Plenary Lectures

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.

Susan Hockfield

AAAS President’s Address

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.

Naomi Oreskes

The International Space Station: A Laboratory in Space

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.

May Berenbaum

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: Accelerating Science

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.

Additional plenary speaker information will be posted on this page as it becomes available.
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