A Life of Unraveling Alzheimer’s: “It’s Both Fascinating and Horrifying”

Dr. William Mobley confers with Dr. Pavel Belichenko, a close friend and UC San Diego colleague who passed away last year.

Dr. William Mobley confers with Dr. Pavel Belichenko, a close friend and UC San Diego colleague who passed away last year.


Dr. William Mobley has studied Alzheimer’s for longer than the disease has been popularly known by that name.

Dating back to his PhD studies in 1970 at Stanford University, it’s been his life’s work, as well as his later personal anguish.

His own mother died at age 97 after suffering for many years from the incurable disease formerly known as senile dementia. He recalls her debilitating decline as “a very tough time for me and my family.”

Since coming to UC San Diego in 2009 as a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Neurosciences, Mobley has led acclaimed research into the neurobiology of both Alzheimer’s and Down’s syndrome. His studies have revealed them to be closely related.

For the past two years, he also has hosted “On Our Mind,” an interview podcast on UCSD-TV. Most recently, he devoted a series of conversations with experts about the many aspects of Alzheimer’s.

“It’s always been inspiring for me to learn what other people are thinking about,” said Mobley, “and to explore how they’re using their brains.”

A self-described “small-town boy from Nebraska,” Mobley has a scholarly, gently inquisitive manner. As he says: “Ultimately, my role here at UCSD is about empathy and listening. It’s the most important thing I do every day.”

Q: What fascinates you most about studying Alzheimer’s?
There are so many bits and pieces to it. What’s fascinating is to use science to pull apart the threads of this cloth – the genes and proteins that work over a period of 30 years, that ultimately kill a patient. It’s both fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

Q: Tell me more about these threads …
Like every piece of cloth, once you start pulling a few threads out, the whole cloth begin to fall apart, in a way that allows you to see through it. Right now, it’s the complexity of the weave combined with the need for more intensely rigorous science that intrigues me the most.

Q: What myths about Alzheimer’s would you like to dispel?
One myth is that it can’t happen to me –that I can ignore it because it is not in my family. Guess what? It’s likely to affect as many as half of the readers of this article. Because if people live long enough, say, 85 years, they are at a very great risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

A second contravening myth is therefore it’s essentially inevitable for everyone. I think we’re finding out that good science will prove that it is not inevitable and again, that many of those who read this article will escape it. But excellent science and translation of discoveries to therapies is key.

Q: Should those who are “of a certain age” be frightened of the prospect of Alzheimer’s?
I wouldn’t be frightened. Instead, I’d be focused on doing everything I can right now to take good care of my health. We all need to be aware of what’s called “brain health” – which fundamentally means staying physically active, exercising, eating well, staying socially active, helping others … those sorts of things.

Q: What does the future hold for our society as it grows older?
We need to focus squarely on the size of the epidemic that’s headed our way. By 2050, we predict that more than 115 million people in the world will have Alzheimer’s. Right now, we need to recognize the scope of the problem. We also need to have greater hope that, through scientific research, this will work out. And we must have the resolve to insist that the funds needed for research are provided.

Q: What have you learned about the brain from hosting these shows?
We live our lives through our brains. We know what we know because of our brains. There’s really no topic that we need not explore on the show. From a brain perspective, there’s nothing about science or art or history or social justice or the weather that is off target.

Q: How do you reconcile yourself with the concept that you might get it?
It’s not so much personal as professional, but there’s more than a little personal angst about what will happen to me and my wife and my kids – and my friends. I know the damage it does and the pain it causes.

Q: As a leading Alzheimer’s expert, how close would you say we are to finding a cure?
I’m optimistic. Going back to the analogy of the cloth, we’ve begun to see the holes. I can’t say when the cure will happen, but it will – and I’m committed to that outcome.

A Philosophical Matter: “Not Every Question Can Be Answered by Science”

Rebecca Goldstein: "To be human is to reflect on the questions we ask as philosophers."

Rebecca Goldstein: “To be human is to reflect on the questions we ask as philosophers.”

Describing the “war” between philosophy and science as “ridiculous,” acclaimed novelist-philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein told a UC San Diego audience on Jan. 27 that science doesn’t provide all the answers to age-old mysteries.

When moderator Roger Bingham, founder of The Science Network, pointed to Stephen Hawking’s famously derisive remarks about philosophy’s lesser role when compared to modern science, she had a quick response:

“I absolutely disagree,” she said. “If that’s what he believes, he’s not been talking to the right philosophers.”

The presentation was the latest edition of the Helen Edison Lecture Series, presented by UC San Diego Extension.

In Goldstein’s talk, she professed her belief that philosophy remains essential to our understanding of the world’s complexities, posing such questions as: What does it mean to live a good life? Or to be a good person? And what is the meaning of reality?

Her 2014 book, “Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away,” imagines what Plato would think, say and write about today’s contemporary world if he were to return.

Plato surely would defend philosophy’s place as an academic pursuit and real-world discipline against those who would dismiss its teachings, said Goldstein, whose own academic career began in physics before she turned to writing mainstream books and treatises.

Science, she said, exists as “a wonderful methodology of science that we wandered on, thanks to Galileo,” but doesn’t provide all the answers.

For every area of human inquiry, she said, “We have debated the philosophy of mathematics, language, science, education, history, art, religion, politics. … It was Plato who mapped out that entire landscape. He asked the iconic questions in all these areas.”

Yet, she reflected that Plato, who lived some 2,500 years ago until age 80 (“It’s that Mediterranean diet”) saw nothing wrong with slavery in his day, as long as it wasn’t fellow Greeks who were being enslaved. “What they called ‘barbarians’ were all non-Greeks,” said Goldstein.

“To be human is to reflect on the questions we ask as philosophers,” she added, pointing to societal shifts in racism and human rights. “Not every question can be answered by science.”

The next edition of the Helen Edison Lecture Series will feature best-selling author Ken Blanchard and UC San Diego psychiatry professor Morton Shaevitz, co-authors of “Refit! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life.”

Presented free and open to the public, the event will be held Thursday, March 12, at UC San Diego Price Center East Ballroom.

Career Talk: “The Secrets of Nutrition, Eating Your Way to Better Health”

GRAPHIC, KATIE FERRAROA monthly series of 20-minute conversations with UC San Diego Extension instructors

Topic: “The Secrets of Nutrition: Eating Your Way to Better Health”


A registered dietitian who values the life-long benefits of health and nutrition, Katie Ferraro teaches several courses at Extension. She’s also an assistant clinical professor at the University of San Diego and at UC San Francisco.

Eating right, she says, is a simple matter of what you eat, how often, how much and when. She also believes eating tortilla chips by the handful — her favorite guilty snack — is not inherently evil.

Quote: “If you’re busy during the week, as most people are, we talk about using the weekend to prepare your meals for the next week. Even just snacks. You can put them in little sacks and grab them as you go out the door – rather than hitting that drive-thru every day. But you have to have a plan.”

This Career Talk Radio podcast is part of Career Channel. You can subscribe to Career Talk Radio via iTunes.


Todd Gilmer: New Director Named for Master’s Healthcare Program

Todd Gilmer

Todd Gilmer

Dr. Todd Gilmer has been appointed director of the master’s program for the Leadership of Healthcare Organizations, part of UC San Diego Extension.

Gilmer is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UCSD School of Medicine, with a specialty in the areas of health insurance/risk management, diabetes and mental health services.

Among many credits, Dr. Gilmer currently serves as health economist for both UCSD’s Geriatric Psychiatry Research Center, and the Child and Adolescent Research Center at San Diego Children’s Hospital.

Launched in 2001, the Leadership Healthcare organization degree was the first Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) Degree in the University of California system. The program provides industry professionals with critical knowledge and skills to become effective managers and leaders in today’s complex healthcare environment.

In his new role, Gilmer succeeds Richard Kronick.

The Pulse: Thriving Yet Threatened, Southern California Community Clinics




A monthly series of conversations on healthcare issues

Topic: “Thriving Yet Threatened: Southern California Community Clinics”

Host: Leslie Bruce, Director, Healthcare Leadership and Community Outreach, UC San Diego Extension

Guest: Gary Rotto, Director of Health Policy and Strategic Communications, Council of Community Clinics


Gary Rotto shares with listeners the vital role that community clinics play in providing primary care to millions of the nation’s uninsured, underinsured, and underserved people, including children and veterans.

He discusses the impact of the Affordable Care Act in increasing demand for healthcare services and the “funding cliff” that faces clinics both locally and nationwide at the end of September 2015.

On a brighter note, Rotto points to the wide variety of jobs and careers available at community clinics. From electronic medical records, billing and coding, and human resources professionals to clinicians such as nurse practitioners and physicians, the clinics are always looking for good people wanting to make a difference.

Rotto found his way to the Council via an unusual combination of educational and professional experiences. Listen to learn more.


  • “In San Diego County alone, our member clinics provide compassionate, high quality healthcare to 700,000 patients through more than two million visits annually.”

The Art of Fundraising for Worthy Causes: “You Can Make a Positive Difference”

David Pierce: "I always tell my students that the best thing about grant writing and fundraising is the good karma you generate."

David Pierce: “I always tell my students that the best thing about grant writing and fundraising is the good karma you generate.”


David Pierce is something of a pioneer in grant writing, fundraising and development, having started nearly 35 years ago in his home state of Washington.

As he details below, it took a life-changing volcanic eruption to launch his career.

A UC San Diego Extension instructor in Grant Writing for Nonprofits, he’s also vice president and co-director of development for the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.

Over his career, he has earned four academic degrees – two master’s in English and creative writing from San Diego State University, and a business administration degree from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

“When I first started teaching,” he said, “there weren’t many established programs to teach people how to be grant writers or fundraisers. Now, a lot of my former students work for non-profits around town. It’s always great to cross paths with them again.”

Pierce’s course, Grant Writing for Nonprofits, is part of Extension’s Professional Certificate in Fundraising and Development.

Q: When did you start teaching grant writing at Extension?
A: I was the original instructor for Extension’s first grant writing course when it started 12 years ago. I also later originated Extension’s courses on development of major gifts and capital campaigns. Prior to that, I taught at San Diego State in the English department and also in the department of writing and rhetoric.

Q: What’s the most difficult part of grant writing?
A: I always say that it’s not that difficult as long as you do it right. There’s a misconception that there’s mystery involved and that it takes a special kind of talent. But if someone is good at writing, research, and people skills, they can be an excellent grant writer.

Q: What are some of the basic skills required?
A: First, you have to be a good writer, able to convey information clearly and concisely. In terms of only using a specific jargon, I don’t think that’s necessary. But when you’re fine-tuning your request, a funding source might use certain terms that you’d be wise to incorporate into your writing. But you can’t just parrot it back. You have to use the jargon in intelligent ways.

Q: What’s your biggest grant writing success, or one that brought you the most sense of pride?
A: When I was with the Vista Hill Foundation in the 1990s, we helped spearhead a grant program for San Diego County’s health services for jail inmates who had mental illnesses. We were able to help these people get integrated back into society.

Q: Why do you think you’re so compelled to help people in need?
A: It’s because I really enjoy helping people. That’s always been my motivation wherever I’ve been. I’m always passionate about the cause and people I represent.

Q: How did you get started in the field?
A: I got started as a result of the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980 that devastated my hometown of Longview, Washington. I helped set up a disaster relief team and used my writing skills to bring federal and state funding to get my community back on its feet. Helping people gave me a lot of satisfaction and it seemed like a perfect way to use my skills.

Q: Aside from winning the grant, what are the biggest rewards of grant writing?
A: I always tell my students that the best thing about grant writing and fundraising is the good karma you generate. You can make a positive difference in people’s lives, even with a smaller, more modest grant. It’s a really good career for someone who is passionate about helping those in need.

Presenting Author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: What Would Plato Think about Today’s Philosophical Debates?

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author, “Plato at the Googleplex”


Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

  • Date/time: Tuesday, Jan. 27, 7 pm
  • Site: UC San Diego, Price Center East Ballroom
  • Admission: Free, open to the public

In her 2014 book, Plato at The Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, author/philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein imagines what Plato would think, write and say if he were to come to life in the 21st century.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, Goldstein will be the featured speaker as part of the UC San Diego Extension’s Helen Edison Lecture Series. Presented free and open to the public, the event will be held on campus at the Price Center East Ballroom, starting at 7 pm.

Goldstein will be in lively conversation with Roger Bingham, founder of The Science Network and an affiliate with UC San Diego’s Institute for Neural Computation.

In Plato at the Googleplex, Goldstein uses the Greek philosopher’s alter ego to contend that the soul-searching ideals of philosophy remain as relevant as ever amid today’s heated debates on religion, morality, politics, and science.

Weaving her scholarly depth and novelist’s imagination, Goldstein probes the deeper issues of modern times and millennia past.

Goldstein holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Princeton University and has taught at Columbia, Rutgers, and Brandeis universities. She has been awarded MacArthur Foundation, Guggenheim, and Radcliffe fellowships and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Presented by UC San Diego Extension, the Helen Edison Lecture Series is privately funded by a major gift from the late Helen Edison, a San Diego philanthropist.

The annual series presents free public lectures by distinguished speakers from a wide range of disciplines including the arts, humanities, and science.


Introducing New Course: Biotech/Pharma Project Manager’s Toolkit

Biotech/Pharma Project Manager’s Toolkit: A course designed for biotech professionals

Project Manager’s Toolkit: A 10-session, 40-hour course designed for biotech professionals.


UC San Diego Extension will partner with the San Diego Biotechnology Network (SDBN) to present a 10-session, 40-hour course aimed at the region’s biotech professionals and those who desire to enter the field.

The Biotech/Pharma Project Manager’s Toolkit will be offered at Extension’s University City Center site, Room 313. The course begins Friday, Jan. 23 and continues through April 3. Class hours will be 8:30 am to 12:30 pm. Course overview.

Presented for the first time, the “Toolkit” has been designed to give managers practical principles they can use to be more effective in meeting project goals.

Sessions will cover a core body of knowledge related to project management within the Biotech/Pharmaceutical industry, as well as important people skills required of all project managers.

Participants will work on actual projects to apply their learning and practice new skills.

Extension instructor Yves Theriault, president/CEO of San Diego-based Performance Project Management, will lead the course. General themes will include:

  •  The need for project management for academic labs;
  •  Challenges for using project management for the life sciences; and
  •  Project Management 101 series, basic definitions and principles

Individuals who complete the course may apply the experience toward Extension’s Professional Certificate in Project Management.

Course topics will include:

  • Project Control and Monitoring
  • Leadership in Project Management
  • Team Building in a Multi-Layered Environment
  • Communications Skills

According to Locke Epsten, Extension’s director of corporate education, the event will be a wider-ranging version of a successful one-evening session that was held last November, jointly presented by Extension and SDBN.

In that session, Theriault emphasized the importance of defining and measuring performance metrics. The success of any biotech firm, he pointed out, depends on the precision, performance and multidirectional alignment of individual projects.

He also highlighted the necessity for PM in traditional discovery or research and development groups, including academic labs.

Under the direction of Mary Canady, the San Diego Biotechnology Network was formed to serve local life-scientists, professionals and organizations and to help the industry to not only grow, but thrive.

Towards this end, SDBN has teamed with Extension to provide customized education to meet the needs of those in the biotech community and beyond.

For enrollment details on the Biotech/Pharma Project Manager’s Toolkit, contact Locke Epsten:

Thinkabit Brings Science to Students: “They Don’t Have Limits”

Saura Naderi: “It never ceases to amaze me what these kids come up with."

Saura Naderi: “It never ceases to amaze me what these kids come up with.”

How do you get young students to embrace math and science?

Start by adding art.

In a new UCSD-TV video, a team at Qualcomm tackles this challenge by immersing a group of Chula Vista middle-school students into a world of creative engineering within its Thinkabit Lab.

Think of Thinkabit as a hands-on lab that adds art to the traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that inspires students to be highly creative while they learn engineering concepts.

With the added “A,” what results is STEAM, a program within Extension’s Academic Connections, as directed by Edward Abeyta.

Saura Naderi, a UC San Diego engineering physics graduate (’07), inspires students to enjoy the process of designing and coding as they build imaginative projects.

“It never ceases to amaze me what these kids come up with,” says Naderi, an engineer and a career development specialist at Qualcomm. In 2009, she was a founder of MyLab at Calit2’s Qualcomm Institute. The MyLab program engages undergraduates with practical, hands-on experiences with engineering through internships, outreach and workshops.

“I mean, they don’t have limits in their own head,” she added. “To give these kids that flexibility and that empowerment, it’s probably one of the first times in their childhood they get to own something that’s completely theirs.”

Titled “STEAM Powered: Fueling Student Interest in Engineering,” the 12-minute video profiles students at Feaster Middle STEAM Academy in Chula Vista.

“It isn’t one thing or one project or one idea,” says Feaster Charter School teacher Cassie Santos. “It’s more about the process … because that translates so well from what they’re doing here into real-world, real-life situations.”


Of Planes and People: “Having An Impact on Organizational Outcomes”

Jeff Lindeman: "The best HR professionals are the ones who fully understand the business they’re in."

Jeff Lindeman: “The best HR professionals are the ones who fully understand the business they’re in.”


Jeff Lindeman serves as senior director for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, which operates the region’s major airport, San Diego International Airport.

Each day, nearly 500 daily flights arrive and depart from the facility, carrying nearly 18 million passengers each year.

Lindeman oversees the airport’s human resources, along with marketing, and public relations departments.

Befitting his role in the global aviation industry, Lindeman loves to travel. His most recent sojourns took him to Europe and the South Pacific for a friend’s destination wedding, plus stopovers in New Zealand and Australia.

While in college, he pursued a non-traditional path toward an undergraduate degree, attending multiple universities before graduating. Always curious about exploring the world around him, “I discovered that I loved working more than I loved sitting in a classroom.”

A UC San Diego Extension instructor for over four years, he currently teaches two courses – Performance Management Systems and Strategic Talent Acquisition. Both courses are offered within Extension’s Human Resource Management Certificate program.

View Jeff Lindeman’s Instructor video

1) What makes the HR profession so exciting for you?
From my earliest days in this career, driving business results was synonymous with the alignment of the efforts of the people involved in the business. In my first job, running a $2.5 million department for a Macy’s in King of Prussia, PA, we doubled our revenues in a two-year period to $5 million through focusing on the people. After that, I realized that my passion was in aligning people’s efforts with organizational goals. Eventually, I asked for, and was granted, a transfer into the HR function at Macy’s.

2) What did you do differently?
What I chose to do as a business leader was to work with our people more as professionals, investing in their professional growth and development. In turn, they treated the customers more professionally – and our sales went up. Along the way, we also reduced turnover, improved attendance and increased productivity.

3) Besides safe flight operations, what’s the goal of the airport authority?
We are in charge of day-to-day operations, with an emphasis on safe, secure and efficient operations – but we also have a responsibility to operate the airport in such a way that promotes the prosperity of the San Diego region and protects the quality of life.

4) What do you expect your students to know after they’ve taken your courses?
Overall, I hope that they walk out understanding the business value of the content we covered. All of my courses are designed around the goal of having an impact on organizational outcomes.

5) What’s the most valuable asset an HR director brings?
While there are many ways for the HR function to contribute to an organization, I happen to believe that the most important way in which an HR professional can help an organization is to hire the right talent. That talent should be right for what is required not only for today, but also have the capacity to evolve over time, as the business evolves.

6) What’s the best way to make that evaluation?
If you’re hiring for where your business strategy is taking your business, you’re making a far better decision than if you just hire to fit a job description reflecting current needs. These days, hiring at some organizations is like ordering at a fast-food restaurant. You go through the process and then hire the least-problematic person who is minimally competent. I would rather ask: “What’s the most we can get out of this process? And, how do we hire the person that can add the greatest value?”

7) What’s the most insightful advice you could give someone who’s thinking about an HR career?
The best HR professionals are the ones who fully understand the business they’re in – and conduct their activities in direct support of that business.

8) What do you first say to a new hire, once they’ve been selected?
Of course, I welcome them and get to know them a bit. Then, what I try to do is help them see how they were selected out of a pool, however large, because of their unique characteristics that were identified and stood out in the selection process. And I tell them that we look forward to having those talents added to our organization.

9) What are the least enjoyable aspects of the role?
I’d say that the most disappointing part of the job is when I believe in somebody more than they believe in themselves.

10) What have you most learned about people from your travels?
It doesn’t matter where I have gone – whether it’s Shanghai, Santiago or Stuttgart – the people I have met have all wanted the same thing: A good life for themselves and their families. Wherever I am, I always keep that in mind.


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