Featured Speakers at ASTC 2020

ASTC Virtual 2020 Annual Conference will feature several plenary sessions that will bring the entire community together:


Opening and Keynote

Monday, October 19, 2020
11:00 am–1:00 pm EDT

Science communication and storytelling to make science more equitable and inclusive

Mónica Feliú-Mójer

Dr. Mónica Feliú-Mójer (@moefeliu) is Director of Science Communications & Science Outreach for Ciencia Puerto Rico, Associate Director of Diversity and Communications Training at iBiology, and Producer at Wonder Collaborative. She combines cultura, science communication and storytelling to promote justice and inclusion. As a science communicator, Dr. Feliú-Mójer draws on her training (a PhD in neurobiology), personal background, and culture (a woman from rural Puerto Rico) to make science relevant, accessible and relatable to marginalized communities, especially Puerto Ricans and Latinxs. As a storyteller, she seeks to flip narratives and change stereotypes about science and scientists. For the past 14 years, she has led multiple science communication efforts—from publishing a book, to producing short films, to training scientists in culturally relevant science communication—with the non-profits Ciencia Puerto Rico and iBiology.

Among her many contributions to scholarship and practice is a recent perspective about gene editing communication must center marginalized communities.


New Frontiers Keynote

New Frotiers Virtual National Summit

Tuesday, October 20, 2020
3:30–5:00 pm EDT

This multi-part session will include several speakers and discussions on the way that science, communities, and policymakers work in partnership to address humanity’s most pressing challenges, while ensuring that public engagement in science is an integral and essential part of this conversation.

“A Fireside Chat on Solving Our Big Challenges”

This fireside chat will focus on how solutions-focused research and development might drive breakthroughs for a wider range of societal challenges, including public health, climate, education, and social policy.

Chat participants will include:

  • Dr. Arati Prabhakar, founder and CEO of Actuate and former director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • Sonal Shah, founding executive director, Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation and professor, Georgetown University; founding director, White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation

“Health Innovation and Security Toward a More Equitable Tomorrow”

While acknowledging our current public health crisis, this panel will discuss how equity can be centered in the healthcare delivery, biomedical research, and the pipeline of future innovators, clinicians, and leaders in this field.

  • Ryan Panchadsaram, Advisor to the Chairman, Kleiner Perkins; Co-Founder, United States Digital Response and COVID Exit Strategy; and former Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer (Lead Panelist and Discussion Catalyst)
  • Dr. Dara Kass, MD, FACEP, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center; Founder and CEO, FemInEM; Medical Contributor, Yahoo! News (Panelist) 
  • Wendy Taylor, Vice President for Technical Leadership and Innovation, Jhpiego (Panelist) 

“The Intersection of Race and Technology”

Dr. Ruha Benjamin will deliver remarks on the urgency of addressing the intersection of race and technology to ensure we create a more equitable tomorrow. 

The New Frontiers Keynote session is held jointly with the New Frontiers Virtual Summit, which is generously supported by the Richard King Mellon FoundationThe Grable Foundation, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Richard King Mellon Foundation logo
The Grable Foundation logo
Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation logo

Arati Prabhakar

Arati Prabhakar, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Actuate, a nonprofit organization that conducts bold, rigorously managed research and development programs that create powerful new options for society’s hardest challenges. Actuate aspires to build a private, nonprofit “DARPA for society.”

From 2012 to 2017, she served as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Defense Department agency with the mission to anticipate, explore, and achieve breakthrough technologies for national security. Earlier in her career, Prabhakar led the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and has served in senior roles in information technology, electronics, semiconductors and cleantech. She began her career as a Congressional Fellow and Analyst for the Office of Technology Assessment.

Prabhakar is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She has also been named a Texas Tech Distinguished Engineer and a Distinguished Alumna of California Institute of Technology. She is a member of the governing board for the Pew Research Center and a member of the U.S. National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy. Dr. Prabhakar received her Doctor of Philosophy in applied physics and Master of Science in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. She received her Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University.

Sonal Shah

Sonal Shah (@SonalRShah) is the founding executive director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation and a professor at Georgetown University. The center is seeking to transform the social sector through innovative, actionable frameworks that leverage capital, technology, and inclusion to achieve social impact at scale. Previously, she served as Deputy Assistant to the President for President Obama and founded the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

Shah has extensive experience in both the public and private sector. As an international economist at the Department of Treasury, she worked to set up the central bank in Bosnia, address post conflict reconstruction in Kosovo, and implement poverty reduction strategies in Africa and financial crises in Asia and Latin  America. At Google, Sonal led technology initiatives for civic voice and investing for impact as the head of Global Development Initiatives. At Goldman Sachs, she developed the environmental strategy and ran the initiatives, including investing in clean technologies.

One of Shah’s most proud accomplishments is working with her siblings to create a non-profit, Indicorps, to build a new generation of socially conscious global leaders. Indicorps created the service movement in India inspiring and incubating new social enterprises like Teach for India and Sarvajal.

Shah serves on the boards of Oxfam America, the UBS Optimus Foundation, the Case Foundation Non Profit Finance Fund, Voto Latino, and The Century Foundation. She also serves as an adviser to the Democracy Fund and is coordinating the Initiative on Tech & Society at Georgetown University. Shah earned a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Chicago and a master’s in economics from Duke University.


Ryan Panchadsaram

Ryan Panchadsaram (@rypan) is at Kleiner Perkins where he serves as advisor to the Chair, John Doerr. Together they invest in bold founders and disruptive technologies.

At the beginning of the COVID-crisis, he helped start the U.S. Digital Response, connecting experienced volunteer technologists with public servants and organizations responding to crisis. He also leads the team at covidexitstrategy.org, a non-partisan project helping track each state’s progress towards stopping the spread of COVID.

Ryan was formerly the Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. At the White House, he helped shape how an $80 billion budget can be used by federal agencies to deliver on their missions in a more effective, design-centric, and data-driven way. In 2014, Ryan was featured on the cover of Time Magazine as part of the crisis response team that rescued the rollout of Healthcare.gov. After the successful turnaround, Ryan helped launch the U.S. Digital Service. Ryan also represented the United States as a delegate to the United Nations, promoting increased connectivity and entrepreneurship around the world. 

Prior to public service, Ryan co-founded Pipette, a digital health startup that was acquired by Ginger.io, a MIT Media Lab spin-off using big data and machine-learning to improve the world’s health. He worked at Microsoft and Salesforce.com in product and engineering roles. Ryan graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dara Kass

Dr. Dara Kass, MD, FACEP, (@darakass) is an emergency medicine physician and associate professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. She is also a medical contributor to Yahoo! News and the founder and CEO of FemInEM, a blog and conference with a mission of promoting gender equity in emergency medicine. She was previously the director of Undergraduate Medical Education at New York University and an assistant program director at Staten Island University Hospital. She completed her residency training at SUNY Downstate/ Kings County Hospital and is currently the director of Equity and Inclusion at Columbia in the Emergency Department. She is active in both the Academy of Women in Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) and the American Association of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

Alongside the growth of FemInEM she has developed a niche in the advancement of women in emergency medicine. She is invited regularly to speak on topics such as professional development of women, unconscious bias and achieving gender equity in Emergency Medicine.

Wendy Taylor

Wendy Taylor (@wtaylor1) is Vice President for Technical Leadership and Innovation at Jhpiego, where she directs a multidisciplinary team of more than 70 staff focused on driving impact across a wide range of health areas. She is responsible for working across technical teams and nearly 40 country teams to prepare the organization for transformational innovations, from technologies and systems innovations to data science and actionable insights. She joined Jhpiego following a two-year fellowship with The Rockefeller Foundation, where she explored how to leverage advances in artificial intelligence, digital health and data technologies to transform global health, including how advanced outbreak analytics can be used to better prepare for and respond to a global pandemic. Prior to the fellowship, Ms. Taylor worked for two decades within and outside of government, catalyzing innovations to tackle some of the world’s toughest global health challenges and scaling up market-based solutions for impact. At the US Agency for International Development, she founded and led the Center for Innovation and Impact, which applies innovative, business-minded approaches to accelerate the development, introduction and scale-up of priority global health innovations. There she spearheaded multiple strategic partnerships, including Saving Lives at Birth, a $100 million, multistakeholder Grand Challenge; created the agency’s first advance purchase commitments to stimulate investments in vaccines and diagnostics; and built multiple public-private partnerships with corporations to expand and strengthen health markets. Previously, she held senior positions with several global health nonprofits—including Bio Ventures for Global Health, which she founded—and served in both the executive and legislative branches of the US Government, including the Office of Management and Budget and the US House Committee on Ways and Means.


Ruha Benjamin

Dr. Ruha Benjamin (@ruha9) is a professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press). She has studied the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine for over fifteen years and speaks widely on issues of innovation, equity, health, and justice in the U.S. and globally. She is the founder of the IDA B. WELLS Just Data Lab, which has an aim of rethinking and retooling data for justice, and is also a Faculty Associate in the Center for Information Technology Policy; Program on History of Science; Center for Health and Wellbeing; Program on Gender and Sexuality Studies; Department of Sociology; and serves on the Executive Committees for the Program in Global Health and Health Policy and Center for Digital Humanities. Dr. Benjamin is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2017 President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.

Her second book, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, examines the relationship between machine bias and systemic racism, analyzing specific cases of “discriminatory design” and offering tools for a socially-conscious approach to tech development. She is also the editor of Captivating Technology.

Dr. Benjamin received her PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley, completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Genetics and Society and Harvard University’s Science, Technology, and Society Program, and has received grants and fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, American Council for Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine among others.

Her work is published in numerous journals including Science, Technology, and Human ValuesPolicy & Society; Ethnicity & Health; and the Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science and reported on in national and international news outlets including The Guardian, National Geographic, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Nature.


Alan J. Friedman Science Center Dialogues

Wednesday, October 21, 2020
11:00 am–12:15 pm EDT

“The role of public engagement in science for combating misinformation and building community capacity for solving problems”

The Kavli Foundation 20th Anniversary
Sponsored by The Kavli Foundation.

The Alan J. Friedman Science Center Dialogues are conducted in memory and tribute to the founding director of the New York Hall of Science, Queens. The Friedman Dialogues—sponsored by The Kavli Foundation—connect science-center professionals, science educators, and science communicators to timely and thought-provoking issues emerging in science and society. The session is presented in the spirit of the commitment Alan had to the science-center field and the issues and interests that were reflected in his own writings and presentations over the years.

This year’s 2020 Friedman Dialogues will focus on the role of public engagement in science for combating misinformation and building community capacity for solving problems. We hope to foster an engaged discussion about how scientists, science-engagement professionals, public officials, and community members can more effectively engage the public in science—and how public engagement will not only help combat misinformation, but also strengthen the relationship between communities and science, and therefore develop community-level agency to leverage science to solve problems and create opportunity.

  • Dr. Sara Yeo, Associate Professor, University of Utah, dialogue moderator and discussion catalyst
  • Dr. Sudip Parikh, Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Executive Publisher of the Science family of journals, dialogue participant
  • U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, dialogue participant

Sara K. Yeo (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; @SaraKYeo) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. Broadly, her research interests include science and risk communication with a focus on information seeking and processing, emotion, and humor. Her work has been published in Public Understanding of ScienceRisk AnalysisJournalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, and Materials Today, among others.

Dr. Yeo is trained as a bench and field scientist with a M.S. in Oceanography (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Her training in the life sciences has been invaluable to her research at the intersection of science, media, and politics.

Sudip Parikh

Sudip Parikh, PhD, (@SudipSParikh) became the 19th chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and executive publisher of the Science family of journals in January 2020. Parikh has spent two decades at the nexus of science, policy, and business.

Immediately prior to joining AAAS, Parikh was senior vice president and managing director at DIA Global, a neutral, multidisciplinary organization bringing together regulators, industry, academia, patients, and other stakeholders interested in healthcare product development. He led strategy in the Americas and oversaw DIA programs that catalyzed progress globally toward novel regulatory frameworks for advanced therapies not amenable to existing regulations.

Prior to DIA, Sudip was general manager of the Health and Consumer Solutions business unit and vice president at Battelle, a multibillion-dollar research and development organization. He led a $150 million business unit with over 500 scientific, technical, and computing experts performing basic and applied research, developing medicines and healthcare devices, and creating advanced analytics and artificial intelligence applications to improve human health. Previously, Parikh led Battelle’s global AgriFood business unit. Headquartered in London and Geneva, this unit provided environmental fate research and agriculture product development services from laboratories throughout Europe and the United States.

From 2001 to 2009, Parikh served as science advisor and professional staff to the United States Senate Appropriations Committee, where he was responsible for negotiating budgets for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, and other scientific and health agencies. A key legislative liaison to the research and development ecosystem, Parikh was on the frontlines of many science policy issues debated during that time, including embryonic stem cell research, cloning, disease surveillance, bioterrorism, cyber security, and doubling the NIH budget.

An active member of the scientific advocacy community, Parikh serves as a board member and officer for several impactful organizations, including Research!America, Friends of Cancer Research, and ACT for NIH. He has received multiple public service awards, including recognition from the American Association of Immunologists, the National AIDS Alliance, the Coalition for Health Services Research, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Sudip is committed to early STEM education and, as a parent of three energetic young children, he prioritizes volunteering as a mentor for Science Olympiad teams at two elementary schools.

Early in his career, Parikh was a Presidential Management Intern at the NIH. He was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship while earning his PhD in macromolecular structure and chemistry from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. There, he used structural biology and biochemistry techniques to probe the mechanisms of DNA repair enzymes bound to DNA. The son of Indian immigrants who worked in the textile and furniture manufacturing plants of North Carolina, Parikh completed undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, first as a journalism major before switching into materials science.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) is fighting to reduce carbon pollution, protect our air and water, and position America as a leader in the clean energy economy. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) and Finance Committees, he plays a key role in crafting policies to address climate change and strengthen environmental protections. 

Every week, Sen. Whitehouse takes to the Senate floor to call on Congress to wake up to the threat of climate change—an enormous risk to homes and businesses in Rhode Island, the Ocean State. Whitehouse co-founded the Senate Climate Action Task Force to build support for action to address carbon pollution. He sits on Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. He has also introduced numerous pieces of climate legislation, including a bill to establish a fee on carbon, a market incentive to reduce emissions while generating substantial revenue to be returned to the American people.

Sen. Whitehouse leads bipartisan action in the Senate to protect our oceans. In 2011, Whitehouse worked across the aisle to form the Senate Oceans Caucus, to respond to the pressures of pollution and commercial activity on oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes. Whitehouse created the National Coastal Resilience Fund to help communities in Rhode Island and across the country prepare for sea level rise and other effects of climate change. He authored the Save Our Seas Act, a bipartisan law to reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program and to strengthen America’s role in combatting global marine debris. Whitehouse’s second ambitious bill to clean up the oceans, the bipartisan Save Our Seas 2.0 Act—has passed the Senate.

In addition to EPW and Finance, he is a member of the Budget and Judiciary Committees.

A graduate of Yale University and the University of Virginia School of Law, Whitehouse served as Rhode Island’s U.S. Attorney and state Attorney General before being elected to the United States Senate in 2006.


Closing Keynote

Wednesday, October 21, 2020
2:45–4:00 pm EDT

“Long-term thinking amid crisis: Insights from the Optimist’s Telescope”

Bina Venkataraman

Bina Venkataraman (@binajv) is an American journalist, author, and policy expert. She is currently the Editorial Page Editor of The Boston Globe and a fellow at New America. Since 2011, she has taught in the program on science, technology, and society at MIT. She is the author of The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age (Riverhead, 2019), named a top business book by The Financial Times and a best book of the year by AmazonScience Friday, and National Public Radio.

Bina formerly served as Senior Advisor for Climate Change Innovation in the Obama White House, where she forged partnerships across communities, companies, and government to prepare for climate disasters and to declassify and share critical data. She also advised the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in responding to the Ebola epidemic, promoting patient access to cancer therapies, and reforming public school science education. She previously served as Director of Global Policy Initiatives at the Broad Institute of Harvard & MIT.

Bina is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Bina has worked in India, Alaska, Cuba, Mexico, Vietnam, and Guatemala; she grew up in a small town in Ohio. Her endeavors abroad and at home have included translating Spanish and English in emergency rooms, teaching writing to Harlem high school students, working the graveyard shift at a hotel in the Arctic wilderness, lobster fishing in Baja California Sur, and cataloguing films for a cinema critic in Havana.

The recipient of a Fulbright, a Princeton in Asia fellowship, a Metcalf fellowship, a James Reston fellowship, and the New America national fellowship in 2016 and 2017, Bina was also named a Global Young Leader by the French-American Foundation. She is a frequent public speaker whose appearances have included the TED mainstage, NPR, Aspen Ideas, MSNBC, and businesses and university campuses around the world. 

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