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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. 



 May 11, 2020 

7 to 8 p.m.

This will be an online event! Please register for this event as spots are limited. The link to the event will be emailed to everyone who is registered the day off the event.

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. 

Presenter Bio:
Kara L Marshall, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Ardem Patapoutian at Scripps Research. Her PhD work at Columbia University explored the skin neurons that detect force to convey the sense of touch. Her current work has moved inside the body, where she is now attempting to understand what neurons detect force in internal organs to affect numerous different physiological processes.

June 8, 2020

7 to 8 p.m.

This will be an online event! Please register for this event as spots are limited. The link to the event will be emailed to everyone who is registered the day off the event.

The Women Pioneers of Space Science

Behind every great space program is a woman — lots of women, actually: astronomers, engineers, programmers, project directors.

Join award-winning science fiction author and space historian Gideon Marcus for a special presentation on the hidden figures who ushered in the dawn of space science, from Henrietta Swan Leavitt to Katherine Johnson.


Date: TBD

Time: 10:30 a.m.

Noon Theater Show: Alaska

Sexuality Across the Lifespan 

Touch—our earliest means of connecting with another human being—remains a vital force throughout life. Yet, educational resources dedicated to important types of touch—romantic and sexual touch—are rarely focused on or directed toward older individuals or individuals with chronic disability or illness (states of being that become even more common with advancing age). Limited resources, in combination with shame or embarrassment surrounding discussions of sexuality, may prevent individuals from nurturing their sexual health and redefining themselves sexually as they age or face chronic disability or illness. Join us as Dr. Erin N. Castelloe reviews the physical, social, and psychological changes that may impact sexuality across the lifespan. Then, participate in a discussion about the unique impacts of aging and chronic disability or illness on sexuality, including sexual values, desire, attraction, responses, and identity.

Lecturer Bio:
Erin Nissen Castelloe, MD, California-licensed and American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM)-certified physician, independent pharmacovigilance consultant, and comprehensive sexuality educator, divides her professional time between clinical research and teaching. She collaborates with organizations that are developing medications for conditions with few or no treatment options and is currently focused on treatments for Alzheimer disease, achondroplasia, and Prader-Willi syndrome. In addition, she creates and delivers educational programs that empower individuals and communities, promote health and well-being, and nurture respectful communication and social justice. She warmly welcomes opportunities to network and can be reached through her web sites: and



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!

Exploring Space in a Tin Can:  How Mercury and Vostok Opened up the Universe Forever
Six decades ago, two superpowers committed themselves to getting a human traveler into orbit.  Within three years, the space barrier had been broken by both sides.  How did we achieve that unprecedented goal?  Who were the brave souls who made the journey?  And how did we stumble along the way?  Come learn the story and  the science of the first chapter of humanity's cosmic adventure.  Discover the legacy of Mercury and Vostok!

Invasion of the Gene Snatchers! How antibiotic-resistant bacteria swap and steal each others' armor
When antibiotics were discovered in the mid-1900's, we thought we had finally beaten bacteria. Now, the bugs are fighting back, outsmarting our best and strongest antibiotics faster than we can come up with new ones. Some experts even warn of a "post-antibiotic era". What makes these new superbugs so super? Is there any hope? We'll discuss how bacteria are using and even shortcutting evolution to escape our drugs, what scientists are trying to do about it, and the ongoing role of serendipity in scientific discovery and progress.