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Sharp Minds

The First Monday of Each Month

UPDATE: We are very excited to bring the Sharp Minds Lecture series back to an in-person event in our beautiful Heikoff Giant Dome Theater! Join us in person starting Monday, June 7.

Sharp Minds Lecture Series  

Start the month the smart way, by attending a Sharp Minds lecture at the Fleet Science Center. At Sharp Minds, you’ll hear from local scientists about their latest research and discoveries in a friendly, inviting environment. These lectures address hot topics on the first Monday of every month and are held in the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater.   Join local scientists to learn about a variety of topics as they share their latest research in a friendly and exciting environment.



Date: August 2

Title: The Wonders of San Diego's Wetlands

Time: 10:30–11:30 a.m. followed by the special screening of A Beautiful Planet at noon.

Join Lisa Gilfillan and Angela Kemsley, scientists and conservationists from international nonprofit WILDCOAST, on a scenic virtual tour of San Diego County’s wetlands. From the peaceful waters of Batiquitos Lagoon to the hustle and bustle of Famosa Slough, San Diego’s wetlands are unique biodiversity hotspots that contribute greatly to the County’s history, culture, health, and economy. Learn about the research and restoration being conducted at these wetlands and their potential as blue carbon-storing superpowers to act as a natural solution to climate change. You’ll also get inside tips on the best recreational activities at each lagoon, including hiking, kayaking, and bird watching. There might even be future opportunities for you to participate in some of this work as well!

Date: September 6

NO Sharp Minds lecture and movie in September in observance of Labor Day


Date: October 4

NO Sharp Minds lecture and movie in October, due to improvements to the Heikoff Dome Theater.


Date: November 1

Title: Our Dynamic Microbiomes and the Brain

Time: 10:30–11:30 a.m. followed by the special screening of The Human Body at noon.

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 receantly 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.

Date: December 6

Title: The Future of Immunotherapy:  Treatments benefiting all cancer patients

Time: 10:30–11:30 a.m. followed by the special screening of Flight of the Butterflies at noon.

It’s not an overstatement to say that immunotherapy—an approach that uses our own immune system to kill a tumor—has revolutionized the treatment of cancer. Doctors continue to report incredible results, including tough-to-treat tumors seemingly melting away. However, the treatment doesn’t work for everyone, and even if it does work initially, it often stops working as time goes on.  Jennifer Hope, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Bradley lab at Sanford Burnham Prebys, is working to find ways to make cancer immunotherapy work for more people.


Dr. Hope received her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Bradley lab, her current studies are focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in preventing or reversing T cell exhaustion in cancer. Ultimately, she hopes these findings can be applied in the development of therapeutics.