University of Southern California


USC Research Salon Series

USC’s Research Salon Series is one of the activities of the Center for Excellence in Research, under the auspices of the The Academic Senate, the Vice President of Research Advancement, and the University Research Committee.

Research Lunch Salons are small group gatherings (up to 15 faculty) meant to be mind-stretching intellectual discussions moderated by an inspiring faculty member. Lunch is provided. Salons are held from 12:00 – 1:30 PM on every other Wednesday in the Office of Research.

In proper salon form, the discussions are not about any one faculty member’s specific research, but about broader issues and challenges. The Salons are open to the university community, but interested participants must RSVP at least 3 days prior to the salon date; reservations will be filled on a first-come first-served basis.

To register for courses, please RSVP in advance to the office at (213)740-6709 or Additional information on CER workshops and salons is available from the Office of Research: 213-740-6709.

Spring 2008 Research Salons

Presenter: Peter Mancall, Professor of History and Associate Vice Provost for Research Advancement
Date: February 13

“What Drives Explorers? Pushing Against Intellectual and Geographic Boundaries”

This salon will focus on the issues related to exploration, specifically looking at what drives women and men to explore both new places and new ideas. The salon will look at exploration over time and in the modern world, with attention to exploration of new ideas as well as new places. Explorers — individuals who push against inherited intellectual boundaries — exist in all kinds of human endeavor. The salon will focus on what drives such individuals.

Presenter: Maja Mataric, Professor of Computer Science and Associate Dean, Viterbi School of Engineering
Date: March 12

“How Can Technology Humanize (Rather Than Dehumanize) Care for Special Needs Populations”

As various special-needs populations are on the rise (elderly, stroke sufferors, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism spectrum disorder, attending deficit and hyperactivity disorder, Alzheimers and dementia in general, etc.), and the cost of care is rising instead of dropping, how will the needs of such populations be met? A variety of assistive technologies are being developed to address this growing problem. Will such technologies serve to bridge the gap between special-needs and typical populations, or in some cases broaden it? Will the availability of such technologies devalue human care or make it less available? Can such technologies be made safe and affordable? How can we address the growing needs of various populations in a human if not human way?

Presenter: Rand Wilcox, Professor of Psychology
Date: March 26

“Innovation, Paradigm Shifts and the Information Age”

A Berkeley study estimated that in 2002 alone, print, film, magnetic, and optical storage media produced about 5 exabytes (10^18 bytes) of new information. In his 1982 book Megatrends, John Naisbitt wrote that we are drowning in information but starved for knowledge. The opportunities for innovation would seem to be increasing as a result of the information explosion. Yet in some sense it is more difficult for innovation to have a wide impact due to the massive growth in information. And what about paradigm shifts? Thomas Kuhn wrote that “Normal science, for example, often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments. Nevertheless, so long as those commitments retain an element of the arbitrary, the very nature of normal research ensures that novelty shall not be suppressed for very long.’

In our time, is a paradigm shift more difficult than ever? In my own field (statistics), major advances and insights can take a half century to have a meaningful impact on non-statisticians. Within academics, the obvious strategies for promoting new technology is to write journal articles and books, and to give talks and workshops. What else might be done? To what extent are experiences the same or unique across disciplines? Are there disciplines where a paradigm shift is more likely to occur? If yes, why? In general, can anything be done to expedite the impact of major advances?

Presenter: Carol Prescott
Date: April 9

“Beyond the Genome: Implications of Genetic Research for our Understanding of Ourselves”

The explosion of information available from genetic technologies holds great promise but also raises important issues, from concerns about privacy to fundamental questions about human nature. As scholars, we rarely question the value of having more knowledge. But is this a case of too much information? For example, are we ready to know what diseases we’re at risk to develop? What is the cost/benefit of genetic testing? Whom can we trust to hold and access this information? Will having this information alter our sense of having free will? In this salon, we explore these questions from a variety of perspectives and examine their potential impact on our functioning as scholars, scientists, and citizens.

Presenter: Richard Cote, Professor of Pathology and Co-Chair, USC Biomedical Nanoscience Initiative
Date: April 23

“The Impact of Nanotechnology on Medicine”

This salon will open a discussion on the current and potential impact of nanotechnology in medicine, including diagnostics, therapeutics, and restoration of function. We will discuss the role potential role of USC in studying the relationship between nanotechnology and medicine, and assess areas where USC should be, but is not currently involved.

CER Research Salon: New Salon Topics

Faculty are welcome to propose a salon via the CER Salon application. Proposals from all faculty for 2007-08 research salons: The deadline is CLOSED.

Download the Proposal Guidelines.

Previous Research Salons

Fall 2007

Presenter: Maryalice Jordan-Marsh, Associate Professor, School of Social Work
Date: September 5, 2007
“Global Collaboration Wikinomics-style: Can It, Will It, Should It Change Health Care?”

Presenter: Thomas Habinek, Professor of Classics
Date: September 19, 2007
“A New Humanism? Natural Science and Cultural Change”

Presenter: Caleb Finch, ARCO/William F. Kieschnick Chair in the Neurobiology of Aging
Date: October 3, 2007
“The Unstable Human Lifespan”

Presenter: Jeff Smith, Center for Management Communication
Date: October 17, 2007
“Can Cultural Studies Illuminate the Study of Behavior in Business, Law, and the Social Sciences?”

Presenter: Hossein Jadvar, Associate Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering, and Director of Radiology Research
Date: October 31, 2007
“What Can Imaging Do For Science?”

Presenter: Jennifer Washburn, Fellow, New America Foundation
Date: November 14, 2007
“University, Inc.: How Far Should The Privatization of Higher Education Go?”

Spring 2007

February 20: Richard Roberts, Moderator
“Evolution and the Origins of Life: The Interface of Philosophy, Science and Religion”

March 6: Antonio Damasio, Moderator
“Hearts, Minds, and Brains”

March 20: Michael Arbib, Moderator
“Homo Quaerens: Humans as Questioners”

April 10: Don Kohn, Moderator
“Stem Cell Therapies: From Bench to Bedside”

April 24: Tom Lyon, Moderator
“Translating Developmental Psychology Into Legal Practice”