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A World of Amazing Science at the AAAS Annual Meeting, 17-21 February, in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Brain-controlled telepresence robots, “smart” artificial limbs, bioprinting strategies for regenerative medicine, the next generation of batteries, and the search for other Earths are just a few of the topics to be explored during America’s largest general scientific conference, 17-21 February in Washington, D.C.

The AAAS Annual Meeting, described in The Times Higher Education as “the Olympics of science conferences,” this year will feature free, public lectures by a key science advisor to President Barack Obama, a leading cancer researcher, and an enzyme pioneer. A panel on biosecurity will bring together experts including a distinguished anthropologist, infectious disease specialists, a leader in genome studies, and a member of Congress.

Also on the 2011 program are two free AAAS Family Science Days—Saturday and Sunday, 19-20 February—featuring fun, hands-on science learning activities, plus a jam-packed “Meet the Scientists” speaker series designed especially for middle- and high-school students.

John P. Holdren

Public plenary lectures are planned by John P. Holdren, President Barack Obama’s assistant for science and technology and a former AAAS president; Frances H. Arnold, an expert on protein evolution, protein engineering, biocatalysis, biofuels, and synthetic biology at Cal Tech; and Graham C. Walker, Massachusetts Institute of Technology education expert and cancer researcher. A plenary panel on biosecurity will feature an all-star group of leaders in the field (see below under “Free Public Lectures” for details).

Topical lecturers include Subra Suresh, director of the U.S. National Science Foundation; G. Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; Lisa Randall, a scholar in theoretical particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University; and Samantha Joye, professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia.

Alice S. Huang, AAAS President

The AAAS President’s Address will be delivered by Alice S. Huang, the distinguished virologist and proponent for women in science. A former Harvard Medical School professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, Huang is senior faculty associate in biology at the California Institute of Technology. As president of AAAS, she also represents some 10 million scientists affiliated with the world’s largest general science society.

“The theme for this year’s conference, Science Without Borders, stresses science’s increasingly global nature and highlights the importance of utilizing multidisciplinary approaches to the practice of science,” Huang said. “It challenges us to break down barriers and embrace diversity so we can leverage science to solve the urgent global problems we face and advance society.”

In addition to public offerings; registrants to the AAAS Annual Meeting will be able to sample a smorgasbord of symposia covering more than 150 topics, including neuroscience, climate change, energy security and sustainability. Seminars will examine cutting-edge research in astronomy, chemistry, and neuroscience while scientific sessions and poster presentations will focus on how to encourage more women and minorities to pursue careers in science, the role of innovation in economic growth, the state of U.S. research and development funding, and the importance of science diplomacy.

The 177th Annual Meeting of AAAS—publisher of the journals Science, Science Translational Medicine, and Science Signaling—may draw as many as 8000 attendees from 60 countries, including hundreds of newsroom registrants, to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. AAAS last met in Washington, D.C. in 2005.

Meet the Scientists during Family Science Days


Family Science Days, free events open to the public, are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday 19-20 February in the Washington Convention Center, Exhibition Hall D, 801 Mount Vernon Place N.W., in Washington, D.C. They will include hands-on activities and stage shows with broad appeal to children, teenagers, young adults and their parents.

Attendees will have the opportunity to:

  •  Learn science with hands-on and online activities focused on health, exercise, and nutrition, giving you a workout for your body and your mind, at the Kinetic City Science Gym;
  • Make Lilliputian garden necklaces with the American Society of Plant Biologists;
  • Meet robot dog Billinda, from the Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science;
  • Create simulated earthquakes with family and friends, watch seismic waves, and become a seismic detective with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS);
  • Learn about NASA Messenger, which this March is slated to become the first spacecraft to go into orbit around the planet Mercury;
  • Participate in polymer experiments with the American Chemical Society; and
  • Visit the Fish Cam, a website that allows teachers and students to participate in research on shoaling (aggregation) behavior in fish, with Saint Joseph’s University;

Described as physical music, Lelavision is a husband-and-wife team that combines dance, music, sculpture, and video. Family Science Days will feature four performances of “The Evolution of Life,” a science and art performance by Lelavision with narration by David Lynn, an Emory University chemistry professor and a National Science Foundation researcher.

Middle- and high-school students also are encouraged to participate in a series of short, interactive presentations by leading scientists during Family Science Days. The 2011 Meet the Scientists! series will include NASA Planetary Protection Officer Cassie Conley; author Sean Connolly; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Lynford Goddard; Cornell University robotics specialist Hod Lipson; Saint Joseph’s University biology professor Scott McRobert; and Howard University assistant professor of computer science Alicia Nicki Washington.

Free Public Lectures

Alice Huang will deliver her AAAS President’s Address, a free public event, on Thursday 17 February at 6:00 p.m. at the Washington Convention Center, East Salon. Huang will be joined for the opening ceremonies by Nobel Laureate Peter Agre, the chairman of the AAAS Board of Directors; Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Ray O. Johnson, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Lockheed Martin; and Robert Tjian, president, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. To attend this and other free AAAS lectures, the public should plan to pick up a badge first at the conference registration area in the convention center at Annual Meeting Registration on the L Street Bridge.

Additional free plenary lectures are planned for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings as well as Monday morning at the Washington Convention Center, East Salon.

Lisa Randall

On Friday 18 February at 5:00 p.m., John P. Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, will discuss “Policy for Science, Technology, and Innovation in the Obama Administration: A Mid-Course Update.” On Saturday 19 February at 5:00 p.m., “Design and Evolution: Engineering Biology in the 21st Century,” will be the focus of a plenary by Frances H. Arnold, Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology.

Anthony S. Fauci

On Sunday, 20 February at 5:00 p.m., a plenary panel on biosecurity will be moderated by Jeanne Guillemin, senior fellow, MIT Security Studies Program, Center for International Studies. Participants will include Rita R. Colwell, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, College Park, and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; Anthony S. Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health; Claire M. Fraser-Liggett, director, Institute for Genome Sciences and Professor of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore; and U.S. Congressman Rush Holt, a physicist and arms control specialist.

Then at 8:30 a.m. on Monday 21 February, plenary speaker Graham Walker, American Cancer Society Research Professor and HHMI Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will speak on “Inspiration and Engagement in Education.”

A host of topical lectures also will take place Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 12:00 p.m. until 12:45 p.m. in the convention center.


Get registration and program information for the AAAS Annual Meeting, 17-21 February in Washington, D.C.

Learn more about Family Science Days and other free, public events at the Annual Meeting.

Read the related article, “Disease Experts—and Dancing—Free to the Public at 2011 AAAS Annual Meeting.”


Kat Zambon

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