Can’t get enough TED? Neither can we. All three of Sanford-Burnham’s home cities have recently hosted TEDx conferences. In October, Dr. Jamey Marth wowed Santa Barbara with the future of nanomedicine at TEDxAmericanRiviera. Last month, Dr. Devanjan Sikder talked obesity at the inaugural TEDxOrlando and I recently had the chance to attend TEDxSanDiego.
Like most participants (we were considered participants, not just an audience), I have long admired TED talks and jumped at the chance to see one in person. TED (short for Technology, Entertainment, Design) has become so popular that local TEDx spin-offs (where x = independently organized) are springing up everywhere. The TED formula for community building brings together people who are passionate about ideas that matter and creates a forum where people with big ideas can connect.
TEDxAmericanRiviera, October 10, 2010
In Santa Barbara, Dr. Marth took participants on a journey to a world of the very small to discuss the convergence of nature, nurture and nanomedicine – the development of tiny devices that can deliver their cargo of drugs and imaging agents specifically to diseased tissue. And since TEDxAmericanRiviera was focused on local accomplishments that set the stage for change and innovation on a global scale, Dr. Marth also described a technology found only at UC Santa Barbara: the AlloSphere, a three-story cylinder that uses digital imaging to model and project biological and chemical data in four dimensions. A bridge in the center of this larger-than-life theater allows him and other scientists to stand fully immersed in their data.
Chris Lee, vice president of development at Sanford-Burnham and TEDxAmericanRiviera participant, was inspired by the conference’s emphasis on big thinking at all levels. During the breaks, he was approached by several other participants who confessed to him that, while they didn’t understand every detail of Dr. Marth’s talk, they walked away fascinated by nanomedicine and wanting to learn more.
“Our scientists and donors are innovative thinkers, always thinking about what’s next – just like TEDx participants. TEDx is a perfect match for us to be involved with and our scientists to speak at – it fits exactly with what we’re doing at Sanford-Burnham,” Lee said. While he was initially looking forward to hearing from Dr. Marth and other scientific speakers, Lee found himself especially captivated by a photographer – a surprise that embodies the multi-disciplinary TEDx experience.
TEDxSanDiego, November 8, 2010
As science writer at a busy research institute, I am always looking for new ways to talk about science. I felt right at home at TEDxSanDiego, where I heard about everything from cars that tweet to cooking stoves that save butterflies. The diverse cast of speakers included Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and Dr. Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It was an energizing experience that left me with two major take-home messages: 1) as amazing new technologies become more and more entwined in our lives, real-life handshakes are more important than ever and 2) our behavior (be it overeating, smoking or happiness) influences people in our social circles out to three degrees of separation – two simple ideas that say a lot about personal responsibility and the power of our actions. The theme was “The Next Wave” and I hope to continue riding the wave of creativity and connection beyond this one day of talks.
TEDxOrlando, November 13, 2010
In Orlando, Sanford-Burnham’s Dr. Sikder, a musician and scientist, spoke about his scientific curiosity and passion to find new treatments for the global obesity epidemic. Other speakers included an astrophysicist with research interests in stellar atmospheres, a contributor to the Global Peace Film Festival, an award-winning cinematographer who worked on the IMAX movie “Hubble 3D” and a scientist developing innovative fusion energy concepts.
According to Deborah Robison, TEDxOrlando participant and Sanford-Burnham’s communications director at Lake Nona, Dr. Sikder “wove Bruce Springsteen, the laws of thermodynamics and a mysterious factor X into a performance about biomedical research. His talk delivered a message that may offer hope to the one billion overweight and 300 million clinically obese individuals worldwide.”
Dr. Sikder explained that weight is determined by the simple balance of calories consumed and calories burned as energy for maintaining the body’s existence, physiology and exercise. He proposed that orexin, a brain hormone, functions as the factor X that makes some people resistant to weight gain. Orexin levels deplete as we age and yet, in mouse models, an injection “melts” stored fat by accelerating the cell’s fuel-burning engine, the mitochondria. Dr. Sikder warned that clinical application of his work may take years and advocated for a healthy diet and physical activity to achieve simple – though hard-to-achieve – energy balance.
Still want more TEDx?
Watch video from TEDxAmericanRiviera here.
Read the transcript of an online chat with Dr. Marth here.
Read about other participant experiences at TEDxSanDiego here, here and here and view pictures here.
View more TEDxOrlando pictures here and watch video of Dr. Sikder’s talk here.