New Horizons in Science

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New Horizons in Science 2011 Speakers

performing magician and graduate student in cognitive psychology

Anthony Barnhart, a magician since the age of 7, is known for his unique blend of theater, psychology and magic. He has won four national competitions and placed third among magicians from around the world in a 1999 competition. At Arizona State University, he studies the processes involved in handwritten word recognition in humans and the psychological foundations of stage magic.

professor of physics and astronomy

Natalie Batalha thought she wanted to follow her parents into a business career until she got to college and encountered freshman physics. “What impressed me was how ordered the universe is,” she says. “When you internalize that fact, you begin to fully realize the beauty of it.” As part of her work on the Kepler mission, she was responsible for the selection of the more than 150,000 planets that Kepler monitors for evidence of planets.

senior research associate, Physics Department

Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist whose interests include dark matter, dark energy, the arrow of time, inflation, extra dimensions, gravity and, it seems, just about everything. Much of what he studies is being re-examined in the face of a new discoveries and a flood of data. “We live in a preposterous universe,” he says, “and it’s our job to make sense of it.”

assistant professor of anthropology

Jason De León is an Army brat who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and in Long Beach, CA. His research interests focus on political economy, undocumented migration, deportation, violence, material culture and archaeology of the contemporary past. Since 2008 he has directed the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), a long-term analysis of clandestine border crossing. In addition to his academic research, Jason has been a touring musician since the 1990s. He has released several independent records and toured the U.S. and Mexico multiple times.

research assistant professor

Jeffrey Foster is a wildlife biologist specializing in infectious diseases. His studies of bats were preceded by work on work on brucellosis (it’s not bison that are infecting cattle; it’s elk) and on avian malaria in Hawaiian honeycreepers.

Daniel J. Weintraub Professor of psychology and neuroscience; co-director of the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Laboratory

John Jonides has focused his research career on understanding working memory and higher mental functioning. That has included work to track the storage of information in working memory, and to determine how that information can be manipulated. When the weather in Michigan allows it, he jogs and plays golf and tennis.

E. Raymond and Ruth Cowden Endowed Chair in Microbiology, Regents Professor of biology and professor and director of the Pathogen Genomics Division

Paul Keim has spent much of his career in close proximity to anthrax spores, and the rest of it meddling with E. coli, Salmonella and plague. He was heavily involved in the investigation of the 2001 anthrax letters, and he is a leader in the use of genomic analysis to identify and analyze bacterial pathogens.

associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry

Rob Knight got his PhD 10 years ago in ecology and evolutionary biology and quickly became involved in the study of bacterial communities on and in the human body. In addition to pursuing his basic research, he is working with Jeffrey I. Gordon at Washington University to set up a translational medicine pipeline in Malawi and Bangladesh—with the help of the Gates Foundation—to study microbiomes related to such diseases of malnutrition as kwashiorkor and marasmus. The goal is to treat these illnesses by restoring altered microbial communities.

director, Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology

Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik, now husband and wife, were both postdoctoral fellows in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate David Hubel at Harvard, where they trained as visual neuroscientists. They are the founders of the exciting new discipline of NeuroMagic—and also members of the Magic Castle, Magic Circle, International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the Society of American Magicians. Macknik studies the neurobiology of perception, cognition and neural diseases, with a special interest in the neural underpinnings of visual awareness, with an aim toward understanding the minimal set of physical conditions necessary to make an object visible—the beginning of visual perception.

associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences

Jane Marks is an expert on freshwater ecosystems and how they respond to environmental disruptions.

director, Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience

Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik, now husband and wife, were both postdoctoral fellows in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate David Hubel at Harvard, where they trained as visual neuroscientists. They are the founders of the exciting new discipline of NeuroMagic—and also members of the Magic Castle, Magic Circle, International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the Society of American Magicians. Martinez-Conde is examining the neural bases of visual experience. How, she asks, does the electrical activity of a neuron convey the color or brightness of an object?

Kellogg Endowed Chair in Borderlands Food and Water Security

Gary Paul Nabhan is the author of more than 20 books and co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH, which collects and saves seeds. He counts Thoreau among his influences.

professor of geology

Michael Ort is a volcanologist with a particular interest in interactions between humans and volcanoes.

Harvard College professor and Johnstone Family professor of psychology

Steven Pinker has won numerous prizes for research and teaching and for his eight books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate. He  is currently chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary and writes frequently for The New York Times, Time, The New Republic and other publications. His is married to the novelist Rebecca Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction.


Lance Price complements his work on resistant microbes with studies of human microbiomes—the microbial communities that live on and in the body.

Olajos-Goslow professor of environmental science and policy

Tomas Sisk applies scientific findings to immediate problems in land use and wildlife management.

director, Office of Health Assessment and Translation, National Toxicology Program

Kristina Thayer’s office conducts evaluations of environmental chemicals and mixtures to determine whether they cause adverse health effects—and provides opinions on whether these substances are of concern, given what’s known about humans’ exposure to them. Before joining NIEHS, Thayer was a senior scientist at the World Wildlife Fund and then at the Environmental Working Group.

professor of anthropology

Miguel Vasquez is married to a Mayan woman from Guatemala who had to leave Guatemala because her political activism made it too difficult for her to stay. “For a long time, I’ve had a global perspective on things,” he says. He is a distant relative of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a conquistador who led the major expedition of conquest in the Southwest.

professor of psychology

Heidi Wayment is a social psychologist interested in self and identity, and how individuals react to threat and loss. Before receiving her PhD in social psychology at UCLA in 1992, she played professional basketball for several top European teams, was on the U.S. and German national teams and played in the first professional women’s league in the U.S.—for the WBL New Orleans’ Pride. She is the editor, along with Jack S. Bauer, of Transcending Self-Interest: Psychological Explorations of the Quiet Ego.

director, Violence Prevention Research Program

Garen Wintemute’s interest in preventing gun violence grew out of his work as an emergency-room doctor. "Most people who die from gunshot wounds are pronounced dead at the scene; we never see them in the ED. If we want to decrease the number of people dying from gun violence, we need to prevent them from being shot."


cave research scientist, Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research

Jut Wynne grew up on an island in South Georgia, where he would catch and bring home snakes, frogs, turtles, baby raccoons and assorted wounded animals. Because cave exploration can be physically demanding, Wynne trains extensively to keep in shape. He has completed numerous mountain runs, including the 43-mile Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon in New Mexico, which starts at 4,500 feet and climbs to 11,501 feet.

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