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Upcoming Events


Tickets are free but limited—online reservations are required. 
Please join the e-mail list to receive announcements when reservations open 1 week prior to each event.


Gaming, learning, society

» Kurt Squire, UCI

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

From fruit flies to new treatment strategies for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, a journey

New treatment strategies inevitably are inevitably founded upon decades of fundamental, curiosity-driven research and sometimes come from unexpected places. I will describe how our studies of cell migration in fruit flies have led us to an explanation for a previously mysterious human immunodeficiency and a novel cellular immunotherapy. I will also describe how these studies led us to a novel gene therapy for blindness and possibly other neurodegenerative diseases.

» Denise Montell, NAS Member, University of California, Santa Barbara

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/525002946947

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The chemistry of wildfire smoke in wine

The wine industry has been notably impacted by the increasing severity of wildfires due to changes in global climates! Wine grapes are vulnerable to wildfires in a way that does not impact other crops. Upon exposure to smoke from wildfires, wine grapes can often acquire ‘smoky’, ‘campfire’, ‘ashy’, or ‘rubbery’ flavor and aroma characteristics that are not desired by winemakers and consumers. It has been known that the presence of high concentrations of guaiacol, syringol, and cresols that get into the wine through the grape skins can be attributed to smoke exposure, but sensory studies show that mixtures of those compounds do not impart the flavor and aroma associated with smoke-exposed wine. Our studies reveal a new class of compounds, thiophenols, in combination with smoke phenols causing the aroma and flavor attributes of smoke-impacted wines. The new compounds give us new avenues of testing for potentially smoke impacted wines and new chemical targets for amelioration!

» Cole Cerrato, Oregon State University

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

In conjunction with the 2023 Ryan Initiative for Macular Research Conference: Uncovering the unseen using artificial intelligence in ophthalmology

This lecture will focus on the recent advances made in artificial intelligence, specifically deep learning and how the translation of that technology stands to revolutionize both vision science research and the practice of ophthalmology forever. We have specifically been focused on the application of AI techniques to quantify and understand ophthalmic diseases and understand how the eye can be used as a window to the rest of the human body.

» Aaron Y Lee, MD MSCI, Associate Professor in Ophthalmology, C. Dan and Irene Hunter Endowed Professorship University of Washington

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

2023 Seymour Benzer/Sydney Brenner Lecture: Social Behavior: How Animals Interact

» Lauren O’Connell, New York Stem Cell Foundation, Stanford University

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

How genes determine our quality of sleep

» Ketema Paul, University of California, Los Angeles

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Regulation of romantic love

Love feelings may be less or more intense than desired, such as in long-term relationships and during heartbreak. Therefore, it might be advantageous to regulate love feelings. Love regulation entails increasing or decreasing the intensity of current feelings of romantic love using behavioral or cognitive strategies. Some people think that love regulation is undesirable, difficult, or even impossible. Nevertheless, self-report and electrophysiological data from several studies have revealed that love up-regulation can be used to increase love feelings for long-term partners and that love down-regulation can be used to decrease love feelings for an ex-partner. In short, love up-regulation could reduce the incidence of break-ups and divorces due to declining love feelings and love down-regulation could reduce heartbreak.

» Sandra Langeslag, University of Missouri, St. Louis

Recent Events

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Seymour Benzer/Sydney Brenner Lecture

Active Genetics Comes Alive: A Journey from Evo-Devo to CRISPR Gene Drives

In 2014 in an attempt to solve a basic research problem for my Ph.D. thesis project, I used CRISPR to develop a novel genetic element that bypassed the fundamental rules of traditional genetics. Such a genetic element could actively promote its propagation from a transgenic chromosome to its companion unaltered one. When this process occurs in the germline of an individual, the “Active” element can be inherited in a super-Mendelian fashion, promoting the preferential transmission of the element to the progeny, a process known as gene drive. Such selfish genetic entities offer a variety of potential applications including gene-drive strategies to disseminate payload genes that confer desired traits throughout insect populations for the purpose of controlling disease vectors or pest species, allelic drives biasing inheritance of preferred allelic variants, neutralizing genetic elements to delete and replace or to halt the spread of gene-drives, split-drives with the core constituent Cas9 endonuclease and guide RNA components inserted at separate genomic locations to accelerate the assembly of complex arrays of genetic traits, and inter-homolog based copying systems in somatic cells to develop tools for treating inherited or infectious diseases. Here, I summarize the substantial advances that have been made on all of these fronts since the generation of the very first CRISPR gene drive.

» Valentino Gantz, Senior Scientist at IconOVir Bio

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Why are monarch butterflies declining?

Declines in the abundance and diversity of insects pose a substantial threat to terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. Yet, identifying the causes of these declines has proved difficult, even for well-studied species like monarch butterflies, whose eastern North American population has decreased markedly over the last three decades. Three hypotheses have been proposed to explain the changes observed in the eastern monarch population: loss of milkweed host plants from increased herbicide use, mortality during autumn migration and/or early-winter resettlement and changes in breeding-season climate. We use a hierarchical modelling approach, combining data from >18,000 systematic surveys to evaluate support for each of these hypotheses over a 25-yr period. Between 2004 and 2018, breeding-season weather was nearly seven times more important than other factors in explaining variation in summer population size, which was positively associated with the size of the subsequent overwintering population. Although data limitations prevent definitive evaluation of the factors governing population size between 1994 and 2003 (the period of the steepest monarch decline coinciding with a widespread increase in herbicide use), breeding-season weather was similarly identified as an important driver of monarch population size. If observed changes in spring and summer climate continue, portions of the current breeding range may become inhospitable for monarchs. Our results highlight the increasingly important contribution of a changing climate to insect declines.

» Elise Zipkin, Michigan State University

Wednesday November 16, 2022

Understanding and addressing urban flood risk with simulation models

Flooding disasters in the U.S. are on the rise and concentrated in cities. The combined effects of hardened land surfaces, more intense storms, and reliance on aging and undersized infrastructure for protection has resulted in severe flooding that is disrupting millions of lives and causing tens of billions of dollars in losses every year. Here we present an innovative modeling framework that aims to inclusively understand and equitably address flooding alongside other urban challenges impacted by flood infrastructure design, maintenance and operation. Using the Los Angeles Metropolitan Region as a case study, where severe flooding that overwhelms infrastructure is possible from a major atmospheric river event, we present an application of the model to characterize the scale and inequity of flood exposure and to identify and understand flood vulnerabilities. This reveals flood risks that are vastly different from what has previously been mapped by FEMA, and disproportionate exposure by racial and ethnic groups in line with recent nationwide modeling. The scale and inequity of exposure calls for major investments in infrastructure here and across the U.S., which represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset the social ecology of cities.  Hence, we will also showcase a vision for how the framework can be used to develop regional adaptation plans and pathways of infrastructure investment.

» Brett F. Sanders, University of California, Irvine

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Ancient Tsunami Deposits and the Lives they Save

A chance find made during underwater archaeological excavations nearly twenty years ago exposed the first preserved physical evidence for a tsunami event at the ancient Roman harbor of Caesarea Maritima, located in the Eastern Mediterranean along the Israeli coastline. Since then, efforts to further explore the extent and nature of these particular deposits, coupled with a series of tragic modern tsunami events, has resulted in an extensive body of research documenting multiple tsunami landfalls in the eastern Mediterranean over the past few thousand years. While not a daily occurrence, the evidence suggests that some of them were large enough and often enough to leave an indelible mark on both the physical and social landscapes of the region. During this presentation, examples from some of the most intriguing, and sometimes mystifying evidence put forward will be shared, including the most recent breakthroughs related to the Thera (Santorini) volcanic eruption and tsunamis that occurred in the Bronze Age. The identification of these ancient deposits has been central to the establishment of new disaster management policies and emergency response preparation in Israel, and also contributed to developing Hazard reduction programs in other parts of the Mediterranean.

» Beverly Goodman, University of Haifa

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Designing Catalysts that Use Green Electricity to Convert Carbon Dioxide into Useful Chemicals and Fuels

Green electricity generated from renewable energy is one of the fastest growing sources of electrical power around the world. In the United States, solar and wind energy make up over 10% of electricity generation comes from solar and wind energy, and this percentage is expected to increase in coming years. However, our increased reliance on intermittent energy sources raises a significant technological challenge: how do we store energy generated during peak production so that we can use it when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing? Existing storage solutions like pumped hydrostorage and battery technologies have been used to meet this challenge up until now, but a novel and promising alternative solution is to harness green electricity to convert carbon dioxide and water into useful chemicals and fuels—e.g. “solar fuels.” To generate these solar fuels efficiently with minimal waste energy, catalysts are needed to activate the reactants and lower the energy barriers to drive the reactions. This lecture will explore some of the fundamental scientific principles behind catalysis, and discuss some of the ways researchers around the world are approaching catalyst design for solar fuels generation from renewable electricity.

» Charles C. L. McCrory, University of Michigan

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Webb Telescope: Twenty Years in the Making but Worth the Wait!

Christmas morning brought a treat to astronomers as the successful launch of the Webb Telescope opened a new era of discovery. The mission went through a six-month period of deploying the sun shield, aligning the telescope segments, and checking the functionality of the science instruments. The data collected during commissioning gave hints at this telescope's power, and now with the first observing programs receiving data, we are just beginning to appreciate what this telescope and its cameras and spectrometers can do.

» Marcia J. Rieke, The University of Arizona

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Modelling genetics of human disease susceptibility - Online Zoom Event

As host genetics plays a significant role in pathogenic disease susceptibility, infection and treatment success, preclinical models that reflect human genetic variation are crucial for predicting disease course and developing precision therapies. Inbred mice have been only modestly successful in modelling widely divergent clinical outcomes in human disease, due to their limited genetic background. As an example, patterns have emerged regarding age, sex and comorbidities contributing to COVID-19 disease susceptibility, yet it is clear that as-yet unknown genetic factors also play a significant role, affecting variable disease course and treatment success that is not effectively modelled in single inbred mouse strains. To investigate why many people with COVID-19 remain asymptomatic, while others have severe, even lethal illness, we exploited interbred panels of mouse strains offering allelic diversity that mimics human genetic variation with the requisite statistical power and resolution for dissecting complex traits. These panels display a correspondingly wide range of COVID-19 responses. Continuing analysis is already uncovering intriguing pathways contributing to variable illness in mice and humans, yielding greater insight into the genetic architecture underlying COVID-19 disease risk and progression. Mouse diversity resources combined with gene editing offer exciting prospects for creating a future of predictive biology for individualized disease prevention and treatment.

» Nadia Rosenthal, PhD FMedSCi, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor ME, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London

Thursday, July 7, 2022 - 7:30 PM PDT

Battery technology to enable the widespread adoption of EVs

Internal combustion engines revolutionized transportation and advanced civilization in ways that were unimaginable at the turn of the twentieth century. Currently, however, owing to depleting fossil fuels and impacts on the climate, there is an urgent need to electrify transportation. It is generally accepted that achieving the widespread adoption of EVs requires batteries with higher energy density and lower cost, use sustainable materials, and exhibit improved safety compared to state-of-the-art (SOA) Li-ion technology. Moreover, as the rate of EV adoption increases, there is further motivation and urgency to augment the electrical grid capacity, which also benefits from improved batteries though not necessary the same batteries used in EVs. A typical battery consists of three components: an anode (negatively charged electrode), cathode, (positively charged electrode), and an electrolyte that provides the transport of Li ions. It follows that increasing battery performance involves approaches to improve the performance of these three components. Historically, the fields of materials science, chemical engineering, and chemistry work in concert to develop electrodes that have higher Li ion capacities and electrolytes that provide sufficient transport of Li ions while minimizing unintended side reactions that cause degradation. Though tremendous progress has been made in achieving the performance and affordability of SOA Li ion, pushing the frontier of battery technology to accelerate the adoption of EVs requires breakthroughs in battery research. This seminar described how SOA Li ion technology works and the related challenges in the near future. Looking toward the future, this presentation also discussed advanced cell chemistries that beyond SOA Li ion technology.

» Jeff Sakamoto, University of Michigan

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

When the Last Campsite Fills: Allocation of Outdoor Recreation in an Age of Extreme Scarcity - Online Zoom Event

Surging outdoor recreation demand during the COVID-19 pandemic exposed cracks in the allocation infrastructure for outdoor recreation across the U.S. For avid or even occasional campers, who comprise two thirds of North American residents, scarcities in campsite supply were revealed which paled in comparison to demand. According to Recreation.gov, those trying to reserve a spot for a specific date in a popular federally-managed campground now have an approximate 0.3% chance of success. This lecture will explore the results of a recent study which used big data to understand the unintended inequities in outdoor recreation access resulting from the allocation strategies employed to manage increased demand, including a discussion of environmental justice and proposed solutions.

» Will Rice, PhD, Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation and Wildland Management, Parks, Tourism, & Recreation Management Program, Department of Society & Conservation, W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation, University of Montana

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Curiosity to Explore and the Perseverance to Rove: A Decade of Discoveries on Mars

The exploration of Mars has taken us from ‘Follow the Water’ with the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, to ‘Follow the Carbon’ with the Curiosity rover. We now accept the challenge to ‘Follow the Life’ with the grand search for ancient life on Mars through the Perseverance rover mission and the Mars Sample Return program. This lecture explored the foundational discoveries and ongoing exploration of Mars with NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers.

» Amy Williams, University of Florida

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

On Odor Reproduction, and How to Test For It - Online Event

A reliable odor reproduction system (ORS) has a vast spectrum of potential applications: from e-commerce, games and video, via the food and cosmetics industry, to medical diagnosis. Such a system would enable an output device --- the whiffer --- to release an imitation of an odor read in by an input device --- the sniffer --- upon command. To realize this scheme, one must carry out deep and complex research, involving, e.g., computer science, mathematics, chemistry, brain science and human physiological experimentation. In the process, we expect a deep understanding of this least understood of our senses to emerge. I will discuss the feasibility of an ORS, including some of our recent encouraging work. I will also addressed the question (not unlike Turing’s 1950 question about AI) of how to test the validity of a candidate ORS, and will propose a novel testing method, which takes advantage of the availability of near-perfect reproduction methods for sight and sound.

» David Harel, Weizmann Institute of Science, President of the Israel Academy of Sciences

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Reflections on the Reading Brain and its Impediments in a Digital Culture - Online Zoom Event

This presentation will use research from cognitive neuroscience, literature, and education to illustrate how an understanding of the development of the reading brain sheds light on three key, societal issues: the development of literacy and its role in society; impediments to reading like dyslexia; and the impact of changes to deep reading in a digital culture for critical analysis, empathy and, potentially, democracy.

» Maryanne Wolf, University of California Los Angeles

Monday, April 11, 2022

Open Science and Learning in the Genome Age

In both political and scientific development the sense of malfunction that can lead to crisis is prerequisite to revolution (Kuhn, 1962). Since the 1950s we’ve understood DNA as the “molecule of life”, and we’ve learned how malfunctions (mutations) in its makeup are fundamental to health. A single DNA alteration might cause a disease that takes millions of lives or give rise to an agricultural trait that saves them. In this talk, we’ll touch upon two revolutions in the life sciences. The genome revolution incudes our surging abilities to read and purposely edit DNA. A parallel, but latent revolution is the development of open science and learning, which will redefine how scientists and the public work together in the genome age. Unlike past transformations of the scientific landscape, the life science boom is uniquely partnered with the modern conception of open science – a set of principles, technologies, and approaches for sharing knowledge. We will explore how open sharing and science education are critical to ensure that our new abilities to redefine life itself are grounded in equity and ethical context. Everyone has a genome, so everyone has the right and responsibility to understand it.

» Jason Williams, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Tainted Grapes, Tainted Lungs: Extreme Wildfire Impacts to Undocumented Latino/a and Indigenous Migrants

As climate change advances, communities across the United States are adapting to the increased threat of wildfires. Such disasters are expected to become more frequent and severe. In this lecture, Dr. Méndez explores why it is crucial to understand how these events amplify existing inequalities, and how to lessen the resulting harms, in particular for the most stigmatized populations, such as undocumented Latino/a and Indigenous migrants.

» Dr. Michael Mendez, assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine and Visiting Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Seymour Benzer/Sydney Brenner Lecture

The Science of Sleep and Stress: How they Affect Creativity, Emotion, and Memory

What's going on in your head while you sleep? The research of Notre Dame Professor Jessica Payne shows that the non-waking hours are incredibly valuable for your day-to-day life, especially for helping to commit information to memory and for problem solving. If you ever thought sleep was just downtime between one task and the next, think again. The fact is, your brain pulls an all-nighter when you hit the hay. Many regions of the brain - especially those involved in learning, memory, creativity, and emotion - are actually more active during sleep than when you're awake. These regions are working together while you sleep, helping you process and sort information you've taken in during the course of the day. Professor Payne's research has focused on what types of information are consolidated into memory, and has been instrumental in better understanding how the brain stores and reorganizes the information.

» Jessica Payne, University of Notre Dame

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Shedding light on Earth’s light show: how waves and particles produce northern lights - Online Zoom Event

Electrons raining into the atmosphere from space cause northern lights (auroras), but where do these electrons come from? Earth is inundated with a constant stream of ions and electrons (plasma) from the Sun called the solar wind. Some of this plasma is trapped around Earth before being funneled into the atmosphere to cause auroras. There are mysteries along each step of this process. One 40-year-old mystery is whether the powerful waves above auroras give their energy to these captivating displays. A team of space physicists, experimentalists, and theorists have recently answered this question. This talk will focus on the science of auroras and the innovative research used to answer this long-standing question.

» James Schroeder, Wheaton College

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Making sense of scents in the age of COVID - Online Zoom Event

Olfaction — the sense of smell — is both primal and sublime. Animals use smell to avoid predators, to find food, to organize their social structures, to decide when to attack and when to help. In humans, smell evokes deep memories and feelings; it is at once indescribably beautiful and grounds us in the world. And yet, smell is a neglected science. We know little about why things smell the way they do, and even less about why smells make us feel the way they do. The pandemic — which has denied so many their sense of smell — has brought a new focus to the problem of smell. Here I review progress towards a understanding our most elusive sense, and an update on what we know about how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, interferes with neural circuits responsible for olfaction.

» Sandeep Robert Datta, Harvard University

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The secret lives of dinosaurs - Online Zoom Event

We used to wonder what it would be like if the larger-brained, big eyed and bipedal raptor dinosaurs survived to the present day. Would they have evolved to look and act like us? Would they exhibit traits we would recognize in ourselves? Now we know. Birds are dinosaur survivors. The 10,000 plus species of living dinosaurs dwarf the number of our own closer kin in Mammalia. While extinct dinosaurs have rich, vivid lives and a catastrophic demise in our imagination, the reality, and the breakthrough science behind understanding their biology and survival to the present day, is even more compelling.

» Julia A. Clarke, University of Texas at Austin

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

New Strategies in the Search for Cosmic Company - Online Zoom Event

Are we alone in the universe? The scientific hunt for extraterrestrial life is now well into its fifth decade, and we still haven’t discovered any cosmic company. Could all this mean that finding biology beyond Earth, even if it exists, is a project for the ages – one that might take centuries or longer? New approaches and new technology for detecting life and sentient beings elsewhere suggest that there is good reason to expect that we could uncover evidence even of sophisticated civilizations – the type of aliens we see in the movies and on TV – within a few decades. It could be that the hunt for radio or laser signals is not the best way to proceed. But if we do find E.T., what would be the societal impact of learning that something, or someone, is out there?

» Seth Shostak, SETI Institute

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Origami and Spacecraft Structures: Current Work and a Brief History - Online Zoom Event

The mathematics, physics, and engineering of origami is a thriving field of academic research. We will discuss the origin and the maturation of the formal study of paper folding. Of the many applications of origami, this talk will focus on the design of deployable elements for spacecraft. Using specific examples from current work at JPL on starshades and solar arrays, this talk will highlight recent advances in origami engineering and its application to unfoldable spacecraft structures.

» Manan Arya, JPL

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Managing Disasters in the Climate Crisis  - Online Zoom Event

An increased risk of disaster is among the many consequences of the climate crisis, as we have begun to see around the world. Changes in extreme weather compound on already vulnerable communities to create cycles of disaster for which existing programs and policies are inadequate to effectively address. Fortunately, there is an entire discipline of study that exists to teach us how to address this risk – emergency management. Over a century of disaster research is available to inform our response to this increased risk but moving this work from academia into policy and practice is an exceptional challenge.

» Samantha Montano, Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Neuroscience of Music and Dementia - Online Zoom Event 

In the battle against Alzheimer’s disease, Joshua Grill invokes a deceased jazz singer, iPods and a 35,000-year-old vulture bone that cavemen fashioned into a flute. Grill is a neuroscientist whose research interests focus on clinical trials across the spectrum of Alzheimer's disease. He will explain how music is a powerful force and that can tap into the deepest recesses of the mind, stir emotions and conjure memories, and why music memory is one of the last things affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

» Joshua Grill, University of California, Irvine

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Neural Basis of Social and Emotional Processing – Online Zoom Event

How does our brain rapidly determine if something is good or bad? How do we know our place within a social group? How do we know how to behave appropriately in dynamic environments with ever-changing conditions? The Tye Lab is interested in understanding how neural circuits important for driving positive and negative motivational valence (seeking pleasure or avoiding punishment) are anatomically, genetically and functionally arranged. We study the neural mechanisms that underlie a wide range of behaviors ranging from learned to innate, including social, feeding, reward-seeking and anxiety-related behaviors. We have also become interested in “social homeostasis” -- how our brains establish a preferred set-point for social contact, and how this maintains stability within a social group. How are these circuits interconnected with one another, and how are competing mechanisms orchestrated on a neural population level? We employ optogenetic, electrophysiological, electrochemical, pharmacological and imaging approaches to probe these circuits during behavior.

» Kay Tye, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Sustainable Bites – Online Zoom Event

From morphing pasta to save plastic packaging, self-wrapping cannoli to save time, to embedded 3D printing of nutritious food to save efforts, Lining Yao, the director of Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, will uncover her team's research in food design and engineering. Her team takes a holistic approach to tackle the challenges and arts around culinary materials and practices, by combining food science and engineering, mechanics and mechanisms, computational design, as well as digital manufacturing. This talk is also situated within a larger context - the climate change that is primarily induced by how we make, grow, eat and consume physical things. Currently, both our food culture and food security are being challenged by global warming. Weaving different projects in her lab, Lining tries to maintain the fragile balance between our food culture and nature, our living for enjoyment and living for survival.

» Lining Yao, Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Seeing what isn't there – Online Zoom Event

How do we see the world around us? The story we learn in school is that light bounces off of objects — tables, chairs, apples, people — and then enters our eyes, allowing us to see them. But this story is false (or, at best, incomplete): As we know from visual illusions, objects can sometimes appear to be the wrong color, shape, or size, because of how our minds interpret and even distort the information reaching us (think of #theDress, for example). In this talk, Chaz will explore what may be the most extreme disconnect between the light entering our eyes and our experience of the world: A series of visual phenomena in which we have vivid experiences of objects that cast no light whatsoever onto our eyes, because they don't even exist in the first place. By experiencing these curious visual effects for ourselves, we'll see how the seemingly coherent experience we have of our environment is often an invention of our own minds and brains.

» Chaz Firestone, Johns Hopkins University

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

A glimpse into the journey to create the Perfect Wave - Online Zoom Event

15 years ago, inspired by the vison of now 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater, a small group of surfers, engineers, scientists, and businessmen, set out on a journey to create a man-made wave that could rival the best surfing waves found in nature. Here we will explore the characteristics that make a wave suitable and desirable for surfing, methods for generating such a wave in the laboratory, the scaling of the physical processes to full size and the engineering required to create such a wave. Reference will be made to the Kelly Slater Wave Company’s formation, its collaboration with the University of Southern California and eventual delivery of a full-scale working prototype that shocked the surfing world in December 2015

» Adam Fincham, University of Southern California, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Reimagining the Future of Mobility Training Through use of Immersive Technologies - Online Zoom Event

Recent advances in consumer-level virtual reality (VR) have opened the door for the development of low-cost, fully-immersive systems for interactive mobility training. The promise of VR for improving mobility lies in its ability to mimic real-world challenges such as obstacles and crowds while providing systematic control over the environment and augmented performance feedback. However, creating effective training applications requires an understanding of how sensory information provided in VR is integrated with ongoing locomotor commands and how the practice of locomotor skills in VR transfers to the real world. I will share recent work from our lab exploring sensorimotor integration and locomotor skill learning in virtual reality. Through a series of studies, we demonstrate that the quality of visual information about the lower extremities influences visuomotor coordination during virtual obstacle negotiation. Moreover, we show that locomotor skills learned in VR can transfer to walking outside of the virtual environment. I will conclude with a description of how we use this information to develop interactive mobility training experiences for people with neuromotor impairments. Ultimately, gaining a deeper understanding of sensorimotor control and learning in the context of VR is critical for informing the development of effective VR-based clinical interventions to improve mobility.

» James Finley, University of Southern California

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Carbon in the time of COVID - Online Zoom Event

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly altered human activities, and thus our energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Since the onset of lockdowns in the first quarter of 2020, Steve and his colleagues have compiled data and developed methods to assess global and regional CO2 emissions sooner and in greater detail than ever before. Rather than annual emissions updated yearly, they are estimating daily—and in some cases hourly—emissions in near real-time. Steve will discuss how these new estimates are being made, what they’ve learned, and how they will continue to be important in the post-COVID world.

» Steven Davis, University of California, Irvine

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

What can studying the brain tell us about our social networks, and vice versa? - Online Zoom Event

Can we predict who will become friends with one another using brain data? How do our brains support our remarkable abilities to understand and navigate our large, complex, real-world social networks? To answer questions like these, this talk will cover recent work integrating approaches from psychology, neuroscience, and social network analysis. One set of studies tests if, when, and how the human brain retrieves knowledge of where others sit in one's real-world social network when seeing them, and how this knowledge shapes future thought and behavior. Another set of studies tests if human social networks exhibit assortativity in terms of how their members' brains respond to the world around them, and in terms of their functional connectomes (patterns of functional brain connectivity at rest). All human cognition is embedded within social networks, but research on neural information processing within individuals has progressed largely separately from research on the social networks that those individuals inhabit. The set of findings to be reviewed in this talk suggests that integrating approaches from social network analysis and cognitive neuroscience can provide new insights into how individuals perceive, shape, and are shaped by the structure of their social world.

» Carolyn Parkinson, University of California, Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Challenging cooked calorie counts considering chemistry, co-inhabitants, and consequences for public health - Online Zoom Event

Cooking is a part of everyday life in human cultures worldwide, and this is no accident. Cooking predates the origin of our species and has given humans a distinct evolutionary advantage by increasing the calories we extract from our foods. Yet, current food labels fail to capture the caloric effects of cooking, despite the management of caloric intake being a key tool for combating prevalent public health challenges like obesity and malnutrition. In this talk, Rachel will help us understand where cooked calorie counts go wrong. We will journey across time, behind the chemistry of cooking, and into emerging research on the gut microbiome that is actively rewriting our understanding of human biology. Along the way, we consider the past, present, and possible future of the human diet and the levers at our disposal to manipulate its effective caloric value.

» Rachel Carmody, Harvard University

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Salton Sea: Health Disparity Amid An Environmental Crisis - Online Zoom Event

The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake, surrounded by a large agriculture economy, and also a major stop for migratory birds. Unfortunately, the sea has been drying up, resulting in very high salinity, a stressed ecosystem, and high levels of wind-blown dust from the exposed lakebed. The dust has major impacts on health in nearby residents, who are predominantly Latino agriculture workers, as childhood asthma rates are three times the incidence of the rest of California. Our team has been studying the dust generated at the Salton Sea, looking at dust components and transport by the seasonal winds. More importantly, we are looking at how the dust affects the lungs, and its potential relationship to asthma. Our findings will have important implications for our relationship to this huge ecosystem, and policies to address its impact on the regional community.

» David Lo, University of California, Riverside

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

How offshore nuclear power stations can help achieve rapid deep decarbonization - Online Zoom Event

The need for deep decarbonization is now well understood. While meaningful progress has been made, the magnitude of this task cannot be overstated. Deeply decarbonized electric grids in France, Ontario, and Sweden use large fractions of nuclear power, and thus nuclear is included in many rapid deep decarbonization scenarios. Unfortunately, construction schedule slippage and cost overruns have been significant in recent nuclear builds, especially in the West. The concept of building nuclear power plants in shipyards and operating them on floating platforms several kilometers offshore offers intriguing solutions to these challenges. The controlled, serialized construction environment can improve both quality and speed. Deep-water operation can decouple the plants from earthquakes and tsunamis, and provides a robust heat sink (the sea). While perhaps surprising at first, this approach was seriously considered in the US in the 1970s. Today, Russia operates a floating nuclear power plant while China and South Korea are both planning similar projects. In this talk we will take a deep dive into the historical and technical bases of floating nuclear plants and explore the modern research and projects focused on ramping them up for deep decarbonization.

» Nick Touran, nuclear engineer and reactor physicist based in Seattle, Washington

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Capturing the First Image of a Black Hole & Beyond - Online Zoom Event

This talk will present the methods and procedures used to produce the first image of a black hole from the Event Horizon Telescope, as well as discuss future developments for black hole imaging. It had been theorized for decades that a black hole would leave a "shadow" on a background of hot gas. Taking a picture of this black hole shadow would help to address a number of important scientific questions, both on the nature of black holes and the validity of general relativity. Unfortunately, due to its small size, traditional imaging approaches require an Earth-sized radio telescope. In this talk, I discuss techniques the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration has developed to photograph a black hole using the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of telescopes scattered across the globe. Imaging a black hole’s structure with this computational telescope required us to reconstruct images from sparse measurements, heavily corrupted by atmospheric error. The talk will also discuss future developments, including new imaging techniques and how we are developing machine learning methods to help design future telescope arrays.

» Katherine L. Bouman, California Institute of Technology

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A Perfect Storm: Climate Change, Emerging Disease, Us - Online Zoom Event

Even before the COVID19 pandemic, Emerging Infectious Diseases in humans, livestock and crops cost humanity more than 1 trillion dollars a year in production losses and treatment costs, more than the GDP of all but 15 countries. The global economic collapse associated with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic underscored that the traditional approach of crisis response is not simply expensive, it is failing. Finding an effective action plan for risk management requires new risk assessment. Novel evolutionary insights about pathogens, based on what is called the Stockholm Paradigm, link the potential for emerging infectious disease outbreaks directly to climate change. Highly specialized pathogens evolve in localized settings in association with one or a few hosts. Climate change and ecological disruption alters geographic distributions and ecological connections, bringing pathogens into contact with susceptible but previously unexposed hosts. This has been true throughout the history of life on this planet. Human activities during the past 15,000 years, including domestication and agriculture, population growth, conflict and migration, urbanization and globalization have all increased the risk of emerging diseases. Technological humanity now faces an existential crisis. The risk space for emerging diseases is much greater than we realized, so we need to begin to find them before they find us. The DAMA (document – assess – monitor – act) Protocol links activities from neighborhood gardens to global surveillance systems that can allow us to anticipate to mitigate emerging disease. We can lower costs to society, limiting the global impact of pathogens and slowing the expanding and accelerating crisis, while buying time for traditional efforts to medicate, vaccinate and eradicate.

» Daniel Brooks, University of Toronto

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

“My life is my mom”: Elder Caregiving in Latino Families - Online Zoom Event

This talk will address the cultural values associated with elder caregiving in Latino families, and the challenges and opportunities they present for Latino caregivers.

» Carolyn Mendez-Luck, Oregon State University

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Chemical and physical considerations and the production of coffee - Online Zoom Event

Numerous physical and chemical processes play a determining role in the qualities of a cup of coffee, ranging from agricultural practices, to roasting and brewing. This talk canvases the landscape of coffee research to date and discusses burgeoning efforts to better understand the key factors that determine cup quality and reproducibility. A focus will be placed on the production of espresso-based beverages, and protocols to systematically improve flavor reproducibility, while minimizing coffee waste.

» Christopher Hendon, University of Oregon

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Human-Centered Perspective for Interactive Robots - Online Zoom Event

Machine learning and control theory have made substantial advances in the field of robotics in the past decade. However, there are still many challenges remaining when studying robots that interact with humans. This includes autonomous vehicles that interact with people, service robots working with their users at homes, assistive robots helping disabled bodies, or humans interacting with drones or other autonomous agents in their daily lives. These challenges introduce an opportunity for developing new learning and control algorithms to enable safe and efficient interactive autonomy. In this talk, She will discuss a journey in formalizing human-robot interaction. Specifically, she will first discuss developing data-efficient techniques to learn computational models of human behavior. She will continue with the challenges that arise when agents (including humans and robots) interact with each other. Further, she will argue that in many applications, a full computational human model is not necessary for seamless and efficient interaction. Instead, in many collaborative tasks, conventions —low-dimensional shared representations of tasks — is sufficient for capturing the interaction between agents. She will conclude the talk with challenges around adapting conventions in human-robot applications such as assistive teleoperation and collaborative transport.

» Dorsa Sadigh, Stanford University

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

How Mathematics Shapes our World, and our Values - Online Zoom Event

That abstract mathematics, the most logical and insular of fields, would impact the rough-and-tumble world of human affairs might seem unlikely. Yet that is indeed the case, as some of the core principles of modernity are founded on mathematical order. From the avenues of Versailles to the streets of New Delhi, and from the National Mall in Washington to the open plains of the American West, mathematics has been imprinted on the landscapes of the modern world. Along the way it has shaped not only our esthetics, but our values, our institutions, and even our politics.

» Amir Alexander, University of California, Los Angeles

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Ice sheets, sea level rise, and solutions - Online Zoom Event

The ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica have been responding sooner and more strongly to climate change than anticipated. Combined with the melting of glaciers and ice caps around the world, we are currently on a trajectory to raise global sea level by more than 1 meter by the end of the century versus 20 cm in the previous century. The potential exists, however, for multiple meters of sea level rise beyond 2100, but that largely depends on whether humanity acts sooner on the climate system or later. In this talk, I will review our current understanding of the rapid changes taking place in Greenland and Antarctica, what physical processes are driving the retreat of glaciers, how they relate to human activities, and what this means for the upcoming decades and century of sea level change. This review is based on a wealth of direct observations from above and below, combined with conceptual and numerical models and basic physics. I will discuss the concept of irreversible retreat and what it means for specific sectors of Greenland and Antarctica where dramatic changes are already taking place. The presentation will end with a discussion of adaptation strategies to regional sea level, including in Southern California, and more importantly what mitigation strategies should be put in place to preserve our coastlines, the World's glaciers and Antarctica for future generations.

» Eric Rignot, University of California, Irvine

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