The Consortium conducts original research, serves students and faculty, and advances public dialogue and understanding on emerging issues at the intersection of science and society.
A recent competition at the University of Florida featured a race of 16 drones guided by human thoughts. The technology, called Brain Computer Interface (BCI), has been used in the past to help some paralyzed people manipulate prosthetics with their minds. In 2013, University of Minnesota biomedical engineering professor Bin He, PhD, first presented a drone controlled by BCI, in which electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets are fine-tuned to determine the electrical activity linked with specific thoughts in the brain. Programmers then write code to convert these signals into commands a computer sends to the drones. Regarding the drone race, Prof. He noted: "The progress of the BCI field has been faster than I had thought ten years ago. We are getting closer and closer to broad application." Read more about the competition and the technology behind it here.
The 2015-16 Microbiome Research & Microbiota Therapeutics lecture series wrapped up today with a talk by Prof. Diane Hoffmann, JD, MS, of the Law & Health Care Program at the University of Maryland. Prof. Hoffmann discussed her work leading an NIH-funded working group charged with identifying regulatory gaps and recommending solutions to ensure the safety and efficacy of probiotic products. She also described a project currently underway to perform a similar audit of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) regulations and those for other microbiome transplants. Prof. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, PhD (Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota) offered a commentary from his perspective as a food safety expert and microbiologist. Videos are available of the two previous lectures in the series, one on the evolving human microbiome by Prof. Alexander Khoruts, MD (University of Minnesota) and the other on pediatric uses of FMT by Prof. Stacy Kahn, MD (University of Chicago). Video of the lecture by Prof. Hoffmann will be posted soon; please check back.
An administrative judge has determined that the costs of climate change, which Minnesota is required to account for when deciding how to generate electricity, have previously been assessed much too cheaply. In her ruling, Judge LauraSue Schlatter mostly agreed with the US government's calculation of the social cost of carbon emissions, ruling that the federal figures are more realistic than those Minnesota had been using. This means the state is likely to face a ten-fold increase in its calculation of climate change costs, which will probably make wind and solar energy significantly cheaper than burning coal. Kevin Lee, the attorney who represented a group of physicians in the case, noted they are "thrilled. . . . It's a huge victory for the environment and for public health in Minnesota." The law requiring the state to account for social costs of pollution was passed in the 1990s, and is unique in the nation. To learn more, listen to the entire Minnesota Public Radio story here.
Starting Sept. 12, a course in Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR) will be offered to graduate students and community practitioners who want to know more about this powerful approach to understanding and addressing health and social disparities. Each Monday from 4-6, the class will explore the purpose and applications of CBPR; partnership formation and maintenance; issues of power, race, class, and social justice; conflict resolution; ethical issues; and CBPR's relationship to cultural and community knowledge systems. Please note this course can either be taken for academic credit (tuition costs apply) or for free by community practitioners seeking a certificate.