Frugal Science: A Physicist View on Tackling Global Health, Climate Change and Democratization of Science

Speaker Name/Affiliation
Manu Prakash, Stanford University
Seminar Type
Seminar Type Other
Boulder School for Condensed Matter and Materials Physics Public Seminar
Location (Room)
Duane Physics Room G1B20
Event Details & Abstracts

Abstract: Science faces an accessibility challenge. Although information/knowledge is fast becoming available to everyone around the world, the experience of science is significantly limited. One approach to solving this challenge is to democratize access to scientific tools. We believe this can be achieved via “Frugal science”; a philosophy that inspires design, development and deployment of ultra-affordable yet powerful scientific tools for the masses. Using direct examples linking soft-matter physics as an inspiration for solutions to societal challenges - we will walk through problems in the domain of global health, climate change and science education. We will show how a trick from Astronomy inspires a new malaria diagnostics. How understanding micro-scale hydrodynamics of a human parasite enables us to mitigate spread of Schistosomiasis. How understanding percolation in entangled networks enables production of bio-degradable menstrual pads. Or understanding the rheology of marine snow enables us to better estimate carbon capture in our vast oceans. And how origami inspired manufacturing techniques can bring access to microscopy to millions of kids around the world. By connecting the dots between science education, ecological monitoring and global health, we will explore the role of “simple” tools in advancing access to better planetary health in a resource limited world.

Manu Prakash is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University spanning the schools of engineering, medicine, and sustainability. He runs a curiosity-driven lab at Stanford combining his passion for basic science while also inventing ultra-affordable and accessible technologies. His numerous inventions include Foldscope (a one-dollar origami microscope), Paperfuge (a 20-cent centrifuge), Abuzz (a cellphone app for identifying mosquitoes) and Octopi (a malaria diagnostics tool). Manu grew up in India and got his PhD from MIT, was a Junior Fellow at Harvard Society of Fellows and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow.

Sponsored by the Boulder School for Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, the National Science Foundation, and the University of Colorado Boulder Physics Dept. For more information visit