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Fall 2017 Distinctive Voices Schedule of Events

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
The Psychopath Inside

Neuroscientist James Fallon was looking at brain scans of serial killers at the same time that he was also doing a study on Alzheimer’s and had brain scans from himself and members of his family on his desk. He discovered that the psychopathic brain pictured in a particular scan was his own. The fact that a person with the genes and brain of a psychopath could end up a non-violent, stable and successful scientist made Fallon reconsider the ambiguity of the term. Research shows that a serotonin transporter protein present in the brain put people at higher risk for psychopathic tendencies, but also opens up the ventromedial prefrontal cortex region to be more significantly affected by environmental influences such that a positive (or negative) childhood is especially pivotal in determining behavioral outcomes.

» James Fallon, University of California, Irvine

Recent Events

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
What Can the Development of the Flu Vaccine Teach Us About Online Learning and Skilling the Workforce?

This lecture will explore what happens when you look at online learning as a complex system, analogous to the yearly development of the flu vaccine.  Dr. Rubin will draw on the complexity theory behind two-sided networks (critical to understanding both the economics of Health Maintenance Organizations and vaccine creation) and identify fundamental gaps in learning systems. He will then describe how Microsoft applied this work to the reskilling challenge in Data Science. Drawing on the work enabled from the analysis of big data by learning  scientists, we can understand the DNA of a professional program and the behaviors of successful learners.  This work led to a dramatic increase in ROI for education/workforce skilling, and has introduced approximately 2000 newly trained Data Scientists in little over a year.

» Rob Rubin, Executive Director, Internet of Learning Consortium and Director of Learning Science, Microsoft, Inc.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Where You Live Should Not Determine IF You Live- A Prehospital Perspective on Trauma Care in the United States

Traumatic injury in the United States presents a staggering national economic and social burden. Unfortunately, despite the burden, trauma care does not garner the leadership, funding or research commensurate to it. If there is any positive to armed conflict, one might be that war advances trauma care in both the military and civilian sectors. It is important that these hard-earned lessons, paid for in blood, be translated diffusely across the civilian sector. Recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee’s report A national trauma care system: Integrating military and civilian trauma systems to achieve zero preventable deaths after injury, provide a roadmap to improve survival, but will require concerted leadership and engagement from the point of injury through a return to daily living. 

James Robinson, Denver Health Paramedic Division

Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Crude Life: A Citizen Art and Science Investigation of Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity

Artist/Biologist Dr. Brandon Ballengée, creates transdisciplinary artworks inspired from his ecological field and laboratory research into amphibians, birds, fish and insects found in today’s preternatural environments. The 2010 Gulf of Mexico was one of the largest environmental disasters in human history and there is still much we do not know about the long-term consequences to Gulf ecosystems, species or even human communities in the region. Brandon will discuss the current interdisciplinary project “Crude Life: A Citizen Art and Science Investigation of Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill”, which seeks to better understand and raise public awareness of local species, ecosystems, and regional environmental challenges through community “citizen science” surveys and a portable art-science museum of Gulf biodiversity. The portable museum has travelled to community events such as Mardi Gras, Blessing of the Shrimp Fleets, the Rougarou (“Cajun Werewolf”) Festival, Fishing Rodeos, and others, as well as schools, parks and even the Louisiana State Senate to inspire Gulf residents to investigate their local nature.  Further Crude Life has involved local shrimpers, fisherman, and youth into the search for “missing” Gulf species of fish following the 2010 spill.

» Brandon Ballengée, Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science and Artist

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Data Not Dogma —
Overcoming Confirmation Bias to Advance Conservation and a Sustainable Planet

Too often preconceived notions and political agenda’s drive our debates surrounding conservation and environmental issues.   We need to return to data—and data transparency to democratize science and focus on solutions as opposed to dogma. Examples will be taken from GMO crops, dams in the Pacific northwest, orangutans and oil palm, salt marsh restoration, sea otter rescue, and climate models.  Confirmation bias has been around for as long as there have been humans, but science is supposed to be the method that has self-correcting mechanisms that over-ride it.  Only by admitting to the gravity of the problem will be able to correct it.

» Peter Kareiva, University of California, Los Angeles

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Mammals, Milk, and Microbes
The Role of Milk in the Establishment and Function of the Gut Microbiome

Human milk contains numerous components that shape the microbial content of the developing infant gastrointestinal tract. Studies suggest a co-evolutionary relationship between mammalian milk glycans, infant-borne bifidobacteria and the infant host resulting in a programmed enrichment of a protective bifidobacterial-dominant community during a critical stage of infant development. Disruption of this programmed enrichment, by poor environmental transfer, antibiotic use, or infection, can lead to a “poorly functioning” milk-oriented microbiota that may pose a risk for negative health outcomes. Further analysis of this naturally evolved system will shed light on effective pre- and probiotic tools that support and ensure a protective gut microbiota for at-risk infants.

» David Andrew Mills, University of California, Davis

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
The Narrow Edge

Each year tiny sandpipers -- red knots -- undertake a near miraculous 19,000 mile journey from one end of the earth to the other and back. In this firsthand account, Deborah Cramer accompanies them on their extraordinary odyssey along the length of two continents, tracking birds from remote Tierra del Fuego to the icy Arctic. On the full moon of spring's highest tides, she seeks out horseshoe crabs -- ancient, primordial animals whose eggs are essential to migrating shorebirds, and whose blue blood, unbeknownst to most people, safeguards human health. The Narrow Edge offers unique insight into how the lives of humans, red knots and horseshoe crabs are intertwined. It is an inspiring portrait of loss and resilience, of the tenacity of birds, and the courage of the many people who bird by bird and beach by beach, keep red knots flying.

» Deborah Cramer, Visiting Scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Thursday, September 7, 2017
Cultural Diversity in an Age of Fear

We live in an era where the values of an open society are being challenged by rising xenophobia. It is timely then to remind ourselves of the multiple gifts we have received from other cultures, from morphine to the alphabet, from our cultivars to our mathematics. Culture is the human way of adapting to local ecologies, social and political forces, and each one offers thousands of years of collective experiment. We still have very much to learn from these well-honed solutions both practically and scientifically. Critically, we need the foil of cultural diversity to help us understand the fundamentals of human nature – to distinguish native propensities from cultural formation. There is an urgency to this endeavor – the 7000 odd cultures of the world are being rapidly eroded by the forces of globalization, ethnic cleansing and state centralization or collapse.

» Stephen Levinson, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Nijmegen, Netherlands)

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