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THE DOWNLOAD: Star Wars Versus Research, Explaining Research

By Cody Kitaura/Dateline on February 21, 2017 in University

SCInema flier.Don't tell the First Order, but science doesn't back up the blasters used in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. A laser expert in the Department of Chemistry will speak this weekend before a screening of the 2015 film, explaining how lasers work in the real world and how they're used for research.

The free event, 4 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 25) in Rock Hall, is part of the department's SCInema series, where films are paired with experts to discuss the science and technology depicted in them. 

Kyle Crabtree, an assistant professor in chemistry, works in the field of astrochemistry, studying the chemistry that takes place in space and in exoplanetary atmospheres. He places chemicals under space-like conditions in a vacuum chamber, and uses laser and microwave techniques to observe their behavior in these extreme environments. He also contends that Star Wars'  lightsabers and blasters "aren't lasers."

Those who want to attend (knowledge of kyber crystals and other inner workings of lightsabers not required) are asked to RSVP online.

Our slammin’ research, in 3 minutes or less!

Glad Slam logo

UC Davis is about to hit a Grad Slam … that’s right, a “Grad” Slam, the annual competition in which master’s and Ph.D. students explain their research in three minutes or less! The UC Davis qualifying round is set for next Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Activities and Recreation Center (Ballroom B and Meeting Room 1).

Faculty, staff and students are invited to attend, free of charge. Drop in any time during the day, stay as long as you can!

Graduate Studies sponsors the competition, and received more than 80 entries, more than double last year’s field. The students are tasked with explaining their research to a general audience — and maintaining their interest. Subjects range from the hard sciences to the humanities.

Faculty and staff volunteers will serve as judges. They’ll pick 10 presenters to advance to the final round at UC Davis, scheduled from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday, April 14, at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art.

The finalists will vie for prizes of $1,000 for first place, $500 for second and $250 for third — and the first-place winner will advance to the UC Grad Slam, where the top prize is $5,000.

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About the author(s)

Cody Kitaura/Dateline Cody Kitaura is a content provider and strategist with Strategic Communications at UC Davis. He can be reached at 530-752-1932 or