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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.

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

Tickets for Zoom, Includes Q and A: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/217187803567

Or watch here on Livestream:

Wedensday, 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

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

Wedensday, April 20, 2022

Reflections on the Reading Brain and its Impediments in a Digital Culture

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

Recent Events

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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