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Dolphins and Diabetes, “Green” Cars, and Stem Cells: Hot Topics at the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting

SAN DIEGO—Dolphins with diabetes, green cars designed to feed power back into the electrical grid, human embryonic stem cell research, the link between music and language, and sleep and memory are just a few of the topics likely to generate headlines during America’s largest general scientific conference, set for 18-22 February.

2010 will be the first time since its founding in 1848 that the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has convened its annual conference in San Diego.

Described in The Times Higher Education as “the Olympics of science conferences,” the 2010 “Triple-A-S” Annual Meeting offers free, public lectures by two Nobel laureates, a key presidential science adviser, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the director of the global design effort for the International Linear Collider—the highest priority future project for particle physics worldwide.

Also on the 2010 program are two free AAAS Family Science Days—Saturday and Sunday, 20-21 February—featuring fun, hands-on science learning activities, plus a jam-packed “Meet the Scientists!” speaker series especially for middle- and high-school students.

Public plenary lectures are planned by Carol W. Greider, 2009 Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine; Eric Lander, co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; Marcia McNutt, director of the USGS; and Barry C. Barish, a leader in the field of particle physics.

Marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins also will make special appearances at the meeting.

The AAAS Presidential Address will be delivered by physician and science diplomat Peter Agre. Winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry, Agre directs the Malaria Research Institute at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. As president of AAAS, he also represents some 10 million scientists affiliated with the world’s largest general science society.

“The theme of this year’s conference, 'Bridging Science and Society,' highlights the increasing relevance of science, technology and engineering as well as scientific literacy to the well-being of society,” Agre explained. “It also calls on all scientists and engineers to make their work both beneficial and understandable, and on society to discover again the excitement and hope that research and its findings offer. It is a call to action that resonates around the world.”

In addition to public offerings, registrants to the AAAS Annual Meeting will be able to sample a smorgasbord of 147 scientific symposia, encompassing all disciplines from astronomy to mathematics and from medicine to zoology. Scientific sessions, seminars and poster presentations will focus on how best to speed medical advances by leveraging “translational medicine,” plus strategies for protecting coral reefs, mitigating global climate change, identifying chemicals tied to breast cancer, and much more.

The 176th Annual Meeting of AAAS—publisher of the journals Science, Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling—is expected to draw as many as 8000 attendees from 50 countries to the San Diego Convention Center.

Highlights from the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting are expected to include these and many other breaking research news headlines:

  •     Dolphins, diabetes, and more—lessons for human health;
  •     Green mobility and plug-in cars that power the grid;
  •     Nuclear weapons—downsizing and dismantling;
  •     Breast cancer and chemicals;
  •     Non-vaccine strategies for eradicating HIV;
  •     Human embryonic stem cells—updates from leaders in the field;
  •     Global warming and geoengineering;
  •     Health of children of assisted reproductive technologies;
  •     Music and language;
  •     Impacts of early childhood poverty;
  •     Sleep and memory;
  •     Saving marine creatures and habitats; and
  •     Genetic insights to schizophrenia.

Meet the Scientists

Family Science Days is a free event scheduled for 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, 20-21 February in the San Diego Convention Center Exhibition Hall B1, 111 West Harbor Drive. It will include hands-on activities and stage shows for families with children, teenagers, and young adults.

General Atomics, for example, will offer an interactive booth and an engaging stage show to explore the concepts of plasma science and fusion energy through the world of arcs, sparks and glow discharges. The San Diego Air & Space Museum will encourage visitors to learn about the basic forces that make airplanes and rockets fly, using simple household materials. And visitors to the San Diego Natural History Museum table will be able to peer into microscopes to see the big world of little insects and microfossils.

Middle- and high-school students also are being encouraged to participate in a series of short, interactive presentations by leading scientists during Family Science Days. The 2010 Meet the Scientists! series will include coral explorer Melissa Garren; “superhero physicist” Jim Kakalios; High Tech High biology teacher Jay Vavra; earthquake expert Lucile Jones; and William Phillips, a Nobel Prize winner in physics.

This year’s AAAS Family Science Days offers an exciting lead-in to the second annual San Diego Science Festival, which will take place 20-27 March, culminating with Expo Day at PETCO Park.

“Get Your Hands on Science” is the theme of a special event organized by AAAS and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. The 2010 Public Science Day will take place at the science center from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Thursday, 18 February. Some 500 students, in grades three through six, are expected to take part in the event on behalf of Kimbrough Elementary, Johnson Elementary and Chavez Elementary. Students will be encouraged to dig up the past with fossil investigations, use planks to engineer a tower, explore the fundamentals of flight, and discover how scientists apply nature’s best ideas to solve human problems.

The San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the San Diego Zoo are also contributing to Public Science Day at the Fleet.

Free Public Lectures

Peter Agre will deliver his AAAS Presidential Address, a free public event, on Thursday, 18 February at 6:30 p.m. in San Diego Convention Center, Room 6AB. Joining Agre for opening ceremonies will be local co-chairs Marye Anne Fox, chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, and Irwin Jacobs, co-founder of Qualcomm Inc. To attend this and other free AAAS lectures, pick up a badge before the event at the conference registration area in the convention center, Exhibit Hall B1 on the ground level.

Additional free plenary lectures are planned at the same time and place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings as well as Monday morning.

On Friday 19 February at 6:30 p.m. in convention center, Carol W. Greider, co-winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, will discuss “Telomerase and the Consequences of Telomere Dysfunction.” Greider serves as professor and director of the department of molecular biology and genetics, and professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. On Saturday, 20 February, “Science and Technology in the New Administration” will be the focus of a plenary by Eric S. Lander, director of The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, and co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey and Science Adviser to the Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior, will address “Science Below the Sea” in her plenary at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, 21 February.

Then at 8:30 a.m. Monday 22 February plenary speaker Barry C. Barish, the director of the Global Design Effort for the International Linear Collider, who also serves as Linde Professor of Physics, emeritus, California Institute of Technology, will describe “New Frontiers in Particle Physics.”

The 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting also coincides with an array of important celebrations, including the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society of the United Kingdom; the U.S. National Science Foundation’s 60th anniversary; the 50th anniversaries of the invention of the laser and the the founding of the University of California, San Diego; and the 25th anniversary of Project 2061, the science-literacy initiative of AAAS.

The first AAAS Annual Meeting took place in 1848 in Philadelphia, Pa. Past meetings have featured such notables as 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.