Keynote Speaker

Bassam Shakashiri

Professor of Chemistry and former ACS President

Bassam Z. Shakhashiri is the first holder of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at UW-Madison. He is well known internationally for his effective leadership in promoting excellence in science education at all levels, 

and for his development and use of demonstrations in the teaching of chemistry in classrooms and in less formal settings, such as museums, convention centers, shopping malls and retirement homes. From 1984 to 1990 Professor Shakhashiri served as Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Science and Engineering Education, (now called Education and Human Resources) and presided over the rebuilding of all the NSF efforts in science and engineering education after they had been essentially eliminated in the early 1980’s. His leadership and effectiveness in developing and implementing national programs in science and engineering education have helped set the annual NSF education budget at its current level of nearly $900 million. His NSF strategic plan launched the systemic initiatives and many of the other NSF education programs of the last three decades. Professor Shakhashiri served as 2012 President of the American Chemical Society, formed the ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences, the ACS Climate Science Working Group, and the ACS Global Water Initiative Working Group. He believes it is not enough for us to be just scientists; we have a responsibility to be citizens as well. As scientist-citizens we must use our skills and adhere to high values and virtues to fulfill our obligations for the benefit of Earth and its people. His website is www.scifun.org.

Panel I: Communicating with non-scientific audiences

Ben Lillie

High-energy particle physicist

Ben Lillie is a high-energy particle physicist who left the ivory tower for the wilds of New York’s theater district. He has a B.A. in physics from Reed College, a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Stanford University, and a Certificate in improv comedy from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. He is the Co-founder and Director of The Story Collider, where people are invited to tell stories of their personal experience of science. He is also a Moth StorySLAM champion and a former writer for TED.com.

Phil McKenna

Freelance Writer

Phil McKenna is a freelance writer interested in the convergence of fascinating individuals and intriguing ideas. He primarily writes about energy and the environment with a focus on the individuals behind the news. His work can be found in the New York Times, Smithsonian, WIRED, Audubon, New Scientist, Technology Review, MATTER and NOVA.

Phil recently published Uprising, an eBook on the climate change implications of natural gas emissions from aging pipelines under US cities. Uprising has been called “the essence of crucial science reporting” by environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben and recently won a AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award.

He holds  a master's degree in science writing from MIT and was an environmental journalism fellow at Middlebury College. In a previous life he had promising careers as a field biologist, English teacher, bike messenger, and sanitation engineer.

Dietram Scheufele

Professor of Communications

Dietram A. Scheufele is the John E. Ross Professor in Science Communication at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Honorary Professor of Communication at the Dresden University of Technology (Germany). He serves as Co-PI of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University, and currently also co-chairs the National Academies' Roundtable on Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences.

His most recent research examines the role of social media and other emerging modes of communication in our society. An elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, Scheufele has published extensively in the areas of public opinion and public attitudes toward emerging technologies, including nanotechnology, synthetic biology, nuclear energy and bioenergy.  His work has been supported by multi-year grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy and other funding agencies.

Courtney Humphries

Freelance Journalist and Author

Courtney Humphries is a freelance journalist and author specializing in science, health, and nature. She writes the Boston Globe's Health Answers column and is a frequent contributor to its Ideas section. She is a contributing editor for Technology Review, and her work has appeared in publications such as New Scientist, Wired, Science, and Nature. Humphries is author of Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan....And the World, a natural history of pigeons published by Smithsonian Books, which was acclaimed in the New York Times Book Review, New Scientist, and Audubon. Humphries is a graduate of MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing. She lives in Boston.

Panel II: Communicating complexity and controversy

Ryan Vachon

Ryan Vachon, received his Ph.D. in stable isotope geochemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  For over a decade his research revolved around developing tools for developing long records of ancient climate from ice cores and tree rings.  During several research-oriented field campaigns, he video-documented several methods of examining the planet’s climate systems. Related footage and video productions later graced network broadcast channels such as CNN, PBS, BBC and National Geographic.

Lisa Song


Lisa Song is a reporter at InsideClimate News, where she writes about oil sands, environmental health and natural gas drilling.

Jennifer Briselli

User experience designer

Jen's first love was science, but as she finished her physics degree, she fell in love with the challenge of communicating as much as she enjoyed researching. She spent several years designing learning experiences as a high school physics teacher and found her passion in that design process. Jen recently earned a Master of Design degree in Communication Planning & Information Design at Carnegie Mellon University, during which she completed a thesis project at the intersection of design, rhetoric, and science communication titled: “Demanufacturing Doubt: A Design Strategy for Science Communication.” She’s currently a user experience designer in Boston and when she’s not thinking about design strategy or science communication, she’s probably playing ice hockey, baking vegan cookies, or listening to loud music with unintelligible lyrics.

Rick Feinberg

American Astronomical Society’s Press Officer and Director of Communications

Dr. Rick Fienberg is the American Astronomical Society’s Press Officer and Director of Communications. From 1986 to 2008 he worked at Sky & Telescope magazine, the last eight of those years as Editor in Chief. In 2008-2009 he was Visiting Scientist in Astronomy & Astrophysics at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Rick earned his B.A. in physics at Rice University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in astronomy at Harvard University; he has done research on the aurora borealis, asteroids, planetary nebulae, active galaxies, and the center of the Milky Way. He helped create the Galileoscope educational telescope kit for the International Year of Astronomy 2009. He’s a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Astronomical Union, which he serves as Secretary of Commission 55, Communicating Astronomy with the Public, has named asteroid 9983 Rickfienberg in his honor.

Panel III: Communicating for a cause (incl. policy)

Laura Grego

Senior Scientist, Global Security Program

Dr. Laura Grego focuses on the technology and security implications of national missile defense and of space security. She is the author or co-author of more than 20 peer-reviewed, published papers on a range of topics

Since joining UCS in September 2002, she has been cited by Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New Scientist, New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today, and has appeared on Fox News, the Discovery Channel and NPR. She also has testified before Congress and addressed the United Nations Conference on Disarmament on space security issues.

Before joining UCS, Grego was a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She earned a doctorate degree in experimental physics at the California Institute of Technology and a bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy at the University of Michigan.

David Goldston

Director of Government Affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

David Goldston became Director of Government Affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental group, in July 2009.  In that position, he helps shape NRDC’s federal political strategy, policies and communications.  Prior to that, he had spent more than 20 years on Capitol Hill in Washington, working primarily on science policy and environmental policy.  He was Chief of Staff of the House Committee on Science from 2001 through 2006.  After retiring from government service, Goldston was a visiting lecturer at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 2007 and at the Harvard University Center for the Environment in 2008 and 2009.  From 2007 through November 2009, he wrote a monthly column for Nature on science policy titled “Party of One.”  Goldston also was the project director for the Bipartisan Policy Center report “Improving the Use of Science in Regulatory Policy,” which was released in August 2009.  He authored a chapter in The Science of Science Policy: A Handbook (Stanford University Press, 2011).  He is a member of the Advisory Committee of the National Academy of Sciences’ Division of Environment and Life Sciences and has served on numerous panels of the Academy and other organizations preparing policy reports.  He holds a B.A. (1978) from Cornell University and completed the course work for a Ph.D. in American history at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Sarah Smith

Spatial Policy Specialist for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

Dr. Sarah Smith is a Spatial Policy Specialist for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in Boston, where her work involves analyzing and promoting policies related to improving fisheries management, including marine protected areas and ecosystem-based fisheries management. The majority of her work is focused on New England’s iconic groundfish fishery, advocating for better science-based fisheries management to rebuild fish stocks and support fishing communities. Prior to working at EDF, she worked as a fisheries extension specialist at the URI Coastal Resources Center on issues related to fisheries, offshore renewable energy, and marine spatial planning. She previously worked for NOAA as a social science researcher. She received her PhD from the University of Rhode Island in 2011 in Marine Affairs, where her dissertation research focused on stakeholder participation in the management of marine protected areas in the Caribbean. She also holds a M.A. from Tufts University in Urban and Environmental Policy.

Ana Unruh Cohen, Director of Energy, Climate and Natural Resources; Senator Ed Markey

Panel IV: Communicating using multimedia

Jeff Lieberman


Jeff Lieberman explores the connections between the arts, sciences, education, creativity, and consciousness. He hosted 'Time Warp' on the Discovery Channel, reminding us how little our senses detect and understand about reality. He composes music in the duo Knolls. He shows sculptures internationally, exploring our unseen interconnectedness and interdependence. Having finished four degrees at MIT (Physics, Math, Mech. Eng., Media Arts + Sciences), he is exploring how the evolution of consciousness can cease human suffering.

Soren Wheeler

Senior Producer

Soren Wheeler is the Senior Producer at the Peabody Award-winning show Radiolab, where he he plays a variety of roles, including producer, editor, and reporter. He also manages the production staff, and oversees the development of show content.

Before coming to Radiolab, Wheeler was at the Association for the Advancement of Science, where he co-authored the book Atlas of Science Literacy. He spent 6 years as a freelance science education consultant working with science teachers and writing about how students learn science. He then went on to get masters degree in science writing at Johns Hopkins University.

Wheeler has won awards for production on radio pieces about statistics and randomness, the periodic table, and the story of a woman waking up from a coma.

Alyssa Goodman

Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University

Alyssa Goodman is Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, and a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution.  Goodman's research and teaching interests span astronomy, data visualization, and online systems for research and education. In her astronomical pursuits, Goodman and her research group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA study the dense gas between the stars. They are particularly interested in how interstellar gas arranges itself into new stars. In more computationally-oriented efforts, Goodman co-founded The Initiative in Innovative Computing (IIC) at Harvard. Goodman presently leads a diverse group of researchers, librarians, and software developers in an ongoing effort known as "Seamless Astronomy," aimed directly at developing, refining, and sharing tools that accelerate the pace of scientific research, especially in astronomy.  In the world of education, Goodman is best known for her collaborative work on the WorldWide Telescope project at Microsoft Research. Goodman received her undergraduate degree in Physics from MIT in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard in 1989.

Donna Nelson

Professor of Chemistry, University of Oklahoma

Dr. Donna J. Nelson is a professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma. Nelson specializes inorganic chemistry, which she both researches and teaches. Nelson's career has focused on five primary areas of research generally categorized in two areas, Scientific Research and America's Scientific Readiness. Within Scientific Research, Nelson's areas have been: (1) mechanistic patterns in alkene addition reactions and (2) Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube (SWCNT) functionalization and analysis. Under America's Scientific Readiness, she focuses on (3) science education, which includes classroom innovations and correcting organic chemistry textbook inaccuracies, (4) ethnic and gender diversity among highly-ranked science departments of research universities, and (5) improving the presentation of science and images of scientists to the public, such as serving as a science advisor to the AMC television show Breaking Bad.

Panel V: Improving diversity through communication

Mónica I Feliú-Mójer

Vice-Director and News Editor-in-chief of Ciencia Puerto Rico

Dr. Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer (@moefeliu) uses contextually-relevant and experiential-based lessons to make science and scientific role models accessible to underserved audiences. Her bilingual outreach efforts focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) topics and opportunities, as well as increasing diversity in science and science communication. In 2013, she received the COPUS Paul Shin Memorial Award for her efforts to increase public understanding of science among Hispanic audiences. Her work has been featured on international media outlets, such as Univisión and VOXXI, among others.

Mónica has a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology at the University of Puerto Rico in Bayamón and a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Harvard University. She is the vice-director and news editor-in-chief of Ciencia Puerto Rico (@CienciaPR), an organization leveraging social networks to engage scientists in science communication and education. Mónica is also the Manager of Outreach at the University of Washington Department of Biostatistics (@UWBiostat).

Renée Hlozek

Astrophysicist, Princeton University

Dr. Renée Hlozek is the Lyman Spitzer Jr. Postdoctoral Fellow in Theoretical Astrophysics in at Princeton University and the Spitzer-Cotsen Fellow in the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. In 2011, she received her DPhil in Astrophysics from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from the class of South-Africa-at-Large and Christ Church, 2008. Her research focuses on theoretical cosmology; as a member of the Atacama Cosmology Telescope she measures the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation to decipher the initial conditions of the universe. She was named one of the Mail and Guardians 200 Young South Africans for 2012, was elected as a 2013 TED Fellow and is currently a 2014 Senior TED Fellow.

John Johnson

Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University

After spending four years as an assistant professor of Planetary Astronomy at Caltech, John Johnson is now a Professor of Astronomy at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In 2012, he was awarded the Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, the David & Lucile Packard Fellowship, the Feynman Teaching Prize, and the AAS Newton Lacy Pierce Prize for "for major contributions to understanding fundamental relationships between extrasolar planets and their parent stars." In 2013, he was named one of Astronomy Magazine’s “Ten Rising Stars” in astrophysics.

His primary research focus is on the detection and characterization of planets outside our Solar System, commonly known as exoplanets. His most recent work is focused on studying the properties of Earth-like planets around the Galaxy’s least massive stars, commonly known as red dwarfs. His group's notable discoveries include three of the smallest planets discovered to date, each smaller than the Earth and one the size of Mars. His group's statistical analysis of planets discovered around red dwarfs has revealed that there exist 1-3 Earth-like planets per starthroughout the Galaxy. In addition to papers in professional journals and conferences, his work has been featured in the magazines Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, Discover and New Scientist. He blogs regularly at this URL and you can follow him on Twitter as @astrojohnjohn.

Brindha Muniappan

Director of Education and Public Programs, MIT Museum

Brindha Muniappan is the Director of Education and Public Programs at the MIT Museum. She actively produces programs for the public, including educational workshops for middle and high school students, speed-geeking science programs for adults, and hands-on explorations of engineering and technology for people of all ages. Her goal is to fully connect students and faculty at MIT with the Museum’s wider public community by creating multiple formats through which scientists can discuss and show their work. Brindha holds degrees in environmental engineering and biological engineering from MIT. Her passion for science communication led her from the research bench to the field of informal science education. Prior to joining the MIT Museum, she developed exhibit content for the Marian Koshland Science Museum and explored multiple methods for public communication of science — including presentations for museum visitors, live TV segments, and podcasts — as an educator at the Boston Museum of Science.