New Horizons in Science 2016 Speakers
Erez Lieberman Aiden directs the recently established Center for Genome Architecture at Baylor. His wide-ranging work has involved both invention and theoretical science. While a graduate student at Harvard and MIT, he and colleagues burst onto the cover of Nature with the first clear demonstration that natural selection applies to the evolution of languages. With Martin Nowak, he is credited with the disovery of evolutionary graph theory, now widely used to understand the effects of structure on evolution. Aiden's contributions have won wide recognition. He won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for his work on the iShoe, a shoe to assist elderly people with balance problems, and in 2009 was named one of MIT Technology Review’s top 35 innovators under 35. He won the Hertz Thesis Prize and the American Physical Society’s outstanding thesis prize in biological physics for 2010 and was elected a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows upon receiving his PhD the same year. Science featured his articles laying out the folding principles of the genome and the analysis of culture using books digitized by Google. Awarded the NIH New Innovator Award in 2011, today he continues to work in culturomics while applying mathematical and computational approaches to the three-dimensional architectural of the human genome.
Tim Anderson has been studying parasites for three decades. Today his lab investigates the genetic basis and evolution of biomedically important traits in two groups of parasites together responsible for more than 800,000 deaths per year — Plasmodium, the malaria parasite, and the blood fluke Schistosoma. They are using genomic analysis of field-collected parasites and genetic crosses to identify drug resistance genes. The combined approach provides a way to understand drug resistance, host specificity, parasite virulence, and multiple other important biomedical traits. An Oxford graduate, Anderson earned his PhD at the University of Rochester and did postdoctoral work in Oxford and Milan. He has previously studied mice on Scottish islands, butterfly-ant symbioses in Australia, Wolbachia endosymbionts in filarial nematodes, and roundworm transmission in Guatemalan villages.
Monica Ramirez-Andreotta holds a PhD in soil, water and environmental science from the University of Arizona, where she returned to teach after serving as a research fellow and junior faculty member at Northeastern University. She also holds a master of public administration degree from Columbia University and undergraduate degrees in art, ecology and evolutionary biology. Her research interests include developing a fundamental understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants in the environment, with a primary focus on plant-soil systems and phytotechnologies to improve soil and air quality. In parallel, she is building citizen science programs to increase public participation in environmental health research, developing low cost environmental monitoring tools to improve exposure estimates, and designing effective risk communication and data report-back strategies to improve environmental health literacy. Ramírez-Andreotta is dedicated to, and has been successful in reaching underserved populations. Her philosophy is that in order to successfully engage communities and students, it is essential to address critical environmental health problems identified by the community and work collaboratively through the problem-solving and research process.
Scott Bolton has more than 30 years of experience with NASA space physics and planetary astronomy programs since 1988. Before leading the Juno mission, he had extensive experience managing multiple science investigations on the Cassini and Galileo missions. He spent more than 24 years at the Jet Propulsion Lab working in mission design, instrument design and delivery, mission development, science planning, and science operations. In 2004 he became director of the Space Sciences Department at the Southwest Research Institute, where he managed the work of about 90 scientists and engineers. Bolton received his PhD in astrophysics from UC Berkeley in 1990. He has been honored with NASA’s Outstanding Leadership and Exceptional Achievement Medals, JPL Individual Awards for Exceptional Excellence in Leadership and Management and 24 NASA Group Achievement Awards. He is author or coauthor of more than 250 scientific papers. He is actively involved in educational outreach and has a private company, Artistic Sciences, Inc, that has produced a number of musical concerts, art exhibits, scientific documentaries and videos aimed at inspiring and motivating interest in scientific endeavors.
Ian Cheeseman joined Texas Biomed in 2010 as a postdoctoral fellow in Tim Anderson’s lab. In 2014 he became one of the youngest recipients of a major NIH award when he received $1.8 million to pursue his “single cell genomics” approach to investigating malaria infections. He was recently invited to join the Pf3K consortium, an international effort to characterize genetic variation and the impact of natural selection in over 3,000 directly sequenced malaria parasite genomes. The Cheeseman laboratory uses genomic and computational approaches to characterize the complexity of malaria infections, the evolution of drug resistance, and the rate and spectrum of adaptive mutations in the malaria parasite genome. Cheeseman received his PhD in parasite genetics and his MS degree in molecular biology of infectious diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Paleontologist Julia Clarke's research focuses on using phylogenetic methods and diverse data types to gain insight into the evolution of birds and avian flight. She is particularly interested in understanding shared patterns and potential causal factors in the evolution of living bird lineages. Through international and cross-disciplinary collaboration, she seeks new data to inform how bird distributions and diversity, shape, and form have changed across their deep histories. Clarke earned her PhD from Yale University and is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. She served on the faculty of NC State University for four years before joining UT. She serves as co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Anatomy and is an associate editor of Paleobiology. She has published widely and been recognized for excellence in research, undergraduate teaching and outreach.
Tyler Curiel holds an MD from Duke and a master's in public health from Harvard. His postgraduate medical education combined internal medicine, infectious diseases and medical oncology. His laboratory has made seminal contributions to tumor immunology and immunotherapy that are helping shape the current resurgence of cancer immunotherapy, performing pivotal clinical human trials of to establish new concepts in cancer immunotherapy. His group also studies cancer prevention and age effects on cancer immunity and immunotherapy, and studies the basis for autoimmunity.
Steven Dellenback is a systems engineer who joined Southwest Research Institute in 1984 as he was completing a PhD in computer science at the University of Kansas focusing on graphics language design and implementation. Today he leads a SwRI division with approximately 175 staff conducting approximately $40 million annually in research and development efforts in areas including intelligent transportation systems and unmanned systems and a wide range of other areas including spaceflight software, manufacturing automation, sensor networks, smart energy, data analytics, simulation and training. He is an international leader in the field of intelligent transportation system (ITS) and a member of the World Congress Board of Directors of ITS America.
Curt Guyette joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in the fall of 2013 as interim media liaison, and then was named investigative reporter, a newly created position funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation. He writes about exclusively issues involving emergency management and open government. Before joining the ACLU of Michigan, Curt worked as a print journalist for more than 30 years, including 18 years at the Metro Times, an alternative newsweekly based in Detroit. Guyette graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in English writing. He is the recipient of numerous local, state and national journalism awards. The State Bar of Michigan has honored him three times for his outstanding coverage of legal issues. In January he was honored as the Michigan Press Association’s “Journalist of the Year.”
Daniela Hernandez's interests include genetics, neuroscience, robotics and artificial intelligence. Before joining the Wall Street Journal, she wrote for WIRED, Kaiser Health News and Fusion. She has a PhD in neurobiology from Columbia University.
Michele Johnson trained in population biology at Washington University in St. Louis with a dissertation focusing on the evolution of behavioral ecology in Caribbean lizards. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral neuroscience at Michigan State University, studying the neuromuscular mechanisms underlying social behavior in lizards. In 2009, she joined the Department of Biology at Trinity University, where her laboratory combines approaches from behavioral ecology and behavioral neuroscience to understand the evolution of behavioral diversity in lizards. She was awarded the 2014 Outstanding Mentor Award from the Council on Undergraduate Research, Biology Division. Her work has been covered extensively on a blog for anole lizard enthusiasts, www.anoleannals.org.
Max Kilger received his PhD in social psychology from Stanford University. He has more than 15 years of experience in the area of information security, concentrating on the social and psychological factors motivating malicious online actors, hacking groups, and cyberterrorists. Kilger has authored or co-authored a number of journal articles and book chapters on profiling, the social structure of the hacking community, cyberviolence and the emergence of cyberterrorism. He recently co-authored the popular book Reverse Deception: Organized Cyberthreat Counter-Exploitation and is working on a new book, Deception in the Digital Age. He is a founding and board member of the Honeynet Project, a not-for-profit information security organization with 54 teams of experts in 44 countries working for the public good. He was a member of a National Academy of Engineering committee dedicated to make recommendations for combating terrorism. Max is also currently a member of a multinational instructional team for a NATO counterterrorism course. He is a frequent national and international speaker to information security forums, federal law enforcement and the intelligence community.
Trained as a virologist, Robert Lanford has worked with nonhuman primate disease models for 30 years, having established his lab at TBRI (then the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research) in 1984. Recently, his primary research focus has been hepatitis B and C viruses, with an emphasis on viral-host interactions and the innate immune response, and how these influence either viral clearance or persistence and disease progression. Lanford has extensive experience in testing new antiviral therapies in the chimpanzee as the final preclinical step before human trials. His work with chimpanzees has demonstrated the potential for a broadly protective vaccine for hepatitis C. Lanford received his PhD in virology from the Baylor College of Medicine. He was founding co-editor of the journal Viral Immunology and has been an editorial board member for two virology journals. He has served on several NIH review boards and organized international conferences on the hepatitis C virus.
James Lechleiter’s research illuminates the molecular and cellular mechanisms of protection during stroke, traumatic brain injury and aging. Recent advances in his laboratory revealed how natural healing mechanisms can be activated by boosting mitochondrial energy (ATP) production in astrocytes, the major support cell in the brain. He shares patents on a confocal microscope for simultaneous imaging with visible and ultraviolet light, a multi-photon laser scanning microscope using an acoustic optical detector and he recently received an individual patent to treat cerebral trauma with purinergic agonists. He is widely recognized for his seminal work in the field of calcium-ion signaling, where he made the initial discovery of intracellular spiral Ca2+ waves. He was co-recipient of the prestigious Erwin Schrödinger Prize for Interdisciplinary Research from the Helmholtz Society in Germany, received the President’s Council Scholar Award from UTHSCSA, he was designated a Health Care Hero in Medical Research by the San Antonio Business Journal. He is the co-founder of Astrocyte Pharmaceuticals, which is exploring development of a “concussion pill” based on his lab’s research.
Before joining the Post, Chris Mooney worked at Mother Jones, where he wrote about science and the environment and hosted a weekly podcast. He spent a decade prior to that as a freelance writer, podcaster and speaker, with his work appearing in WIRED, Harper’s, Slate, Legal Affairs, The Los Angeles Times, The Post and The Boston Globe, to name a few. He has also published four books about science and climate change.
Scott Niekum directs the Personal Autonomous Robotics Lab (PeARL) at the University of Texas and is a core faculty member in the interdepartmental robotics group. Prior to joining UT Austin, Niekum was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute. He received his PhD in computer science in September 2013 from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, under the supervision of Andrew Barto. His research interests include learning from demonstration, robotic manipulation, human-robot interaction, time-series analysis, and reinforcement learning
Amina Qutub is a bioengineer and tech entrepreneur. Her research interests are in neurovascular systems biology, cell engineering, and hypoxic response. Her lab’s research vision is to harness human cells’ natural behavior in order to understand and improve health. She uses computer simulations integrated with experiments to uncover how cells communicate during growth. Applications of this work are identifying new ways to slow cancerous progression and regenerate healthy human tissue. Amina received her PhD in bioengineering from the University of California, Berkeley and UCSF. She joined the Rice faculty following her postdoctoral training in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Qutub has authored or coauthored more than 30 publications, cofounded the tech startup DiBS, and served as scientific lead of a 2014-15 DREAM Biomedical Data Algorithm Challenge after winning a 2013 DREAM subchallenge for interactive data visualizations. She is a 2012 National Science Foundation CAREER and 2015 NSF Neural & Cognitive Systems awardee.
Mark Riedl is director of Georgia Tech’s Entertainment Intelligence Lab. His research focuses on the intersection of artificial intelligence, virtual worlds, and storytelling. Riedl's primary research contributions are in the area of artificial intelligence approaches to automated story generation and interactive storytelling for entertainment, education, and training. The goal of his narrative intelligence research is to discover new computational algorithms and models that can facilitate the development of intelligent computer systems that can reason about narrative in order to be better communicators, entertainers, and educators. Riedl earned a PhD degree in 2004 from North Carolina State University. Before arriving at Georgia Tech in 2007, he was a Research Scientist at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies. He has been the recipient of a DARPA Young Faculty Award and an NSF CAREER Award.
Connie Roser-Renouf’s research focuses on understanding how diverse audiences use, interpret and respond to information on the issue of climate change. The objective of this work is to identify effective communication strategies that inform and engage the public, while contributing to the theoretical literature on science communication, risk communication and social marketing. Roser-Renouf, who earned her PhD in communication research at Stanford University, has served as co-principal investigator for the Yale/GMU audience research program “Climate Change in the American Mind.” Through surveys they have identified “six Americas,” distinct audience segments that hold divergent beliefs on climate change and favor different responses to the threat. The daughter of a newspaper editor, she considers the journalist’s job one of “monumental import” in a time when opinion and politics are highly polarized.
Siddhartha Roy is completing his PhD in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. He works with Marc Edwards researching failure mechanisms in potable water infrastructure, specifically in copper and non-leaded plumbing. Sid also served as the student leader and communications director for the Virginia Tech “Flint Water Study” research team that helped uncover the citywide lead contamination and other corrosion-caused water quality issues in Flint, Michigan.
As neuroscientists focus increasingly on brain injury, a complex picture is emerging. Mark Shapiro studies why seizures develop into epilepsy, a question important in the search for therapies for traumatic brain injury, where disabling seizures sometimes set in months or years after the original injury. Shapiro has tracked down the maladaptive changes that make seizures become ingrained. James Lechleiter's work focuses on astrocytes, the major support cells in the brain. While working on anticancer drugs, he found a way to boost the activity of these cells to accelerate healing of the brain and prevent destructive seizures. Together their labs are hoping to lay the groundwork for interventions that could stop maladaptive cascades of damage in the brain. Their work involves super-resolution microscopy and cellular and molecular studies that have implications for stroke victims and for limiting the neurodegenerative processes common with aging.
Andrea Thomaz joined the University of Texas faculty in January 2016 after serving as associate professor of interactive computing at Georgia Tech for nine years. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from MIT in 2002 and 2006. Thomaz works in artificial intelligence, robotics, and human-robot interaction. Her research aims to computationally model mechanisms of human social learning in order to build social robots and other machines that are intuitive for everyday people to teach. She received an NSF CAREER award in 2010 and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 2008. She was named to the MIT Technology Review Top Young Innovators Under 35 in 2009 and to Popular Science magazine’s Brilliant 10 List in 2012.
Steven Weinberg is one of the towering figures of physics. His research on elementary particle physics and cosmology has been honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics, the National Medal of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society, the Dannie Heinemann Prize for Mathematical Physics, and numerous other awards. He has been elected to the National Academy of Science and Britain's Royal Society and other academies, and holds 16 honorary doctoral degrees. He has written more than 300 scientific articles along with six treatises on general relativity, quantum field theory, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. He is also a lively expositor who enjoys talking to science writers; this is Weinberg’s third appearance as a New Horizons in Science speaker. Among his books for general readers are Dreams of a Final Theory, The First Three Minutes, and two collections of published essays, Facing Up: Science and its Cultural Adversaries, and Lake Views: This World and the Universe. Many of these essays first appeared in the New York Review of Books. His essay writing has earned Weinberg the Lewis Thomas Award for the Scientist as Poet and other awards. His latest book, To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, was published in 2015. Educated at Cornell, Copenhagen, and Princeton, he taught at Columbia, Berkeley, MIT and Harvard, where he was Higgins Professor of Physics, before coming to Texas in 1982.
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