Contagious. Epidemic. Infection. These words typically hold negative connotations associated with the spread of disease.

But on Saturday, TEDxABQ seeks to change those connotations at its Think Viral event.

“Ideas are contagious,” reads the TEDxABQ website. “Get infected.”

The event description on the website emphasizes “creating a beneficial epidemic of change” by encouraging attendees to intentionally spread ideas they find worth sharing to impact the world.

The topics for the Think Viral TED Talk cover a variety of concepts, from cultural issues to neuroscience discoveries to farming techniques. An equally diverse group of people will present these thoughts and ideas to the audience, including a few Lobos.

The Daily Lobo spoke to some of the scheduled speakers, to get a preview of what they will present on Saturday.

Rethinking Perceptions

Jessica Goodkind, an associate professor of sociology at UNM and creator of the Refugee Well-Being Project, will be discussing refugees in the United States at the event. Her goal, she said, is to have the audience rethink their perceptions of refugees.

“Right now we have even more refugees in the world than any other time in our history,” Goodkind said. “We have to not only think about how to best support all these people but also how we’re going to prevent more and more people from being forcibly displaced.”

She said she wants to show people that refugees have as much to teach Americans about their experiences as we have to teach them about our culture.

She hopes to help listeners understand that refugees are more than the losses and experiences they’ve been through.

“We are all more than the labels that are often put upon us. [Refugees] are people with a lot of strength and knowledge that we can benefit from,” she said.

Become an “Interrupter”

Another Lobo who will be speaking on Saturday is Cindy Nava, a graduate student studying educational leadership in policy.

Nava said she believes her journey from an undocumented, low-income student who struggled just to get to campus to where she is now has empowered her to help others overcome their odds.

Her experience as an immigrant student who fell in love with politics took her through earning a bachelor’s degree, career opportunities with state legislators and becoming the first Dreamer — an immigrant who came into the United States as a child — to interning with a national political headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“That caused a whole bunch of media attention...and I was able to share my story with the Washington Post. It was a very memorable moment because I know that I’m not the only story,” Nava said. “I have a responsibility to share with other students who, like me, are interested in policy and education, but don’t think they’re able to do anything because of those (immigration) barriers.”

She said she wants to talk about creating opportunities and access for underprivileged young women and girls of color in New Mexico to “come up the pipeline of leadership.”

“I’m using a bit of a surprise method to help people understand how to help women more,” she said.

Nava didn’t want to spoil the surprise before the TED Talk, but she did say it involved becoming what she calls an “interrupter.”

An interrupter is someone who helps stand against the odds by disrupting negativity in our state and society, she said. She said she hopes telling people about this interrupting method will get them to join her in her plan of action to bring significant, long-lasting change for unprivileged women in New Mexico.

Brain Tsunami Research

On the more technical side of the topic spectrum, Bill Shuttleworth, a neuroscience professor, will represent UNM in his talk about his research on a newly recognized phenomenon: brain tsunamis.

In lay people terms, “brain tsunami” is a colloquial term for spreading depolarization — big waves of brain activity that contribute to the progression of acute brain injury symptoms, Shuttleworth said.

“They’re brutalized waves of brain activation that occur repetitively after brain injury,” he said. “They just crash through the brain and eventually weaken its defenses, causing the slow progression of injuries for days after the stroke or trauma starts.”

At the moment, nothing can be done for those who have suffered from a stroke or brain injury. But Shuttleworth and other neuroscientists and neurosurgeons at the University are working with an international consortium to develop a way to stop brain tsunamis in future patients. Clinical trials based on the research are already ongoing, he said.

Shuttleworth said he wants to talk about the questions still to be answered by brain tsunami research — such as “does this occur outside of brain injury?” or “is there a relation to migraines?” — as well as questions about what else is out there regarding brain research.

He said he hopes to give people excitement about the mysteries that remain in the human brain, but also to give hope about how much we’re learning.

“I want people to walk away with the hope that people are working hard on things that will make a big difference,” he said.

TEDxABQ Audience Engagement

In addition to the usual speeches at TED events, there will also be numerous interactive elements to engage the audience.

“This year, as a TEDxABQ attendee, you’ll not only take in ideas from the thinkers, dreamers, doers and innovators on stage, you’ll also have the opportunity to experience a plethora of ideas first hand, enabling you to foster connections within your community and turn ideas into action,” the TEDxABQ site reads.

Some of the activities include dance lessons, community art, presentations and snuggling with puppies from Animal Humane New Mexico.

Students interested in attending the event can purchase tickets at a discount for $25 each. General admission tickets are $45 and VIP tickets are $75.

The audience engagement event will take place in Civic Plaza from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by the speaker sessions in Kiva Auditorium from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information on tickets, scheduling and additional entertainment following the speaker sessions, visit the TEDxABQ website.