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Sharp Minds

The First Monday of Each Month

UPDATE: Until further notice, Sharp Minds Lecture will be moving into the digital space. Please, see individual event description for information on time and registration.

Sharp Minds Lecture Series for Adults - Online

Join local scientists to learn about a variety of topics as they share their latest research in a friendly and exciting environment. You can find recordings of previous virtual Sharp Minds talks on the Fleet Science Center's YouTube channel,




Date: October 5

Getting a Clue:  The Science Behind Crime Scene Reconstruction

At a crime scene, every item of evidence tells a story.  Crime Scene Reconstruction is the art of listening to those stories and using them to develop a scientifically sound theory as to how the crime occurred. Join Toniann Rebick, a San Diego Police Department Criminalist specializing in Forensic Firearms Analysis and Crime Scene Reconstruction, to discuss the ways in which science is used to analyze, interpret, and ultimately solve real life murder mysteries.

Time: 7 to 8 p.m.

Zoom Webinar, link will be shared with ticket holders.

Cost: $5-20 The Fleet Science Center is happy to provide tiered pricing to make this event affordable, while also allowing attendees to support the Fleet, making it possible for the Fleet to offer programs like these.

Date: November 2

Bones! What can They Tell us About Life at the Turn of the 20th Century?

Much like a diary or journal, our bones can record our history—where we live, who our ancestors are and even what we eat. Our bones can reveal some of our daily activities, lived experiences and access to health care. The research introduced in this talk examined lower limb fractures and other occupational and biocultural stresses to find a deeper understanding of how lower socioeconomic populations in St. Louis and New York City lived during the turn of the 20th century. At that time people in the United States were living in a fast changing world industrially, socially, politically, economically, globally, and even navigating a pandemic not too different from today.

Sydney Garcia is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area and is currently serving as a Postgraduate Research Associate—Forensic Anthropologist for the Defense POW/MIO Accounting Agency Laboratory on Joint Base Pearl Harbor—Hickam, Hawaii. Prior to her current position, Sydney served in the United States Marine Corps from 2002-2007 as an Aviation Precision Measurement Equipment / Callibration and Repair Technician and honorably discharged as a Sergeant. She also worked as a bioarcheaologist for projects spanning 3,000 to 13,000+ years old in the U.S. and Mexico and as a museum professional at the San Diego Museum of Us, where she held various positions. As a museum educator, in addition to other anthropological topics, she developed and facilitated 6-12th grade and adult workshops around diversity, equity and inclusion for schools and universities, not-for-profit and nonprofit organizations (e.g. KPBS, ACLU and Antidefamation League), and local and state government entities (e.g. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, California State Park, and the San Diego District Attorney's Office). All adult DEI workshops were awarded and funded by the Nissan Foundation for three consecutive years until COVID-19 shutdowns. She co-authored "Learning from Doing: The Evolution of a Dialogue-Based Program about Race" in the Journal of Museum Education (2018). Additionally Sydney was awarded the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History George E. Burch Graduate Student Fellowship in 2014 for her thesis research and is an American Association of Physical Anthropologists Committee on Diversity IDEAS Scholar Alumni.

Time: 7 to 8 p.m.

Zoom Webinar, link will be shared with ticket holders.

Cost: $5-20 The Fleet Science Center is happy to provide tiered pricing to make this event affordable, while also allowing attendees to support the Fleet, making it possible for the Fleet to offer programs like these.

Date: December 7

Diabetes Insights from Insulin Producing Cells

Diabetics need insulin therapy because they can't make their own. Current methods to preserve, regenerate, and even transplant the cells that produce insulin (beta cells) are key to better therapies to help patients live long, healthy lives. Our lab studies the factors that control beta cell health and function, and recently discovered a potential weak link in insulin biosynthesis. We are now working to better understand the critical components of insulin biosynthesis with a goal of finding therapies to strengthen the process and effectively regulate blood sugar levels.

Pamela Itkin-Ansari, PhD is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla. She was awarded her PhD at UCSD and has studied diabetes for 20 years. Dr. Itkin-Ansari has made key discoveries that have led to therapeutic approaches now in clinical trials.

Time: 7 to 8 p.m.

Zoom Webinar, link will be shared with ticket holders.

Cost: $5-20 The Fleet Science Center is happy to provide tiered pricing to make this event affordable, while also allowing attendees to support the Fleet, making it possible for the Fleet to offer programs like these.

Date: March 1, 2021

Our Dynamic Microbiomes and the Brain

Our lifespans are ever-increasing, but our healthspans are not, leading to long periods of unpleasant and expensive suffering with chronic conditions. Many of these conditions have recently been linked to the microbiome, via advances in DNA sequencing technology and software to interpret those sequences. We change our microbiomes every day through the foods we eat, the environments we experience, even the people we live and work with. The implications of these changes in the microbiome for our health are just beginning to be understood. And many of the effects are systemic: what happens in the gut doesn’t stay in the gut, and your gut microbiome can affect your liver, your joints, and even your brain. Through the American Gut Project and the Microsetta Initative, the largest crowdsourced and crowdfunded citizen-science project yet conducted, we now know about the microbiomes of many types of people, from the healthiest (student-athletes, centenarians) to the sickest (cancer patients, ICU patients, those with depression, those with C. diff). Amazingly, diet has an especially profound effect on our microbiomes, often outweighing the effects of disease or medications. This raises the prospect of a system for real-time analysis of our microbiomes that helps guide our daily decisions in a way that optimizes our microbiomes for extending our health-span.

Rob Knight is the Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego, where he is a Professor of Pediatrics, Bioengineering, and Computer Science & Engineering. He co-founded the Earth Microbiome Project, and The Microsetta Initiative/American Gut Project, which is among the largest crowdfunded science projects of any kind to date. He has spoken at TED, written three books and over 600 scientific articles, and in 2017 he won the Massry Prize, often considered a predictor of the Nobel prize. His work combines microbiology, DNA sequencing, ecology and computer science to understand the vast numbers of microbes that inhabit our bodies and our planet.





Environmental Stewardship at the Cabrillo National Monument
The National Park System is a network of our nation’s most treasured public lands. These preserved and protected spaces provide a connection to our history, our culture, and awe-inspiring nature. But how are these important spaces protected for the public, and for the species that live there? Join conservation biologist and science educator Samantha Wynns as she discusses her work at Cabrillo National Monument, and her goal to illuminate and inspire a passion for STEM and a commitment to environmental stewardship.

After earning a B.S. in biology from San Diego State University in late 2017,  Samantha landed a job working with the National Park Service at Cabrillo National Monument where she wear many hats: She gathers data as a field biologist and she educates youth and the public as a science educator. During any given day she gets to wrangle snakes (gently and respectfully, of course), lead a STEM summer camp for underserved girls, or give scientific lectures out in the community. In every role, her goal is to illuminate and inspire a passion for STEM and a commitment to environmental stewardship. Samantha is employed under a cooperative agreement between the Great Basin Institute and National Park Service.

The Surprising Beauty of Mathematics: Why it's hot in High Dimensions
Join us this month as Dr. Deanna Needell, professor of Mathematics at UCLA, takes us on a tour of the mathematics of high dimensional space. She will take the audience on a journey from basic geometric ideas we all take for granted in our three dimensional world to the concept of high dimensional space and what happens to those geometries there. For example, one can draw a dot in one dimension, a circle in two dimensions, build a sphere in three dimensions, but what is next? What does a fourth dimension mean, and what do things look like there? Prof. Needell loves the surprises one finds around every corner in mathematics, and also uses these concepts in her applied research, where she applies mathematics to many settings, from medical imaging to faster cell phone communication. 

Under Pressure: How the Body Uses Force to Function
Aristotle defined five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch.  These are simply a selection of the senses that are most obvious to you - but there are so many more!  These five senses detect external stimuli, but you also have many ways of detecting internal stimuli. You are aware of some internal senses, like balance and proprioception, but others are used to actively monitor your body for important functions every day, and you never even realize. Many internal senses rely on a single stimulus: force.  Whether it be your heart beat, your churning stomach or your filling bladder, your nervous system detects force and tells the body to react appropriately. The mechanisms behind how this happens are still a new area of study. Dr. Marshall from Scripps Research will tell you about how you feel inside and why it matters to your health. 

Alzheimer’s disease and Editing the DNA Blueprint of Brain Cells
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia. No effective medicines currently exist to treat it, which is partly due to our incomplete understanding of the human brain. Recent research has identified an editing process called “somatic gene recombination” (SGR), which can alter genes within a brain cell. Disruption of this process may underlie Alzheimer’s disease. Knowledge of how SGR works is providing opportunities for near-term treatment of Alzheimer’s disease using existing FDA-approved medicines that have decades of safety data, providing a new option for patients.

From Rare Gene Mutations to Personalized Treatment of Autism
The August Sharp Minds lecture will explore genetic links to autism. Our speaker, Dr. Jonathan Sebat, leads the lab that was the first to identify rare mutations as a major cause of autism. The discovery of hundreds of new genes has revealed critical information about the development of autism and has prompted new efforts to create personalized treatments for autism.

Quantum Mechanics: Mysticism or Science?
Probably, most of what you’ve heard about Quantum Mechanics is wrong. For example, reality is not subjective and we don’t get to choose our own reality. However, particles do exist in many places at once, distant particles are “connected” and experimental measurements do alter outcomes, though in a more subtle way than is often said. This talk will shine light on the implications of experience and the reality of quantum mechanics.

Prolonged sitting time impairs your health and reduces your life span - Get Up, Stand Up!  
The developed world enables us to spend a lot of time sitting down. On average, people of all ages spend at least half of their waking time sitting, with older adults spending the most time sitting. Sedentary time and sitting are associated with poor health outcomes and death. Interestingly, these risks are independent of guideline levels of exercise (150 minutes/week). Growing evidence suggests that changing your sitting patterns to effectively improve your health can be simple. Join us as Dr. Dorothy Sears tells us about the negative impact of sitting time on health and what you can do to reduce that. Spoiler alert – she’s not going to recommend exercise!



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