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Upcoming Colloquia

Most Sackler colloquia are held at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center, in Irvine, California.

Symbioses becoming permanent: the origins and evolutionary trajectories of organelles

October 15-17, 2014; Irvine, CA
Organized by W. Ford Doolittle, Patrick Keeling, and John McCutcheon
Co-sponsored by Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

This colloquium has a goal of filling the gap between ‘endosymbiont’ and ‘organelle’ by identitying two experimental areas, Genome Evolution, and Integration and Control, where substantial advances have been made in both endosymbiont and organelle systems, but where the full potential of these advances has not been met due to the absence of a comparative framework. The Genome Evolution theme will address issues of genome reduction and the relationship between genomic architecture and sequence evolution. The Integration and Control theme will focus on processes through which two previously independent evolutionary individuals come to work together, such as gene flow, protein trafficking, signaling and transporters.  Registration and more information

In the Light of Evolution IX. Clonality: Alternatives to Sex

January 9-10, 2015; Irvine, CA
Organized by Michel Tibayrenc, John C. Avise and Francisco J. Ayala

Evolutionary studies of clonal organisms have advanced considerably in recent years, but are still fledgling. Although recent textbooks on evolution or genetics might give the impression that nonsexual reproduction is an anomaly in the living world, clonality is the rule rather than the exception in many viruses, bacteria, and parasites that undergo preponderant asexual evolution in nature. Asexual reproduction is also common in insects, pathogenic helminthes, crustacea, and plants, and is found even in vertebrates. Clonality is thus of crucial importance in basic biology as well as in studies dealing with transmissible diseases.

The focus should actually be on the balance between sexuality and clonality, since many so called clonal organisms benefit from both evolutionary modes.  The study of clonal reproduction raises many theoretical, experimental, and technological challenges that could yield considerable pay-offs in microbiology and parasitology (e.g. in human medicine, veterinary medicine, and agronomy), artificial cloning, and the study of cancer.  This ILE Colloquium will make it possible to bring together specialists in various disciplines, including genetics, evolution, statistics, bioinformatics, and medicine. A balance will be sought between the various disciplines, including clonal animals and plants, animal and human cloning, pathogens, and cancer studies. 

Drawing Causal Inference from Big Data

March 26-27, 2015; Washington, D.C.
Organized by Richard M. Shiffrin, Susan Dumais, Mike Hawrylycz, Jennifer Hill, Michael Jordan, Bernhard Scholkopf and Jasjeet Sekhon

This colloquium will focus on the exponentially growing explosion of collected information about complex systems, colloquially referred to as “Big Data,” and the ability to draw causal inference from increasingly large data sets, most of which are not derived from carefully controlled experiments. Although correlations among observations are often easy to obtain, causality is much harder to assess and establish, partly because causality is a vague and poorly specified construct for complex systems.  Speakers during the colloquium will ask such questions as:  Will access to massive data be a key to understanding the fundamental questions of basic and applied science? Or does more data generally confound analysis and decrease the ability to draw valid causal inferences?

Improving Our Fundamental Understanding of the Role of Aerosol-Cloud Interactions in the Climate System

June 23-24, 2015; Irvine, CA
Organized by John Seinfeld, Kimberly Prather, Ian Kraucunas, Raymond Teller and Edward Dunlea

This colloquium will bring together scientists from a wide range of disciplines related to aerosols in the climate system to examine the questions of why has it been so difficult to constrain the role of aerosols in determining the Earth’s cloudiness, and what can be done to make better progress moving forward.  The timing of the colloquium will be after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, so there will be an opportunity to look back across the history of all five IPCC reports and probe why the uncertainties related to clouds and aerosols remain the largest of any other.

The meeting will bring an interdisciplinary perspective to the question of how to best make progress in constraining the overall uncertainty associated with aerosol-cloud interactions resulting in a thought-provoking discussion that examines the field as a whole and provides important details on the significant direction changes that need to be made.

Digital Media and Developing Minds

2015 TBD; Irvine, CA
Organized by David Meyer, Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, David Donoho and Jane Brown
Co-sponsored by the Institute of Digital Media and Child Development

As new media are being adopted by young people at record speeds, some researchers and social commentators are beginning to discuss the potential effects of their use in medical terms, eg. asking whether toddlers’ neural pathways are being transformed, whether school-children’s mental capacities for focused attention are being diminished by structural brain changes, and whether teens are suffering from “Facebook depression” or video game “addiction”  via dopamine pathways.

The purpose of the colloquium is to a) identify and report on state-of-the-art research on the impact of digital media on developing minds; b) establish a dialogue between medical researchers and those in the social sciences who study media effects, educators, funders and industry and c) set the agenda for future research needed in order to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks to children and teens in the digital age.

The colloquium marshals the talent of neuroscientists, developmental psychologists, child development experts, pediatricians, media effects specialists, social scientists, experts in informatics and computer sciences, public health and environmental health scientists, educators  and child advocacy groups.   In addition, we will invite policymakers and funders to participate in Challenge Question (breakout) sessions.


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