The Kavli Foundation
NewsletterVol. 4, Issue 4 2011
Dedicated to the advancement of science for the benefit of humanity, The Kavli Foundation supports scientific research, honors scientific achievement, and promotes public understanding of scientists and their work. For more information, visit:

NeurospotThe Brain on Trial 

How Should New Insights About the Brain  

Be Used in the Courtroom?  


gavelHow should insights about the brain affect the course of a criminal trial, from the arguments in a courtroom to the sentencing of a convicted defendant? 


This was the topic of the Fred Kavli Public Symposium at "Neuroscience 2011," held by the Society for Neuroscience. Titled "The Brain on Trial: Neuroscience and the Law," the symposium looked at how advances in neuroscience are both challenging and assisting the judicial system. To explore this further, The Kavli Foundation brought together three experts to discuss the subject. Joining the dialogue:

  • Alan Leshner, symposium chair, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and former head of the National Institute of Drug Abuse;
  • Jay Giedd, MD, an expert in adolescent brain development at the National Institute of Mental Health and chief of NIMH's Unit on Brain Imaging in the Child Psychiatry Branch;
  • Martha Farah, director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society, University of Pennsylvania.  

Together they examine the role neuroscience should have in determining legal policies and judgments, discuss innovative brain-based treatments for certain pathological behavior, and raise concerns about the use and misuse of scientific evidence.  Full story; video of symposium  



NeurospotExoplanets: How the Milky Way is Surprising Scientists     


Earlier this year, astronomers announced that, beyond our solar system, there are hundreds of possible planets in a small region of the Milky Way Galaxy, ranging from gaseous planets much larger than Jupiter to suspected rocky planets a few times more massive than Earth.   


These discoveries are courtesy of Kepler, a spacecraft launched by NASA in 2009. Kepler is NASA's first mission capable of finding Earth-size planets orbiting other stars, and it's giving astronomers their first broad overview of the structure and diversity of planetary systems in the Milky Way.  To learn more about Kepler's most recent discoveries, the Foundation talked with three prominent scientists:  

  • Jack J. Lissauer, Space Science and Astrobiology Division at NASA's Ames Research Center in Northern California, and co-investigator on the Kepler space telescope mission;  
  • Geoffrey W. Marcy, Director of U.C. Berkeley's Center for Integrative Planetary Science and co-investigator on the Kepler space telescope mission;  
  • Sara Seager, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and faculty member, the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.   

Said Seager of the discoveries so far, "This is the beginning of: 'What's out there? What are the planets known?' And in the future, we hope that our descendants will find signs of life." Full story   


NanospotDisturbing the Nanosphere    


By modifying a familiar tool in nanoscience - the Scanning Tunneling Microscope - a team at Cornell University's Laboratory for Atomic and Solid State Physics has been able to visualize what happens when they change the electronic structure of a "heavy fermion" compound made of uranium, ruthenium and silicon.  


What the team found sheds light on superconductivity - the movement of electrons without resistance - which typically occurs at extremely low temperatures and that researchers hope one day to achieve at something close to room temperature, which would revolutionize electronics.   


One of the researchers on the team, Mohammad H. Hamidian, talked with the Foundation about the heavy-fermion research, its significance to condensed-matter physics and the study of superconductivity, and the exciting possibilities opened up by the modified instrument.  Full story  


AstrospotDiseases in a Dish: Modeling Mental Disorders 


Researchers are using genetic engineering and growth factors to reprogram the skin cells of patients with schizophrenia, autism, and other neurological disorders and grow them into brain cells in the laboratory.  


With these "diseases in a dish," investigators can detect inherent defects in how neurons develop or function, or see what environmental toxins or other factors prod them to misbehave in the petri dish. They can also test the effectiveness of drugs that can right missteps in development, or counter the harm of environmental insults. "It's quite amazing that we can recapitulate a psychiatric disease in a petri dish," says neuroscientist Fred (Rusty) Gage, a professor of genetics at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and member of the executive committee of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind (KIBM) at the University of California, San Diego.  


In a special dialogue Gage discusses this research with Anirvan Ghosh, a neurobiologist at the University of California, San Diego and also an executive committee member of KIBM, and how this work is revolutionizing our understanding and treatment of mental and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Full story 



TESS Project Awarded $1 Million NASA Grant  


Principal investigator and MKI senior research scientist George Ricker.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) project at MIT has been named by NASA as one of the 11 proposals recently accepted for evaluation as potential future science missions.


The project, led by principal investigator George Ricker, a senior research scientist at MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research (MKI), would use an array of telescopes to perform an all-sky survey to discover transiting exoplanets, ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, in orbit around the nearest and brightest stars in the sky. "TESS will carry out the first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey, covering 400 times as much sky as any previous mission," Ricker says. "It will identify thousands of new planets orbiting a broad range of stellar types, and with widely varying distances from their host star." 




More Astrophysics News

Optofluidics Could Change Energy Field


The ability to manipulate light and fluids on a single chip, broadly called "optofluidics," has led to such technologies as liquid-crystal displays and liquid-filled optical fibers for fast data transfer. Optofluidics is now also on the cusp of improving such green technologies as solar-powered bioreactors, say Cornell researchers.  


The biggest challenge, says David Erickson, a member of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science, is how to upscale optofluidic chips, which are built at nanometer scales, to deliver enough energy to make a difference.  "Over the last five years or so, we have developed many new technologies to precisely deliver light and fluids and biology to the same place at the same time," Erickson said. "It's these new tools that we want to apply to the area of energy." Full story  


More Nanoscience News 

KNI/CEA-Leti Alliance Launches First Start-up

Jean-Lou Chameau, president of the California Institute of Technology, has announced the launch of Analytical Pixels, the first start-up company to emerge from the research and development programs of the joint Alliance for Nanosystems VLSI (very-large-scale-integration) -- a collaboration between Caltech's Kavli Nanoscience Institute (KNI) and the Micro and Nanotechnologies Innovation Campus (Minatec) of the Commissariat l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA)-Leti research institute in Grenoble, France.


The company will focus on the design, manufacture, and commercialization of multi-gas sensing systems created over the past five years in the field of nanoelectromechanical devices, read-out electronics, and system integration, and built on two decades of prior research carried out at Caltech. Full story 

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Special Feature: The Brain on Trial
Spotlight: Exoplanets - How the Milky Way is Surprising Scientists
Spotlight: Disturbing the Nanosphere
Spotlight: Diseases in a Dish - Modeling Mental Disorders
Astrophysics News
Nanoscience News
Caltech/CEA-Leti Alliance Launches First Start-up
AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award Winners Announced
USA Science & Engineering Festival Video Contest Opens
Neuroscience News
AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award Winners Announced 
Stories on the use of genetic analysis to help save a boy imperiled by a devastating disease, on the potential impact of climate change in two localities, and on the secret lives of scientists and engineers are among the winners of the 2011 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards.

The awards go to professional journalists for distinguished reporting for a general audience.The winning print and online entries appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Casper Star-Tribune, Wired, and PBS/NOVA Online, while the television and radio entries appeared in KQED QUEST, WGBH/NOVA, the National Geographic Channel, and WBEZ Chicago. The winning entry for children's science news appeared in Odyssey magazine.

Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science, said the 2011 awards "show that journalists are providing excellent coverage of science, both locally and beyond, even as resources at many news organizations continue to be stretched."

The 25 recipients of this year's awards will be honored at a special celebration at the 2012 AAAS Anual Meeting, to be in February in Vancouver, Canada. Full story


2012 Video ContestUSA Science & Engineering Festival Opens 2012 Kavli Science Video Contest     


Can science and engineering save the world? Inspired by the National Academy of Engineering's Grand Challenges, students grades 6-12 are invited to turn their solutions into videos, with the winners to receive a travel stipend to attend the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival's Expo in Washington DC, April 27-29. The winners will also have their video shown in a special event to be hosted by a special guest of the Festival. More information



In the Brain, Winning is Everywhere


Winning may not be the only thing, but the human brain devotes a lot of resources to the outcome of games, a study by Yale researchers suggest.


The study published the journal Neuron shows that when participants play games, such as rock-paper-scissors, almost the entire brain is engaged, not just the reward centers of the brain, which have been assigned the central role for shaping adaptive human behavior.


"Our brain functions to maximize the chance of survival and reproduction, so reward should be important for all cognitive functions, and thus most brain regions," said Timothy Vickery, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology and lead author of the study. Full story  


More Neuroscience News



Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (KISN).   NORBRAIN --  an NTNU-coordinated national infrastructure for neuroscience -- received 80 MNOK (10.2 Million Euro) from the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure. The project is structured around two Centres of Excellence, including the Centre for the Biology of Memory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), which is affiliated with KISN, as well as one Centre for Research-based Innovation - the Medical Imaging Laboratory at NTNU. The contribution will be used to set up state-of-the-art neuroscience equipment across a broad spectrum of molecular and systems neuroscience. A total of NOK 400 million is being allocated under the National Financing Initiative for Research Infrastructure this year. ...In October, KISN Director Edvard Moser was one of 46 life scientists awarded life-long memberships to EMBO -- a European organization of 1500 leading life scientist members that fosters new generations of researchers to produce world-class scientific results. 


Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University (KIBS). KIBS welcomed two new investigators: March Churchland (Department of Neuroscience) and Ken Shepard (Department of Electrical Engineering). ... Investigator Michael Goldberg was awarded the Patricia Goldman-Rakic Prize for Cognitive Neuroscience Research from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. ...  Charles Zuker received a five-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for "GFP Reconstitution Across Synaptic Partners (GRASP) Methods to Dissect Mammalian Neural Circuits." ... Co-director Rafa Yuste published an article in PNAS demonstrating that the stimulation of astrocytic glia can lead to the coordinated firing of neurons, such as happens during sleep and other global brain states. ... Director Eric Kandel and KIBS investigator Steve Siegelbaum, and the Mosers' lab at KISN in Trondheim, published back-to-back articles in Neuron and Cell on the role of the HCN1 channel in the coding of spatial firing fields by place cells and grid cells in the hippocampus.


Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University (KIN).  Arthur Horwich received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award from the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. A member of the KIN's steering committee, Horwich received the honor for research that  "toppled traditional notions of how proteins fold inside cells and established new principles that operate from microbes to humans." Since the award's inception in 1945, 80 recipients have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, 28 of whom were awarded in the past two decades.     


Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science (KIC).  KIC Co-director David Muller was elected American Physical Society Fellow in Material Physics with the following citation: For pioneering contributions to the development of electron energy loss spectroscopy as a quantitative tool and its application to unraveling connections between changes in electronic-structure and macroscopic behavior.  ...KIC members David Erickson and Kyle Shen are among Cornell's recipients of this year's Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) -- the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on early-career science and engineering professionals.


Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology (KIND). Frank Koppens received the Christiaan Huygens science prize for Physics. He was nominated for the award because of his ground-breaking research that made it possible to control the spin of a single electron in a nano structure. Koppens finished his PhD with honors at KIND. ... Ronald Hanson was one of two recipients of the 2011 European Quantum Information Young Investigator Award. Hanson received the award for his experimental work on the coherent control and measurements of single spins in solids, and proven leadership through the successful establishment of his own research group.

Kavli Nanoscience Institute at the California Institute of Technology (KNI). Members of the Atwater Group and KNI won the "Life at the Frontiers of Energy Research" Video Contest with their entry: Light Matters. Written and directed by KNI member Dennis Callahan, and featuring KNI members Stan Burgos and Eyal Feigenbaum, the video is a visual journey through the science and research conducted at the "Light-Material Interactions in Energy Conversion" Energy Frontier Research Center.


Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics  (KITP). On the 100th anniversary of the first Solvay Conference on Physics, the International Solvay Institutes created a special "Solvay Centenary Chair," which was granted to KITP Director David J. Gross for his seminal contributions to particle physics and string theory.  

The Kavli Foundation. Fred Kavli was one of this year's recipients of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. The medal is awarded every two years to individuals and families in recognition of their exceptional and sustained records of philanthropic giving as well as the important and lasting impact their philanthropy has had on a field, nation, or on the international community.