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Limitless Potential at TEDxUCI

Courtesy of Kenny Pham
Courtesy of Kenny Pham


TEDx celebrated UCI’s last 50 years with its “Limitless” event last Friday with notable staff, students and community members as speakers.

Although ran in the same style as TED events proper, TEDx events are organized and funded independently from the main conference series. In the midst of UCI’s 50th anniversary, speakers discussed new ideas about the the past, present and future of the university.

14 speakers, spanning seven hours, presented to a Barclay Theatre filled with approximately 250 attendees.

Hosted by UCI’s wife and husband duo, Sherwynn Umali and Mike Knox, the event was organized entirely by 40 undergraduate students.

Naty Rico, a third-year student and legislative council representative, shed light on the struggles of being a student with a disability on a campus that is geared towards able-bodied students, a topic that is seldom discussed during conversations about campus life.

Referring to students’ different abilities statuses as “diversibilities,” Rico, who is also a first-generation student, described some of the difficulties that made her want to leave school due to the physical and emotional stress of performing daily activities others might find mundane.

Among the experiences that she shared, Rico recounted the times she had to ride her scooter to school in the rain because the Anteater Express wasn’t able to accommodate her.

As she advocated for those with differently ability statuses, she encouraged the audience to also advocate for the rights of those who are less able-bodied.

The talks varied from emotionally captivating dialogue to those that were more academic.

Chris Fox, a professor from the medical school, argued the case for mandatory ultrasound training for every medical student. Fox claimed that ultrasound equipment is less harmful than the more commonly used CAT scans due to less radiation exposure.

Fox explained that doctors equipped with ultrasound training could more easily identify illnesses correctly and save a patient from misdiagnoses. After Fox’s talk, he performed an ultrasound on a male student onstage. Proving that ultrasounds provide doctors with a more accessible way of looking inside the human body, the ultrasound’s were projected for the audience to see.

Freshman Daniel Do’s provocative talk questioned the existence of free will and the implications of if it lacking to exist.

“Choice is a product of the brain,” Do said.

“We know that brain function, which is based on nerve cells, or neurons, is the product of cellular activity. We also know that cells, which are complexes of molecules, are the products of molecular activity and molecules are the products of atoms, which are the products of subatomic activity. So now we can ask the question what governs the atom and its components. The laws of physics and nothing else.”

Do argued that because we are governed by cells that adhere to chemical and atomic activity, people do not have free will but are rather ruled by the laws of physics. He said that by abolishing the belief in free will, criminal justice systems would change to be more rehabilitative. Additionally, he said, people would be grateful for the minds they have and would be more compassionate to those with lesser mental capabilities.

Not all the talks were actual talks, though.

A french horn performance by Elissa Eastvedt , a woman whose face was previously shattered by horse’s kick in face, was visibly moving for many in the audience. Eastvedt had originally believed that she would never play the french horn again because of her extensive injuries.

UCI professor, Annie Bosler restored Eastvedt’s facial movements by using rehabilitative face exercises to help Eastvedt play her beloved instrument once again.

Another professor, Vy Maria Dong, combined a mix of the personal and academic as she described her Vietnamese grandmother’s decision to immigrate to the United States in order to make life better for the future generations of her family. Dong described her efforts to continue the legacy of her grandmother  through her lab work, which aims to improve drug treatments for future generations.

“May you make your decisions on your hopes and not your fears,” Dong said.

Each speaker spoke with gusto, showing that their life’s work and passions were intermingled. The talks were provoked dialogue well after the sessions were over. Patrons could be heard in the lobby and in Starbucks talking about the new ideas they had heard during the event.

Jair Nedo, a third-year computer science student, appreciated the opportunity to actually attend a TED talk in person.

“I always watch TED lectures on youtube, so I wanted to watch it live,” he said.