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Spectrum Lectures

The Spectrum Lecture Series is a science-oriented lecture series aimed at a non-scientific audience. Typically, there are three to four lectures per academic year on a variety of science topics, which will be posted on this webpage as details become available.

Upcoming Lectures

Date and time: Monday, April 24, 2023, 4:30 p.m.
Location: Bioscience Education Center Building – Room BE 151 – 152, Montgomery College, Germantown, MD
Speaker: Mark Sankey, Principal, Mark R. Sankey & Associate, LLC

Sustainability is a subject capturing much attention. What is “sustainability?” Technology and its impacts are accelerating and many people work earnestly to help us keep pace. Ongoing concerns over natural disasters and the climate have stirred action. What are the issues and what can we do? Since the industrial revolution, we have been dealing with the social and environmental ramifications of our creations and industries. We want our stuff but what is the real cost, the total cost? We live in an industrialized world dependent on electric energy. How do we balance our lifestyles with the desire to maintain the beauty of the world around us? We will take a brief look at how we got here. And then we will see where we are and what better steps we can take locally, nationally, and globally. 

Mark Sankey grew up through the 60’s and 70’s amid increasing environmental awareness. After gaining a Chemical Engineering he landed with an industrial air pollution control company, Research-Cottrell. That began a 40-year journey in marketing and project work leading him to Bechtel in 2005. He has spent time at plants under construction as a project manager and as an engineering specialist, and operated alongside VPs, project directors, lawyers, and welders and electrical subcontractors. While with Bechtel, opportunity with Engineers Without Borders provided two trips to Uganda to develop water supplies for villages. After retirement in 2015, international exposure continued as Mark pursued energy and environmental consulting work in Uganda. He has served on an ASME committee on energy, environment, and waste during their review of proposed EPA policies. Mark has presented papers at Air & Waste Management Association and other industry conferences, and is published in trade journals including Power Engineering, He is a current member of the Frederick County Sustainability Commission. He advocates for electric supply reliability and sound energy and environmental policy.  

As always, Spectrum Lectures are appropriate for a general audience and admission is free.  No tickets are required.  For questions or to request accommodations for physical disability, please contact Rick Pires at or 240-567-7798.

More information about Spectrum Lectures

Previous Lectures

Thursday, February 27, 2020, 4:30 p.m.
BE151, Germantown Campus
Dr. Cristina Rabadán-Diehl
Associate Director, Westat

This lecture is intended to inspire individuals interested in science to consider nontraditional and alternative career paths.

Spectrum Lecture February 27, 2020 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019, 4:30 p.m.
BE-151, BE Building

Lauren Canary
National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable
Washington DC

Spectrum Lecture November 20, 2019 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 4:30 p.m.
BE-151, BE Building

Dr. Joshua Levin is Associate Director, Manufacturing Quality at Personal Genome Diagnostics, Inc. The purpose of his discussion is to describe how DNA sequencing is being used as a diagnostic tool for cancer, and the technologies developments that made this possible.
Spectrum Lecture February 27, 2019 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 4:30 p.m.
BE-151, BE-Building

Dr. James Sniezek is the Instructional Dean for the Chemical and Biological Sciences united and is based at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus. He worked on organisms from the hydrothermal vents for his Master of Science degree and , for his part of his Doctorate Degree, investigated and described protozoa that live on whales. For his post-doctoral, he researched at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, studying the Production Estimates of Planktonic Ciliates in the Rhode River by Community, Trophic Category, and Specific Species.
Spectrum Lecture Nov 14, 2018 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

 Tuesday, April 24, 2018 at 4:30 p.m.
 BE-151, BE-Building
Dr. Travis Gallagher is a scientist in the Bio-molecular Structure and Function Group at the institute for Bio-science and Biotechnology Research at NIST. He will discuss how knowing the structure of a protein can help explain what that protein does.
Spectrum Lecture April 24, 2018 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 4:00 p.m.
BE-151, BE-Building

Dr. Avi Mandell is a scientist in the Planetary System Laboratory, his research focuses on the characterization of extra-solar planets and the formation and evolution of planetary systems. He works on analyzing observations of transiting and directly imaged exoplanets and circumstellar disks.
Spectrum Lecture Nov 8, 2017 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.
BE-151, BE-Building

Dr. Andy Podolsky holds a Ph.D. in Colonial American history from Northwestern University. He will share his knowledge about wombats, his experience supporting their conservation, and most importantly what can be done to prevent the Northern Hairy-Nosed wombat from going extinct.
Spectrum Lecture Oct 11, 2017 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

Thursday, March 30, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.
Globe Ball, HT-Building

Dr. Melissa Phillips is a research chemist in the Chemical Sciences Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology since 2008. She will discuss the research of developing standards to assess the nutritional content and labeling accuracy of food products.
Spectrum Lecture March 30, 2017 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

Thursday, February 22, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.
BE-151, BE-Building

Dr. Armen Ghazarian is a program director in the Environmental Epidemiology Branch of the Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program. He will discuss the overview of epidemiology of testicular cancer and provide insight of what might be the cause of the increase in incidence in the US.
Spectrum Lecture February 22, 2017 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 12:00 p.m.
BE-151, BE-Building

Matthew Staymates is a mechanical engineer and fluid dynamicist, he has worked at NIST for over 10 years. During the discussion, he will expand on the large research program at NIST that is focusing on the measurement challenges associated with trace contraband detection and forensic science.
Spectrum Lecture February 15, 2017 (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

History of the Spectrum Lecture Series

In an effort to expose students of Montgomery College to aspects of science not typically covered in first and second year college-level science courses and to serve as a source of science information to the general community, Dr. Robert Coley organized the first of what would become an ongoing series of lectures called the Spectrum Lecture Series.  The name Spectrum Lecture Series was chosen because it was hoped that the lectures would cover the entire range, or spectrum, of scientific endeavor, extending beyond the basic sciences taught at the College.

The first series of lectures was held during the 1980-81 academic year.  Professor Coley chose a single topic, energy, and built a series of nine lectures, all of which looked at different aspects of energy.  The inaugural lecture was presented by a faculty member from Johns Hopkins University who gave an overview of the earth’s energy resources.  This was followed by lectures dealing with fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and alternative sources of energy.  There was also a lecture on the geopolitics of energy and another on saving energy in the home.

Nine lectures per year proved to be too large a burden to carry, so in subsequent years, Professor Coley reduced the number of lectures, finally settling on the present day four lectures per academic year.  He also abandoned the idea of having a year-long focus on one particular topic.  Rather, each year’s series consisted of an eclectic mix of topics.  Some lectures were about things that were of current interest and “in the news,” hot topics such as superconductivity, AIDS, the Hubble Space Telescope, polar sea ice melting, nuclear waster disposal and nanotechnology, but most of the lectures dealt with things of general interest in an attempt to show the importance and relevance of science in our lives.  Lecture topics truly covered the “spectrum” of science.  There were lectures dealing with topics as diverse as animal communication, design of the new generation of nuclear reactors, bioremediation or the use of bacteria to clean up chemical wastes in the environment, the use of chemistry in art conservation and analysis, and the golden lion tamarind project of the National Zoo.  Other lectures dealt with the designing of drugs to treat disease, animal cloning, fuel cells, bioethics, and anthrax and other biological weapons of mass destruction.  Recently, the lecture series has even been touched by the Nobel Prize.  One of our lecturers, Dr. William Phillips, a physicist from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), presented a fascinating lecture on his Nobel Prize winning research in the use of laser light to cool and trap atoms.  Students were able to see and touch an actual Nobel Prize medal when Dr. Robert Shull, also from NIST and who presented a lecture on nanotechnology, brought in the medal won by his father, Clifford Shull, in 1993.

In 2005, one year before Dr. Coley’s retirement, Professor Susan Bontems, another chemistry faculty member at Germantown, assumed the role of coordinator of the Spectrum Lecture Series.  Her efforts have maintained the variety and the quality of the Spectrum Lectures. Since 2014, the Series has been coordinated jointly by Professor Margaret Birney and Professor Richard Pires.

When it began in 1980, the Spectrum Lecture Series was one of only a very few venues for extracurricular lectures in the whole of Montgomery College.  Today, there are many lectures presented by many departments throughout the College.  When it began, lectures were held in a 95-seat lecture hall, and a good crowd numbered from 25 to 30 attendees.  Today the lectures are held in Globe Hall, a 500-seat facility, and they typically draw several hundred students, faculty members and members of the community.  It is hoped that the Spectrum Lecture Series will continue to provide quality science lectures to the campus, the College, and the community for many years to come.