New Horizons in Science

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CASW

New Horizons in Science 2012 Speakers

associate research professor of microbiology and immunology, School of Medicine; professor of epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health

After Ralph Baric attended N.C. State University on a swimming scholarship, he stuck around to complete a PhD in microbiology in 1983, the year the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was isolated. He is known for his research on the replication and pathogenesis of coronaviruses, which include SARS, and more recently of noroviruses such as the Norwalk virus. His work has crossed the boundaries of microbiology, virology, immunology and epidemiology, looking especially at the population genetics of viruses to find the molecular building blocks for more effective vaccines.

Belk Distinguished Professor of biology; chief scientific officer

Ken Bost grew up near Concord, NC, and received his undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1979. He left the state to pursue a doctoral degree in immunology from Ole Miss Medical School. After rising through the academic ranks at UTMB-Galveston, then UAB Medical Center, and finally Tulane Medical Center, where he was a professor of microbiology and immunology, he returned to N.C. in 1998 as the Belk Distinguished Professor of Biology at UNC-Charlotte. In 2005 Ken Bost and Kenneth Piller co-founded SoyMeds, Inc. as a UNC-Charlotte startup company. This small business uses transgenic soybean seeds as a platform technology for expressing recombinant proteins that have pharmaceutical and diagnostic applications.

Chancellor's Eminent Professor of chemistry; William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of chemical engineering

Joe DeSimone is a prolific and creative inventor, entrepreneur and scientific collaborator. Among his inventions are: an environmentally friendly manufacturing process that relies on supercritical carbon dioxide for the creation of fluoropolymers and high-performance plastics; a bioabsorbable, drug-eluting stent; and a roll-to-roll particle-fabrication technology that borrows photolithographic techniques from semiconductor manufacturing to deliver high-performance, cost-effective vaccines and medicines. The new fabrication technology is the foundation of Liquidia Technologies, which DeSimone launched in 2004. Liquidia now employs roughly 50 people in Research Triangle Park. Trained in chemistry, DeSimone is a member of the National Academies of Engineering and Sciences.

Twitter: @Joseph_DeSimone

George E. Uhlenbeck Professor of physics; associate director, Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics

Katherine Freese earned her physics degrees from Princeton (where, as far as she knows, she was the second woman to major in physics), Columbia and Chicago, then did postdocs at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and the University of California, Berkeley. She has held faculty positions at MIT and Michigan, and been a visiting faculty member at the Max Planck Institute für Physik, Columbia, UC Berkeley and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. She works on a wide range of topics in theoretical cosmology and astroparticle physics. She has been working to identify the dark matter and dark energy that permeate the universe as well as to build a successful model for the early universe immediately after the Big Bang. She has shown that most of the mass in galaxies does not consist of ordinary stellar material, and has proposed ways to look for alternatives such as supersymmetric particles. Recently she has proposed that “dark stars” were the first stars to form in the Universe.

George E. Uhlenbeck Professor of physics; associate director, Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics

Katherine Freese earned her physics degrees from Princeton (where, as far as she knows, she was the second woman to major in physics), Columbia and Chicago, then did postdocs at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and the University of California, Berkeley. She has held faculty positions at MIT and Michigan, and been a visiting faculty member at the Max Planck Institute für Physik, Columbia, UC Berkeley and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. She works on a wide range of topics in theoretical cosmology and astroparticle physics. She has been working to identify the dark matter and dark energy that permeate the universe as well as to build a successful model for the early universe immediately after the Big Bang. She has shown that most of the mass in galaxies does not consist of ordinary stellar material, and has proposed ways to look for alternatives such as supersymmetric particles. Recently she has proposed that “dark stars” were the first stars to form in the Universe.

senior research scientist and director, Interactive Technology Center

Maribeth Gandy is a computer scientist who works in the field of human-computer interaction, where she develops novel and scientifically validated games for purposes such as training, rehabilitation and cognitive training. She is currently collaborating with Anne McLaughlin and colleagues at NC State on an NSF-funded project to develop cognitive games for older adults. The goal is to both isolate what components are necessary in an activity for it to have general cognitive benefits and to craft a custom game that is accessible and compelling for an older player. For seven years she worked in the fields of disability and accessibility as a project director in the Wireless RERC (through the Shepard Center in Atlanta and Georgia Tech) and generated guidelines for the universal design and user-centered design process with disabled individuals. In her consulting work she has built commercial games, designed a home medical device for older adults, enhanced live rock concerts, and worked with startup companies to develop augmented reality business models and products.

University Distinguished Professor of entomology and genetics

Fred Gould began studying how insects adapt to plant defenses and insecticides after completing his PhD at SUNY Stony Brook in 1977. This work took him to North Carolina, where he began to focus on how transgenic crops can be deployed to suppress the evolution of pest resistance. He now focuses on how insects and other pests might be engineered to protect endangered species, reduce crop losses, restore island ecosystems and suppress diseases such as malaria. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2011 and now leads an effort to cross-train graduate students in genomics, ecology, molecular biology, ethics and policy to better inform the use of genetically modified organisms in pest management.

NIEHS program director, Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Centers

Kimberly Gray received her B.S. degree in behavioral neuroscience and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh, where as a graduate student she worked on a project examining the long-term effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol, marijuana and tobacco. During a postdoctoral fellowship in the NIEHS Epidemiology Branch, she examined the long-term effects of polychlorinated biphenyl exposure during pregnancy and childhood development. In August 2001 she returned to NIEHS, where she now is now the NIEHS director for a nationwide collaborating network of “Children’s Centers”—the NIEHS and EPA Centers for Children’s Environmental Health & Disease Prevention Research.

staff scientist

Andy Howell leads the supernova group at Las Cumbres. He’s also an adjunct professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara and was a host of the third season of the National Geographic Channel series Known Universe. He’s been a member of three teams that have found and followed thousands of explosive and transient events in the universe, providing our best measurement of the mysterious dark energy. Earlier he worked with the Supernova Cosmology Project, led by 2011 Nobelist Saul Perlmutter. Howell also does popular science writing and reviews movies under the name Copernicus at Ain't It Cool News. He's been known to get into boxing matches with NASA conspiracy theorists.

Twitter: @d_a_howell

Kenneth R. Walker associate professor of earth and planetary sciences

Linda Kah has been pursuing her love of science since kindergarten, when she announced her intention to become a geologist. She received concurrent BS and MS degrees from MIT in 1990, followed by a PhD from Harvard in 1997. In her research, Kah combines her knowledge of geology, isotope geochemistry and biology to decipher how ecosystems arise on planets, and how biological processes fundamentally interact with, and even change, geological systems. Her research has taken her to some of the most remote places on Earth, including the Canadian Arctic, Saharan West Africa, and the high Andes of Argentina; and continues to take her to even more remote localities, as she begins exploration of Gale Crater on the surface of Mars with NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission. “I was brought into the mission seven years ago for the express reason that I knew almost nothing about Mars,” she recalls.

Fuchsberg-Levine Family associate professor of physics

Mark Kruse is an associate professor specializing in experimental high-energy physics at Duke University, where he holds the Fuchsberg-Levine Family Chair for excellence in teaching and research. Kruse led the CDF Higgs discovery group at Fermilab from January 2007 to January 2009 and continues to play an active role in searches for the Higgs boson. In addition, he has developed a global analysis to search for new physics using events containing a high-energy electron and muon. Kruse is also interested in silicon detector design for high-energy particle physics experiments and is part of a group developing the next generation of silicon detectors for the ATLAS experiment at the LHC.

professor of obstetrics and gynecology; professor of pathology

Phyllis Leppert started out as a nurse-midwife in the 1960s, then took a turn toward medical school, earning an MD in 1973 and then a biology PhD in 1986. She developed a research interest in the biology of the uterine cervix, and specifically its elastin fiber network. After a stint as chief of the Reproductive Services Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, she joined Duke University’s obstetrics and gynecology faculty in 2006. There she focuses on issues in reproductive health and primary and preventive reproductive medicine for women. She has written for women’s magazines and today focuses on uterine fibroids, a health scourge that affects 7 of 10 U.S. women of childbearing age.

associate professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering; director, Cell Mechanics Laboratory

As a Stanford mechanical engineering graduate student, Elizabeth Loboa worked with a craniofacial surgeon on challenges such as repairing cleft palates and separating conjoined twins. She continues to be motivated by the chance to help repair severely wounded bodies. After completing her PhD in mechanical engineering in 2002 and doing a postdoc, she headed to North Carolina, where the breadth of her understanding of mechanics, modeling, materials and regenerative biology has landed Loboa adjunct appointments in physiology, textiles and orthopedics. “Engineers do things differently from biologists,” she says. “If it’s not solving the problem, then as an an engineer, it’s not important to me. I want to do the most clinically relevant thing. I want to solve the big problems.”

Kappe professor of environmental engineering

Environmental biotechnologist Bruce Logan's research focuses on novel technologies that produce energy from microbial processes and on developing a global water infrastructure for both industrialized and developing countries that is sustainable in energy terms. The author or co-author of over 300 refereed publications and several books, he collaborates around the world and has been a visiting researcher in England, Saudi Arabia and China. He received his PhD in 1986 from UC Berkeley and served on the University of Arizona faculty prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 1997. He also established and directs the Penn State Hydrogen Energy Center.

assistant professor of psychology

Anne McLaughlin received her psychology PhD in 2007 from Georgia Tech. She has studied motivation in a number of contexts, including hand-washing in healthcare settings, before focusing on individual differences in cognition in adults over the age of 65 and in particular on maintaining mental abilities at older ages via cognitive exercise. She collaborates with Jason Allaire, a lifespan developmental psychologist at NCSU, and Maribeth Gandy, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech. She maintains the Human Factors Blog, http://humanfactorsblog.org/.

Arey distinguished professor of chemistry; director, UNC Energy Frontier Research Center

Tom Meyer’s pioneering work on converting sunlight to chemical energy laid much of the groundwork for the fast-moving field now called artificial photosynthesis--the search for technologies that capture and store solar energy. A National Academy member who is one of most highly cited and honored chemists in the world, Meyer returned to the University of North Carolina faculty in 2005 after five years as Associate Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and now focuses on the renewed search for solar fuels.

Knut Schmidt Nielsen professor of psychology and neuroscience

“People are curious about how lives unfold,” says Terrie Moffitt, describing the public interest that has created a worldwide audience for her research. Moffitt studies how genetic and environmental risks work together to shape the developmental course of abnormal human behaviors and psychiatric disorders. She is associate director of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, which follows 1,000 people born in 1972-73 in a New Zealand town, and also directs the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, which follows 1,100 British families with twins born in 1994-95. Moffitt is an internationally renowned clinical psychologist who completed her hospital training in 1984 at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. Topping her long publication list is a 1972 feature film about stock car racing legend Richard Petty, where young Temi Moffitt had a small part. Moffitt and her collaborator and husband Avshalom Caspi joined the Duke faculty in 2007 and also hold faculty positions at the Institute of Psychiatry in England.

professor of neurobiology, biomedical engineering, psychology and neuroscience; co-director, Center for Neuroengineering

Miguel Nicolelis is a neurophysiologist and physician best known for his work using brain-machine interfaces and “neuroprosthetics” to restore motor function to paraplegics, amputees and others who have lost function to disease or injury. In addition to this work, which has been widely honored and reported in US and international media, his research aims to develop an integrative approach to neurological and psychiatric disorders. He remembers that he was led to science by long childhood afternoons of backyard exploration with his grandmother in his native Brazil, where “I discovered the joy of probing the unknown on voyages that only our imagination can plan and track.” Author of the book Beyond Boundaries, Nicolelis holds both an MD and a PhD from the University of Sao Paulo and is co-founder and scientific director of the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute for Neuroscience of Natal.

Twitter: @MiguelNicolelis

adjunct research associate professor of biology, president and co-founder

Kenneth Piller received his PhD in plant molecular biology from the University of Illinois-Chicago and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in parasitology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Before relocating to Charlotte, NC, in 2001, he worked at Monsanto for four years, serving as team leader for projects in the biotech pipeline. After joining the Department of Biology at UNC-Charlotte as a Research Associate Professor, Piller co-founded SoyMeds, Inc. with Ken Bost. The focus of Piller’s research is the development of soybean as a platform for the production of therapeutic proteins that can be used to diagnose, prevent, treat, and potentially cure a variety of diseases.

economist

David Rothschild is a founding member of Microsoft Research's new New York City lab, having joined after a postdoc stint as an economist at Yahoo! Research. He has written extensively, in both the academic and popular press, on polling, prediction markets, and predictions of upcoming events; most of his popular work has focused on predicting elections and an economist take on public policy. Various projects, including Yahoo!’s The Signal, act as online laboratories dedicated to prediction, interest and sentiment models, polling and prediction games. David jumped into politics while working on degrees in civil engineering and history at Brown, spending a summer interning at the White House. He earned his PhD in applied economics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, studying under Justin Wolfers, who gave a briefing on prediction markets at New Horizons in Science in 2006. Rothschild is also a fellow of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia.

Twitter: @DavMicRot

assistant professor of chemistry

Darlene Taylor jumped off the pre-med track as a student when she discovered her gift for chemistry. She earned a PhD in polymer physical chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and stayed at UNC for postdoctoral work on the design and characterization of polymer materials for novel applications, collaborating with fellow New Horizons speakers Joe DeSimone and Tom Meyer. In 2005 she joined the faculty at North Carolina Central. Her work focusing on structure-property relationships in oligomers and polymers has brought her back to medicine, where some of her innovations in chemistry hold potential as smart materials for drug delivery.

associate professor of epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Epidemiologist Steve Wing conducts research on occupational and environmental health. His recent work has focused on environmental justice, the health effects of ionizing radiation, community impacts of industrial swine production and the built environment. He has collaborated on health and exposure studies with communities and workers affected by the nuclear industry, industrial animal production, and other environmental and occupational threats.

professor of biology

“I grew up loving nature,” Greg Wray recalls, “and it’s still what gets me up in the morning.” Once up, Wray spends his days immersed in large-scale data analysis, studying biological diversity 21st century-style. He has focused on the evolution of gene regulation partly by studying sea urchins, an organism whose gene regulatory networks are well understood, providing an intuitive understanding of how regulation works. But the major focus of the Wray Lab is the primates: understanding how changes in gene expression might have driven many of the phenotypic traits that make us human. Wray joined the faculty at Duke—where he earned his zoology PhD—in 1997.

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