A free lecture series open to the public, provides a wide range of current and emerging topics and issues in science that touch our everyday lives. Speakers are experts in their fields from on campus and around the world with experience in making their topics interesting and accessible for audiences of all ages, with or without a science background.

General Event Information

Each lecture is followed by a free, informal reception.


Lecture: 3-4 p.m.; Reception: 4-5 p.m.

Lecture Venue 

All 2015-2016 lectures will be held in the Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theatre.

Reception Venue

All 2015-16 Receptions Ohio Union Ohio Staters Traditions Room.

Upcoming Talks

  • Jeffrey R. Childress

    September 20, 2015 

    Jeffrey R. Childress

    Science and technology of data storage in the information age

    We know data needs to be stored somewhere — quickly, safely, reliably. Translated into tiny magnetic poles on hard disk drives, or an electric charge inside a silicon chip, enormous amounts of data storage rely on amazing scientific and technological progress in magnetism and nanofabrication. Learn about today’s technology and challenges ahead. 

    Research director, HGST, a Western Digital company in San Jose, CA. 

  • Tish Shute

    October 18, 2015     

    Tish Shute

    The Future of Story Telling: What are we going to do with our super powers?

    Today’s emerging Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies takes computing back to the language of the body, emotions and senses. This new era of computing is not just about seeing something, but feeling something and making connections — offering a super power that brings new forms of empathy to storytelling.

    Director, Product Experience, THRED, team of talented designers, engineers, entrepreneurs who created genre defining works: SimCity, The Sims, Spore, Carmen San Diego

  • Stefano Mancuso

    November 15, 2015     

    Stefano Mancuso 

    Brilliant green ­– from plant intelligence to a new model of modernity

    Despite huge differences in form, all animals are similar to us—variations on a theme. A plant is ‘something else,’ viewed as commodity or decoration. Mancuso shows plants are exquisitely complex organisms that communicate, solve problems, memorize, learn: with intelligence, but not as we know it.

    Professor, University of Florence; director and founder of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology; founder of International Society for Plant Signaling and Behavior

  • Sian Beilock

    December 6, 2015     

    Sian Beilock

    How to perform your best under stress

    In an energetic tour of the latest brain science, Sian Beilock explains why we all too often blunder when the stakes are high. She reveals what happens in our brain and body when we experience the dreaded performance anxiety and shows how to succeed brilliantly when it matters most.

    Vice provost for academic initiatives and psychology professor, University of Chicago

  • Ellen Peters

    January 10, 2016         

    Ellen Peters

    Decision making across the life span: What are good moods good for? 

    How we process information in making decisions changes as we get older. We don’t think as hard as we get older, but having experience to rely on allows us to think better. And, good moods have a surprising power that can help older adults make better decisions.

    Professor of psychology and director, Ohio State’s Decision Sciences Collaborative

  • Jill Pipher

    February 21, 2016 

    Jill Pipher 

    Mathematical ideas in Cryptography: from ancient times to a post-quantum age

    How does encryption work? How do we know that our current encryption methods are secure? Pipher provides answers and explores why we need new mathematical ideas to deal with emerging problems, such as privacy for information stored in the cloud, and the computational potential of quantum computing. 

    Elisha Benjamin Andrews Professor of Mathematics, Brown University and director of the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics  

  • Todd Thompson

    March 20, 2016

    Todd Thompson 

    The Fantastic Forge: Supernovae and the Origin of the Elements

    Thompson describes the grand pageant of stellar death and transfiguration caused by supernovae — exploding massive stars and tremendous thermonuclear detonations of white dwarfs — that partially replenish galaxies with raw materials for future star formation. We owe our existence to the elements they provided: carbon, oxygen and iron.

    Professor of astronomy, Ohio State

  • Sean B. Carroll

    April 17, 2016     

    Sean B. Carroll

    The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Nature Works & Why It Matters

    Nature regulates everything — whether it’s the molecules in our bloodstream or lions on an African savanna. Revolutionary discoveries like The Serengeti Rules, are illuminating this regulation. Carroll discusses ecological rules that control numbers and kinds of animals and plants everywhere that are being applied to restore some of the planet’s greatest wildernesses.  

    Professor of molecular biology and genetics, University of Wisconsin. 

Past Talks


Sept. 14, 2014
Margot Gerritsen

Mathematical tools bring hidden beauty to light

Lecture: Wexner Center Film/Video Theater, 3-4 p.m.
Reception: Wexner Center Cafe, 4-5 p.m.

Is it difficult to believe that the linear algebra taught in school is attractive, even useful? Gerritsen will make us believers. She shows that not only are these equations the very core of science and engineering, they can be turned into beautiful art.

Margot Gerritsen, associate professor, Energy Resources Engineering; and director of the Institute for Computational & Mathematical Stanford University, specializes in renewable and fossil energy production. She is active in coastal ocean dynamics and yacht design, as well as several areas in computational mathematics, including search algorithm design and matrix computations.

Gerritsen's main research area is design of efficient numerical algorithms for compositional and thermal fluid flow processes in porous media — particularly enhanced oil recovery processes: the more oil recovery processes can be optimized, the better — both in terms of available resources and the environment.

In addition to research, Gerritsen enjoys teaching and thinking about energy issues. Check out the Smart Energy Show for thoughts and discussions on energy issues and policies, or follow on twitter @smartenergyshow.

In 2007, Gerritsen started producing Smart Energy, a podcast blog that discusses energy issues and policies.

Other information on outreach in energy is available on her Leopold page.

Outside academia, Gerritsen loves the outdoors, music, writing, reading, horse-back riding, motorcycling, scuba, yoga, the arts and travel with her son.

Oct. 12, 2014

Ray Jayawardhana

Neutrino Hunters: Chasing a Ghostly Particle to Unlock Cosmic Secrets

Lecture: Wexner Film/Video Theater, 3-4 p.m.
Reception: Wexner Cafe OR: the adjacent Mershon Lobby, 4-5 p.m.

Move over Higgs — it's neutrino time. Take a thrilling journey into the shadowy world of these elusive particles as Jayawardhana recounts a captivating detective story with a colorful cast of characters and awesome cosmic implications.

Dean of Science and professor at York University in Toronto, Ray Jayawardhana is a renowned astrophysicist and award-winning science writer. His primary research areas include the formation and early evolution of stars, brown dwarfs and planets.With more than 100 scientific papers to his credit, Jayawardhana also has written for The Economist, New York Times and Scientific American. He is the author of Strange New Worlds and Neutrino Hunters. Follow him on twitter @DrRayJay.

Nov. 2, 2014

James Sneyd

Mathematics and Music: the Beauties in Pattern

Lecture: Wexner Film/Video Theater, 3-4 p.m.
Reception: Wexner Cafe OR: the adjacent Mershon Lobby, 4-5 p.m.

Sneyd claims to have no answer to the question of whether mathematical and musical ability are necessarily linked, but hopes to show us how an appreciation and understanding of one field can enrich the other, and demonstrate common beauties not always apparent to the naked eye. He will briefly discuss some of his favorite moments in the joint history of mathematics and music. He believes we will find them amusing as well as interesting. Then he will give us a deeper look at patterns typically underlying mathematical research and show how such pattern constructions lie also at the heart of such things as musical improvisation and rhythmic patterns — not to mention Homeric poetry — which he promises will make an appearance.

James Sneyd, professor of mathematics, University of Auckland, Royal Society of New Zealand, states that, "For over 2000 years of Western culture, mathematics and music have been inextricably linked. Together with geometry and astronomy, arithmetic and music made up the four components of the quadrivium that formed the basis of the academic curriculum throughout antiquity and the medieval period. It can come as no surprise, therefore, that the greatest scientific philosophers and mathematicians, from Pythagoras and Aristotle to Euler and Helmholtz, have included music as a natural part of their scientific studies."

Thus has arisen in the popular mind the notion of mathematician as musician — that somehow, a mathematical brain is peculiarly suited to the study of music, and vice versa.

"However, here be dragons," Sneyd said. These historical studies, focusing on how musical scales are constructed using various fantastical combinations of mathematical fractions, expose only a superficial similarity between the disciplines. Just as music is so much more than scale construction, so is mathematics far more than mere multiplication of fractions. Both mathematics and music are — at heart — the construction of patterns, and herein lies a far more fundamental connection between the worlds of mathematics and music.

Dec. 7, 2014

Martina Newell-McGloughlin

Genetically Modified Organisms: Debunking the Myths

Lecture: Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater (First Floor), 3-4 p.m.
Reception: Ohio Union Ohio Staters Traditions Room (Second Floor), 4-5 p.m.

Trying to avoid GMOs? We may need to return to a hunter-gatherer society; humans have been genetically modifying plants for around 10,000 years. Newell-McGloughlin addresses the many myths surrounding modern techniques developed to introduce desirable traits into crops and animals.

Martina Newell-McGloughlin directs the University of California System-wide Biotechnology Research and Education Program (UCBREP), which covers all ten campuses and three national Laboratories — Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley and Los Alamos — a position that requires familiarity with state-of-the-art everything, from stem cells to nanotechnology research, across academia and industry. 

She has vast experience in developing novel biotechnology research, training and education programs and in managing large multidisciplinary grants programs. She has published and edited numerous papers, articles, book chapters and three books on biotechnology.

Her own research is in the areas of disease resistance in plants, scale-up systems for industrial and pharmaceutical production in microbes and microbiological mining. She has a special interest in Developing World Research and is part of the USAID Applied Biotechnology Research Program.

Newell-McGloughlin travels worldwide for various organizations, including the U.S. State Department and the USDA, as an expert on biotech research and education issues. She was recently requested by the Gates Foundation to brief their directors; and by the Pontifical Academy of Science to brief the Vatican on future opportunities and challenges in Biotechnology.

Jan. 11, 2015

Clifford Will

Black Holes, Waves of Gravity & other Warped Ideas of Dr. Einstein

Lecture: Wexner Film/Video Theater, 3-4 p.m.
Reception: Wexner Cafe, 4-5 p.m.

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity has had a major impact on everything from popular culture to everyday life to basic science. Songs, plays and movies proclaim Einstein as the symbol of genius, while people navigating with GPS devices unknowingly take account of Einstein's relativistic warpage of time. Two of the crazier ideas that come from Einstein are Gravitational Waves and the Black Hole, which manifest the warpage of space. Today, at the 100th anniversary of his theory, international teams of scientists have embarked on a quest to verify these ideas. Building and operating large-scale detectors on the ground, and designing space-based detectors for the future, they hope to detect and measure the waves, and to use those wave signals to reveal the hidden secrets of black holes.

Clifford Will is Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Florida.

Feb. 8, 2015

Joel Cohen

The Human Population: Its Past and Its Prospects

Lecture: Wexner Film/Video Theater, 3-4 p.m.
Reception: Wexner Cafe, 4-5 p.m.

The history of the human population results from interactions among demography, economics, the environment, and culture. The human population today is very heterogeneous. In 2005-2010, roughly half (48%) of the world's people lived in the 75 countries where fertility was below replacement level, although population continued to increase in many of these countries. Roughly 1/8 of the world's people live in regions with 4 or more children per woman per lifetime. The fractions of people living in cities and the fractions of old people also differ widely among regions. Under assumptions that are plausible but by no means certain, most demographers anticipate that, by the middle of the 21st century, the world's population will be larger by several billion people, more slowly growing, more urban, and older. Actions taken now can strongly influence the world we will have half a century from now.

Joel E. Cohen is Professor of Populations in the School of International Relations and Public Affairs; the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; and the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University. He also is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of Populations at Rockefeller University and director of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University & Columbia University in New York.

March 8, 2015

Fran Kalal

Digital Tailoring, Grooming and Simulation in Pixar Films

Lecture: Wexner Film/Video Theater, 3-4 p.m.
Reception: Wexner Cafe, 4-5 p.m.

Fran Kalal is a Cloth and Simulation Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios and has tailored outfits and simulated shots on “Up,” “Brave” and “Inside Out.” Learn how art and science are woven together to dress, groom and simulate the characters in some of your favorite Pixar Animation Studios films.

April 12, 2015

Craig Mello 

A Worm's Tale: Secrets of Evolution and Immortality

Lecture: Wexner Film/Video Theater, 3-4 p.m.
Reception: Wexner Cafe, 4-5 p.m.

Nobel laureate Craig Mello will talk about how everything alive today shares a nearly 4 billion year-old common ancestry. Humans — even scientists — cannot conceive of or understand the the implications of such a timescale, and consequently, always underestimate living things. Hear about the remarkable mechanisms organisms use to program gene expression, and ways scientists and physicians are learning to use them as tools.

But, what this talk is really about, he says, is the excitement of science and the ever-unfolding and deepening mysteries of life.

Mello won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for the discovery of RNA interference, a type of gene silencing. He is investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine and co-director, RNA Therapeutics Institute, University of Massachusetts Medical School.


Sept. 8, 2013

Aydogan Ozcan

Computational Imaging and Diagnosis for Telemedicine and Global Health

Lecture: Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater, 3–4 pm
Reception: Ohio Union Ohio Staters Traditions Room, 4–5 pm

With more than six billion cell-phone users in the world, the majority of them in developing parts of the world, new opportunities exist to put their technology to work in point-of-care diagnostics and/or microscopic imaging applications to improve health care. This is especially important in areas where medical facilities and infrastructure are extremely limited or non-existent. Ozcan introduces new imaging and detection architectures using novel theories and numerical algorithms to address immediate needs of telemedicine for global health problems.

Aydogan Ozcan is a professor at UCLA leading the Bio- and Nano-Photonics Laboratory at the Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering Departments. He has 22 issued patents—all of which are licensed—and more than 15 pending patent applications. He is author of one book and co-author of more than 250 peer reviewed research articles. Ozcan has received several awards, among them: the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), SPIE Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award, SPIE Early Career Achievement Award, ARO Young Investigator Award, NSF CAREER Award, NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, ONR Young Investigator Award, IEEE Photonics Society Young Investigator Award and MIT’s TR35 Award for his seminal contributions to near-field and on-chip imaging, and telemedicine based diagnostics.

Innovate UCLA  

Oct. 13, 2013

Bernie Krause

The Great Animal Orchestra

Lecture: Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater, 3–4 pm
Reception: Ohio Union Cartoon Room, 4–5 pm

A musician and naturalist and one of the world's leading experts in natural sound, Krause has spent his life discovering and recording nature's rich chorus. Searching far beyond our modern world's honking horns and buzzing machinery, he has sought out the truly wild places that remain, where natural soundscapes exist virtually unchanged from when the earliest humans first inhabited the earth. Krause shares fascinating insight into how deeply animals rely on their aural habitat to survive and the damaging effects of extraneous noise on the delicate balance between predator and prey. But natural soundscapes aren't vital only to the animal kingdom, Krause explores how the myriad voices and rhythms of the natural world formed a basis from which our own musical expression emerged.

From snapping shrimp, popping viruses, and the songs of humpback whales-whose voices, if unimpeded, could circle the earth in hours—to cracking glaciers, bubbling streams, and the roar of intense storms; from melody-singing birds to the organlike drone of wind blowing over reeds, the sounds Krause has experienced and describes are like no others. And from recording jaguars at night in the Amazon rain forest to encountering mountain gorillas in Africa's Virunga Mountains, Krause offers an intense and intensely personal narrative of the planet's deep and connected natural sounds and rhythm.

Wild Sanctuary

Nov. 17, 2013

Risa Wechsler

Building the cosmos: how simulations shed light on the dark universe

Lecture: Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater, 3–4 pm
Reception: Ohio Union Cartoon Room, 4–5 pm

Recent advances in observations of the cosmos have allowed us to peer into the earliest moments of our Universe, and have dramatically changed our picture of its contents. Wechsler will walk you through how cutting-edge simulations allow us to be a fly on the wall during the formation of the cosmos, and shed light on the physical processes that created the Universe we see today.

Risa Wechsler is an associate professor in the physics department at Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and a member of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.

Dec. 8, 2013

Paul Kwiat

The Quantum Information Revolution

Lecture: Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater, 3–4 pm
Reception: Ohio Union Ohio Staters Traditions Room, 4–5 pm

More than a century after Einstein's revolutionary suggestion that light is composed of particles, the quantum information revolution seeks to use the almost magical properties of nonclassical physics to enable new feats in information processing that would be difficult or impossible without the quantum advantage. Kwiat will discuss how quantum randomness, superposition, and entanglement can be used to realize perfectly secure cryptography, ultra-fast computation, and completely non-invasive photography. Time/appetites permitting, Kwiat may also give a brief lesson in Quantum Cooking.

Paul Kwiat is the Bardeen Chair in Physics, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America, he has given invited talks at numerous national and international conferences, and authored over 135 articles on various topics in quantum optics and quantum information. His research includes quantum interrogation and optical implementations of quantum information protocols, particularly using entangled photons.

Jan. 12, 2014

James Gentile

Carcinogens in the Environment: Separating Fact from Fiction

Lecture: Wexner Center Film/Video Theater, 3–4 pm
Reception: Wexner Center Café, 4–5 pm

Open a newspaper, turn on the TV, go online—and we are deluged with information about “carcinogens” in the environment, along with “anticarcinogens” that can protect us from gene mutations that might give rise to some form of cancer.

Gentile gives examples below that he believes are representative of issues in which perceived risk versus reality are at odds with one another relative to human exposures to environmental agents.  His talk will take a deeper look at the complex world of “environmental carcinogenesis” to better understand the balance between reality versus perception relative to chemicals present in our foods and in our environment.

The phenomenon of understanding real risk versus perceived risk from environmental chemical or physical agents is not new. For example, when Rachel Carson’s lyrical, yet scientifically flawed, book Silent Spring--an eloquent case that pesticides, especially DDT, were poisoning both wildlife and the environment and endangering human health--was released in 1962, the emotional public reaction launched the modern environmental movement –a very good thing. DDT became the prime target of a growing anti-chemical and anti-pesticide movement during the 1960s. Unfortunately, reasoned scientific discussion and sound data gathered from a risk/benefit analysis never took place.

Another example is cooking with microwaves.  Humans have been heating meals for thousands of years using fire, or the sun.  Microwaving food is a relatively new process, only a few decades old. "Nuking" a pizza, or leftover food, is a quick and easy way to get a hot meal and burn the roof of your mouth, but is it worse for you than firing up the oven or, perhaps, using lighter-fluid saturated charcoal? From an environmental standpoint, a microwave uses much less electricity than a conventional oven, and there is no need for combustible petroleum products to ‘start the fire.’  In fact, microwaving meat can actually eliminate up to 90% of carcinogens over conventional high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame, which have been linked to various cancers.

Gentile is Dean for the Natural Sciences at Hope College, and Past-President of Research Corporation for Science Advancement. He has a PhD in genetics and formerly held an endowed professorship, and was dean at Hope College (MI). He is president of two separate scientific societies as well as past editor-in-chief for the international journal Mutation Research. He is a former member of both the Michigan Hazardous Waste Site Review Board and U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board, as well advisory boards for NIOSH, NSF, and NIH. He served on both the NRC Committee on Undergraduate Science Education and the NAS Science Education and Life Science Boards. He is a National Academies Education Mentor.

Gentile had a leadership role in the publication, Biology 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists. He also served on the National Science Board Commission on science education and was a co-chairperson of the National Academies Summer Institutes for Education in Biology.  He was a governor for the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research, a council member for the Council on Undergraduate Research, and on the executive committee for Project Kaleidoscope. He is the receipient of the Alexander Hollaender Research Excellence Award, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Illinois State University, the Cancer Medallion of the Japanese National Cancer Institute, the Science Medal of Distinction of Pisa, Italy, and is an AAAS Fellow.  His research focus is environmental mutagenesis and carcinogenesis, with an emphasis on metabolism of carcinogens plant and animal systems, and the association between inflammation and cancer.

Feb. 9, 2014

L. Mahadevan

Sickle Cell Anemia: Physics and Physiology of a Molecular Disease    

Lecture: Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater, 3–4 pm
Reception: Ohio Union Ohio Staters Traditions Room, 4–5 pm

Sickle cell anemia arises from a single mutation that leads to the intermittent stoppage of blood flow, wreaking havoc in the body. Understanding the pathophysiology of this disease links nano-scale macromolecular biochemistry to the physics of soft systems. L. Mahadevan, describes how in-vitro experiments and theoretical models lead to predictive quantitative diagnostics for this disease, while setting this in the broader context of evolutionary dynamics.

L. Mahadevan received his PhD from Stanford in 1995, and started his career at MIT, before moving to Cambridge University where he was the Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems and a Fellow of Trinity. Since 2003, he has been at Harvard, where he is currently de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Physics. His work centers around using mathematics to understand the physical and biological organization of matter in space and time, particularly at the scale of the everyday world and is thus closely tied in with experience and experiments. Among other honors, he is currently a MacArthur Fellow (2009-present).

March 2, 2014

Mike Reed

Mathematics and Human Physiology

Lecture: Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater, 3–4 pm
Reception: Ohio Union Ohio Staters Traditions Room, 4–5 pm

What does mathematics have to do with biology anyway? What are the uses and misuses of statistics? Why is it so hard to understand biological systems? Why does the medical system often change its mind about diagnosis and treatment?  Reed will discuss these questions directly and in the context of specific examples drawn from human and animal physiology.

Our metaphors for how our body works are deeply misleading and this is especially true of the brain. Although we compute, we are not circuit boards. The electrophysiology of the brain is affected by the biochemistry of the brain, the endocrine system, and the changing patterns of gene expression and anatomical connections. All of these systems affect behavior and, in turn are affected by behavior and each other.  Reed will talk about both depression and Parkinson’s disease.

Einstein famously remarked that “God does not play dice with the world," because he was dismayed at the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics. Maybe, or maybe not—but biological systems make use of randomness to accomplish specific biological goals—Reed will supply examples.

Finally, Reed will discuss how the biological revolution has changed science and the science workforce.

Mike Reed is professor of mathematics at Duke University and senior scientific advisor at Ohio State’s Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI). He received a BS from Yale University and PhD from Stanford University.

April 13, 2014

Jane Wang

Falling Paper and Insect Flight

Her work is driven by a fascination with the puzzles and beauty around us. She will discuss puzzles and mathematics about the dynamics of falling paper and the tricks used by insects to fly.

Jane Wang is a professor of physics and mechanical engineering at Cornell University. A theoretical physicist, Wang studies the physics of living organisms. Her research aims to identify, investigate, and discover new phenomena in a broad range of physical and biological systems. She has worked on problems in statistical physics of turbulence and turbulent diffusion, fluid dynamics, and applied mathematics. Her recent work has focused on understanding the physics of insect flight: how do insects fly, why do they fly the way they do, and how can we infer their 'thoughts' from their flight dynamics. She received her PhD in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1996. She was then a NSF-NATO postdoctoral fellow at the department of theoretical physics of Oxford University and a visiting member at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. She joined Cornell in 1999, where she is now a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and physics. She is a member of the American Physical Society and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Her work is supported by an NSF Early Career Award, an ONR Young Investigator Award, a David and Lucille Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, and a Radcliffe Fellowship in Science.

Dragonfly at Cornell


September 9, 2012

Don Saari

Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Economics, and Director of the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, Irvine.

Professor Don Saari kicked off the second season of the free, public lecture series sponsored by the centers and institutes of the College of Arts and Sciences, posing the question:  We vote; but can we elect someone who we really don't want?

In some elections, it is debatable whether the "winner" is who the voters really wanted.  As the "winner" can affect the future of an organization, whether a fraternity, sorority, academic department, city, county, state, or country, the consequences can be serious.  Saari will describe how the power of mathematics is beginning to identify those persistent villains that lead us astray—our choice of voting methods.  

Saari’s research interests range from mathematical astronomy (e.g., evolution of the universe, dark matter, collisions) to the mathematics of voting and decision rules.  He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Science, and a foreign member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters.

October 14, 2012

Lonnie G. Thompson

Distinguished University Professor of Earth Sciences and senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center

Lonnie G. Thompson is an internationally-recognized expert on climate change. Thompson lectured on, Glaciers, People and Global Climate Change (An Inconvenient Truth Meets An Inconvenient Mind).  

Thompson’s research has propelled the field of ice core paleoclimatology out of the Polar Regions to the highest tropical and subtropical ice fields. He and his team have developed light-weight solar powered drilling equipment for acquisition of histories from ice fields in the tropical South American Andes, the Himalayas, and on Kilimanjaro. These paleoclimate histories have advanced our understanding of the coupled nature of the Earth’s climate system. Work has focused on the El Niño and monsoon systems that dominate the climate of the tropical Pacific and affect global-scale oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns.

Thompson’s observations of glacier retreat over the last three decades confirm that glaciers around the world are melting and provide clear evidence that the warming of the last 50 years is now outside the range of climate variability for several millennia, if not longer. He has published over 185 peer-reviewed publications, including several in the top journal, Science.

He has led over 54 field programs, been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association, and NASA.

His work has been recognized around the world. He has received top honors and awards including the National Medal of Science, the highest honor the United States bestows on an American scientist; the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and the Dr. A.H.  Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences research from the 200-year old Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences—both environmental science equivalents of the Nobel Prize; and Israel’s Dan David Prize.

In addition, Thompson is an American Geophysical Union Fellow, an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and was elected to membership in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

November 11, 2012

Andrew E. Johnson

NASA Jet Propulsion Lab

Landing and Roving on Mars


3-4 pm, Ohio Union US Bank Conference Theater; Reception: 4-5 pm, Ohio Staters Traditions Room

Johnson will give us an insider's looks at Landing and Roving on Mars. He is a principal member of the technical staff and supervisor of the GN&C Hardware and Testbed Development group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory developing image-based techniques for autonomous navigation and mapping during descent to planets moons, comets and asteroids.

Johnson graduated with Highest Distinction from the University of Kansas in 1991 with a BS in Engineering Physics and a BS in Mathematics. In 1997, he received his PhD from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University where he developed the spin-image surface signature for three dimensional object recognition and surface matching.

December 9, 2012

Jennifer Ouellette


Ready for Their Closeup: Scientists Go Hollywood


3-4 pm, Ohio Union US Bank Conference Theater; Reception: 4-5 pm, Ohio Staters Traditions Room

Science writer Jennifer Ouellette will take us to the movies to examine what happens when science intersects with popular culture. She is the author of three popular science books; her latest, The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse. She is an editor and writer specializing in physics and related topics, with particular emphasis on how science intersects with popular culture. She is interested in communicating science to the public and  frequently contributes to NPR's Science Fridays. She also is a prolific blogger, writing regularly for Discovery News and maintains a blog at Scientific American called Cocktail Party Physics, featuring her faux-French avatar/alter ego, Jen-Luc Piquant.

January 13, 2013

Roland Kawakami

UC Riverside, physics

Two Dimensional Electronics and Spin-Based Computers

3-4 pm, the January Lecture ONLY is in the Wexner Center's Film/Video Theatre; Reception in the adjoining Cafe

Can you imagine electronic devices as thin as a single atomic layer? What about powerful new computer chips that take advantage of the electron's spin, a quirky aspect of quantum mechanics that makes electrons into tiny magnets? How about studying relativistic physics in a table-top experiment? Once upon a time this had to be considered science fiction, but it is now becoming a reality at the forefront of nanoscale physics and nanotechnology research. In this talk, I will tell you about the latest advances around the world and in my lab on two dimensional crystals, atomic sized electronics, and spin-based computing.

February 10, 2013

Jeffrey Reutter

director, Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab

Ohio State's Role in Protecting and Restoring the Most Important Lake in the World—Lake Erie


3-4 pm, Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater; Reception: 4-5 pm, Ohio Staters Traditions Room

Jeffrey Reutter, Lake Erie Area Research and Stone Lab Director, shares the latest research that tackles problems of lake health, invasive species, sustainability issues, and fisheries management.

March 17, 2013

John Wenzel

director, Powdermill Nature Reserve, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

How to work as a team when no one knows what she is doing


3-4 pm, Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater; Reception: 4-5 pm, Ohio Staters Traditions Room

John Wenzel mixes some math, information theory, cybernetics, and real life stuff to show how ants, bees, and wasps organize their labor without time clocks, or job foremen, or blueprints.

April 14, 2013

Ron Graham

Math, UCSD

Magic and math


3-4 pm, Ohio Union US Bank Conference Theater; Reception: 4-5 pm, Ohio Staters Traditions Room

Ron Graham, aka “The Mathemagician,”Department of Mathematics, University of California-San Diego, spills the secrets of Magic and Math.


The series premiered in September 2011, with renowned British mathematician and science-fiction writer Ian Stewart, who introduced his audience to the fun of creating The Science of Discworld.  

The October 2011 speaker, astronomer and planet-hunter Scott Gaudi, talked about The Search for Other Worlds, planets beyond our solar system enough like Earth to support life, and the excitement of finding them in unexpected places.  

On November 20, 2011, earth scientist Steven Lower told us about A Bacterium’s Sense of Touch and protein feelers that allow it to attach to and infect implanted cardiac devices. We can’t wait to find out how a geologist ended up working on bacteria.

On January 22nd, 2012, Giorgio Rizzoni presented, Sustainable mobility, renewable energy, and the future of transportation – what vehicles will our (grand)children drive? 

February's speaker, Jeffrey Daniels, spoke about The Science of Shale Gason February 19th, 2012 in the Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video Theatre. 

The March 2012 speaker, Marty Golubitsky, spoke about Patterns, Patterns Everywhere on March 11, in the Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video Theatre.

On April 15, 2012; Wexner Center Film/Video Theatre, Wendy Panero presented: The Earth Under Pressure: Experiments to probe the deepest reaches of the planet.

On May 20, 2012, Ohio Union, US Bank Conference Theatre Evalyn Gates, executive director and CEO of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, spoke about Einstein’s Telescope: The Hunt for Dark Matter and Dark Energy; Gates' new book, by the same name, will be available for purchase and signing after the talk.

Sponsoring Centers

  • Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD)
  • Center for Applied Plant Sciences (CAPS)
  • Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Brain Imaging (CCBBI)
  • Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP)
  • Center for Emergent Materials (CEM)
  • Center for RNA Biology (CRB)
  • Decision Sciences Collaborative (DSC)
  • Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI) 

These centers are dynamic national hubs focused on solving critical global problems in energy and the environment, safe food production and health and wellness. They produce important new information; discover viable new “smart” materials, energy sources, drug therapies; investigate effective decision-making strategies; and build collaborative partnerships merging arts and technology.