Summer Sessions Events

June 26, 2017
Hatlen Theater
GRIT talk – Katy Craig

The math of swarming robots, superconductors, and slime mold

Abstract: Systems of interacting agents arise throughout the natural world and are studied in such varied disciplines as engineering, physics, and biology. What is the optimal way for a swarm of robotic bees to pollinate a bed of crops? How can we use vortex motion in superconductors to develop new technologies for renewable energy? How does a colony of slime mold communicate using chemical signals? Prof. Katy Craig will describe the mathematics underlying systems of interacting agents and how such systems can be analyzed using an age old scientific technique: what happens if we poke it?

Bio: Katy Craig was born in Dallas, Texas, and attended college at Stanford University. After college, she briefly worked at Apple Computer, before realizing that she just wanted to do math all day. She then went to Rutgers University in New Jersey to obtain her Ph.D. After graduating from Rutgers, she spent a year at UCLA as a National Science Foundation Mathematical Sciences postdoctoral fellow and then a year at UCSB as a UC President’s postdoctoral fellow. She loved UCSB so much that she didn’t want to leave, and she is now an assistant professor in the department of mathematics.

June 28, 2017
Hatlen Theater
GRIT talk – Jason Marden

The challenges that society brings to engineering design

Abstract: Engineers are often tasked with building the physical infrastructure capable of serving the underlying societal demands.  Examples include transportation networks, power grids, data centers, and many more. A fundamental challenge associated with these "socio-technical" systems is that their underlying performance is largely impacted by how society chooses to use them, and unfortunately society tends to use such systems in a highly inefficient way. In this talk we will shed some light on the unique challenges that surface when seeking to design and control such systems. 

Sherwood Portrait
July 5, 2017
Hatlen Theater
GRIT talk – Tim Sherwood

The rock we tricked into thinking

Abstract: You may not know it, but you likely have 5,000,000,000 tiny electrical switches in your pocket. Each switch is precisely and purposefully linked with the others to form an inconceivably intricate tapestry -- a tapestry capable of everything from recognizing language to flying a plane.  The growth of computer processors has shaped modern life and yet we still have so many important and fundamental questions remaining. Professor Sherwood will discuss the state of the art in computing and how the demands for energy efficient and intelligent systems is driving the creation of entirely new approaches to the problem inspired by the human brain.

Bio: Tim Sherwood is a Professor of Computer Science at UCSB, specializing in the development of high performance, low power, and mathematically verifiable computer systems. He holds a BS from UC Davis, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from UC San Diego, and now serves as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research for UCSB. He is a Distinguished Scientist of the ACM, Co-Founder of a startup on computer hardware security, winner of the UCSB Academic Senate Teaching Award, and 7-time recipient of the “top-pick” award from IEEE Micro Magazine for contributions related to chip and silicon system design.

Ashby Portrait
July 10, 2017
Hatlen Theater
GRIT talk – Greg Ashby

I have no idea how I did that: The remarkable learning abilities of the human brain

Abstract: Humans have multiple learning systems that for the most part are functionally and anatomically distinct, evolved at different times for different purposes, and that learn in qualitatively different ways. Progress on understanding these systems has been slowed because most difficult learning tasks recruit multiple systems, making it difficult to know which system mediated any specific performance improvement. One approach that circumvents this problem is to study how people learn new categories of objects. This research has allowed us to map the neural networks that underlie each system and has identified many important and surprising differences in how the systems learn.

Bio: Dr. Ashby is the author of 3 books and more than 150 other publications. He has served as associate editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, as Chair of the NIH Cognition and Perception Study Section, and as a member of various other editorial boards and grant review panels. He is past president of the Society for Mathematical Psychology, winner of the Howard Crosby Warren Medal, and a fellow of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the Psychonomic Society, and of the Association for Psychological Science.

Debora Portrait
July 12, 2017
Hatlen Theater
GRIT talk – Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez

Ocean acidification and other stories – overcoming climate anxiety at a time of global crisis

Abstract: Seven and a half billion humans are changing the way we relate to the oceans because they are being transformed by excessive activities of our growing human population. In this fast-changing world, marine animals and plants must adapt fast to a warmer and corrosive environment as ocean acidification, pollution and deoxygenation continue. This global crisis is causing humans to be anxious about the safety of our oceans for recreation and as a source of food. In this talk I will discuss how humans can contribute to ameliorate current ocean problems and eventually return the oceans to a more sustainable state.

Rod Portrait
July 17, 2017
Hatlen Theater
GRIT talk – Rod Garratt

From Bitcoin to central bank digital currencies

Abstract: In 2013 the price of Bitcoin surged to over $1100 causing central banks around the world to take notice. Four years later, the price of Bitcoin is twice as high as its previous peak and central banks around the world are exploring the benefits of issuing crypto-based digital representations of fiat monies, more commonly known as central bank digital currencies. Rod Garratt, UCSB Professor of Economics, describes his work on a project to build a proof of concept for a wholesale interbank payment system that facilitates payments of central bank digital currency using a distributed ledger.

Bio: Rod Garratt holds the Maxwell C. and Mary Pellish Chair in Economics at the University of California Santa Barbara. He has served as a Research Advisor to the Bank of England, a Technical Advisor to the Bank for International Settlements and is a former Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. During his time at the FRBNY he co-led the Virtual Currency Working Group for the Federal Reserve System and he currently consults for Payments Canada and R3 on Project Jasper: a proof of concept for a wholesale interbank payment system built on Corda -- a distributed ledger platform for financial services.  Garratt received his undergraduate degree from the University of Waterloo and his Ph.D. from Cornell University. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Financial Market Infrastructures, the Journal of Network Theory in Finance and the Journal of Public Economic Theory.

Jean Portrait
July 19, 2017
Hatlen Theater
GRIT talk – Jean Carlson

Complexity and Robustness: How biology, ecology, and technology balance tradeoffs in an uncertain world

Abstract: Do complex systems exhibit fundamental properties? This talk looks at tradeoffs between robustness and fragility that occur in biological, ecological, and technological systems that are driven by design, evolution, or other sorting processes to high-performance states which are also tolerant to uncertainty in the environment and components. This leads to specialized, modular, hierarchical structures, often with enormous “hidden” complexity, with new sensitivities to unknown or neglected perturbations and design flaws. Such systems are robust, yet fragile! Understanding these tradeoffs gives insights for environmental policy, healthcare, and technologies.

Mahan Portrait
July 24, 2017
Hatlen Theater
GRIT talk – Mike Mahan

People are not petri plates: Why antibiotics fail

Abstract: Patients are frequently given the wrong antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, but it is not the physician who is at fault.  The standard antibiotic test used worldwide is flawed since it is based on how well drugs kill bacteria on petri plates — not how well they kill bacteria in the body.  We have developed an “in vivo” antibiotic test that mimics conditions in the body.  Drugs that pass the standard test often fail to treat bacterial infections, whereas drugs identified by the “in vivo” test are very effective. These drugs have been overlooked because they failed standard tests, despite being inexpensive, nontoxic and readily available at local pharmacies. Our findings call for an overhaul of standardized drug testing which hasn’t changed in more than 50 years.

Bio: Dr. Mahan received a B.S. degree in Biochemistry and M.S. degree in Genetics from the UC Davis; and a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Utah.  He was a NIH post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School where he began his work on the molecular mechanisms of infectious disease. His research is focused on discovering the molecular and pathogenic mechanisms underlying microbial infection, antibiotic resistance, and immunity — with the applied goal of making new medicines to combat disease.  Dr. Mahan joined the UCSB faculty in 1993. Dr. Mahan shared the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Newcomb-Cleveland Prize for the outstanding paper published in Science. He is a recipient of an American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award; Beckman Young Investigator Award; Harold J. Plous Award; and Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award. Dr. Mahan was Co-founder and Director of Remedyne Corporation, a biotech company in Santa Barbara, California.