The 21st century will likely see a dramatic shift in human life expectancy. And while longer lives might offer distinct benefits for individuals and society, the life-expectancy shift would also bring greater human vulnerability to a plethora of debilitating, age-related illnesses and diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, vision loss, cancer, and dementia. Certainly, leading a healthy lifestyle has a significant impact on longevity and well-being, but it is the power of stem cells and regenerative medicine that holds the greatest promise for altering the natural history of age-related diseases once they occur.
Borrowing from Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, American author and biochemist Isaac Asimov coined the term the Frankenstein Complex in order to describe the human phobia of "mechanical" men or human beings who have been altered in some way (perhaps with devices or generated human tissues), but whose outward appearance remains human. (Think: android, the Six Million Dollar Man, all those wives in Stepford.)
What implications does the Frankenstein Complex have for the promise and future of regenerative medicine? Are there lessons to be learned from Shelley's Modern Prometheus?
Join us on March 6, for an intriguing conversation with Dr. John Wagner, director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program and scientific director of Clinical Research, Stem Cell Institute, who will discuss what is known about stem cells today, the field's potential impact on society, and of course, the prophecy of Mary Shelley.
From Iraq and Afghanistan to Syria and South Sudan, world leaders are perpetually confronted with a dizzying array of crises that threaten peace and stability. Moreover, as the international power and influence of the United States is increasingly challenged by countries such as China, Brazil, Russia, and India, the United Nations and other post-World War II international security and economic structures seem inadequate to the task of promoting security and well-being throughout the world.
So what are the key international challenges and opportunities for American policy-makers and the American public in the decades ahead, and how do we address them?
Join us on February 6, for a thought-provoking conversation in which Eric Schwartz, Dean of the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, discusses significant international governance challenges of the 21st century and considers how to best manage global crises and our world's future.
Few topics have been in the headlines as perennially as health care reform in the United States. From the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 and the proposed Health Security Act of 1993 (aka the Clinton Health Care Plan), to the ongoing debate and drama of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), it seems the discussion has no end. But what are the facts behind this most recent legislation and how does one separate fact from fiction and political posturing from very real consequences for U.S. citizens?
The U.S. is projected to spend $2.9 trillion on health care in 2013. Despite this high level of spending, approximately 47 million non-elderly persons are uninsured. The ACA was created, in part, to address this issue. Following numerous legal challenges, the Supreme Court upheld the ACA's constitutionality in a 5-4 decision in June 2012.
At this writing, much of the focus has turned to the rocky rollout of healthcare.gov and the disruption generated by new insurance regulations. According to Dr. Jean Abraham, an award-winning professor from the University's School of Public Health, "As implementation of the ACA continues, we are able to observe how the policy is evolving and being shaped by political forces, as well as how provisions within the Act may be adapted in order to meet the goal of expanding coverage to approximately 25 million low-income Americans."
Join us on December 5 as Dr. Abraham presents an in-depth look at key health-insurance provisions within the ACA, and helps to sort through the evidence and expectations related to this controversial legislation.
Situated in the Pacific Ocean on both sides of the equator, The Galápagos Islands are recognized as the place where Charles Darwin cultivated his theory of evolution. The islands are also famed for their large number of unique endemic species. This archipelago, like islands elsewhere, is recognized as a focal point for speciation and extinction, and has long struggled in the face of ever-increasing ecological pressures. On a more hopeful note, researchers have found invasive mammal eradication to be a powerful tool in preventing endemic island species extinction.
Dr. Julia Ponder, executive director of The Raptor Center, is part of an international group of conservationists who plan, implement, and monitor efforts to systematically remove invasive rats from the Galápagos, and in so doing, save the islands' endangered and at-risk species. These high-riskhigh-reward efforts often demand value judgments and ethical considerations such as, when is it right to kill one species to save another Says Ponder "Unintended consequences must be minimized, and outcomes and uncertainties must be managed. Extensive efforts are undertaken to protect non-target animals, such as the Galápagos hawk, from harm; the pay-off is both tangible and immediate."
Join Professor Ravi Bapna (Director, Social Media and Business Analytics Collaborative, Carlson School of Management) for an eye-opening discussion about the research being conducted by University faculty, including how social media data can be used to better understand fundamental human constructs such as peer influence, trust, and altruism.
One of the biggest challenges facing today's world is the delivery of foreign aid to our poorest and most fragile nations. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is dedicated to meeting that challenge by coordinating the international aid efforts of 24 donor nations and monitoring aid effectiveness in the developing world.
Join Professor Atwood, who has just returned to the University of Minnesota following his two-year term as DAC chair, for an inspiring discussion about the possibilities of alleviating global poverty.
U of M chemistry professor Christy Haynes was named "one of the country's most brilliant scientists" by Popular Science for her work with blood platelets.
2012 was one of the worst years for wildfires in nearly half a century. Across the United States, more than 8 million acres burned--the highest average acreage consumed, per fire, since 2000. Many blame the effects of climate change, including increasingly severe heat waves and droughts, for creating more fuel to burn and longer wildfire seasons. Last year's Pagami Creek fire at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area was just one example of this new era of larger, more destructive forest fires.
What does a worsening wildfire scenario mean for the economy and the environment? How does it relate to a rise in other natural disasters such as storms and floods? And what can be done to arrest the effects before they change the face of our planet irrevocably?
On February 7, join Regents Professor of Forestry Peter Reich as he examines the impact of global climate change on our terrestrial ecosystems and discusses the future of our boreal forests.
The rising cost of a college degree is one of the most pressing issues facing higher education today. But while the demands for lower tuition and institution-wide budget and spending cuts continue to grow, public financial support continues to dwindle.
So how, then, does a 21st century academic leader balance both the books and the competing priorities of today's land-grant universities? New University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler believes the process begins by renewing a partnership with the state's elected officials, promoting the University's economic and cultural value, and establishing research initiatives focusing on early-stage discovery research--something universities are uniquely positioned to do.
On January 10, join President Kaler as he previews his first biennial budget request since taking office and discusses his vision of "What's Next?" for the University--including his commitment to holding the lid on tuition while improving the U's operational efficiency.
Biochemist Lawrence Wackett provides an expert assessment of the oil and gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." Dr. Wackett is leading an award-winning research effort at the University of Minnesota to develop new biotechnology to clean up the wastewater created by fracking.
As the dust from a particularly long and divisive campaign season settles, Political Science Professor Kathryn Pearson provides expert analysis of the elections and what the results mean for the crises facing our state and nation.
Last year, youth activists led successful "Arab Spring" campaigns to overthrow longstanding autocratic regimes from Tunisia to Egypt, including that of longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak. In the immediate wake of Mubarak's ouster, the prospects of freedom in Egypt seemed higher than they had in more than six decades.
It didn't take long, however, for widespread jubilation to turn into political intrigue and infighting. Now led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, many fear that Egypt's transition to democracy has been short-circuited once again. President Morsi has already successfully challenged the authority of the military junta that had controlled Egypt since Mubarak's ouster, but his grip on power continues to be precarious at best.
On October 4, join international economic expert Ragui Assaad, who has just returned from observing this year's volatile events in his native Cairo, as we kick off the seventh season of Headliners.
Many people use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to keep in touch with friends and family and stay current on pop culture. But social media has also changed the face of reporting and journalism by giving the average citizen a voice. And politicians and the government are taking notice.
On April 5, join Heather LaMarre, associate professor and social media expert from the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communications, as she discusses how this "new public square" is having an impact on the American presidential campaign...and even in global geopolitics. How does social media affect the relationship between the public, the policy makers, and the media? And what will it all do for civic discourse and public engagement in the election season--and beyond?
For decades, the United States led the world in the percentage of its citizens who earned a college degree. In recent years, however, American college completion rates have remained relatively flat, while those of other nations have risen dramatically. As a result, while the United States ranks first among developed nations in the percentage of 55- to 64-year-olds who have graduated from college, our nation ranks fourth among 35- to 44-year-olds and 10th among 25- to 34-year-olds.
How should we respond to this downward trend? Some argue that the United States should make college the goal for every student in America's elementary and secondary schools. Others counter that emphasizing college for all will divert many students from preparing for careers that do not require a college degree. This tension is heating up in battles at the national, state, and local levels.
On March 1, in this 10th anniversary year of No Child Left Behind, join Kent Pekel, executive director of the University of Minnesota College Readiness Consortium, as he provides an overview of these issues and suggests a way forward for Minnesota.
The current financial crisis in North America and Western Europe has raised fears that we could be headed for the next Great Depression. Is it possible, though, that we can keep history from repeating itself by looking at today's global economic crisis through the lens of hindsight? What lessons can be learned from comparing and contrasting previous depressions such as those occurring in Latin America in the 1980s, or Japan in the 1990s? Can studying the experiences of these countries help the economies of North America and Western Europe recover more quickly and emerge stronger than ever?
Join us February 2 as Distinguished McKnight Professor and adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Tim Kehoe discusses the critical financial depressions of the recent past--and what lessons we can glean from them for today.
Three years ago, an experimental cancer treatment at the University of Minnesota
turned a small black dog named Batman into an international celebrity. The
groundbreaking nontoxic therapy used on Batman proved to be so successful in
treating canines that it has now been approved for clinical trials for humans
suffering from an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer.
On January 5, hear from oncologist Dr. John Ohlfest as he shares the story of how
researchers from Veterinary Medicine and the Masonic Cancer Center joined forces on
this cutting-edge treatment, and explains what it means for the health of man--and
his best friend.
On October 31, the seven billionth human being was born, raising the most compelling question facing humanity today: how can we feed the world's people without destroying Earth's fragile life support systems? Nearly a billion people currently lack adequate access to food and suffer from chronic hunger. As the world's population continues to grow, we must address three problems simultaneously: prevent famine, increase global food production, and reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture.
On December 1st, join noted ecologist and climatologist Jonathan Foley as he reveals the key ingredients needed to create a recipe for globally sustainable agriculture.
After World War II, Congress authorized the building of the interstate highway system and subsidized mortgage loans for returning servicemen and their families. The result? The "American Dream" of the suburbs--a massive social engineering project that encouraged middle-class whites to abandon the inner city and move to brand-new bedroom communities.
Now, these first-ring suburbs are in a state of simultaneous decline. Crumbling infrastructure, struggling schools, abandoned strip malls, home foreclosures, and an eroding tax base have hit them hard. The very policies that built the first-ring suburbs 60 years ago are now moving their former prosperity and stability out to the metro's edge.
Join Myron Orfield, a nationally recognized expert in land use and regional governance, as he explores the economic, environmental, and social consequences of America's aging first-ring suburbs.
The idea that most people march in lockstep down the same career path (full-time education, followed by continuous full-time employment, capped by full-time retirement) is a popular myth in America; in truth, only a tiny percentage of the population ever really executes this exact route. Yet, corporate practices, government policies, and social structures are still geared to this model.
As 78 million American baby boomers approach traditional retirement age, our society will witness unprecedented change and transitions. Creating new retirement options for this 21st-century reality, particularly in light of the recent economic downturn, requires a rethinking of what we've come to accept as a predictable life course.
Join noted sociologist Phyllis Moen, as she kicks off the sixth season of Headliners by mapping the real retirement trends and outlining a visionary alternative to the "retirement mystique."
From apple orchards and pumpkin patches, to alfalfa fields and balsam firs, more than two-thirds of the world's crop species either need or benefit from honeybees. In the U.S. alone, the busy insect plays a crucial role in the fate of more than 100 different crops, with an estimated value of $20 billion.
Unfortunately, beekeepers from all over the country have noticed an increase in the disappearance and death of large numbers of bees in their apiaries--a trend that will be costly not just to the beekeepers, but to the U.S. (and global) agricultural engines.
On March 3, join Professor Spivak as she discusses her leading-edge research, and shares her thoughts on what is causing this die-off, whether it can be prevented or reversed, and what it means for our economy and food sources.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the Federal Reserve's principal decision-making body with regard to monetary policy, and its duty is to make key decisions about interest rates and the growth of the United States money supply.
Recently, Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, made news when he said that the FOMC's plan to buy $600 billion of long-term treasuries this year (an action known as quantitative easing) would only have a modest effect on the economy.
On February 3, join Narayana Kocherlakota as he shares his viewpoints and walks you through the role of the FOMC in current macroeconomic conditions, how those conditions affect the U.S. labor market, and his forecast for economic recovery.
What would it take to bring our electric power grid up to 21st-century standards? How could sustainable sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric power connect with, and reinvigorate, our tired, old energy system? And what should be done to improve the reliability, security, and efficiency of the nation's electrical infrastructure?
On January 6, meet Massoud Amin, a pioneer in smart grid technology, as he shares his vision for the construction of an improved national power grid that would avert large-scale blackouts, save billions of dollars in wasted electricity, and increase the security of the country's essential power supply.
With the Nook and Kindle and cohorts battling it out at the top of holiday gift guides, it seems e-readers are becoming more ubiquitous each passing day. The machines themselves are dropping in price, and myriad titles are available--everything from cookbooks and self-help guides, to popular fiction and 16th-century poetry.
But where does that leave "real" books--and along with them, the publishing industry? Does paper have a future in publishing? What role will backlists play? Who will choose what goes digital--or decide what should even be considered? What will be the role of textbooks, scholarly press publications, and other educational materials?
On December 2, join Douglas Armato, director of the University of Minnesota Press, as he addresses the future of publishing in the digital age.
With the balance of power in both Houses of Congress at stake, the economy still in turmoil, and President Obama's policies under scrutiny, as well as the Minnesota governorship up for grabs, the 2010 midterm elections are contested battlefields on both the state and national levels.
What will the results mean for Minnesota--and for the U.S.?
As the dust settles after the midterm elections, join political science Professor Kathryn Pearson on November 4 as she recaps the 2010 elections, reflects on their significance, and examines the "political tea leaves" to see what the results porten
In August, a federal court judge stunned scientists nationwide when he issued a temporary injunction against President Obama's expanded federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The result? Widespread controversy and confusion. Researchers in labs throughout the country scrambled to interpret the decision and assess its immediate impact on their work. The prohibition was condemned by advocates who believe that more permissive federal funding will lead to major medical breakthroughs in the fight against such diseases as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. At the same time, it was cheered by groups that oppose the research on moral grounds. Continuing this legal saga, just days ago an appeals court placed a temporary stay on the injunction as it considers the case.
Regardless of the outcome of this legal fight, the contentious debate over the ethical use of human embryos in biomedical research has gained new momentum. What does this recent court ruling mean? And how will it impact work being conducted at the U of M, home of the world's first interdisciplinary institute dedicated to stem cell research?