Penn Science Café: Squid Camouflage

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Media Contact:Evan Lerner | | 215-573-6604November 26, 2013

WHO:            Alison Sweeney
                     Assistant Professor of Physics
                     University of Pennsylvania

WHAT:          Penn Science Café talk:
                    “Bio-optics: The Physics of Squid Camouflage”

WHEN:          Tuesday, Dec. 3, 6-7 p.m. 

WHERE:         World Cafe Live Upstairs, 3025 Walnut St.

Alison Sweeney has a Ph.D. in biology, yet is a member of Penn’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. What is a physicist doing studying giant clams and exotic squid? Her research is focused on photonic structures found in these creatures that give them unique and surprising abilities.      

These structures are made out of a protein called reflectin, which creates a kind of biological reflector that different sea creatures use in a variety of ways. Certain squid are able to use reflectin to change the amount of light their bodies reflect as they move into brighter or darker waters, providing them effective camouflage, while giant clams can use these reflectors to direct more sunlight onto the algae they grow on their bodies as a food source.   

Sweeney will talk about her trips around the world searching for and studying these creatures to better understand how their photonic structures work and how they evolved.  

The talk is part of the Penn Science Café, a free public-lecture series presented by the School of Arts and Sciences and the Office of University Communications that takes science scholarship out of the lab for a night on the town. Café events are free and open to the public, but reservations are encouraged and can be made through Gina Bryan at 215-898-8721 or

Menu items will be available for purchase.