Family Science Days at the AAAS Annual Meeting offer hands-on activities and stage shows for families of all ages. | AAAS
SAN JOSE, CALIF. — Lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak (as described by U.S. public-health expert Anthony Fauci and others), insights to the adolescent brain, earthquakes related to energy extraction, and new technology to help combat childhood deafness will be a few of this year's headlines at the world's largest general scientific conference.
Sessions on medical marijuana, the pros and cons of electronic cigarettes, prototype "superhero vision" devices to combat blindness, and new options for people with severe facial injuries also promise news at the 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.
The 181st AAAS Annual Meeting, set for 12-16 February in San Jose, will offer free public lectures and hands-on fun for families as well as an array of technical sessions for registrants. AAAS — publisher of the journals Science, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling , and Science Advances — will convene in San Jose for the first time in the association's 167-year history. The 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting may draw as many as 8,000 attendees from 60 countries. In 2014, the conference in Chicago drew 7,017 total attendees, including 3,007 general registrants, 3,302 Family Science Days participants, and 708 newsroom registrants.
For 2015, two free Family Science Days — Saturday and Sunday, 14-15 February — will feature hands-on science-learning activities, plus a jam-packed "Meet the Scientists" speaker series designed especially for middle- and high-school students. Events will take place in the San Jose Convention Center.
Regarding this year's conference theme, "Innovations, Information, and Imaging," AAAS President Gerald Fink, Margaret and Herman Sokol Professor of Biology, Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: "Advances in information and imaging technologies are generating novel applications in fields such as biochemistry, computer science, particle physics, genomics, and oceanography, and creating ways to interpret data across disciplines. This transformation makes scientific information more open, available, and accessible globally."
Fink's work in genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology has advanced our understanding of gene regulation, mutation, and recombination. He developed a technique for transforming yeast that allowed researchers to introduce a foreign piece of genetic material into yeast cells in order to study the inheritance and expression of that DNA. The technique, fundamental to genetic engineering, laid the groundwork for the commercial use of yeast as biological factories for manufacturing vaccines and other drugs; it set the stage for genetic engineering in all organisms.
Fink, a founding member and past director of the Whitehead Institute, also chaired a National Research Council Committee that produced the 2003 report, Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism: Confronting the Dual Use Dilemma, which recommended practices to prevent the potentially destructive use of biotechnology research while also supporting legitimate research.
Free Public Lectures
Meeting co-chair University of California President Janet Napolitano will kick off a public lecture by the AAAS president at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, 12 February in the San Jose Convention Center, Room 220A.
In the same spot, artificial intelligence expert Daphne Koller will discuss, "The Online Revolution: Learning without Limits," at 5:00 p.m. Friday, 13 February. Koller is the Rajeev Motwani Professor, Department of Computer Science, Stanford University, and president/co-founder of Coursera, an online education platform.
At 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, 14 February, biochemist and computational biologist David Baker, professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington, will offer a lecture on "Post-Evolutionary Biology: Design of Novel Protein Structures, Functions, and Assemblies."
On Sunday, 15 February at 5:00 p.m., Karl Deisseroth, M.D., who serves as the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, will address: "Optical Deconstruction of Fully Assembled Biological Systems."
"Finding Your Inner Fish" will be the focus of a plenary by paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago. He will speak at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, 16 February.
Science News Opportunities
Highlights from the meeting will include these and many other breaking research news topics:
- The search for extraterrestrial intelligence;
- Increasing Earth's reflectivity to combat climate change;
- New strategies for helping some children with deafness;
- Removable facial prostheses based on 3D imaging;
- The road to autonomous, or "driverless" cars;
- Prototype smart glasses and telescopic contact lenses;
- The pros and cons of electronic cigarettes;
- Investigations of earthquakes and energy-extraction processes;
- Medical marijuana: Chronic pain, nicotine addiction, and schizophrenia;
- Neuroimaging: Fetal brain injury, teen brains, and Alzheimer's;
- And much more.
Reporters can contact AAAS to receive advance information about more than two-dozen embargoed press briefings and related social events for credentialed newsroom registrants.
Meet the Scientists During Family Science Days
Free Family Science Days — scheduled for 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, 14-15 February in the San Jose Convention Center — will include hands-on activities and stage shows for families with children, teenagers, and young adults. AAAS Family Science Days are being offered in partnership with the Bay Area Science Festival, with presenting sponsor Johnson and Johnson. To attend, please register in advance. Walk-in registration is also available on-site. This event offers photo and TV opportunities for media, and video is available.
Attendees will be able to:
- Create earthquakes and volcanic eruptions;
- Try out 3D printing;
- Build a helicopter;
- Learn about local wildlife;
- Code your own computer programs;
- Conduct hands-on weather experiments;
- Meet cool scientists and engineers!
Scientific Program for Registrants
In addition to free public offerings, registrants to the AAAS Annual Meeting will be able to sample a smorgasbord of symposia, seminars, and lectures covering more than 160 topics including climate change, energy, the environment, techniques and technologies for handling "big data," infectious disease-monitoring, and advances in Earth observations.
Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will take part in a special session on "Lessons from the Ebola Outbreak," along with Keiji Fukuda of the World Health Organization and Stephen Gire of Harvard University and the Broad Institute.
Topical lectures will include insights on antimicrobial resistance, by Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor in the U.K.'s Department of Health. "Why Science in, with, and for Africa Matters" will be the focus of a topical by South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor.
Scientific sessions and seminars will explore science communication; the future of computing; solar system exploration via remote sensing, and an array of other topics.
The first AAAS Annual Meeting took place in 1848 in Philadelphia, Pa. Past meetings have featured U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Microsoft's Bill Gates; the science ministers of the European Commission, Germany, the United Kingdom and Hungary; Nobelists Sherwood Rowland, Leon Lederman, Wolfgang Ketterle and many others.