On Tuesday, October 20, the New Frontiers Virtual National Summit culminated in a keynote session, featuring internationally renowned speakers who addressed the importance of investing in public engagement with science, technology, and innovation. Speaker biographies are listed at the bottom of this page.

Welcome: Featuring Voices from the Next Generation

Gregg Behr, the founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, and the executive director of The Grable Foundation, highlighted why this summit was based in Pittsburgh, and why pursuing new frontiers in science, technology, learning, and engagement is critical to providing current and future generations with a more equitable future.

Featured Remarks on Race and Technology

Dr. Ruha Benjamin, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, spoke about the urgency of addressing the intersection of race and technology to ensure we create a more equitable tomorrow.

A Fireside Chat on Solving Our Big Challenges 

This fireside chat focused 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. Discussants included:

  • Dr. Arati Prabhakar, founder and CEO of Actuate and former head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • Sonal Shah, the founding executive director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation, professor at Georgetown University, and founding director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation under President Obama.

An Expert Panel on Health Innovation and Security Toward a More Equitable Tomorrow

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

  • Ryan Panchadsaram, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield; co-founder of the U.S. 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 and Yahoo News Medical Contributor (Panelist) 
  • Wendy Taylor, vice president for Technical Leadership and Innovation, Jhpiego (Panelist)

Keynote Speaker Biographies

Dr. Ruha Benjamin

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. Dr. Benjamin is the founder of the IDA B. WELLS Just Data Lab, which has an aim of rethinking and retooling data for justice.

She is also a faculty associate in Stanford’s 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. Ruha 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. 

Ruha 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 Values; Policy & SocietyEthnicity & Health; and the Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science and reported on in national and international news outlets including The GuardianNational GeographicBulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Nature.

Dr. Arati Prabhakar

Dr. Arati Prabhakar 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, Dr. Prabhakar 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, she led the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and has served in senior roles in information technology, electronics, semiconductors and clean tech.

Dr. Prabhaker 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 of the Pew Research Center  and a member of the U.S. National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy.

Sonal Shah

Sonal Shah (@SonalRShah) is the founding executive director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation and 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.

Sonal 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 Sonal’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. Sonal also 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 serves as an adviser to the Democracy Fund and is coordinating the Initiative on Tech & Society at Georgetown  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.

Dr. 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 U.S. Government, including the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means.

The New Frontiers summit was generously supported the Richard King Mellon FoundationThe Grable Foundation, and the Claude Worthington Benedum FoundationRemake Learning and other leading organizations in the Pittsburgh region also collaborated to inform the summit.

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