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Spring 2018 Distinctive Voices Schedule of Events

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Global Trends of Landslides and Mudslide Disasters and Their Impacts on Community

Earthquakes, wildfires, and extreme precipitations are three among the most frequent triggers of landslides that caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars of property loss per year, globally. With the current global warming and climate change issues as well as increased urbanization, frequencies and damages made by landslides and mudslides have significantly increased in the past few decades. Although it is impossible to eliminate natural disasters such as landslides, we can reduce the impact of these disasters by understanding the causes, mechanism and effects of such disasters and applying precautionary measures while establishing our infrastructures. With increased awareness about landslides and our understanding to enhance research and technology for investigation of landslide related hazards as well as establishment of early warning systems, there had been significant progress in landslide hazard mitigation in the past few decades. However, there is still a need to spend more resources in research pertinent to this area. This presentation will cover the causes, mechanism, and effects of landslides (and mudslides); recent advances on the science and technology pertinent to landslides hazard mitigation; and possible precautionary measures that our community can take to safeguard against landslide hazards.

» Binod Tiwari, California State University, Fullerton

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Robots to Support Successful Aging: Potential and Challenges

There is much potential for robots to support older adults in their goal of successful aging with high quality of life. However, for human-robot interactions to be successful, the robots must be designed with user needs, preferences, and attitudes in mind. The Human Factors and Aging Laboratory is specifically oriented toward developing a fundamental understanding of aging and bringing that knowledge to bear on design issues important to the enjoyment, quality, and safety of everyday activities of older adults. Our research does not emphasize loss of function associated with aging; rather, we wish to understand how to enhance a person's ability to function well in later life, perhaps through technology. In this presentation, I will describe our research with robots: personal, social, telepresence. We focus on the human side of human-robot interaction, answering questions such as, are older adults willing to interact with a robot? What do they want the robot to do? To look like? How do they want to communicate with a robot? Through research examples, I will illustrate the potential for robots to support successful aging as well as the challenges that remain for the design and widespread deployment of robots in this context.

» Wendy Rogers, University of Illinois

Recent Events

Wednesday, April 18, 2018,
The Adaptable Aging Brain

For many, the phrase “brain aging” is accompanied by thoughts of cognitive decline or even dementia. In reality, brain aging is far more complex – involving both gains and losses with a high degree of variability from person to person. Changes to the brain in healthy aging can best be understood as a lifelong process of adaptation to biological, psychological, and environmental factors. This talk will focus on what has been learned from studying seniors with high levels of cognitive function. It will tackle questions such as, how do "optimally aging" brains respond to challenges like stress and memory demand? And, how do the the brains of optimally-aging seniors compensate for decline in important cognitive functions like learning and memory? In addressing these questions, this presentation will highlight discoveries in the neuroscience of aging and provide a better understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the aging brain.

» Nichole Lighthall, University of Central Florida

Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Opportunities for Ocular Gene Therapy

Ocular gene therapy had a major success in 2017 with the FDA approval of gene therapy for the condition RPE65 Leber Congenital Amaurosis. The treatment restores some degree of vision to individuals with a lifetime of deep visual impairment due to mutations in the RPE65 gene. This success built on the discovery 25 years previous that the RPE65 protein is critical for proper function of the light-sensitive photoreceptors in the retina and that RPE65 gene mutations caused congenital severe vision impairment (i.e. amaurosis). About 20% of human genetic diseases involve the eye or visual system, and nearly 200 genes are directly linked to development, survival and function of retinal neurons that subserve vision. These are termed “monogenic diseases” because DNA changes or mutations in a single gene result in the disease condition. Many of these monogenic ocular disorders are suitable for therapy by gene replacement. This presentation will explore the strategies for developing a human gene therapy trial, using a human study that is being conducted for X-linked retinoschisis as an example.

» Paul Sieving, National Institutes of Health

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Science Friction: What’s Slowing Progress in Biomedicine

American taxpayers spend about $30 billion a year to support the National Institutes of Health. Most of that funding supports research at universities, at the boundary of medicine and biology. Unfortunately it appears that a great deal of that research is not robust, and can't be reproduced in other labs. Richard Harris took a year's leave from his job as science correspondent at National Public Radio to explore the reasons for these failings and to explore ways that the scientific enterprise can be improved. The result was his book, Rigor Mortis.

» Richard Harris, National Public Radio

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