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That's What SHE Said: Inspirational Tear Jerker Warning

The rumors, events, people, and stories keeping the Mesa interesting


Sanjiv Prabhakaran and Ajay Balachandren

Just Mesa’n Around…

“Aspire to inspire before you expire” shared T. Denny Sanford. Over the past two years I have seen Denny speak on 4 special occasions—the unveiling of his portrait at the Sanford Consortium, the naming of the Duane Roth auditorium, the opening of the Sanford Center at National University further down Torrey Pines, and last Wednesday for the Wealth & Legacy Foundation’s Inspiration Awards. 

Joking with Award Host RJ Kelly I asked, how in the hell did you get him to speak? You’re not even a blonde?! Oh snap, did his program put me in my place with his stellar performance. RJ Kelley’s mad talk show host skills are a force to be reckoned with. And last week’s candid interview was Denny at his best. RJ asked the question… and Denny struck a chord deep inside every person sitting in that auditorium. "What do you want to be remembered for?" Silence… gulp…  In the end, his message was not about how much money you can earn or give away. It was that everyone, at the end of the day, wants and needs to feel loved. The desire to share that love is the passion and force that drives him to continue giving and creating and inspiring. We gleaned a lot from his talk with RJ Kelley. Clearly Denny has a charisma that pulls you in and his zest to live life is infectous.

Yes we love Denny because he is our World’s Oldest Living Teenager (WOLT). We thank him for his generous donations, especially to our local research community. We are excited about his innovative new programs at National University - Inspire, Harmony, and Institute of Philanthropy. We admire and respect him for his pledge to Bill & Melinda Gates not to give away 50% but 95% of his wealth.  But what I think and am certain many would agree, we really loved about Denny last week was when he brought us back to that one core truth… we simply need to be loved.  If you don’t feel that “when you put your head down on your pillow at the end of a long day, what’s the point?”  Denny gets it.  He really gets it.  Sheesh… tearing up here.  RJ Kelley, you keep rockin’ that mic! I’ll be over here pouring our World’s Oldest Living Teenager a Pinot.


Upcoming Events (I’ll be at the fun table…)

  • Mainly Mozart - Mozart & the Mind
    12-year-old piano prodigy Gavin George pounding out Beethoven? SOLD. This weekend’s Mainly Mozart Series is off the hook! Keynote performances at TSRI will include other such greats as Anton Nel and Grammy-nominated pianist Geoffrey Keezer. But this 3-day event is so much more than just the concerts. It is an opportunity to learn of the amazing research and connections going on between music, science, and “groundbreaking” neurotechnology at UC San Diego. There will be talks on campus on subjects such as “the family link between autism & extraordinary talent.” How about the role of early music training in “improving the the social and cognitive function and bridging the poverty gap?” How computer music systems and neurotechnology offers a creative outlet for motor-disabled individuals? Told you this event is rad. They are even going to have a family of Balinese musicians perform. Now that’s a unique experience. Bali… oh how I miss you. Can’t wait to hear which talk and performance were your favs.
    Sep 25-27, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

  • Athenaeum Jazz Concert Series
    Time to give it up for another awesome fellow Triton - Mark Dresser. When not in UC San Diego’s Music Department molding musical geniuses, you can find Dresser hitting the stage with his American double bass. Jazz buff and curator of the Athenaeum jazz series Dan Atkinson explains “there is a real sense of happening when Mark performs, he is 100% committed and evokes that same level of passion in his fellow artists.” That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Sounds like this Dresser knows how to take it up a notch. My childhood was spent at my parents' jazz club listening to such greats as Chet Baker, Bobby McFerrin and Pete Escovedo. Diggin’ that there is a jazz scene in San Diego and there will be some cool vibes on the Mesa this weekend. So slide on over to TSRI and celebrate the works of one of our local legends.
    Sep 27, 7 p.m., TSRI

  • ECE Seminar: Diagnosing Disease on a Microchip
    David Issadore from the University of Pennsylvania will give a talk on his recent work with colleagues from the Abramson Cancer Center. This group of scientists is developing a Hybrid microchip diagnostic for the early detection of Pancreatic Cancer. Studies have shown that circulating pancreatic cells can be found in the blood as early as Pre-stage 1, at the very onset of the disease cycle. Issadore and his team are using their hybrid chip to overcome challenges in getting accurate measurements of rare cells outside of the body. This approach allows them to profile rare cells directly in unprocessed biological samples. I get lost in the scientific detail but do understand that this non-invasive, highly accurate diagnostic test is a game changer. I have lost a childhood friend, athletic director and dear aunt to this disease. For others of you out there who have lost loved ones to this unforgiving cancer, know that there is hope on the horizon.
    Sep 29, 10-11:00 a.m., Jacobs Hall Room 2512, UC San Diego


Come Sit by Me…

WARNING: Inspirational Tear Jerker

Spring 2008, Southern India. When Ajay Balachandren boarded an overcrowded train heading home on holiday, he had no idea that the trip to visit family would change his life forever. Ajay, an engineering student, was accidently pushed from the typically overcrowded boxcar, landing on the tracks and suffering a horrific neck injury. Ajay was left quadriplegic.

Fast forward to last week when in walks Sanjiv Prabhakaran, local CEO of Bytes Inc. Turns out Bytes Inc. is one of Ajay’s employers. Yep… that’s right.  Ajay, unable to move his arms or legs, utilizes a voice recognition system to work on his computer. Cómo? Sanjiv explains it is like a grid or matrix on your screen. Ajay commands the cursor to move to certain coordinates and then dictates the data that he wants entered. "Kinda like battleship," I ask? Yes. And Sanjiv responds that you couldn’t believe how fast Ajay works. Hmmm… an example? “It takes the average person one minute to enter 2 business cards when typing, Ajay can do it in about 3 minutes using voice recognition. Damn! Crankin’ it. When Sanjiv first hired him, Ajay was working on simple data entry for CRM. More confident, he worked his way to Excel File and Macros. (Not even gonna pretend I know what Macros means.)

On Sanjiv’s first visit with Ajay in India back in 2014, a year after hiring Ajay, he remembers tearing up on his first encounter. But Sanjiv quickly recognized the “pure energy inside Ajay” and that nothing was going to get in this man’s way. Does anyone see a correlation here? Ajay is a fighter. His decision to find a solution which allowed him to remain productive and provide for himself financially was life changing. Through his work he has been able to build his confidence. His mother and sister have been by his side, helping him with what we may view as simple, but to Ajay have been meaningful and helpful tasks, like turning on the computer, changing his positions and doing a bit of quality control by helping proofread his data entry.

With the opportunity to support himself financially, Ajay has a great sense of self-esteem and knows his self-worth. This combination of strong will, family support, and physical therapy has helped Ajay find the determination to heal and his family now see the first signs of mobility in his fingers. Sanjiv delivers this news with a huge smile and you can sense the pride he feels for his employee. He hopes to raise awareness first here in San Diego via the Rotary Club and then world wide about Ajay’s story and similar triumphs.

I look forward to Sanjiv’s future visits to the café to learn of Ajay’s progress both physically and career wise. I also look forward to the stories of others who have found the strength to overcome their physical challenges and continue to work. And I can’t wait to hear of the amazing individuals who employ them. Listening to Sanjiv it is clear both are gaining so much from this meaningful experience.


Amanda Caniglia

Amanda earned a degree in political science at UC San Diego before embarking on a career teaching languages and dance. She is a self-described "networker extraordinaire” and co-owner of Bella Vista Social Club and Caffe, located on the bluffs of the Torrey Pines Mesa. Leading researchers, CEOs, and top graduate students frequent the café to talk science and surfing. You want to know what’s really going on around The Mesa? Ask Amanda. 

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Life On the Mesa

Where innovation and discovery happens in San Diego

About This Blog

Did you know they are making tiny livers in Sorrento Mesa? They are! Real ones. This blog will tell that story, and many others like it. Whether you're a grad student slogging it out in a lab or a post-doc grappling with funding issue, a scientist waiting on a breakthrough or a banker looking for the next big thing, or even a parent, spouse, friend or curious observer of these people, this blog is for you. It's a place to celebrate and discover what's happening on The Mesa. The science, the business, the people. The discoveries, the stories, the impact. It feels like most of us in San Diego don't know enough, yet, about this stuff. We're here to work on changing that. We'd like there to be some discussion of science, technology and innovative-type things at every cocktail party on San Diego, and hopefully this blog can help provide the fodder. 

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