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Welcome to UT Mic/Nite!

Next Event:
Thurs, April 7, 2022

Social Hour: 5:30pm
Program: 6:30pm
Location: Relix Variety Theatre


Patrick Grzanka,
Mic/Nite Coordinator


Twice a year, the Office of the Provost hosts Mic/Nite, a “Pecha-Kucha Powered” social gathering designed to enhance the intellectual, interdisciplinary, and cultural life of the faculty and staff at UT Knoxville.

One of the challenges in a large university community is working across the silos that often separate disciplines. Mic/Nite offers an opportunity to build bridges and foster a deeper appreciation of the many facets of a large, comprehensive university. Presentations offer a cross section of the intellectual life of UT Knoxville and provide an opportunity for social interaction among faculty and staff who may not otherwise have the opportunity to interact with each other.

For the Event:

We remind our guests that UT Mic/Nite is an event for UT faculty and staff and is not open to students or the general public. [Partners are welcome.] Relix Variety Theatre is located at 1208 N Central St, Knoxville, TN 37917. Parking is available behind the venue on Anderson Avenue and on surrounding streets. Covid-19 Precautions: Event staff will be masked, and UT Guidance on masks (wear a mask when not eating or drinking) will be followed.

Free pizza and a cash bar are available.


What is Pecha-Kucha?

Pecha-Kucha is a simple presentation format that features twenty images displayed for twenty seconds each. The images automatically forward as the presenter talks. To learn more, visit the Pecha-Kucha FAQ. Samples are posted on the Pecha-Kucha Presentations page.

The format originated in Tokyo, Japan. It was first introduced in 2003 and has spread to more than 400 cities around the world. The format allows presenters to depict and describe everything from urban design or economic theory to a series of photographs. Mic/Nite is held in cooperation with PechaKucha Night Knoxville, which was started in 2011 to encourage intellectual and cultural dialogue. Mic/Nites are special interdisciplinary events that facilitate dialogue between university faculty and staff by showcasing the academic pursuits of the campus.

Explore Pecha Kucha events from around the world: PechaKucha 20×20 – Official Site | PechaKucha 20×20 – Knoxville | PechaKucha 20×20 – FAQ


Fall 2021 Presentation Topics

Restoring What Is Lost: Regeneration Made Possible Through Biomedical Technology

David E. Anderson, DVM, MS, DACVS, Associate Dean; Research & Graduate Studies  

Musculoskeletal injuries are physically, emotionally, psychologically, and financially devastating. Injuries leading to permanent loss of function or loss of limb result in dramatic changes in quality of life. Military personnel suffer catastrophic injuries on the battlefield, and people suffer similar injuries in auto accidents and as a result of disease, cancer, and infection. Approximately 2 million Americans currently live with amputations and the number grows year after year. Although a variety of increasingly sophisticated assistive devices have been developed, prosthetics (exo-, endo-, hybrid; and passive, motorized, or integrated prosthetics) continue to be associated with user discomfort and debility that limit the extent to which the patient can return to normal form and function. Our goal is to create innovations in biomedical technology to solve complex problems so that injured soldiers can return to duty or normal life with little to no adverse effects. We are tackling these grand challenges with the hope to implement solutions by 2030.

Watch David E. Anderson’s presentation

The Art of the Ampersand

Robert Heller, Board of Visitors Professor; College of Communications & Information 


OK, I admit it. I have an ampersand fetish. I’ve tried therapy, but to no avail. I am hopelessly in love with this wonderful symbol. I use it whenever possible in my designs. I’m constantly proclaiming its beauty and value. Why the ampersand? Mostly, it’s just a more interesting visual form of a plain word.

The history of the ampersand is disputed and I won’t go into it here. The word ampersand itself has a delightful origin. It has been suggested that it’s the result of English schoolchildren reciting their ABCs. It was the custom to precede any letter which could be a word itself (“a” or “I” or sometimes “o”) with the Latin phrase “per se,” meaning “by itself.” As the ampersand was included in the recitation of letters, coming at the end of the alphabet (X, Y, Z,&), the children would conclude with “and per se and.” This eventually evolved into our word “ampersand.”

Watch Robert Heller’s presentation

The Future of State Funding for Public Higher Education

Robert Kelchen, Professor & Department Head; Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Public colleges and universities are at a crossroads as political, financial, and societal pressures continue to rise. As public trust in higher education erodes, state funding is increasingly perilous in much of the country. In this talk, I will discuss how and why states financially support colleges, the effects of attempts to hold colleges accountable for student outcomes, and where trends will likely head over the next decade.

Watch Robert Kelchen’s presentation

Why Livestreamers Should Sell Their Products with a Poker Face – Not a Smile

Neeraj Bharadwaj, Professor of Marketing; Haslam College of Business

camera recording speaker on stage

Proclamations abound salespeople should sell with a smile. We evaluate this claim by applying machine learning to analyze the facial expressions of salespeople selling a product over live video—also known as livestream retailing. After evaluating 99,541 livestream sales pitches (each lasting between five to ten minutes) and matching those to actual sales transactions, we conclude that livestreamers who are smiling while selling a product decrease their volume of sales. Specifically, the negative impact of facial expressions tends to be greatest in the middle of the sales pitch (when customers are contemplating whether to buy the item and likely to become side-tracked by smiling and other emotional displays) than at the beginning (where customers expect a greeting) or at the end (where customers expect a smile during the closing of the sale). Our research thereby challenges the received view and replaces it with a new maxim: sell with a poker face.

Watch Neeraj Bharadwaj’s presentation

Exploring the Linguistic & Nonlinguistic Outcomes of Short-term Study Abroad

Bernard Issa, Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics

In the past three decades, within the field of Second Language Acquisition, there has been a growing interest in better understanding how studying abroad affects learners’ linguistic and nonlinguistic development. Such immersion experiences afford learners unique opportunities to engage in interaction with native speakers. This type of interaction is thought to be crucial for learner development as it can result in rich and authentic language practice as well as participation in novel interpersonal communicative situations. In recent years, short-term programs (< 8 weeks) have become the most popular option for university students in the U.S., resulting in a call for further research on the benefits of these programs. In this presentation, I will discuss findings from two projects that focus on short-term study abroad learners and examine the development of their linguistic (oral production, global proficiency, comprehension skills) and nonlinguistic outcomes (perceived cognitive flexibility and adaptability) during study abroad.

Watch Bernard Issa’s presentation

The Physics of Immune Cells

Steve Abel, Associate Professor; Tickle College of Engineering

One of the central problems in immunology involves molecular recognition at cell-cell interfaces. T cells and B cells directly engage other cells, and fascinating recent experiments have revealed that mechanical forces regulate how they identify molecular signatures of pathogens. However, theoretical and computational approaches have lagged behind experiments in this rapidly growing field of immunology. Such approaches are needed to understand the collective, multiscale processes that regulate immune-cell activation. We discuss our development of mathematical, physics-based models that we use to investigate the role of forces in cellular immunology. Our results suggest that immune cells actively generate forces to enhance their ability to distinguish between “self” and “foreign” molecules. We propose a framework of mechanical feedback to unify our findings and highlight open questions in immunology that theoretical approaches can help to address.

Watch Steve Abel’s presentation

How Matter Becomes Complex: The Intellectual Challenge of Materials Discovery

David Mandrus, Professor; Tickle College of Engineering


Although materials discovery is an important driver of both scientific and technological progress, the conceptual process by which new materials are discovered is rarely discussed. In this talk, I will try to remedy this situation and will discuss strategies for finding increasingly complex new materials that challenge our physical understanding. I will also discuss the role of theory in this process, stressing that new materials can be regarded as a playground for testing new theoretical ideas. I will also discuss recent developments, such as the increasing use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to engineer materials. Lastly, I will argue that there will always be a role for exploratory synthesis and serendipity in the discovery of new materials.

Watch David Mandrus’ presentation

Ancient African Pastoralism: New Views Through Archaeological Science

Anneke Janzen, Assistant Professor; Department of Anthropology

Cows and a little girl in Africa

Today, populations herding domestic livestock are found in nearly every part of the African continent: from specialized camel herders in the Sahara to groups that farm and also keep sheep and goats. The development of food production in Africa followed a different trajectory than other parts of the world, with herding (pastoralism) appearing long before sedentary agriculture. The diversity of herding practices of modern pastoralists raises questions about how early herders managed animals and how they used the landscape before the arrival of agriculture, and how herding practices differed in the varying social and ecological contexts across the continent. Stable isotope analysis of archaeological livestock records the chemical signatures of animal diets, and can indicate the environments in which herding took hold in different parts of the continent, management strategies of pastoralists, and their mobility patterns. I use these methods to identify the herding practices of East Africa’s earliest pastoralists.

Extraordinary Methods in Design

Maged Guerguis, Assistant Professor; College of Architecture & Design

Current construction techniques rely on subtractive methods that produce significant material waste, which, in turn, has a negative impact on the environment and the economy. In contrast, Additive Manufacturing (AM) or 3d printing has the potential to eliminate construction waste and offers innovative, safer, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable alternatives. Soft Boundaries is a multidisciplinary research lab investigating the intersections of architecture, engineering, and sciences such as Biology, Biochemistry, and Robotics. In this framework, this talk features designs inspired by biomimetic principles found in nature ranging from product design to full-scale high-performance construction systems. This work can be considered the first step toward a novel, fully integrated approach to design driven by material economy and has the potential to revolutionize the current manufacturing and construction practices.

Watch Maged Guerguis’ presentation

Grounding Wakanda: Maroons and the Plotting of Black Atlantic Geographies of Freedom

Alex A. Moulton, Assistant Professor; Department of Sociology

The 2018 American superhero film, Black Panther, based on the Marvel Comicscharacter of the same name, was a blockbuster. The relationship between T’Challa and Erik was among the most generative for critical engagement with the politics of Black life. Yet much of the attention to T’Challa and Erik, and the extent to which they embody the figure of the ‘Black Avenger’ miss the historical geographies, political economy, and resource conflicts of the real-life Maroons. This presentation foregrounds the politics of freedom, Black racial unity, colonial regimes of power and capitalist development highlighted by the film in Jamaican Maroon communities. These communities of escaped enslaved and free Blacks emerged in the colonial Atlantic world and instantiated sites of Black autonomy and fundamentally shaped the trajectory of political, economic, and social development of Jamaica. As with the problematization of a Black utopia in the film, the formation and maintenance of Maroon communities of freedom challenge simplistic conceptions of Black kinship, negotiation of power, and racial violence.

Watch Alex A. Moulton’s presentation

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