When Prof. Dana Suskind first began implanting devices called cochlear implants on babies who couldn’t hear, she quickly noticed something about her patients. “The cochlear implant would allow sound to go to a child’s brain, but something else was needed to make those sounds have meaning.” Suskind observed that many of her patients struggled to develop language because their parents didn’t talk to them as much. It was a revelation that inspired her to found the Thirty Million Words Initiative, which aims to narrow that achievement gap. The program has since led to a best-selling book and most recently, a community partnership that will test these innovative ideas on a national scale. On this episode of Big Brains, Suskind discusses her transformation from surgeon to social scientist, how auditing a UChicago class shaped her work, and simple advice for parents and care-givers to teach kids from day one.
Neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri wants to do the near impossible: map the entire human brain. That means identifying each of the trillions of neural connections that exist inside the mind—a number bigger than the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. His success could mean understanding ourselves unlike ever before. “I want to turn anatomy of the structure of the brain into what we did for the genome,” Kasthuri says. A scientist at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, he believes a map of neurons could tell us everything that makes a human being unique—from an individual’s memories and dreams, to a more intricate understanding of mental illness. On this episode of Big Brains, Kasthuri explains how high-powered microscopes and supercomputers help him study the brains of mice, what makes humans distinct from all other living creatures and why the term “dim bulb” is more accurate than you think. Subscribe to Big Brains on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and rate and review the podcast.
PrettyQuick’s founder says Chicago Booth’s NVC changed her life
David Awschalom is one of the world’s leading scientists studying the growing field of quantum engineering, turning what was once in the realm of science fiction into reality—which could offer revolutionary breakthroughs in communications, digital encryption, sensor technology and even medicine. Studying the smallest elements in the universe is challenging on a number of levels, since quantum particles defy the laws of traditional physics. “The behavior of these tiny pieces is unlike anything we see in our world,” Awschalom said. “If I pull a wagon, you know how it’s going to move. But at the atomic world, things don’t work that way. Wagons can go through walls; wagons can be entangled and share information that is hard to separate.” On this episode of Big Brains, Awschalom shares how these unusual rules are leading to new technologies, why government and business are so interested in these breakthroughs, and how he’s helping to train a new generation of quantum engineers. Subscribe to Big Brains on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and rate and review the podcast.
As president of the University of Chicago, Robert J. Zimmer has a unique view to the challenges and opportunities facing higher education, and one of the biggest obstacles he sees is access for all students. While private institutions continue to offer greater financial support, Zimmer believes government and public institutions now need to do their part. “Is the country going to invest in the future of young people, or is it not? And is it going to provide access to higher education for people from all sorts of financial backgrounds? I think this is so important to the future of the country,” says Zimmer, who is also one of the leading champions of free expression on college campuses. On this episode of Big Brains, Zimmer how a scholarly career in mathematics fostered his deep ties to the University; his efforts to expand the sciences (including engineering) and arts and humanities; and developments for UChicago around the world, including a new center in Hong Kong. Subscribe to Big Brains on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify, and rate and review the podcast.
Nipam Patel gives a preview of the future of MBL