Plenary lectures provide an opportunity for AAAS Annual Meeting attendees and the public to hear from world-renowned speakers. The speakers discuss important progress on pressing science, technology, and policy issues, and share insights into future directions. Plenary lectures are free and open to all.
Dr. Susan Hockfield served as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2004 to 2012. As the first woman and the first biologist in that role, she highlighted the importance of building diversity all along the talent pipeline. She fostered cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional, and cross-national initiatives, among them the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the MIT Energy Initiative, and the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center, and she co-chaired the White House’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. By expanding MIT’s international education and research activities, including the launch of edX, she amplified MIT’s global engagement. Hockfield avidly advocates for increasing interactions across the academy, industry, and government.
Hockfield earned her Ph.D. in anatomy and neuroscience from the Georgetown University School of Medicine. She was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco and a member of the scientific staff at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York before joining the faculty at Yale University in 1985. At Yale, Hockfield was named the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology and served as dean of the Yale University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and then as provost of the university.
Hockfield was among the first scientists to apply molecular biology to neuroscience, using monoclonal antibodies to study brain structure and development. She demonstrated that early experiences lead to lasting changes in the molecular structure of the brain and discovered a gene involved in the spread of brain cancer cells into healthy brain tissue.
Dr. Hockfield became a member of AAAS in 1975, was elected as a Fellow in 2005, and currently serves as president of AAAS.
Thursday, February 15
6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa, a veteran astronaut, is the 11th director of the Johnson Space Center. She is JSC’s first Hispanic director, and its second female director. Her previous management roles include Deputy Center Director and Director of Flight Crew Operations.
Ochoa joined NASA in 1988 as a research engineer at Ames Research Center and moved to Johnson Space Center in 1990 when she was selected as an astronaut. She became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has flown in space four times, including STS-66, STS-96 and STS-110, logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit.
Born in California, Ochoa earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from San Diego State University and a master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University. As a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories and NASA Ames Research Center, Ochoa investigated optical systems for performing information processing. She is a co-inventor on three patents and author of several technical papers.
Ochoa has been recognized with NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for senior executives in the federal government. She has received many other awards and is especially honored to have five schools named for her. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, serves on several boards, and chairs the Nomination Evaluation Committee for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
Friday, February 16
5:15 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Dr. Cori Bargmann studies the relationships between genes, circuits, and behaviors in the genetically tractable nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. She received a BS in biochemistry from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studied the neu/HER2 oncogene with Robert A. Weinberg. Her work on the neurobiology and genetics of behavior began during a postdoctoral fellowship with H. Robert Horvitz at MIT, and continued in her position as a faculty member at the University of California, San Francisco beginning in 1991.
In 2004 she joined Rockefeller University as the Torsten N. Wiesel Professor and Associate Director of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Center for Mind, Brain and Behavior. In 2013-2014, she co-chaired the NIH working group to the Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health Director for President Obama’s Brain Initiative. She was an Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator from 1995-2016. In 2016 she joined the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as its first President of Science. Bargmann was elected in 2006 as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Saturday, February 17
5:15 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist whose research focuses on developing and applying high-resolution climate projections to understand what climate change means for people and the natural environment. She is a professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, and has a B.S. in Physics from the University of Toronto and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Illinois.
Katharine has served as a lead author for the Second and Third U.S. National Climate Assessments, and has conducted climate impact assessments for a broad cross-section of organizations, cities and regions, from Boston Logan Airport to the state of California. Her work has resulted in over 120 peer-reviewed publications that evaluate global climate model performance, develop and compare downscaling approaches, and quantify the impacts of climate change on cities, states, ecosystems, and sectors over the coming century.
She has been named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and the Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers, as well as one of POLITICO’s 50 thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics and one of Fortune’s 50 World’s Greatest Leaders. Katharine has also received the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of the Planet award, the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communication Prize, and the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service award.
Katharine is currently serving as lead author for the upcoming Fourth National Climate Assessment and producing the second season of her PBS Digital Studios short series, Global Weirding: Climate, Politics and Religion.
Sunday, February 18
5:15 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Joseph R. Biden, Jr., represented Delaware for 36 years in the U.S. Senate before becoming the 47th Vice President of the United States (2009-2017).
As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, he was widely recognized for his work on criminal justice issues, including the landmark 1994 Crime Act and the Violence Against Women Act. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years, Biden played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.
As the 47th Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden continued his leadership on important issues facing the nation and represented our country abroad. Biden led the White House Cancer Moonshot, which resulted in more than 80 new actions and collaborations from the public and private sectors to speed progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care, and worked with Congress to authorize an additional $1.8 billion for investment in cancer research. Biden oversaw the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and chaired the Middle-Class Task Force.
In January 2017, President Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with Distinction – the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Sunday, February 18
6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.