within these sub-sewersheds. A third challenge is to understand how the viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater relates to COVID-19 infections in the associated population. We are working directly with the City of Chicago, Cook County, and State of Illinois public health agencies to enable immediate use of wastewater surveillance data during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have since expanded to a state-wide program with the goal of providing WBE to over 100 counties across Illinois.

Rachel Poretsky, PhD hails from the great urban microbial hotspot of Brooklyn, NY. She obtained a BS in Biology from Brandeis University in 1999 and a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Georgia in 2008. She was a postdoc at Caltech in Geology and Planetary Sciences and at Georgia Tech in Environmental Engineering. She has done pioneering work looking at genes and gene expression of microbial communities in the open ocean, freshwater lakes and rivers, and wastewater. She is currently an Associate Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she has been since January 2013.

Screening of Coded Bias
Tuesday, February 16 - Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Oakton's Center for Campus Inclusion and Diversity (CCID) will host an in-person screening of Coded Bias on Tue., Feb. 15 at 4pm in Room 1433 Des Plaines.

Screening of Coded Bias
Tuesday, February 15 - Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Q&A with Shalini Kantayya, director of Coded Bias
Tuesday, Tuesday 22, 2022, 4:30 p.m.
Register in advance for the Q&A with director Kantayya by clicking on the Zoom link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting and viewing the documentary Coded Bias.

Coded Bias is a documentary about Joy Buolamwini's uncovering of the coding flaws in facial recognition technology. According to the MIT Media Lab, Joy Buolamwini is "a poet of code who uses art and research to illuminate the social implications of artificial intelligence." As a result of her discovery, Buolamwini founded the Algorithmic Justice League to encourage more equitable and accountable technology. One week prior to the Q&A with the director of Coded Bias, a link will be made available to view the documentary in its entirety.

Modeling Disease Using Math
MAR 23, 2022, WED, 3 – 4pm

Melanie Pivarski, PhD, associate professor and chair, Mathematics, Economics, and Actuarial Science, Roosevelt University

Register in advance for this online meeting After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

We will talk about the mathematics of pandemics, including what goes into a probabilistic model. We will use a simple interactive simulation that will help us understand how we can predict how different actions can affect the spread of disease.  We will also talk about how we could extend our model to more complicated situations.  Because this session will involve many visualizations, it will be accessible to people of all mathematical backgrounds; all that is needed is curiosity!

Dr. Melanie Pivarski is an Associate Professor of Mathematics and chair of the Department of Mathematics, Economics, and Actuarial Science at Roosevelt University in Chicago.  She loves teaching math and helping students to see how mathematics can interact with the real world.

Sponsored by the Center for Promoting STEM. For more information, contact Gloria Liu at or 847-635-1738.

Oakton STEM Student Organizations

Oakton Affiliate of Society of Women Engineers (Oakton SWE)
Join Oakton Society of Women Engineers to learn how to start a career in engineering and support women in engineering. Fill out the Oakton SWE membership form to receive news and announcements of upcoming meetings and events. Contact for more information.

Oakton Math Club
Join other Oakton students to talk about the beauty of mathematics for math help and for a club meeting. Contact or Mario Borha, advisor, at for more information.

Oakton IEEE
A club for engineering students interested in making friends and robots. Currently seeking new members and officers. No experience necessary. Passion required. Contact Gloria Liu at for more information or to join Oakton IEEE.

Many thanks to the OOakton's Educational Foundation for their support of the Oakton Robotics Team.

STEM Events

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