Category Archives: University of California

Building the Brain With Alysson Muotri

Inside of each brain, there is the possibility to understand how trillions of neural connections come to sense the world, record memories, create an individual, and shape who you are and who you will become. Can we ever learn how this happens?

By using cortical organoids – self organized clusters of neurons generated by stem cells, that is what Alysson Muotri’s lab at the Sanford Consortium for regenerative medicine wants to learn.

Called “brain organoids” because they exhibit many of the characteristics of a developing brain they are asking what happens to build a brain? What happens to create a human mind, and who we are? How does this process become disordered, giving rise to conditions like autism, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and degeneration? And how can they find ways to intervene and rescue the mind from disorders, and even restore lost function?

Muotri’s lab and a host of collaborators in and out of UC San Diego are using a diverse array of methods and tools on these brain organoids, from researching the details of vision to how neurons connect and form networks, to engineering ways to help the organoids become more complex, to the differences between normal brains and brains with cognitive disorders, even to growing brain organoids in space to understand causes of autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

Join Alysson Muotri, Director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program as he takes you on a journey to visit the labs and collaborators who are exploring how a brain is built on Building the Brain.

Watch — Building The Brain With Alysson Muotri

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Double Jeopardy

Jewish History scholar Marion Kaplan was a co-editor of the landmark essay collection, “When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany.” Published in 1984, this book established gender studies – heretofore neglected – as a vital component of Holocaust research, exploring the “double jeopardy” experienced in pre-war and wartime Nazi Germany by women who were also Jews.

A central thesis which emerged was the recognition that women experienced fascism differently than their male counterparts and companions, as evidenced by their reactions to pogroms and other anti-Jewish activities undertaken by the Nazi state. Frequently it was women who first and most persistently raised the alarm in their communities about Hitler’s plans for the Jews; the men, especially those in the professional class, were reluctant to forsake their hard-earned status and possessions, trusting instead that the German populace wouldn’t allow extreme ill-treatment of Jews who, in many cases, had lived among them for generations. By contrast women were not established in those professions, and therefore were less motivated by material considerations than by their family’s safety.

In her lecture Professor Kaplan conducts an historical survey of the research leading to, and resulting from, the book’s publication, describing the early workshops that were inspired by the feminist movement and drew together survivors and scholars. These workshops raised critical questions about the lives of German Jewish women in the periods both preceding and following the Nazis’ rise to power, and suggested further avenues of inquiry. In the decades since then, the range of gender perspectives in Holocaust studies have broadened and deepened; for example, they now include the stories of women who “passed” in Nazi Berlin (i.e., hid their Jewishness in order to survive), such as Marie Jalowicz, and of same-sex couples such as Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim, whose story is told in “Aimee and Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin, 1943.” In particular the experiences of Jalowicz and others who, like her, “hid in plain sight” raise complex questions about morality in the face of the harsh sexual politics of survival in wartime Berlin, especially as they pertained to women. Faced with such conditions, what is the ‘moral’ choice?

Kaplan concludes her talk with a discussion of new and promising areas of research, and the synergy between modern women’s studies and Holocaust studies as each seeks to expand its understanding of gender politics in the context of historical trends and imperatives.

Watch — When Biology Became Destiny: How Historians Interpret Gender in the Holocaust – Holocaust Living History Workshop

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New Careers in Education – Teaching, Research, and Beyond

“Any time two people are together and one is working with another, that is education. And what it requires today is for us to reconceive of education because opportunities are abundant but they may not be where you think they are.”

Traditionally, a career in education has meant becoming a classroom teacher. Though that is still an option, there are increasingly more and more ways to find an impactful career that helps others learn and thrive. Institutional research, support services, online instruction, administration, business development and more are all integral to today’s educational landscape.

Morgan Appel, director of the Department of Education and Behavioral Sciences at UC San Diego Extension, discusses how to find your niche in the world of learning and what new opportunities are available.

Watch Careers in Education with Morgan Appel – Job Won

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When 911 Calls are Motivated by Race

You’ve probably seen the videos online recently – someone calls the police on a person of color for seemingly no reason. Maybe it’s a group of families having a barbecue, teens at a public pool, or a college student who fell asleep on campus. Incidents like these are getting more attention thanks in part to social media and the nicknames given to callers like BBQ Becky or Cornerstore Caroline. Andrea Headley studies these situations and other aspects of police accountability in her work at UC Berkeley.

It’s called profiling by proxy. It happens when someone calls police based on their own biases or prejudice. While many make light of these situations online, they can potentially have serious consequences. Headley notes, you never know how someone will react when confronted by officers. That person might have inherent fear of law enforcement due to previous encounters, or the officers might hold some of the same biases as the caller. A situation that starts out as a minor call has the potential to escalate quickly.

So, what’s the solution? Some might suggest the easy fix is for police to assess the situation, realize the call is unfounded, admonish the caller and move on. But, Headley says that response ignores the complicated and often tense relationship between communities of color and police. It also takes responsibility away from the caller. Headley says the best way to stop these calls is for people to ask themselves tough questions about their own biases, and have conversations with family and friends to get the root of why this is happening. She says there is a role for policy when it comes to how 911 dispatchers interpret calls and relay information to officers, but that’s not the first line of defense.

Watch Police Accountability and Profiling by Proxy with Andrea Headley — In the Arena with Jonathan Stein — UC Public Policy Channel

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Workforce Frontiers

We know that the future of work is upon us–AI, robotics, global markets and online innovations are driving massive changes. So, what about workforce development? This event explores the boundary-busting, outer reaches of workforce development where job quality, equity, outcomes and opportunity take center stage.

The program is presented by The San Diego Workforce Partnership which is committed to advancing new ideas and trailblazing daily to remain on the cutting edge of these critical shifts that shape how we work and thrive.

Watch Workforce Frontiers Symposium

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