New Horizons in Science

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New Horizons in Science 2019 Speakers

Evan Pugh University Professor of geosciences and associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute

Richard Alley studies the great ice sheets to help predict future changes in climate and sea level. He has made four trips to Antarctica, nine to Greenland, and more to Alaska and elsewhere. He has been honored for research (including election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and foreign membership in the Royal Society), teaching, and service. Alley participated in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and has provided requested advice to numerous government officials in Congress and the White House. He has authored or coauthored more than 300 refereed scientific papers. He was presenter for the PBS TV miniseries on climate and energy "Earth: The Operators' Manual," and is author of the companion book. His popular account of climate change and ice cores, "The Two-Mile Time Machine," was Phi Beta Kappa's science book of the year.



Evan Pugh Professor of Physics and director, Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos

Abhay Ashtekar's research has advanced our understanding of the asymptotic structure of spacetime, gravitational waves in full nonlinear general relativity, the atomic structure of spacetime geometry on the Planck scale, and the quantum nature of black holes and the big bang. His reformulation of general relativity as a gauge theory has led to loop quantum gravity, an approach to the unification of general relativity and quantum physics that is now being pursued in dozens of research groups worldwide. He has continued to play a seminal role in the development of this field as well as its subfield, loop quantum cosmology. Ashtekar is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is one of only 51 honorary foreign fellows of the Indian Academy of Sciences. Now holder of the Eberly Chair at Penn State, he was awarded the senior Forschungspreis by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and has held the Krammers Visiting Chair in Theoretical Physics at the University of Utrecht, Netherlands; a senior visiting fellowship of the British Science and Engineering Research Council; and the Sir C. V. Raman Chair of the Indian Academy of Science. He was awarded Doctor Rerum Naturalium Honoris Causa by the Friedrich-Schiller Universitaet, Jena, Germany, in 2005 and by the Université de Aix-Marseille II (France) in 2010. Ashtekar received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago in 1978. He has authored or co-authored over 270 scientific papers and written or co-edited nine scientific books on general relativity, cosmology and quantum gravity. He is a past president of the International Society for General Relativity and Gravitation and a past chair of what is now the Division of Gravitational Physics of the American Physical Society.



Harry and Arlene Schell Professor and head of the department of architectural engineering

Sez Atamturkur's research focuses on uncertainty quantification in scientific computing. Her work, documented in over 100 peer-reviewed publications in some of engineering science journals and proceedings, has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Education, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as industry organizations and partners. She joined the Penn State faculty in 2018 after serving as associate vice president for research development and a Provost's Distinguished Professor at Clemson University. There she directed the NSF-funded Tigers ADVANCE project, which focuses on improving the status of women and minority faculty at Clemson, and the NSF-funded National Research Traineeship project, with funding for over 30 doctoral students and a goal of initiating a new degree program on scientific computing and data analytics for resilient infrastructure systems. She served as one of the four co-directors of Clemson's Center of Excellence in Next Generation Computing and Creativity. Prior to joining Clemson, Atamturktur served as an LTV technical staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She holds a doctorate in civil engineering from Penn State and earned her undergraduate degree in architecture and civil engineering from Orta Dogu Teknik Universitesi in Ankara, Turkey.



research assistant professor

John Cook is a research assistant professor at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. He obtained his PhD at the University of Western Australia, studying the cognitive psychology of climate science denial. His research focus is understanding and countering misinformation about climate change. In 2007, he founded Skeptical Science, a website which won the 2011 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for the Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge and 2016 Friend of the Planet Award from the National Center for Science Education. Cook co-authored the college textbooks Climate Change: Examining the Facts and Climate Change Science: A Modern Synthesis and the book Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand.

Twitter: @johnfocook


assistant professor
Stuckeman Center for Design Computing

Felecia Davis is the director of SOFTLAB@PSU. Her work in design explores the role of communication to people through computational textiles or e-textiles, textiles that can sense and respond to the environment with embedded electronics and sensors. Davis has lectured, taught workshops, published, and exhibited her work in textiles, computation, and architecture internationally, including the Swedish School of Textiles, Microsoft Research, and the MIT Media Lab. Davis has taught architectural design for more than 10 years at Cornell University, and design studios, most recently at Princeton University and the Cooper Union in New York. Principal in her own design firm, FELECIADAVISTUDIO, she has received several finalist awards for her architectural designs in open and invited design competitions such as the California Valley Central History Museum, the Queens Museum of Art Addition and the Pittsburgh Charm Bracelet Neighborhood Revitalization Competition, and the Little Haiti Housing Association in Miami. Davis earned a Ph.D. from the Design and Computation Group in the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT. She received her M. Arch. from Princeton and her B.S. in engineering from Tufts University. While at MIT, she designed computational textiles — textiles that respond to commands through computer programming, electronics, and sensors for use in architecture. Such responsive textiles, used in lightweight shelters, will transform how we communicate, socialize, and use space.

Twitter: @fadamit


Kuo Family Endowed Professor and vice chair
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Hana El-Samad's research group emphasizes the role of control theory and dynamical systems in the study of biological networks. Her group works at the interface of systems and synthetic biology, focusing on the architecture, roles, principles, and evolution of feedback loops in biological circuits. A major current focus is to develop rationally designed, programmable, plug-and-play, cellular recognizance and repair circuits that can be broadly deployed for therapies and biotechnological applications. El-Samad is a 2009 Packard Fellow and recipient of many honors, including the 2011 Donald P. Eckman Award and the 2012 CSB2 prize in systems biology. She was also named a Paul G. Allen Distinguished Investigator in 2013 and senior investigator of the Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub in 2017. El-Samad joined UCSF after obtaining a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, preceded by a master's degree in electrical engineering from the Iowa State University.

Twitter: @HanaScientist


associate professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics

Chad Hanna's research focuses on studying the universe with gravitational waves using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Specifically, he and his group work to enable multi-messenger astronomy through gravitational wave observations of merging neutron stars and black holes. Hanna earned his physics PhD at Louisiana State University and was a senior postdoctoral researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Institute before joining the Penn State faculty. He was awarded an NSF CAREER Award in 2015.

freelance writer

Tamar Haspel is a James Beard award-winning journalist who’s been on the food and science beat for the best part of two decades. She's a Washington Post columnist and a contributor to (among others) National Geographic, Discover, and Edible Cape Cod. When she’s tired of the heavy lifting of journalism, she gets dirty. She and her husband, Kevin Flaherty, raise their own chickens, grow their own tomatoes, hunt their own venison, and generally try to stay connected to the idea that food has to come from somewhere. They also have an oyster farm, Barnstable Oyster, where they grow about 250,000 oysters a year in the beautiful waters off Cape Cod.

Twitter: @tamarhaspel


professor of earth and environment

Rob Jackson and his lab study the many ways people affect the earth. They're currently examining the effects of climate change and droughts on forest mortality and grassland ecosystems. They are also working to measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Global Carbon Project, which Jackson chairs. Examples of new research include establishing a global network of methane tower measurements at more than 60 sites worldwide and measuring and reducing methane emissions from oil and gas wells, city streets, and homes and buildings. As an author and photographer, Jackson has published a trade book about the environment (The Earth Remains Forever, University of Texas Press), two books of children’s poems, Animal Mischief and Weekend Mischief (Boyds Mills Press; Highlights magazine), and recent poems in literary journals such as Southwest Review, Cortland Review, Cold Mountain Review, Atlanta Review, and LitHub. His photographs have appeared in many media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and National Geographic News.



professor of applied physics, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, professor of public policy, Harvard Kennedy School, founder, Carbon Engineering

David Keith has worked near the interface between climate science, energy technology, and public policy since 1991. He took first prize in Canada's national physics prize exam, won MIT's prize for excellence in experimental physics, and was one of Time magazine's Heroes of the Environment. He is the founder of Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company developing technology to capture CO2 from ambient air to make carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels. Best known for his work on the science, technology, and public policy of solar geoengineering, Keith led the development of Harvard's Solar Geoengineering Research Program, a Harvard-wide interfaculty research initiative. His work has ranged from the climatic impacts of large-scale wind power to an early critique of the prospects for hydrogen fuel. Keith's hardware engineering work includes the first interferometer for atoms, a high-accuracy infrared spectrometer for NASA's ER-2, the development of Carbon Engineering's air contactor and overall process design, and the development of a stratospheric propelled balloon experiment for solar geoengineering. Keith teaches science and technology policy, climate science, and solar geoengineering. He has reached students worldwide with an edX energy course. He is author of more than 200 academic publications with a total citation count exceeding 12,000. He has written for the public in op-eds and "A Case for Climate Engineering." He splits his time between Cambridge, Mass., and Canmore, Alberta.

Twitter: @DKeithClimate


professor of statistics

Nicole Lazar received her undergraduate degree in statistics and psychology from Tel Aviv University, her MS in statistics from Stanford University, and her PhD in statistics from the University of Chicago. She was on the faculty of the Statistics Department at Carnegie Mellon University before moving to the University of Georgia in 2004. She is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute and a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. Past editor-in-chief of The American Statistician, she has also served on the editorial boards of leading statistics journals. She is currently president of the Caucus for Women in Statistics. Her research interests include likelihood theory, the analysis of functional neuroimaging data, and the foundations of statistics.



professor of biology

Karen Lips is a field ecologist who studies how global change (wildlife disease, climate change, land use) affects biodiversity of amphibians and reptiles in Latin America and the U.S. A primary focus of her research is determining the ecological and environmental factors that influence amphibian species' response to disease, and how that information might be used in conservation and recovery plans. She is interested in how the loss of biodiversity affects communities and ecosystems, and how human activities contribute to the spread of disease and loss of biodiversity. Before joining the University of Maryland, Lips was a Jefferson Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of State, where she worked in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, in the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and served as an Embassy Science Fellow in Colombia. Lips is a research associate at the U.S. Museum of Natural History, an AAAS Leshner Leadership Public Engagement Fellow, an AAAS fellow, an ESA fellow, and an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow. She was awarded the President's Award of the Chicago Zoological Society, a Bay and Paul Biodiversity Leadership Award, the Sabin Amphibian Conservation Award in 2012, and the inaugural UMD Impact Communicator Award. She holds a BS in zoology from the University of South Florida and a PhD in biology from the University of Miami. Lips is interested in increasing engagement on environmental issues, promoting scientific leadership, and fostering international scientific collaborations.

Twitter: @KWren88


University Distinguished Professor of plant science

Jonathan Lynch's research focuses on understanding the basis of plant adaptation to drought and low soil fertility. This encompasses physiology, genetics, and ecology, centered on organismic processes. Lynch completed his Ph.D. and postgraduate research in plant physiology at the University of California, Davis, and continued his research at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia before joining the Penn State faculty in 1991. He has been honored for his work by the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the government of China. In the U.S., he is a Fellow of the Crop Science Society of America and last year was awarded the Dennis Hoagland Award by the American Society of Plant Biologists. He holds a Chair in Root Biology at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. and serves on the Advisory Council of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.


chief medical writer
The Associated Press
Marilynn Marchione joined the Associated Press in 2004 after 28 years as a reporter and editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Akron Beacon Journal. As the AP’s chief medical writer, she covers medical meetings and looks for consumer-oriented stories with an eye for news you can use. In 2010, she won CASW’s Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. Her work has also been recognized by the Associated Press Managing Editors Association and others. She has held numerous fellowships, including a four-month Knight epidemiology fellowship at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her journalism degree is from Kent State University.
Twitter: @MMarchioneAP

professor of biology

Monica Medina is an integrative biologist interested in the ecology and evolution of marine organisms. Her current research focuses on different aspects of cnidarian-algal symbiosis and cnidarian-microbe interactions. Her lab uses a combination of experimental field based approaches with molecular and genomic tools in the lab. Medina earned her Ph.D. in marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami and taught at the University of California, Merced, before joining Penn State.

Twitter: @MedinaLabPSU


associate professor of cardiovascular medicine and genetics
Perelman School of Medicine

An actively practicing cardiologist and a committed teacher, Kiran Musunuru received his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College, his Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University, and his Master of Public Health degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He trained in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Cardiovascular Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, followed by postdoctoral work at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Musunuru's research focuses on the genetics of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and seeks to identify naturally occurring genetic variants that protect against disease and can be used to develop therapies to protect the entire population. His recently published work focuses on the use of genome editing to create a one-shot "vaccination" against heart attacks and has significantly reduced levels of cholesterol in animal models. He is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the White House, the American Heart Association's Award of Meritorious Achievement, the American Philosophical Society's Judson Daland Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Investigation, and the American Federation for Medical Research's Outstanding Investigator Award. He is also editor-in-chief of the journal Circulation: Genomics and Precision Medicine.

assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology

C. Brandon Ogbunu is a geneticist whose research interest focuses on complex interactions between genes and the environment. In addition, Brandon writes for various venues at the intersection between science, data and culture. His writing has appeared in Wired magazine, Deadspin, The Conversation, Greater Good magazine and

Twitter: @big_data_kane


director, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences; Evan Pugh University Professor of biology and entomology; Eberly Professor in biotechnology,

Andrew Read's research group investigates drug and insecticide resistance as well as the evolution of virulence, infectiousness, and vaccine escape. He is particularly interested in the question of how best to treat patients so as to minimize resistance evolution. Originally from New Zealand, Read did a D. Phil. in evolutionary biology at the University of Oxford. He held various fellowships at Oxford and then at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, before becoming chair of natural history there, a professorship established in 1767. He has taught ecology, evolution, microbiology, and statistics. He has authored more than 250 peer-reviewed publications, 30 book chapters and four edited volumes, and been elected to fellowships from the Royal Society of Edinburgh; the Institute of Advanced Studies, Berlin; the AAAS; the American Academy of Microbiology; the Royal Society; and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also worked as a science journalist for several weeks in 2003 as a British Science Association Media Fellow, writing for the Irish Times in Dublin ( In 2007, he moved to the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State.



biomedicine editor
MIT Technology Review

Antonio Regalado looks for stories about how technology is changing medicine and biomedical research. Before joining MIT Technology Review in July 2011, he lived in São Paulo, Brazil, where he wrote about science, technology, and politics in Latin America for Science and other publications. He was the science reporter at the Wall Street Journal from 2000 to 2009 and later a foreign correspondent.

science journalist

Angela Saini is an award-winning British science journalist and broadcaster. She regularly presents science programs on the BBC, and her writing has appeared in New Scientist, the Guardian, the Sunday Times, and Wired. Her latest book is Superior: The Return of Race Science. Her previous book, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong, was published in 2017 to widespread critical acclaim and has been translated into 11 languages. Angela has a master's in engineering from the University of Oxford and was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Twitter: @AngelaDSaini


professor and chair, Department of Anthropology, and codirector of the Mind-Brain Institute, George Washington University, codirector, National Chimpanzee Institute
Chet Sherwood's research is driven by an interest in how brains differ among species, how this variation is correlated with behavior, how it is constrained by the rules of biological form, and how it is encoded in the genome. Within the scope of this research, he focuses on the examination of human brain organization in comparison to other primates, especially our closest living relatives, the great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans). His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Leakey Foundation. He was a recipient of a James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award (2012). He is co-director of the National Chimpanzee Institute and serves as associate editor of the journals Brain Structure and Function and Brain, Behavior and Evolution.

anthropologist and author

Pat Shipman is a paleoanthropologist specializing in human evolution and a well-known writer of books and articles for the general public about evolution and human biology. Her 1994 book The Evolution of Racism: Human Differences and the Use and Abuse of Science traced the complex interaction of genetics, anthropology, and racism from Darwin's day to the 20th century. Now retired from the anthropology department at Penn State, Shipman in 2015 published her 10th book, The Invaders, in which she argued provocatively that the Neanderthals were eradicated by modern humans hunting cooperatively with dogs — 20,000 years before wolves were thought to have been domesticated. Shipman is a Fellow of the AAAS and in 2006 was awarded the Leighton Wilkie Prize by the Stone Age Institute at Indiana University for her lifetime contributions to paleoanthropology. A long-time contributor to American Scientist magazine, she has also won several literary prizes and in 2000 was selected as the A. Dixon and Betty F. Johnson Lecturer in the Communication of Science at Penn State.

Chief scientist
Blue Origin

Planetary scientist Steven W. Squyres has played a pioneering role in numerous explorations of objects in our solar system and was the principal investigator for the science payload on the Mars Exploration Rover Project. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1981, and after five years at NASA's Ames Research Center became a faculty member at Cornell in 1986. In September 2019, he stepped down from his position as James A. Weeks Professor of physical sciences to join the spaceflight company Blue Origin. His planetary exploration missions include Voyager, Magellan, NEAR, Cassini, Mars Express, MRO, Mars Odyssey, and the Mars Science Laboratory. Squyres led the most recent National Research Council Planetary Decadal Survey and served as Chairman of the NASA Advisory Council. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


James P. Jimirro professor of media effects, co-director, Media Effects Research Laboratory

S. Shyam Sundar is the founder of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, a leading facility of its kind in the country. He teaches courses in the psychology of communication technology, media theory, and research methodology. He earned his doctoral and master's degrees in communication. His industry experience includes more than eight years as a journalist. He holds joint faculty appointments in the departments of film-video and media studies, advertising, architecture, and communication arts and sciences at Penn State. Sundar's research investigates social and psychological effects of technological elements unique to online communication, ranging from websites to newer social and personal media. In particular, his studies experimentally investigate the effects of interactivity, navigability, multi-modality, and agency (source attribution) in digital media interfaces upon online users' thoughts, emotions, and actions. His research is supported by the National Science Foundation, Korea Science and Engineering Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Services, among others. A frequently cited source on technology, Sundar has testified before Congress as an expert witness and delivered talks at several universities in the United States, Germany, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Korea, China, Singapore, and India. He has served on the editorial boards of 18 journals. From 2013 to 2017, Sundar was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. He is a Fellow of the International Communication Association and recipient of the Deutschmann award for research excellence from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

Twitter: @shyamer

science reporter
BuzzFeed News

Dan Vergano is a science reporter for BuzzFeed News in Washington, D.C., where he focuses on the intersection of science and politics. He was formerly at National Geographic and USA TODAY. He is a judge for science journalism prizes sponsored the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He serves as a board member of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and chairs CASW's New Horizons Committee.

Twitter: @dvergano


associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics

As a member of Penn State's Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, Jason Wright studies stars, their atmospheres, their activity and their planets, and also works on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). He is a project scientist for NEID (NN-explore Exoplanet Investigations with Doppler spectroscopy), a principal investigator with NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet System Science), a co-PI of the MINERVA (Miniature Exoplanet Radial Velocity Array) observatory, and a member of the Habitable Zone Planet Finder team. He teaches at the University Park campus and has an active research group of students and postdocs. He maintains the Exoplanet Orbit Database and Exoplanet Data Explorer at, a powerful guide to the orbits of known exoplanets; and the RVLIN and BOOTTRAN packages of Interactive Data Language routines for efficiently fitting multiple Keplerian curves to radial velocity data, and extracting accurate uncertainties for orbital parameters, including transit times.

Twitter: @Astro_Wrigh


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