TechTalk – Expanded Potential Stem Cells: A New Tool for Basic and Translational Research

August 3, 2023 (Thursday) 4:30-5:30pm
Mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) derived from the epiblast contribute to the somatic lineages and the germline upon reintroduction to the blastocyst but are excluded from the extraembryonic tissues in the placenta that are derived from the trophectoderm (TE) and the primitive endoderm (PrE). By inhibiting signal pathways implicated in the earliest embryo development, we established cultures of mouse expanded potential stem cells (EPSCs) from individual 4-cell and 8-cell blastomeres, by direct conversion of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and through reprogramming somatic cells. Bona fide trophoblast stem cell (TSC) lines, extra-embryonic endoderm stem (XEN) cells, and ESCs could be directly derived from EPSCs in vitro. The knowledge of mouse EPSCs has enabled the establishment of EPSCs of human, pig, bovine and additional mammalian species. EPSCs of these species share similar molecular features and developmental potentials. They are genetically and epigenetically stable, can be maintained in homogenous long-term cultures and permit efficient precision and complex genome editing. EPSCs thus provide new tools for studying normal development and open up new avenues for translational research in biotechnology, agriculture, and regenerative medicine. For example, we find that early syncytiotrophoblasts produced from human TSCs are highly susceptible to coronavirus infection. This finding has enabled the development of a new stem cell-based antiviral drug discovery technology. I will discuss our thoughts on collaborations with engineering colleagues.

TechTalk – Theoretical Concepts and Innovative Laboratory Techniques for Estimating the Effective Permeability of Rocks: Applications to the Longyou Claystone

The Longyou Caves represent an important historical site in China that has undergone periodic water level changes over several centuries. The ground water flow through the intact rock and fractures is an important factor in the geotechnical assessment of the site. The Environmental Geomechanics Laboratory at McGill University has focused on the development of innovative theoretical approaches and experimental facilities for wide range of rocks including Indiana Limestone, the Cobourg Limestone, the Vermont Granite and the Lac du Bonnet Granite, using both steady state and transient techniques. In this Teck Talk, Professor Selvadurai will present a range of experimental techniques, their theoretical interpretations that can be used to estimate of fluid transport processes through intact rocks that can be described by Darcy’s law. The theoretical and experimental techniques are used to determine the intact permeability of Longyou claystone recovered from the site.

TechTalk – AI for Science: From Scientific Discoveries to Platform Engineering

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been revolutionizing numerous fields within science and engineering, giving rise to “AI for Science” – a new paradigm for both academia and industry. In this seminar, we will explore how AI algorithms and tools empower researchers to tackle intricate scientific challenges, strengthen collaboration, and expedite the discovery process. We will also envision the future of this field in the era of cloud-native infrastructures and large language models, emphasizing the crucial role of platform engineering in nurturing the growth and development of the entire scientific community. Lastly, we will provide examples to illustrate the potential appearance of such platforms and discuss the path towards their realization.

TechTalk – Learning Optimal Auctions from Data

The design of optimal auctions for revenue maximization is a central topic in Economics. Classical optimal auction theory assumes that bidders’ values are drawn from a known distribution. In reality, the source of such prior information is really past data. Cole and Roughgarden (2014) modeled past data as i.i.d. samples from the value distribution and asked: How many samples are sufficient/necessary to learn a near optimal auction? This TechTalk will introduce a unified theory that yields sample-efficient algorithms with optimal sample complexity for auctions with homogeneous goods, and state-of-the-art sample complexity for auctions with heterogeneous goods. Unlike conventional statistical learning theory which focuses on the complexity of hypothesis classes, our new theory relies on the simplicity of data distributions and a monotonicity property of these problems.

TechTalk – IoT and Machine Learning for Smart Water Auditing

The Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) is the combination of Artificial intelligence (AI) with the Internet of things (IoT) to enable autonomous decision-making, data analytics, and system optimization. AIoT for smart cities allows the collection of enormous sensor data for a better understanding of the environment, human behaviors, and city operations, which leads to more efficient resource management and promotes a sustainable and healthier society. The Smart Water Auditing project aims to use IoT and machine learning to provide insights into how water is being used in the households of Hong Kong to reduce the consumption of water and raise awareness of people’s water consumption habits. Our talk will present our design workflow, IoT infrastructures, machine learning algorithms, and experimentation for water end-use disaggregation in Hong Kong.

TechTalk – Soils by Design: A Reality, Not A Pipe Dream

Soils are vital for several sectors of the economy: transportation, energy, water, food security, historical heritage. Soils deteriorate over time, in response to cyclic processes (seasonal effects) and extreme events (from heatwaves to heavy rainfall). Mitigation is frequently based on intrusive and heavy engineering solutions. In this Tech Talk, Dr. Sérgio Lourenço will focus on how soil properties can be controlled or tuned as needed. Recent advances which borrow on ideas from allied fields, will be presented, from bioengineering to surfaces and interfaces. The potential of adaptable, sensing and self-healing soils as the way forward, will be discussed.

TechTalk – Rational Approach for Seismic Analysis of Long Underground Tunnels Based on 2.5D Formulation

This lecture presents a rational procedure for the seismic analysis of underground tunnels using recorded free-field earthquakes based on the 2.5D finite/infinite element approach. The near and far fields of the half space are modeled by finite and infinite elements, respectively. Using the 1D wave theory, the nodal force and displacement on the near-field boundary are computed for each spectral frequency of the earthquake. Then, equivalent seismic forces are computed for the near-field boundary for the imposition of earthquake spectrum. By assuming the soil-tunnel system to be uniform along the tunnel axis, the 2.5D approach adopted can duly account for the wave transmission along the tunnel axis, which reduces to the 2D case for infinite transmission velocity. The horizontal and vertical components of the 1999 Chi-Chi Earthquake (TCU068) are adopted as the free-field motions in the numerical analysis. The maximal stresses and distribution patterns of the tunnel section under the P- and SV-waves are thoroughly studied by the 2.5D and 2D approaches, which should prove useful to the design of underground tunnels. Comments on the idea to extend the present approach to include the effect of overlying water, such as the case for the sites below reservoirs, rivers, or sea, will also be pointed out.

TechTalk – The Metaverse Heatwave

It may not be an overstatement that most of us using the internet has heard of metaverse. The term ‘metaverse’ has seen to stir up global hype for business opportunities and fantasy for mankind, if not became the Oxford Word of the Year 2022 – a word reflecting the ethos, mood, or preoccupations, one that has potential of lasting cultural significance. Metaverse describes a virtual reality environment in which users interact with one another’s avatars and their surroundings in an immersive way. We are going to explore what metaverse meant for us, its fantasy and reality, and the development in the current hype. Experience of exploration and creation of the metaverse is shared and lesson learnt, and takeaway is discussed.

TechTalk – Understanding the Turkey-Syria Earthquakes with Methane Gas Refined Fault Theory of Tectonic Earthquakes

At 4:17 am (Turkey time), Feb. 6, 2023, a damaging Mw 7.8 (or 8.0) earthquake struck southern and central Turkey and western Syria and was followed by many aftershocks including an unusually powerful Mw 7.8 (or 7.5) that occurred at 13:24. The earthquakes caused widespread damage including collapsing of many buildings. So far over 11,000 deaths were reported. Figures were projected to rise dramatically by World Health Organization.
In this Teck Talk, Professor Yue will present his understanding of the causes of the earthquakes and the associated building collapses using his methane gas refined fault theory of tectonic earthquakes. Each earthquake involved a rapid release of highly compressed methane gas expansion energy that was previously stored in deep aperture of rock fault zone. The highly compressed gas mass can rapidly expand, rupture, penetrate, and flow from the deep fault zone to shallow ground at a speed of 3 to 1 km/s. The rapid gas flow and expansion in fault rock zone generate massive seismic waves and induce huge concentrated damage to localized grounds and buildings. The earthquake is a cooling process since the gas expansion absorbs heat and cools the surrounding materials in the ground and sky, which can cause local weather changes including the occurrence of air temperature drop-down, rainfall and/or snow.

TechTalk – Adaptable AI-enabled Robots to Create a Vibrant Society – Moonshot R&D Program in Japan –

This talk introduces our Moonshot project which is a project in the National Research and Development (R&D) program in Japan. The Moonshot program promotes high-risk, high-impact R&D aiming to achieve ambitious Moonshot Goals and solve issues facing future society such as super-aging populations. Our project is accepted under the Moonshot Goal 3: Realization of AI robots that autonomously learn, adapt to their environment, evolve in intelligence, and act alongside human beings, by 2050. Our project aims to create adaptable AI-enabled robots available in a variety of places. We are now developing a variety of assistive robots called the Robotic Nimbus which can change their shape and form according to the user’s condition, environment, and the purpose of the task, and provide appropriate assistance to encourage the user to take independent action.