Skip to main content

2014 Plenary Speakers

President's Address
Thursday, 13 February 2014

Phillip A. Sharp
AAAS President and 2014 Meeting Chair
Institute Professor, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Sharp, a noted molecular biologist with a focus on the genetic causes of cancer, shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of “split genes” — the finding that genes could be composed of several separate segments within DNA. His lab now focuses on the therapeutic potential of RNA interference, small RNA molecules that can switch genes on and off. He has co-founded two companies: Biogen (now Biogen Idec) and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. He received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, AAAS, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and a foreign fellow of the Royal Society (U.K.).

How Discovery and Innovation Can Meet Our Energy Challenge
Friday, 14 February 2014

Steven Chu
Professor of Physics and Molecular and Cellular Physiology
Stanford University

Dr. Steven Chu served as the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy between January 2009 and April 2013 and is currently a professor at Stanford University. Prior to his post in President Obama’s Cabinet, he was the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor at University of California, Berkeley. He had previously worked at Stanford University and Bell Laboratories. Chu is the co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics (1997) for his contributions to the laser cooling and trapping of atoms. His other areas of research include tests of fundamental theories in physics, atom interferometry, study of polymers and biological systems at the single molecule level, and biomedical research. The holder of 10 patents, Chu has published 250 scientific and technical papers. Chu is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Academia Sinica, and the Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology, an honorary member of the Institute of Physics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a Lifetime Member of the Optical Society of America. He received bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Getting Beyond a Blind Date with Science
Saturday, 15 February 2014



Alan Alda
Visiting Professor of Journalism
Stony Brook University
Video not available due to speaker request

Alan Alda is an actor, writer, director, and visiting professor at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, where he helps current and future scientists learn to communicate more clearly and vividly with the public. In collaboration with theater arts faculty at Stony Brook, he is pioneering the use of improvisational theater exercises to help scientists connect more directly with people outside their field. Alda is best known for his award-winning work in movies, theater, and television, but he also has a distinguished record in the public communication of science. For 13 years he hosted the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers, which he has called “the best thing I ever did in front of a camera.” After interviewing hundreds of scientists around the world, he became convinced that many researchers have wonderful stories but need to learn how to tell them better. That realization inspired the creation of Stony Brook’s multidisciplinary Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science in 2009.

From Yeast Cells to Patient Neurons: A Powerful Discovery Platform for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases
Sunday, 16 February 2014

Susan Lindquist
Professor of Biology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Susan Lindquist is a pioneer in understanding protein folding, showing that these changes can have profound and unexpected influences in human disease, evolution, and nanotechnology. She is a member of the Whitehead Institute, where she served as director from 2001 to 2004, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Previously she was a professor of molecular cell biology at University of Chicago. Lindquist is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Philosophical Society. She is a recipient of the Novartis/Drew Award for Biomedical Research, the Dickson Prize in Medicine, the Sigma Xi William Procter Prize for Academic Achievement, the Nevada Silver Medal for Scientific Achievement, the Genetics Society of America Medal, and the Centennial Medal of the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In 2010, she received the Mendel Medal from the Genetics Society (UK), the Delbruck Medal from Bayer Schering, and the U.S. National Medal of Science. She is a co-founder of FoldRx Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a non-subsidiary of Pfizer, Inc.

Stretchy Electronics That Dissolve in Your Body
Monday, 17 February 2014

John A. Rogers
Swanlund Chair and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dr. John Rogers’ research includes fundamental and applied aspects of nano- and molecular scale fabrication. He also studies materials and patterning techniques for unusual electronic and photonic devices, with an emphasis on bio-integrated and bio-inspired systems. He received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. He has published more than 350 papers and is an inventor on over 80 patents and patent applications, many of which are licensed or in active use by large companies and startups that he co-founded. He previously worked for Bell Laboratories as director of its research program in condensed matter physics. He has received recognition including a MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Lemelson-MIT Prize, the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Defense, the George Smith Award from IEEE, the Robert Henry Thurston Award from American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Mid-Career Researcher Award from Materials Research Society, the Leo Hendrick Baekeland Award from the American Chemical Society, and the Daniel Drucker Eminent Faculty Award from the University of Illinois.