Glaciers and Sea Level Rise

Using helicopters, icebreakers, fishing vessels, and autonomous surface and underwater vehicles for over a decade, Fiammetta Straneo and her group have been probing the edge of massive calving glaciers in iceberg-choked fjords in Greenland to explore what is the Achille’s heel of glaciers – the marine edge where glaciers meet the sea.

Their goal? Collapsing ice shelves and calving of large icebergs in Greenland and Antarctica have recently become major drivers of sea level rise. The rapidity of these changes has come as a surprise, revealing major gaps in our understanding of how ice sheets respond to a changing climate. To a large extent, these gaps are due to a lack of measurements so Fiammetta and her group have probed in these polar environments to improve models of sea-level rise predictions.

Watch — Navigating the Perilous Waters at the Edge of Glaciers to Understand Sea Level Rise – 2019 Keeling Lecture

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Breast Cancer Prevention

Despite significant advances in breast cancer treatment, people continue to be diagnosed with breast cancer at astounding rates – rates that have remained essentially unchanged over the past three decades. Of the approximately $2 billion spent on breast cancer research each year, less than 10 percent is dedicated to prevention research. The opportunity for discovery is immense, and the time for breakthroughs is now – to help prevent the more than 2 million breast cancers that are diagnosed each year.

The California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP), aims to advance breast cancer primary prevention by surfacing innovative breast cancer prevention research ideas from researchers and others interested in breast cancer prevention through the Global Challenge to Prevent Breast Cancer, a competition designed to surface game-changing breast cancer prevention research ideas.

This series presents the ten finalists with the most promising ideas for advancing breast cancer prevention.

Browse more programs in Global Challenge to Prevent Breast Cancer.

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Taking the Lead

Madeleine Albright was born in Czechoslovakia and emigrated with her parents to the United States at age eleven. She first rose to public prominence in 1993 as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and in 1997 she was appointed as the nation’s first female Secretary of State by President Bill Clinton. In 2012 she was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama. Now a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University, Albright has remained active as an author, lecturer, and international envoy.

In her Commencement address to UC San Diego graduates Albright stresses the need to build communities, both locally and globally, and the importance of public service – topics on which she is eminently qualified to speak, having spent her adult life as a diplomat and dedicated public servant. As Secretary, Albright was an articulate advocate for democracy, human rights, fair labor practices, environmental protection, and global trade, and in her talk she notes that these core values align precisely with UC San Diego’s institutional philosophy and mission goals.

She urges the assembled students to become actively involved in public life and to assume leadership roles in addressing such serious issues as income inequality, climate change, nuclear proliferation, peace in the Middle East, terrorism, and, of course, immigration reform, noting that in addition to being the first female Secretary of State she is herself an immigrant. Albright emphasizes that the interconnectedness of today’s world heightens the need for thoughtful communal consensus in formulating new strategies and policies, and that UC San Diego graduates are well-disposed to effect those changes.

Watch — UC San Diego All Campus Commencement 2019 with Madeleine Albright

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Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction

What makes us human is a question that not only science asks, but all disciplines of mind from philosophy to religion to sociology and ethics, and even to storytelling and the arts.

Tim Disney’s new movie “William” is about a Neanderthal living in the modern world and forces us to ask about humanness and many other questions.

Disney’s movie provides a foil to explore many facets of human nature and sociology, and raises questions about technology and its present and future effects on the human phenomenon.

With research interests and experience exploring the distinctions in the Neanderthal and Human genomes, Alysson Muotri, Director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, brought together a panel of experts from across a spectrum of disciplines to explore these issues in a lively and engaging forum with the movie’s creator.

Watch — Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction – A Discussion of Tim Disney’s Motion Picture “William”

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Searching for a Cure for Blindness

There are a number of diseases that can lead to blindness. But, a researcher at UC San Diego thinks there might be one way to cure them all. It’s called endogenous regeneration. Think of a lizard re-growing a lost tail. Zebrafish can do something similar with retinal tissue. Researcher Karl Wahlin says there is evidence humans have the potential to do the same, if scientists can figure out how to activate the process.

Wahlin’s work isn’t limited to teaching the body to repair itself. He’s also using stem cells to study different eye diseases and search for cures. He works with what are known as retinal organoids – miniature retinal models grown in the lab. These can be made from stem cells of people with specific eye diseases so researchers can see how those diseases might develop in the womb, and which treatments might be effective against them.

Now, Wahlin is teaming up with Alysson Muotri from the UC San Diego Stem Cell program who uses brain organoids for similar research. The two have begun working together with the help of a bioengineer who builds 3D-printing machines that can incorporate stem cells. Learn how it all works in the latest piece from the Building the Brain Series.

Watch — Stem Cells and Curing Blindness – Karl Wahlin

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