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Stanford University

Engaging Scientists Campus Events



Friday, January 25, 2019

9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Panel Discussion
(Open to the 

Friday, January 25, 2019

4:00 - 5:30 pm


Panel Discussion: Science and Spirituality in Conversation

Free and open to the public

Friday, January 25, 2019, 4:00 - 5:30PM
Encina Hall, Bechtel Conference Center
Stanford University (Stanford, CA)

Stanford session header

According to recent polls, most Americans are supportive of science and identify as religious or spiritual. However, some scientists are uncertain about how to foster dialogue about science or their specific research interests with individuals who hold religious perspectives and faith-informed worldviews. We hosted a conversation between Dr. Willis Jenkins and Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, moderated by Stanford Earth Dean Stephan Graham, on developing discourse between researchers and religious publics. Dr. Nadkarni, a forest ecologist, shared her stories on how she has engaged with unique audiences. Dr. Jenkins, a religious studies scholar, explored the roles of religion and ethics in sustainability challenges.



Dr. Willis Jenkins is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, where he convenes the Environmental Humanities faculty and teaches in the Global Sustainability program. His research focuses on ethical and cultural dimensions of ecological relations. He is the the author of two award-winning books, including The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice, and Religious Creativity, which won an American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence. At UVA he serves on the leadership team of the Environmental Resilience Institute and co-directs the Coastal Futures Conservatory, a transdisciplinary lab integrating arts, humanities, and sciences in the study of rapid coastal change. He received his MA and PhD in Religious Studies from University of Virginia and his BA from Wheaton College.


Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is Professor of Biology at the University of Utah. She has carried out three decades of ecological research on tropical forest canopy biota. She is also deeply committed to public engagement in science, has given two TED talks, and has been highlighted in magazines such as National Geographic, Glamour, and Playboy Magazine. In 2016, she created the “STEM Ambassador Program” with funding from the National Science Foundation to train scientists to engage the public in non-traditional venues, such as churches, preschools, tattoo parlors, and sports stadiums. In 2005, she co-founded the Sustainability in Prisons Project, which brings science, scientists, and nature to incarcerated men and women, and which is now being expanded to a national level. She received her B.S. degree from Brown University, and her Ph.D. from University of Washington. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the AAAS Award for Public Engagement, the National Science Foundation Award for Public Service, The Carr Medal for Conservation, and the William Julius WIlson Award for Achievement in Social Justice.



Dr. Stephan Graham is the Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, Welton Joseph and Maud L'Anphere Crook Professor and Professor, by courtesy, of Geophysics and of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford. Graham has taught courses on sedimentary geology, energy resources and policy. His multiple research projects center on the origins, evolution, and energy resources of sedimentary basins, employing multiple methodologies on outcrop and subsurface data sets. He earned a Ph.D. in Geology from Stanford.

Resources and readings from the panelists