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2012 Plenary Lectures

Plenary lectures provide an opportunity for meeting attendees to hear from world-renowned speakers who have a passion for science and technology. Plenary lectures are free and open to the public; on-site registration is required.

Opening Ceremony
Thursday, 16 February
6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Ballroom C (VCC West Building)
Welcome by AAAS Board Chairman Alice S. Huang
Opening remarks by Local Co-Chairs Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor, Simon Fraser University; Stephen J. Toope, President and Vice Chancellor, University of British Columbia; and Neil Turok, Director, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

President's Address


Nina V. Fedoroff
AAAS President, Distinguished Visiting Professor, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and Evan Pugh Professor, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Pennsylvania State University

Dr. Fedoroff is a leading geneticist and molecular biologist who has contributed to the development of modern techniques used to study and modify plants. Under the administrations of Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama, she served as Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State and to the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. She is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi honorary societies. Her memberships include the Board of Trustees of the Library of Alexandria, Egypt, and the Board of Governors at the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter of the Los Alamos Laboratory.

Plenary Lectures

Friday, 17 February
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Ballroom C (VCC West Building)


Mike Lazaridis
Vice-Chair, RIM Board of Directors; Founder and Board Chair, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

The Power of Ideas

Mr. Lazaridis is known in the global wireless community as a visionary, innovator, and engineer of extraordinary talent. He traces his passion for his ideas and hard work to his boyhood home of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, where his love of science and fascination with electronics were nurtured in supportive family and school environments. While a student in Waterloo, Ontario, an entrepreneurial community that has emerged into a high tech hotbed and knowledge economy focal point, he founded RIM, launching the smart phone phenomenon with the BlackBerry. Mr. Lazaridis, born in Istanbul, is also a passionate advocate for education and scientific research. He supports his community, province, and country through his many insights, global perspective, and his generous philanthropic gifts made possible by success in business.

Saturday, 18 February
5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Ballroom C (VCC West Building)
Plenary Panel: Science Is Not Enough

An exceptional plenary panel will arm scientists, educators, and students with finely worded messages to influence public perceptions and debate about science-related global challenges. The panel will be moderated by Frank Sesno, an award-winning American journalist, former CNN correspondent, anchor and Washington bureau chief, and director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.


James Hansen
Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University

Dr. Hansen was trained in physics and astronomy in the space science program of Dr. James Van Allen at the University of Iowa. His early research on the clouds of Venus helped identify their composition as sulfuric acid. Since the late 1970s, he has focused his research on Earth's climate, especially human-made climate change. Dr. Hansen is best known for his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995 and was designated by Time in 2006 as one of the 100 most influential people on Earth. Dr. Hansen is recognized for speaking truth to power, for identifying ineffectual policies as greenwash, and for outlining the actions that the public must take to protect the future of young people and other species on the planet.


Olivia Judson
Research Fellow, Imperial College London

Dr. Judson received her doctorate in biological sciences from Oxford University before joining the staff of The Economist, where she wrote about biology and medicine. She has since contributed to a wide variety of publications, including Nature, The Guardian, The Financial Times, and The Daily Telegraph. She also writes The Wild Side, a New York Times weekly blog on evolutionary biology. She has lectured at Harvard, Stanford, the University of Lausanne, the Royal Institution, and the Natural History Museum. In addition to evolutionary topics, she explores the intersection of science and society, focusing on such controversial issues as the actuarial use of DNA and the potential to grow human organs. Her next book is Dinosaur Eggs for Breakfast.


Hans Rosling
Professor of International Health, Karolinska Institute; Co-Founder, Gapminder Foundation

Dr. Rosling started health research collaborations with universities in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America while he was chairman (1998-2004) of Karolinska International Research and Training Committee. He started new courses on Global Health, co-authors a textbook on Global Health and promotes a fact based world view. He co-founded the Gapminder Foundation which developed the Trendalyzer software that converts international statistics into moving, interactive and enjoyable graphics. The aim is to promote a fact based world view through increased use and understanding of freely accessible public statistics.


Frank Sesno
Professor and Director, School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University

Mr. Sesno, a professor of media and public affairs, is an Emmy-award winning journalist with more than 25 years of experience, including 18 years at CNN, where he serves as a special correspondent. His current work at CNN involves producing documentaries. His last program titled, "We Were Warned: Tomorrow's Oil Crisis," aired on CNN in 2011. Prior to working as special correspondent, Sesno served as White House correspondent, anchor, and Washington Bureau Chief for CNN. He teaches how the media affects the creation of public policy and is a host and producer of in-depth specials and mini-series on PBS and The History Channel.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sunday, 19 February
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Ballroom C (VCC West Building)


Ismail Serageldin
Director, The New Library of Alexandria

Science and Democracy

Dr. Serageldin, an Egyptian national, has advocated for greater equality in science and society at large, and has been hailed as a champion for using science in sustainable development and for liberating minds from the tyranny of intolerance, bigotry, and fear. Throughout his illustrious career, Serageldin has earned a reputation for applying science to nearly every type of global problem. He is perhaps most highly regarded for his attempts to combat hunger in developing countries through the promotion of sustainable agriculture. Today, he is the director of the New Library of Alexandria, a major cultural and intellectual center built in 2002 near where the famed Library of Alexandria stood from 288 B.C.E. until approximately 400 C.E. when it was destroyed. Serageldin played a leading role in founding the new library, hoping that the institution would rekindle the great intellectual heritage that had defined the Arab and Muslim world.

Monday, 20 February
8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
Ballroom C (VCC West Building)


Frans B. M. de Waal
C. H. Candler Professor of Psychology, and Director, Living Links Center, Yerkes Primate Center, Emory University

Good Natured: From Primate Social Instincts to Human Morality

Dr. de Waal is a Dutch American behavioral biologist known for his work on the social intelligence of primates. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics, compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture. His latest book is The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, Time selected him as one of the Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today.

Dr. de Waal requested his lecture not be recorded.