Lunch with a scientist

Sunday, November 7th, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Varied; see program on-site.

Attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy small, informal conversations with scientists about their work. Free, but requires New Horizons registration.

Amy Arnsten, Ph.D.

Professor of neurobiology, Yale School of Medicine
Member, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University

Molecular influences on our "mental sketch pad": Clues to mental illness

The prefrontal cortex is the most evolved part of our brain, but also the most fragile. This brain region subserves our highest order cognitive abilities, acting as our "mental sketch pad," through networks of neurons that can represent and abstract information. Yet there are built-in molecular mechanisms to take the prefrontal cortex "off-line" — by disconnecting networks when we are fatigued or stressed, for example. Many of these molecular mechanisms to strengthen and protect prefrontal cortical networks are genetically altered in mental illnesses such as attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Understanding these altered protective mechanisms can help us to develop rational therapies for these disorders.

Charles Bailyn, Ph.D.

Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Astronomy and Physics, Yale University

Observing black holes

Get up to date on recent progress in our understanding of black holes. Data obtained with NASA's high-energy space observatories Swift and Fermi, as well as ground-based optical observatories, has led to direct observational evidence for hitherto theoretical effects of general relativity, and to detailed descriptions of the path taken by matter as it falls onto the event horizons of black holes and out of our universe.

John Bargh, Ph.D.

Professor of psychology, Yale University

How mundane physical experiences influence your thought and behavior

A warm cup of coffee creates warm thoughts towards others, a hard chair makes a hard bargainer. John Bargh's experiments show how our normal, daily physical experiences with temperature, distance, texture and weight shape how we react to the world. In infancy and very young childhood, these physical experiences are the basis for the very first mental concepts we form, and thereafter they influence the formation of more abstract concepts such as those we use to describe types of people and types of behavior — so we easily talk about a 'distant' mother or 'hard' bargainer or 'warm' smile. What the new research is showing is that these connections between the physical and the psychological concepts (which drive our thought and behavior towards others) remain intact in adulthood so that the former can still activate the latter.

Irwin Braverman, M.D.

Professor of dermatology, Yale School of Medicine

The fine art of observation in diagnosis, detective work, and dealmaking

The most honorific title one can bestow on a physician in clinical medicine is “diagnostician”: regardless of subspecialty, a diagnostician is known as someone who can solve complex cases with Sherlockian skills of observation and deduction. Finely honed diagnostic skills, once commonplace among physicians, have undergone serious decline since the early 1980s with the advent of CT scans, MRI, and sophisticated laboratory tests, which have sometimes been allowed to usurp the diagnostician's role. At Yale School of Medicine, we developed novel and very effective means of teaching diagnostic skills to students and doctors by having them carefully examine and objectively describe what they see in narrative paintings. This method, which is now in use at several other medical schools, has also been adopted to train detectives in the New York Police Department and Scotland Yard, as well as helping students in the Yale School of Management to "size up" business situations.

On this tour, we will examine paintings at the Yale Center for British Art that tell a story with ambiguity and contradictions, thereby serving as a surrogate for a patient presenting with varied symptoms. You will have the opportunity to participate in this visual training exercise as if you were a medical student.

Leslie Curry, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Research scientist, Yale School of Public Health

What can mothers in Vietnam teach us about how to treat heart attacks in the U.S.?

In the 1970s, a handful of innovative Vietnamese mothers solved childhood malnutrition in their villages by including tiny shrimps in their cooking pots, found in large numbers in rice paddies but taboo for young children by traditional Vietnamese norms. Nevertheless, research demonstrated significant reductions in mortality of children fed in this way. We adapted this 'positive deviance' approach to improve the quality of health care in the United States, and will illustrate this method with a study on hospital care for patients with heart attacks.

Tarek Fahmy, Ph.D.

Associate professor of biomedical engineering and chemical engineering, Yale University

Tiny solutions to big problems: Seeing and controlling immunity with nanotechnology

Immunity is a complex network of molecules and cells that can protect itself and attack invaders such as bacteria and viruses, while immune system malfunction can set the stage for disease and the progression of cancer. Learn about engineered nanobiomaterials that can detect immune cell function and control the immune response. Discover how these novel materials can be engineered and tuned in various ways to facilitate a new generation of more sensitive diagnostics and targeted therapeutics.

Bonnie Fleming, Ph.D.

Horace D. Taft Associate Professor of Physics, Yale University

Are neutrinos the reason we exist?

Exciting new results in neutrino physics have both answered many puzzling questions and created many more. We’ve known for decades that this tiny particle in the electron family comes in three “flavors,” but the first conclusive evidence that neutrinos oscillate and change flavor came only 10 years ago. The consequences of this seminal discovery include the possibility that neutrinos and their anti-particles could behave differently. This “CP violation” could be connected to the matter/anti-matter asymmetry observed in the universe and could answer the question: “Are neutrinos the reason we exist?”

Murat Günel, M.D.

Nixdorff-German Professor of Neurosurgery and professor of neurobiology and genetics, Yale School of Medicine

Nanogenomic Technologies for Gene Discovery in Disorders of Brain Development and Brain Vasculature

Recent advances in nanogenomic technologies now allow us to identify individual genomic variations that underlie human health and disease. We have applied these technologies to understand normal brain development by studying consanguineous families with cortical malformations, discovering novel molecules that are fundamental for cerebral function in humans. In addition, using these cutting-edge technologies, we have completed genome-wide association studies comparing the frequency of sequence variants in patients with versus controls. We identified several genomic regions in which genetic variants predispose to abnormalities in the brain vasculature, specifically aneurysms, balloon-like dilations prone to ruptures — the deadliest form of hemorrhagic stroke. Identification of these variants allowed us to gain unique insight into why these lesions form, leading to novel hypotheses that form the basis for future treatments.

Anthony Leiserowitz, Ph.D.

Research scientist and director, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

Climate change in the American mind

Discover what Americans understand and misunderstand about climate change, where they get their news and information, and how they break down into the six distinct audiences that Leiserowitz and colleagues have called “Global Warming's Six Americas.”

Linda C. Mayes, M.D.

Arnold Gesell Professor of Child Development, Yale Child Study Center

Publicizing of Biomedical Research: The Ethical Dance Between Scientists and the Media

All practicing scientists seek to conduct research that will result in meaningful discoveries that will, at least in a small way, advance our fields or have a positive impact on the lives of those around us. Either of these two aims is only accomplished by the presentation and publication of data, and by the occasional dissemination of information via more public media outlets. Similarly, all science writers and journalists want to educate the public on the most up to date scientific discoveries. Still, the relationship between scientists and science journalists is complex, with each participant responding to differing motives, incentives, pressures and sources of secondary gain. In this session, we will discuss how conflicts of interests and conflicting motivations on both sides of the scientist-journalist partnership may shape the stories that scientists tell journalists, and, vice versa, the stories that journalists develop from the work scientists present. Further, we will consider together how as much transparency as possible about the motivations and needs of both parties may make for a stronger scientist-journalist collaboration.

Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D.

Professor of psychiatry and psychology, and director of Women's Health Research at Yale

Sex and Science: What do we really know about women's health?

Women were largely excluded as subjects in clinical trials until recent years, and females continue to be largely underrepresented in animal models in research. While scientists have begun to address this underrepresentation of females in health research, a large knowledge gap remains. Recognizing that such data were sorely lacking across many fields of biomedical research, Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D., designed Women’s Health research at Yale as an interdisciplinary program to focus on the wide range of conditions more prevalent in women or for which the causes, treatment and prevention have gender-specific aspects. One study now under way is a unique and timely investigation of whether women combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a more difficult time readjusting to civilian life than their male comrades. The topics of other studies run the gamut of the most urgent health concerns for women today, including heart disease, the greatest killer of both women and men; ovarian cancer, which has the highest mortality rate among gynecological cancers; and smoking cessation, an area in which women have had lower success rates than men for decades.

Ruslan Medzhitov, Ph.D.

David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator,
Yale School of Medicine

How we sense infections and activate immune responses

As far as microbes are concerned, we are nothing more than prime real estate that they are all too eager to settle in. Indeed, we are constantly colonized by myriads of microbial tenants and not all of them are good citizens. The few bad apples that we encounter now and again have created a bad rep for the entire microbial community. These microbes, commonly known as pathogens, have to be detected by our bodies and eliminated as quickly as possible. This is not an easy task given the enormous diversity of pathogens and their close resemblance to our peaceful tenants, commonly known as commensals. Our bodies have evolved sophisticated mechanisms that detect the invasive microbes and call in the destructive forces of the immune system to get rid of them. This ‘sensory system’ of our defense mechanisms was only discovered about 10 years ago, but it already helped to explain some of the more mysterious properties of immunity in health and disease.

Laura Niklason, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of anesthesiology and associate professor of biomedical engineering, Yale School of Medicine

Growing lungs and blood vessels

The science of growing new body parts is advancing rapidly. What started some 25 years ago with efforts in regrowing skin has exploded to regenerating cartilage, heart valves, blood vessels, and even very complicated organs such as lungs and livers. What has become clear is that there is no “one strategy fits all” approach to tissue and organ regeneration — different tissues can require radically different approaches for making spare parts. Come and learn about exciting recent advances in tissue regeneration, and where this field is heading in the future.

James Noonan, Ph.D.

Assistant professor of genetics, Yale School of Medicine
Member, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University

How did we become human?

The evolutionary origins of uniquely human features — such as our capacity for language, our large and highly complex brain, and our ability to walk upright — lie in human-specific DNA sequence changes that altered biological functions. Learn how human-chimpanzee genome comparisons are being combined with experimental approaches to identify these changes and hear about recent work suggesting that evolutionary modifications in how genes are controlled during embryonic development may have helped make us human.

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Richard O. Prum, Ph.D.

William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University

If bird feathers could talk . . .

Bird feathers are well known as the complex structures that birds use to fly, hide, and display. But recent research on feathers has opened up new insights on the complexity of feather function, development and evolution. We will discuss how the optical nanostructures in feathers that make beautiful, colorful plumage may provide inspiration for the next generation of nanotechnology, and we will explore how the plumage colors of a 150 million-year-old dinosaur were determined. You'll never look at, or think about, feathers in the same way again.

Ainissa Ramirez, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Yale University

Memory metals and other smart materials

Smart materials are responsible for many of the technologies just over the horizon. What makes these materials special is their ability to respond to their environment: some can “remember” their original shape and return to it when heated, others generate electricity when force is applied to them, and all of them act in ways you might never have imagined. Come learn about these remarkable materials and see them demonstrated.

Mark Saltzman, Ph.D.

Goizueta Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering
Yale University

Safe synthetic particles that function like viruses

Viruses are known for their powerful ability to enter the body, find specific populations of cells, and alter the function of those cells — sometimes even killing them. But when viruses have been used to treat diseases, such as in gene therapy, for example, they are often unsafe. Bioengineered polymer particles, just as small, can now be made to function like viruses and used to deliver drugs and genes, suppress specific genetic processes, and even reprogram defective cells in animals and humans.

Nenad Sestan, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate professor of neurobiology, Yale School of Medicine
Member, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University

Deconstructing human brain development and evolution

The development of the human brain is one of the crowning achievements of evolution as well as one of its biggest unsolved mysteries. What distinguishes humans from other species is largely thought to reside in the unique features of brain development, especially in how highly complex neural circuits of the cerebral cortex are wired. However, in addition to giving us remarkable cognitive and motor abilities, the formation of intricate neural circuits may have also increased our susceptibility to neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Learning how genes shape human brain development is essential to teasing out the keys to human evolution as well as the pathologic consequences that may have resulted from our complex neural circuits.

David Skelly, Ph.D.

Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Yale University

Sex and the suburban frog: The landscape ecology of amphibian intersex

The discovery that intersex is common in frogs and concentrated in suburban and urban environments prompts urgent questions about origin and implications. The potential role of environmental estrogens, how they reach surface waters and what may be happening to amphibian populations in their presence are under investigation in Connecticut's freshwater environments.

Joann Sweasy, Ph.D.

Professor of therapeutic radiology and genetics, Yale School of Medicine

Mutations, Cancer, and Personalized Medicine

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1500 Americans per day die of cancer, making cancer the second leading cause of death in the US. Completion of the Human Genome Project put the idea of personalized medicine on the horizon. The advent of rapid sequencing technology is greatly facilitating our efforts to identify genetic alterations associated with human cancer. Cancer researchers are beginning to understand more about how the genetic composition of a person increases the risk of developing cancer, enabling people to make lifestyle changes. Knowledge of genetic alterations in tumors will soon permit cancer researchers to approach cancer treatment in a more personalized manner.

Mary-Louise Timmermans, Ph.D.

Assistant professor of geology and geophysics, Yale University

Arctic climate variability: The role of the ocean

Recent changes in the Arctic climate system include increasing atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, ocean freshening, unusual atmospheric circulation patterns and the decline of sea ice. Innovative oceanographic field measurements are used to investigate Arctic Ocean dynamics and variability, and to determine ocean drivers of Arctic sea ice and climate change.

Paul Turner, Ph.D.

Associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Yale University

Viruses: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Viruses are the majority of Earth’s inhabitants, feared for their ability to cause deadly — downright ugly — epidemics. But despite conventional wisdom, very few viruses make us sick. In fact, past and present virus infections are essential for human well-being and the maintenance of healthy ecosystems, and in the future a virus may even save your life.

Joanne Weidhaas, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant professor of therapeutic radiology, Yale School of Medicine

MicroRNA-based biomarkers and cancer

MicroRNAs are recently discovered genetic regulators that have been found to be critical in cancer. Understanding how inherited variations in microRNA regulation of important oncogenes is a new area with great potential to identify a novel class of cancer-causing predisposing mutations. In addition, finding such variants allows insight into tumor biology that may help direct treatment in the near future. Come learn about this new area of cancer biology.

Karen Wynn, Ph.D.

Professor of psychology

Exploring the infant mind: In search of the developmental roots of human good and evil

Humans evaluate one another on many dimensions. Recent work exploring the developmental origins of this capacity suggests that even young babies generate positive and negative attitudes towards others on multiple bases. Some of these evaluations appear "good" or "moral" — for example, infants can distinguish pro-social from antisocial actors, and prefer the former to the latter. But other early evaluations appear "bad" or even "evil" — for example, babies prefer others who are similar to them over those who are dissimilar, have more positive expectations about the former than the latter, and even appear to wish the latter to be ill-treated. These findings have implications for how we understand the nature and development of human morality, as well as inter-group conflict and discrimination.