Modeling Matter(s)

Modeling Matter(s), Episode 1

Casey Glick: Puns, Asking questions, Microfluidics, Hilbert and Sullivan

Modeling Matter(s) is a podcast that showcases early career researchers and the mental models they use to investigate the world around us.

Casey Glick is a microfluidics expert, perpetrator of puns, and satirical lyricist. In this episode, Casey shares his scientific path from childhood to Caltech to Berkeley to Facebook and his passions for puns, microfluidics and music. In between, we talk about challenges and anxieties associated with scientific writing, how asking questions is the key to getting the most out of courses and working on teams, and the importance of feeling like you belong in following curiosity.

Recording date: 2020.10.15
Release date: 2020.11.08
Guest: Casey Glick
Host: Tess Smidt

Time Index

1:08 - Childhood
1:48 - Family
3:22 - Puns, playfulness, curiosity
5:43 - Writing
9:05 - Comparisons and anxieties
11:16 - Asking questions
14:18 - Story: algebraic topology professor asking questions in a math class
15:25 - Belonging in undergrad and grad
20:43 - Courses (fluid mechanics to music)
22:23 - Story: A Caltech professor is held up to derive the Euler-Lagrange equations
23:59 - Narratives
25:00 - Microfluidics: Introduction
28:13 - Microfluidics: Hoses as an analogy
30:11 - Microfluidics: Applications
33:10 - Microfluidics: Summary of benefits
33:28 - Microfluidics: Manufacturing Overview
35:51 - Microfluidics: The need for 3D circuits
36:10 - Microfluidics: The importance of bond strength
37:27 - Microfluidics: Challenges of interfaces
38:30 - Microfluidics: Casey’s expertise: 3d printed molds
39:03 - Microfluidics: 3D printers
42:22 - Postdoc-ing at Facebook
44:23 - Fundamental research in industry
46:34 - Figure out X
47:46 - What are you actually talking about?
50:54 - Hilbert and Sullivan: Introduction
54:14 - Hilbert and Sullivan: Background on HMS Pinafore
56:00 - Hilbert and Sullivan: “When I was a grad”
60:00 - Hilbert and Sullivan: Summary
61:10 - Wrap-up!

Casey’s email:

Notes from Casey

Some of the truly astounding sub-micron results from two-photon stereolithography from Nanoscribe. They’ve gotten better than they were last time I checked, too.

Although I didn’t mention his name during the podcast, I wanted to take a moment to talk about John Lutian (1954 - 2019), who I worked with during my time at Facebook Reality Labs, and who was my first friend there. John was consistently a quick-witted and kind man, whose engineering work showed incredible attention to detail, and who took time to learn and care for those around him. We ate lunch together nearly daily, he would share stories with me about his time working on merchant ships, and about his adventures cycling (at 65 years old, he was more intense than I will ever be). He will be, and he is, missed.


The original Unger paper on layered microfluidic valves (open access): My paper on 3D molding (open access):

When I was a grad

Video from “An evening with Hilbert and Sullivan” concert:

Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan (1878)
Words by Casey Glick (December 2011)

Inspired by original lyrics from HMS Pinafore by William S. Gilbert (“When I was a lad”)

When I was a grad, I worked a year
Keeping Social Hour stocked with beer.
My weekly emails set the mood
With promises of alcohol and of free food.

The drinking went so splendidly,
That now I’m a professor with a PhD

The beer I did so well supply
That soon I was promoted to a GSI
My teaching post I so abhorred
I mumbled all my lectures right into the board.

The blackboard learned so well, you see,
That now I’m a professor with a PhD.

My teaching caused such wide dismay
The college elevated me to head TA.
I made sets due the day of the exam
And scheduled all the lectures right at 8 AM.

The students so despised me
That now I’m a professor with a PhD.

So many students dropped en masse
That I rewrote the textbook for the intro class
I imitated Jackson’s style
And obfuscated points I knew were most worthwhile

My book it so lacked clarity
That now I’m a professor with a PhD

In writing texts I proved such a force
That I was made reviewer for a funding source.
I funded those who’d cite my book
Rejecting other grants without a second look.

Those grants they so well cited me
That now I’m a professor with a PhD

Now students all, your fears allay,
If your heart is set on heading up a lab some day
Just listen to my simple scheme
And graduate with honors and your self-esteem

Just answer with: “It’s trivial to see”
And you all may be professors with a PhD