New Horizons in Science

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New Horizons in Science 2015 Speakers

associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scott Aaronson's research focuses on the capabilities and limits of quantum computers, and more generally on computational complexity and its relationship to physics. Aaronson studied at Cornell and UC Berkeley and did postdoctoral research at the Institute for Advanced Study as well as the University of Waterloo. His first book, Quantum Computing Since Democritus, was published in 2013 by Cambridge University Press. The son of a science writer, Aaronson has written about quantum computing for Scientific American and the New York Times and writes the popular blog Shtetl-Optimized. He has received the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award, the United States PECASE Award, and MIT's Junior Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Ford Foundation international professor of economics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Abhijit Banerjee applies science to combating poverty. He and Esther Duflo are directors of the MIT-based Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a global network of researchers driven by a belief in the power of scientific evidence to understand what really helps the poor, and what does not. Banerjee, Duflo and their colleagues conduct randomized evaluations to test and improve the effectiveness of policies and programs and disseminate their results to policymakers, nonprofit organizations and foundations. The lab and its directors were recently awarded the 2014/15 Albert O. Hirschman Prize by the Social Science Research Council. In addition to his research publications, Banerjee’s books include, with Duflo, Poor Economics , chosen as Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year for 2011. Past president of the Bureau for Research in the Economic Analysis of Development, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a fellow of the Econometric Society, he has also been a Guggenheim Fellow and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and as appointed in 2012 to the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. In 2014 Banerjee was honored with the Bernard Harms Prize, awarded every two years by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences
MIT Media Lab and McGovern Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ed Boyden leads MIT's Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain and applies them systematically to reveal ground-truth principles of biological function as well as to repair these systems. He also co-directs the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, which aims to develop new tools to accelerate neuroscience progress. Among other recognitions, he has received the Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences (2015), the Schuetze Prize (2014), the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award (2013), the Lundbeck "Brain" Prize (2013), the NIH Director's Pioneer Award (2013), the NIH Director's Transformative Research Award (2012 and 2013), and the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize (2011). In 2012, he was among those on Wired's Smart List "50 People Who Will Change the World." He has launched an award-winning series of classes at MIT that teach principles of neuroengineering, starting with basic principles of how to control and observe neural functions, and culminating with strategies for launching companies in the nascent neurotechnology space. His group has hosted hundreds of visitors to learn how to use neurotechnologies. Boyden earned his PhD in neurosciences as a Hertz Fellow at Stanford University, where he discovered that the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned. Before that, he received three degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and physics from MIT. He has contributed to more than 300 peer-reviewed papers, current or pending patents, and articles, and has given more than 300 invited talks on his group's work.

pediatrician, founder and chief executive officer
411 Pediatrics, Austin TX

In private practice for 20 years, Ari Brown is an author, child health advocate, and a mom. She received her BS in child development and family relationships from the University of Texas at Austin, her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, and completed her pediatric residency and fellowship training in developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. Passionate about educating families about children’s health, she is the author of the bestsellling “411” parenting book series, including Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for your Baby’s First Year (Windsor Peak Press, 7th Edition 2015), Expecting 411, and Toddler 411. She serves as a medical advisor for Parents Magazine and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and speaks to healthcare professionals and parenting groups across the country regarding accurate and compassionate health communications with families. Brown currently chairs the AAP Children, Adolescents, and Media Leadership Working Group, charged with addressing the evolving role technology plays in the lives of children, and was honored with the AAP Advocacy Award in 2012.

Institute Professor of environmental studies , professor of biology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Penny Chisholm is a biological oceanographer who holds a joint appointment between MIT's Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Biology. Her research focuses on understanding of the role of microorganisms in shaping marine ecosystems. It is centered on understanding the biology and ecology of Prochlorococcus, the smallest and most abundant photosynthetic microorganism on Earth. Discovered only 30 years ago, it numerically dominates large regions of the world’s oceans and is responsible for a sizable fraction of ocean photosynthesis. In addition to her scientific publications, Chisholm has published (with Molly Bang) three award-winning children’s picture books—Living Sunlight, Ocean Sunlight, and Buried Sunlight—which describe the central role of photosynthesis in shaping life on Earth. Chisholm has been a member of the MIT Faculty since 1976. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has been a Guggenheim Fellow, and has received the Alexander Agassiz Medal, the Margalef Prize in Ecology, and the National Medal of Science. (Photo by Richard Howard)

David H. Koch professor of engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Michael Cima is a professor of materials science and engineering at MIT and holds an appointment at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. He is author or co-author of more than 250 scientific publications and 58 US patents and is a recognized expert in the field of materials processing. Cima is actively involved in materials and engineered systems for improvement in human health such as treatments for cancer, metabolic diseases, trauma, and urological disorders. His research concerns advanced forming technology such as for complex macro- and microdevices, colloid science, microelectromechanical systems and other microcomponents for medical devices used for drug delivery and diagnostics. In the early 1990s, Cima co-invented one of the first practical 3D printers. He is also the top faculty member at the Lemelson-MIT Program, which makes awards to recognize promising collegiate and mid-career inventors and funds STEM education initiatives at the high school level. His honors include election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2011.

Cecil and Ida Green professor of atmospheric science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kerry Emanuel joined the faculty of MIT, his alma mater, in 1981 after three years on the UCLA faculty. His research focuses on tropical meteorology and climate, with a specialty in hurricane physics. His interests also include cumulus convection, and advanced methods of sampling the atmosphere in aid of numerical weather prediction. He is the author or co-author of more than 200 peer-reviewed papers. His books include Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes (Oxford University Press, 2005), and What We Know about Climate Change (MIT Press, 2007). Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007, he is a co-director of MIT’s Lorenz Center, a climate think tank devoted to basic, curiosity-driven climate research.

Victor F. Weisskopf professor of physics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

As a postdoctoral researcher after completing his PhD in physics at MIT in 1971, Alan Guth worked mostly on abstract mathematical problems in the theory of elementary particles. While at Cornell, he was persuaded by fellow postdoc Henry Tye to collaborate on work that would change the direction of Guth's career. The two found that standard assumptions in particle physics and cosmology would lead to a fantastic overproduction of magnetic monopoles. From the search for alternatives came Guth's modification of the big bang theory, the inflationary universe. Since returning to MIT as an associate professor in 1980, Guth has refined the the inflationary model through interactions with theorists in particle physics, string theory, relativity and quantum mechanics as well as evidence from astronomy and cosmology. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been awarded the MIT School of Science Prize for Undergraduate Teaching, the Franklin Medal for Physics of the Franklin Institute, and the Dirac Prize of the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics). In addition to holding a named professorship, he is a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT.

freelance science journalist

Tara Haelle specializes in writing about vaccines, infectious disease, pediatrics, prenatal health and other areas of medicine as well as marine biology and environmental science. She is a Forbes contributor whose work also appears in NPR, Scientific American, Slate, Politico, HealthDay, Everyday Health, Medscape, Muse, Science News for Students, Washington Post, Wired, and elsewhere. She coauthored The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Guide to the First Four Years, due in April 2016, with Emily Willingham, and she blogs about evidence-based parenting at Red Wine & Applesauce. She enjoys writing for children and blogs for the University of Texas Marine Science Institute at Science & the Sea. She draws on her years as a high school teacher, test prep tutor and college adjunct instructor to inform the way she writes about science and to explain complex ideas in accessible prose. As medical core topic leader for the Association of Health Care Journalists, she creates resources for journalists to report on medical research. Haelle holds a master's in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and her photography has appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Chicago Sun-Times, and Women's Wear Daily. In a past life, she traveled the world—backpacking, hiking, train-hopping and motorbiking through more than 40 countries on six continents while eating strange insects, trekking to ancient ruins and swimming with sharks and then she became a mom to two boys and embarked on a whole new kind of adventure that heavily influences the topics she reports on. Twitter: @tarahaelle

global head, research and development
Janssen Research & Development, Johnson & Johnson

Bill Hait is an oncologist who heads Janssen R&D, the global pharmaceutical research and development group of Johnson & Johnson. He holds an MD and a PhD in pharmacology from the Medical College of Pennsylvania. He joined the Yale University School of Medicine faculty in 1984 and rose to chief of the Division of Medical Oncology, taking leadership roles in the breast cancer and lung cancer programs of the Yale University Comprehensive Cancer Center. A former president of the American Association for Cancer Research and a Fellow of the AACR Academy, he has served as editor-in-chief of Clinical Cancer Research and associate editor of Cancer Research. Before joining Janssen R&D, he was founding director of The (Rutgers) Cancer Institute of New Jersey.


associate director for science, U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Frederick Phineas Rose Professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology (on leave) Yale University

Appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in June 2014, biologist Jo Handelsman has taken a public service leave from Yale University to focus on advancing basic research and developing targeted areas in biological research, STEM education, and diversity in science. During her White House service, Handelsman’s Yale laboratory is continuing its work under the direction of two of her former graduate students, carrying out studies to understand diversity in microbial communities and the role of these communities in infectious disease. Current research uses the fruit fly gut as a model for the microbiology of the human gut and employs functional metagenomics to probe microbial communities’ genetic and biochemical diversity. Handelsman, who is making her third appearance at CASW's New Horizons in Science, earned her PhD in molecular biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and joined UW’s plant pathology faculty in 1985. After serving in a number of roles, including chair of the Department of Bacteriology, she moved to Yale in 2010. At both universities she has been instrumental in founding and directing programs that teach the principles and practices of evidence-based education to current and future faculty at colleges and universities nationwide. Her teaching, mentorship and research and her promotion of opportunities for women and minorities in science have been recognized with a number of awards.She received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2011 and also co-chaired the PCAST working group that developed “Engage to Excel,” a 2012 report making recommendations for strengthening STEM education to meet workforce needs. She has also served the scientific community as a panel member, peer reviewer and journal editor and as president of the American Society for Microbiology. Twitter: @Jo_OSTP

professor of medicine
University of California San Francisco

Margot Kushel's research is informed by her 20 years of experience as a practicing internist at San Francisco General Hospital. She studies the health and health care utilization patterns of homeless adults and other vulnerable populations, with a focus on improving outcomes among older homeless adults. Her other interests include the use and misuse of prescription opioid analgesics and improving access and quality of care in safety-net settings. In this work, she uses descriptive epidemiology and develops, implements and evaluates novel interventions designed to improve outcomes. Kushel is the principal investigator for two studies on older homeless adults funded by the National Institute on Aging. One focuses on the causes and consequences of geriatric conditions, the other on family-assisted housing as an intervention. Kushel has also obtained support for her work as a mentor for junior investigators interested in improving health outcomes among older vulnerable populations. She is co-director of the UCSF Primary Care Research Fellowship, which trains primary care physicians and recent PhDs in research of relevance to primary care. Kushel obtained her MD from Yale and completed a residency, chief residency and fellowship in internal medicine at UCSF.

associate professor and chair of the graduate program
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Paulo Lozano heads MIT's Space Propulsion Laboratory, where his group develops highly efficient, compact ion thrusters for small spacecraft. His main interests are in plasma physics, space propulsion, ion beam physics, small satellites and nanotechnology. His work on micro-propulsion, which is sponsored by NASA, defense research agencies, the National Science Foundation and other public and private sources, earned a Young Investigator Program Award from the US Air Force and the “Future Mind” award from Quo Science magazine and the Discovery Channel. A recipient of MIT's Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for his contributions to the research experience of undergraduate students, Lozano teaches space and rocket propulsion, fluid mechanics and plasma physics and was recently named faculty director of MIT Mexico. An associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, he served on the Asteroid Mitigation and NASA Technology Roadmaps panels of the National Research Council. Lozano earned his master's and doctoral degrees in space propulsion at MIT.

associate professor and associate director
Graduate Program in Science Writing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Author Seth Mnookin's most recent book, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, won an NASW Science in Society Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book prize. He is also the author of the 2006 New York Times bestseller Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top and 2004’s Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media, which was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. His essays and reporting have appeared in the Best American Science and Nature Writing anthologies and in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, New York, Wired, The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Spin, Slate, and

professor of the history of science, affiliated professor of earth and planetary sciences
Harvard University

Naomi Oreskes is a historian of science with a particular interest in understanding scientific consensus and dissent. She joined the Harvard faculty in 2013 after 15 years on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Oreskes’s research focuses on the earth and environmental sciences, which were the focus of her scientific training and early research. In a 2004 essay “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” Oreskes made waves with an analysis of the scientific literature concluding that 75 percent of published abstracts on climate change supported the consensus on anthropogenic climate change. Her 2010 book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming, co-authored with Caltech historian Erik M. Conway, is the basis of the documentary “Merchants of Doubt” and was awarded the 2011 Watson-Davis Prize by the History of Science Society. Oreskes received her PhD from Stanford's Graduate Special Program in Geological Research and History of Science. Her most recent book, also with Erik Conway, is science-based fiction. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future imagines a world devastated by climate change.

associate professor, deputy director
Institute for Vaccine Health Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

Dan Salmon's primary research and practice interest is in optimizing the prevention of childhood infectious diseases through the use of vaccines. He has focused on post-licensure vaccine safety and the factors associated with parental decisions to vaccinate, or not vaccinate, their children. He has conducted studies examining the rates of vaccine refusal, the reasons why parents refuse vaccines, the impact of health care providers and local and state policies on vaccine refusal and the individual and community risks of unvaccinated children. He joined the faculty of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health after serving as the Director of Vaccine Safety at the National Vaccine Program Office, where he was responsible for coordinating federal vaccine safety activities. He holds master's and doctoral degrees in public health from Emory and Johns Hopkins universities, respectively.

chief executive officer
Agios Pharmaceuticals

David Schenkein has been a hematologist and medical oncologist for more than 20 years. He currently serves as an adjunct attending physician in hematology at Tufts Medical Center and is a member of the board of directors for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the world’s largest biotechnology trade association, a position he has held since 2012. Prior to joining Agios as CEO in 2009, he was the senior vice president, clinical hematology/oncology, at Genentech, Inc.y, where he was responsible for numerous successful oncology drug approvals and leading the medical and scientific strategies for their BioOncology portfolio. While at Genentech, he served as an adjunct clinical professor of medical oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Earlier he served as senior vice president of clinical research at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, overseeing the clinical development and worldwide approval of the cancer therapy Velcade. Schenkein holds a BA in chemistry from Wesleyan University and an MD from the State University of New York Upstate Medical School.

Class of 1941 professor of planetary science and physics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Sara Seager is an astrophysicist and planetary scientist whose research focuses on theory, computation, and data analysis of exoplanets. Her work led to the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere and has introduced many new ideas to the field of exoplanet characterization. Her space instrumentation group is focusing on "ExoplanetSat," a nanosatellite capable of high-precision pointing for discovering transiting exoplanets. She is a co-investigator on TESS, a NASA Explorer Mission to be launched in 2017, and chairs the NASA Science and Technology Definition Team for a "Probe-class" starshade and telescope system for direct imaging discovery and characterization of Earth analogs. After earning her PhD at Harvard in 1999 and before joining MIT in 2007, Seager spent four years on the senior research staff at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, preceded by three years at the Institute for Advanced Study. She is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, the 2012 recipient of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences, and the 2007 recipient of the American Astronomical Society's Helen B. Warner Prize. Sometimes called an "astronomical Indiana Jones,” she was also included in Time Magazine's 25 Most Influential in Space in 2012.

associate vice president for research and development
Space Science & Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute

Alan Stern has been principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons Mission since before it was authorized by NASA in 2001. He has been involved in 24 space missions and served as principal investigator for eight of them. In addition to his work as a planetary scientist and developer of scientific instruments for planetary and near-space research, he has been a NASA administrator, aerospace consultant, and author. Stern first joined the Southwest Research Institute as a scientist in 1991 after working as an engineer and researcher at Martin Marietta Aerospace and the University of Colorado (Boulder), where he earned his PhD in astrophysics and planetary science. He left in 2007 to serve as associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate and returned to SwRI after resigning that post in 2008. He is author of The U.S. Space Program After Challenger (Franklin-Watts, 1987) and Our Worlds: The Magnetism and Thrill of Planetary Exploration (Reed 1999) and co-author with Jacqueline Milton of Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System (Wiley, 2nd edition 2005). He has been involved with several private space ventures, including the Moon Express team pursuing the Google Lunar X-Prize, and his own space-products company, Uwingu. Named in 2007 to the TIME 100, Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world, Stern also serves on the board of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Earlier in 2015 he was named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and chosen by Smithsonian Magazine to receive an American Ingenuity Award.


associate professor of environmental science and engineering
Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Elsie Sunderland studies how biogeochemical processes affect the fate, transport and food-web bioaccumulation of trace metals and organic chemicals in aquatic ecosystems. She began work tracing mercury in the marine food web in the late 1990s as a PhD student in environmental toxicology at Simon Fraser University. After completing her degree, she held several positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working on air pollution policy and regulation and the use of models at EPA. She came to Harvard as a research associate and joined the faculty of the Chan School as an assistant professor of aquatic science in 2010. She joined the engineering faculty in 2014. She is associated with both the Harvard University Center for the Environment and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Her group develops and applies models at a variety of scales ranging from ecosystems and ocean basins to global applications to characterize how changes in climate and emissions affect human and ecological health and assess the potential impacts of regulatory activities.

professor of government and technology in residence
Harvard University

Latanya Sweeney is a computer scientist who creates and uses technology to assess and solve societal, political and governance problems, and teaches others how to do the same. She is director of the Data Privacy Lab, which she founded at Carnegie Mellon University and which is now housed at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science. She was formerly the Chief Technology Officer (also called the Chief Technologist) at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Her work on data privacy technology was recognized by the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation with the 2014 Louis D. Brandeis Privacy Award and has also won awards from the American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Informatics Association and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Sweeney is an elected fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics and author of more than 100 academic publications and patents. She holds a PhD in computer science from MIT.


Meg Tirrell joined CNBC in April 2014 as a general assignment reporter focusing on biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. She appears on CNBC's Business Day programming, contributes to and is based at the network's global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Prior to joining CNBC, she led coverage of the biotechnology industry for Bloomberg News. She broke news on proxy fights, mergers and acquisitions, and drug development, and wrote features that illuminate how science and business meet. She also contributed to Bloomberg Television and Bloomberg BusinessweekShe holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in English and music from Wellesley College. Twitter: @megtirrell

deputy editor, health and science, senior medical and health care writer
Wall Street Journal

Ron Winslow has written some 1,500 articles describing new medical and health care research and chronicling the economic forces transforming the nation's health care system. He is a recipient of the CASW Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. His work has also won awards from the New York Press Club, the Association of Health Care Journalists, the American Heart Association and other groups. A founding board member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, he is immediate past president of NASW. He served on the Program Advisory Committee for World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul in 2015 and chairs the Local Organizing Committee for the 2017 World Conference, to be held in San Francisco.

professor of genetics; director, Personal Genetics Education Project
Harvard Medical School

Ting (C.-ting) Wu's laboratory investigates how the organization of chromosomes within the nucleus can influence gene expression in various organisms. Her particular focus in this area is the behavior of homologous chromosomes—how they sense each other, find each other, and then, in certain circumstances, physically pair, influencing gene activity and possibly even genome evolution. Her laboratory also develops new technologies, ranging from protocols for engineering genomes to strategies for visualizing chromosomes with nucleic acid probes. Wu also works to increase public awareness of the benefits and ethical implications of learning the details of one’s genome. She founded the Personal Genome Education Project [], which is dedicated to making that awareness equally accessible regardless of socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, and religious influences. The project engages the public through high schools and online curricula, teacher conferences, museums of science, mobile tools, the entertainment industry, and Congressional briefings. Wu completed her genetics PhD at Harvard, did research at Stanford and Yale and returned to Boston as a fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital before joining the Harvard faculty. She was honored in 2012 with the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award for her work on chromosome organization and inheritance.

About CASW

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