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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, 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

Tickets to join Zoom and be part of the conversation: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/169345419709

Or you can watch on Livestream: https://livestream.com/accounts/7036396/events/9835255

Or you can watch here: 

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, November 10, 2021

Open Science and Learning in the Genome Age - Online Zoom Event

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe - Online Zoom Event

» Seth Shostak, SETI Institute

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Birds are the Last Dinosaurs. Why did they survive? - Online Zoom Event

» Julia A. Clarke, University of Texas at Austin

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Seymour Benzer/Sydney Brenner Lecture - Online Zoom Event

Sleep, Memory, and the Brain: How Sleep and Stress Interact to Facilitate Emotional Memory Formation

» Jessica Payne, University of Notre Dame

Recent Events

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Harnessing big data to battle wildfires - Online Zoom Event

Wildland fires and related hazards are increasing globally. A common observation across these large events is that fire behavior is changing to be more destructive, making applied fire research more important and time critical. Significant improvements towards modeling of the extent and dynamics of evolving plethora of fire related environmental hazards, and their socio-economic and human impacts can be made through intelligent integration of modern data and computing technologies with techniques for data management, machine learning and fire modeling. However, there are still challenges and opportunities in integration of the scientific discoveries and data-driven methods for hazards with the advances in technology and computing in a way that provides and enables different modalities of sensing and computing. The WIFIRE cyberinfrastructure took the first steps to tackle this problem with a goal to create an integrated system, data and visualization services, and workflows for wildfire monitoring, simulation, and response. Today, WIFIRE provides an end-to-end management infrastructure from the data sensing and collection to artificial intelligence and modeling efforts using a continuum of computing methods that integrate edge, cloud, and high-performance computing. Though this cyberinfrastructure, the WIFIRE project provides data driven knowledge for a wide range of public and private sector users enabling scientific, municipal, and educational use. This talk will review some of our recent work on building this dynamic data driven cyberinfrastructure and impactful application solution architectures that showcase integration of a variety of existing technologies and collaborative expertise.

» Ilkay Altintas, University of California, San Diego

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Microplastics: The Ocean’s Biggest Tiny Problem - Online Zoom Event

Dr. Jennifer Brandon has been studying microplastics in the Pacific Ocean for eight years. She is an expert in the spatial and temporal analysis of microplastics. She helped develop new methods to determine how microplastics weather and degrade in the marine environment, as well as how to quantify the smallest size classes of microplastics. In this talk, she will provide an overview of marine plastic pollution and how we became so dependent on plastic, discuss her research, and talk about ways you can help the problem.

» Dr. Jennifer Brandon, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Why You Like It: The Story of Your Musical Taste - Online Zoom Event

Dr. Nolan Gasser—composer, pianist, author, and architect of Pandora Radio’s Music Genome Project—discusses the sources and implications of your musical taste: where it comes from, what it says about you, and how it can make your life better. Musical taste is addressed and enlightened through the realms of musicology, anthropology, physics, neuroscience, culture, and psychology, among other topics. The discussion, including musical performances, will conclude with a Q/A session with Dr. Gasser.

» Dr. Nolan Gasser, Pandora Radio’s Music Genome Project

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

From Rocket Science to a Ventilator, in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic - Online Zoom Event

In the middle of March 2020, a group of JPL engineers were moved by reports in the news of the dire consequences of the national and global shortage of respiratory ventilators to treat the most severe cases of COVID-19 patients. A small group coalesced into a team which hosted Dr. Michael Gurevich from the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena to teach them how a lung works and how ventilators are used to treat COVID-19 patients. That same week, the team reached out to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for guidance; initiated the prototyping of at least two different JPL ventilators, and started to self-assemble into a functioning project, building upon well defined processes and systems engineering knowledge that the engineers would apply to build inter-planetary spacecraft and autonomous robotics systems that would successfully land and rove on Mars. We had a chief engineer, team leads, leadership team, project manager, well defined interfaces to the outside world, upward communications to the JPL leadership, communications with NASA HQ and more. The team started with well-defined and peer-reviewed systems engineering requirements; followed by peer reviews with external experts: technical implementation review; medical use review; and regulatory review; and manufacturing review. On April 21st, the first prototype was tested at the Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City; on April 24th the design was submitted to the FDA Emergency Use Authorization which was then approved on April 30th. Currently, the design is being licensed to companies in the US (8) and internationally (10) for use around the world. This presentation will outline the team, the process and lessons learned from the fast-pace project from the ‘white board to the White House’ in less than 40 days.

» Leon Alkalai, JPL Fellow

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World - Online Zoom Event

Climate models show that global crop production will decline every decade for the rest of this century due to drought, heat, and flooding. Water supplies are in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the world’s population is expected to grow another 30 percent by midcentury. So how, really, will we feed nine billion people sustainably in the coming decades? Amanda Little, an award-winning journalist and professor, spent four years traveling through a dozen countries and as many U.S. states in search of answers to this question. The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World tells the fascinating story of human innovation. Little‘s journey took her from an apple orchard in Wisconsin and tiny Kenyan cornfields to massive Norwegian fish farms and computerized foodscapes in Shanghai. This was a deep, transformative education, by turns shocking, funny, and powerfully hopeful. She explores new and old approaches to food production while charting the growth of a movement that could redefine sustainable food on a grand scale.

» Amanda Little, Vanderbilt University

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Thinking Culturally about the Science of Genetic Ancestry Tests - Online Zoom Event

Direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry testing is a thriving business, and is generating a great deal of public interest in genealogy, genomics, and human microevolution. Its status as science is not in doubt, yet it has properties that are unusual for science: its products are narratives about ancestry, and there is room to reject the purchased narrative on epistemological grounds if you don’t like it. This is clearly not science like evolution, heliocentrism, vaccinations, and anthropogenic climate change. That something as seemingly natural as relatedness could in fact vary widely among peoples, based on ideas that may defy genetic relationships, was one of the earliest discoveries of anthropology. Today we can see genetic ancestry testing as a cultural site for contrasting ideas and assumptions about descent, the nature of human groups, and the role of science in modern life.

» Jonathan Marks, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Health effects of Vaping and E-cigarette use, what is known thus far

Before the hubbub over e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury (EVALI), we had growing evidence that vaping would cause health problems. But how did this disease blow-up so fast? Is it really Vitamin E causing these cases of severe lung injury? We will discuss what is known and unknown about the effects of nicotine and THC containing e-cigarette aerosols on respiratory health, cardiovascular health, and neuro, renal and hepatic health while we are at it! Outside of this acute disease entity (EVALI), what health effects are likely to occur due to vaping?

» Laura Crotty Alexander, University of California at San Diego

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

What Children Reveal About the Origins of Altruism and Fairness

Humans are able to cooperate with others in sophisticated, flexible ways: assisting others who need help, working collaboratively in teams, and sharing resources according to what’s ‘fair’. How do humans accomplish these behaviors? In some views, humans are initially driven by purely selfish motives and must be taught to be cooperative. Yet other views suggest we have a biological predisposition for cooperation that emerges early. He discussed developmental studies with children and comparative studies with chimpanzees that provide insight into the origins of human altruism and fairness, and the factors that shape human cooperation across development.

» Felix Warneken, University of Michigan

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

White rhino reproduction: a new recipe for success?

San Diego Zoo Global has a long-standing history of successfully breeding southern white rhinoceros (SWR). With nearly 100 calves born since the early 1970’s, our SWR conservation breeding program is the most productive outside of Africa. However, the world’s ex situ SWR population has struggled to become self-sustaining, due to low rates of fertility for females born in managed settings. For decades, the cause of this phenomenon has remained elusive. In this talk, Dr. Christopher Tubbs will present San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research’s Reproductive Sciences group’s work investigating the relationship between diet and fertility in SWR and highlight the steps taken to solve this problem. Finally, he will present an overview of SDZG’s Northern White Rhino Initiative for which exciting new assisted reproductive technologies are being developed to save SWR’s closely related cousin, the critically endangered northern white rhino, from the brink of extinction.

» Christopher W. Tubbs, Ph.D., Associate Director, Reproductive Sciences, San Diego Zoo Global Institute for Conservation Research

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Cellular Immunotherapy for treatment of cancer: from transplant to gene therapy

One of the first demonstrations of the immune systems ability to recognize and reject cancer came from the work done in stem cell transplantation as a treatment for leukemia. This therapeutic effect has been now shown for many other cancers including lymphoma, leukemia, and myeloma and actually contributes to the cure of patients undergoing this procedure. In the years that followed, research was conducted to develop an immune therapy that was specific for a given cancer by introducing new genes into healthy immune cells( T cells) that endows the cells with the ability to recognize proteins on the surface of the cancer cell and eliminate it, similar to what the immune system does against viruses. This has now lead to a new therapy that is being increasingly utilized in the treatment of people with cancer using genetically engineered immune cells in addition to the traditional treatments of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. For some cancers, we can now imagine a time when immune based therapies will replace many of the chemotherapy approaches we now use for cancer.

» Stephen Forman, City of Hope

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Genome Editing with CRISPR-Cas systems: Challenges and Opportunities in a New Era of Biology

CRISPR gene editing is transforming biology. Fundamental research to understand how bacteria fight viral infections uncovered how the CRISPR system uses Cas proteins with RNA as a programmable guide to detect and cut specific DNA sequences. Cas/RNA complexes constitute a powerful toolkit for genome editing in animals, plants and bacteria. I discussed research into this amazing family of proteins: where they came from, how they work and how CRISPR technologies are revolutionizing research, biomedicine and agriculture. I also discussed the ethical challenges of some of these applications with a focus on what our decisions now might mean for future generations.

» Jennifer Doudna, University of California, Berkeley

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

An Open Discussion on Facial Recognition Technology

For nearly 60 years, the U.S. government has been investing in the development, testing and standardization of automated technologies for recognizing persons by their faces. In this talk, Dr. James Wayman will gave a brief history of the development of automated facial recognition, explained how the computer algorithms really work, showed recent government test results on system accuracies, looked at current state and local legislation limiting both government and private applications, then explored criticisms of racial bias and function creep.

» James L. Wayman, Ph.D., FIEEE, FIET, IEEE Distinguished Lecturer.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Psyche: Mission to a Metal Asteroid

Do you ever wonder what the heart of a baby planet is like? NASA does, too! Psyche is an orbiter mission now in development to visit the asteroid named Psyche, one of our solar system’s most unique objects. As far as scientists can tell by examining it from the Earth, it is a large, perhaps mostly-metal asteroid big enough to span the distance from Los Angeles to San Diego... and it may be the now-exposed core of a protoplanet. Learn about the details from Tracy Drain, the mission’s Deputy Project System Engineer.

» Tracy Drain, Systems Engineer working at NASA’s JPL

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Exercise Builds Brain Health

An overall objective of research in the study of brain aging is to identify effective intervention strategies to reduce age-related cognitive decline. Over the past few years, there has been a growing focus  on the importance of exercise for promoting healthy brain function, particularly in the aged and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brain. Studies on the mechanisms by which exercise can improve brain health and reduce aging-related cognitive decline have revealed that physical exercise increases brain levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF  mobilizes a sequence of molecular and cellular events which promote synaptic plasticity, learning and memory and brain health. Overall, it appears that a moderate to high level of physical for the elderly can reprogram the brain’s gene expression patterns to a more youthful state. Currently, a 300 person multisite clinical exercise trial for people with mild cognitive impairment is ongoing to evaluate the impact of aerobic exercise vs stretching and toning on biomarkers and cognitive function in this population.

» Dr. Carl Cotman, University of California, Irvine

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Connecting to Urban Nature in the Age of Extinction

The planet’s human population is rapidly expanding towards 8 billion people. More people live in cities and developed areas than in rural or non-developed areas. Around the world, we are progressively becoming more urban, and less familiar with the natural world. This trend is highlighted by the continued removal of nature words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Recently, words like acorn, fungus, fern, and willow were removed from the dictionary, and replaced with blog, MP3 player, and chatroom. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is tackling this trend head on, to connect people to their urban nature and create an environmentally literate public. Lila Higgins will speak about her leadership in the community science field, from co-founding the large global City Nature Challenge event, to her work in the local community that bring people together, in their own neighborhoods, to learn about and document nature. She will talk about the NSF, Wellcome Trust, and ESRC funded learning research she is conducting on international youth’s development of environmental science agency, and various other projects that work to communicate urban nature concepts to a wide audience. Projects such as the Museum’s Nature Gardens & Nature Lab exhibits, the recently published Wild LA book, and use of novel social media practices with @NatureinLA.

» Lila Higgins, Senior Manager Community Science and Co-founder of the City Nature Challenge, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Using Science for Good

We expect that the products we use every day will be safe, reliable, and effective. However, that does not always occur. A computer battery can unexpectedly catch fire, bedroom furniture can be unstable and topple, and food can be contaminated. Consumer Reports (CR) is committed to revealing the truth and raising the bar for safety and fairness, and empowering consumers with trusted information. Learn how CR uses science for good, applying its scientific findings for diverse audiences—from consumers to rulemakers, industry to government, all with the goal of driving marketplace change that benefits everyone.

» James Dickerson, Consumer Reports

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Integrated mountain research systems - people, plants, and glaciers on Mt. Everest and in the Peruvian Andes

Nepal’s Himalaya and the Cordillera Blanca of Peru have both provided ecosystem services for local people for thousands of years. However, new economic possibilities combined with climate change impacts on local resources have changed local community vulnerabilities and resilience to change. From 1996 to 2006, civil war engulfed Nepal. The insurgents used the Himalayan national parks as their bases and this had severe social and environmental consequences – consequences that have continued to this day. John All was on Everest leading an NSF-supported expedition during the 2014 icefall and subsequent closure of the mountain by the former Maoist insurgents. John’s research team was in the middle of the icefall that, at the time, had the greatest death toll in Everest history, and one member of his team was killed as they studied climate change impacts on the Everest massif. He discussed the positive and negative environmental impacts resulting from the Maoist insurgency and how these impacts have reshaped the cultural and social dynamics of the area. Dr. All then linked this project with similar work in Peru as the Mountain Environments Research Institute conducts holistic, interdisciplinary research in the world's highest mountains. The interaction of local resource decision-making and climate change impacts will continue to shape mountain landscapes as environmental and population stresses increase for the foreseeable future.

» John All, PhD, JD, Western Washington University

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Human Lunar Exploration – Are We Really Planning to Stay?

This year marks the semi-centennial celebration of the accomplishments of the Apollo lunar landing missions, some saying these were the crowning achievements of human space exploration. Our generation’s fingerprints on the next saga of human space exploration can surpass those amazing milestones by leveraging technology, data analytics, non-government capital and partnerships. Beyond reaching the lunar surface … again, today’s challenges include the development of a sustainable extraterrestrial ecosystem supportive of extended lunar exploration with the added goals of burning down the risks of humans to Mars. This presentation will discuss systems assessments leading to strategies for making the space program of the “Artemis generation” relevant through the long cycle effort of reaching these goals.

 » Wanda Sigur, NAE Member, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Science at Play!

The challenge of micro- and nano-fabrication lies in the difficulties and costs associated with patterning at such high resolution. To make such promising technology—which could enable pervasive health monitoring and disease detection/surveillance—more accessible and pervasive, there is a critical need to develop a manufacturing approach such that prototypes as well as complete manufactured devices cost only pennies. To accomplish this, instead of relying on traditional fabrication techniques largely inherited from the semiconductor industry, we have developed a radically different approach. Leveraging the inherent heat-induced relaxation of pre-stressed thermoplastic sheets—commodity shrink-wrap film—we pattern in a variety of ways at the large scale and achieve desired structures by controlled shrinking down to 5% of the original, patterned sizes. The entire process takes only seconds yet enables us to ‘beat’ the limit inherent to traditional ‘top-down’ manufacturing approaches. With these tunable shape memory polymers, compatible with roll-to-roll as well as lithographic processing, we can robustly integrate various materials from thin metal films to various nanomaterials in order to achieve extremely high surface area, densified, and high aspect ratio nanostructures directly into our microsystems for conformal wearable sensors as well as other applications.

» Michelle Khine, University of California, Irvine 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

How the Brain Invents the Mind

One of the most striking creations of the brain is the mind … of other people. What I mean is: each human brain faces the critical challenge of predicting and explaining the choices and behaviours of other human brains. Because the true full causal story of how brains work is preposterously complicated, our brains invent simplified causal models of other people, that are not exactly true, but nevertheless very useful. This simplified, useful model of other's brain is called our “theory of mind”. This talk will give an introduction to how theory of mind works in the brain. We’ll see that each of us has whole patches of brain cortex dedicated to the puzzle of understanding others, and that we use these patches not just to predict and explain but also to evaluate others actions. We’ll see that understanding others is not the same as empathizing with them. The final lesson is that our brain’s models of other minds is imperfect, but not immutable or limited to minds similar to our own. It is up to us to learn enough, to listen enough, to model the minds that matter.

» Rebecca Saxe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Ocean-Atmosphere Studies Aimed at Understanding Mother Nature's Control of Climate

Nearly 50 years ago, it was proposed that microbes in the ocean can regulate planetary health by maintaining a homeostatic balance through the exchange of chemical species with the atmosphere. Ocean microbes including phytoplankton, viruses, and bacteria have been coined the canaries in the coal mine as they show faster adaptive responses to our changing climate than other organisms. When waves break, these microbes are transferred into the atmosphere and profoundly influence human and planetary health. This presentation will focus on recent studies aimed at advancing the understanding of the control of ocean biology on the atmosphere, clouds, and climate. Highlights will be presented of a novel laboratory mesocosm approach developed in the NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE) that transfers the physical, chemical, and biological complexity of the ocean/atmosphere system into the laboratory. A discussion is presented on new insights that have been obtained using this approach as well as next steps, and a future vision for how to unravel human versus microbial impacts on the changing Earth’s system.

» Kimberly Prather, University of California, San Diego

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Rise of Misinformation in and about Science

In 2017, Jevin West and a colleague developed a course titled “Calling BS.” The goal is to teach students how to spot and refute BS, especially the kind wrapped in numbers, data, figures, and statistics. The class discusses the role that social media and misdirected algorithms play in spreading this and other forms of misinformation, and how the breakdown of communication systems in science and journalism have made it more difficult to combat it. Since the inception of the class, more than 70 universities have shown interest in adopting some version of the course. The content is now expanding into into high schools and middle schools (sans “BS”). Hear what has been learned teaching the class, and, more broadly, the rise of misinformation, specifically within and about science, and what can be done in education, policy, and technology to address this threat to democracy and the integrity of science.

Jevin West, University of Washington

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