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CUSP Speaker Series

2014-2015 Theme: Revolution

Each year, the CUSP Speaker Series is united by a common thread that is the foundation of our year-long inquiry.   This year, we will explore the theme of "Revolution."

"Revolution" is a term used freely these days. From the profound changes in technology and social media to the political upheavals of the Arab spring, rupture and change, we are told, is a part of the new world order. Scholars are invited to consider the deeper significance of these claims. How can revolutions of the past teach us about the present and even the future? Does “revolution” always imply “progress”? What is the nature of the interplay between revolutions and counterrevolutions? What do the structures of change one finds in political and social spheres have in common with revolutions as they occur in technological innovation, in thought, even in art? And how does the understanding of revolution as change relate to the scientific concept (e.g. in astronomy, engineering) of revolution as a cyclical reoccurrence? 

Drawing on the perspectives of distinguished artists, scientists and intellectuals, this exploration of revolutionary concepts exemplifies the CUSP spirit of interdisciplinary scholarship and community. Through reflecting on revolution as both a metaphorical and an empirical measure of change we will together explore the meanings, mechanics and limits of revolutionary transformation.

CUSP speakers, exemplars of enacted responsibility, share their personal histories of determination, encounters with adversity, insatiable intellectual curiosity, and eventual achievement. Collectively, they represent a tapestry of individual successes grounded in interdisciplinary collaboration, a passion for social justice, and group effort.

For additional information or questions, please contact Lavinia Lorch at

Program Details

Robert O’Meally, "Hunting Is Not Those Heads on the Wall: Expedition Into the Core"
Monday, August 25, 2014 (12:00-2:00 p.m.), Rennert Hall

Professor O'Meally's welcome to Columbia accentuates certain definitive qualities of the core curriculum. Every student at Columbia is a star. So now the school-time game is not to score points--or even to amaze the mind with new facts. The highest game here--the core curriculum game--is to learn how to learn with clarity and originality; to explore the depths of love with community responsibility; and to dream of new tools and techniques to create  a world that is more fulfilling for all its citizens.

Professor O'Meally is Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and founder and former director of the Center for Jazz Studies. His major interests are American literature, music, and painting. He has written extensively on Ralph Ellison, including The Craft of Ralph Ellison (Harvard, 1980), and a collection of papers for which he served as editor, New Essays on Invisible Man (Cambridge, 1989). Professor O'Meally has written a biography of Billie Holiday entitled Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday (Little, Brown, 1989) and a documentary on Holiday (which has been shown on public TV). He also is the author of The Jazz Singers (Smithsonian, 1997) and principal writer of the monograph, Seeing Jazz (Smithsonian, 1997). He edited Tales of the Congaree (University of North Carolina, 1990), and The Jazz Cadence of American Culture (Columbia, 1998); and co-edited History and Memory in African American Culture (Oxford, 1994), the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, and Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies (Columbia, 2003). His production of the recording The Jazz Singers was nominated for a Grammy Award. His Holiday book and his liner notes for Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington collections won Ralph Gleason Awards. O'Meally's new book is Romare Bearden: Black Odyssey--A Search for Home, catalogue for a show opening this fall at D.C. Moore Gallery on Fifth Avenue. His new project is a full study of Bearden's uses of literary subjects.  Professor O’Meally earned his BA from Stanford and his PhD from Harvard.

William Deresiewicz, "The Revolt of the Sheep: Finding Your Way to a Real Education"
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Rennert Hall

You got to Columbia by jumping through a long series of hoops. Now that you're here, you have the chance to start to get a real education, instead: one that's going to help you find your way to your own sense of meaning and direction. Discover what the college experience is really for and why the humanities are central to it.

Bill Deresiewicz was an English professor at Yale from 1998-2008. He is the author of "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education," which has been viewed over a million times online, and is a frequent speaker on college campuses. His new book is Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life . An award-winning writer, he holds five Columbia degrees.

Anya Schiffrin & Joe Stiglitz, "Revolutionary Ideas: Media, Human Rights, and Social Change"
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Davis Auditorium

How do societies change? What makes ideas spread? What is the role of the media and information in bringing about social revolutions and transformations in how people think? With the recent publication of “Global Muckraking: 100 years of journalism from around the world” (New Press, August 2014)  Columbia professors Joseph E. Stiglitz and Anya Schiffrin will discuss the role that media plays in promoting economic growth, good governance and government accountability. We will consider under what conditions journalists can successfully fight for economic justice, labor and human rights and discuss the success and failure of some of the great journalism campaigns of the last 100 years.

Anya Schiffrin is the director of the media and communications specialization at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.  Schiffrin is on the advisory board of the Open Society Foundation’s Program on Independent Journalism and on the advisory board of Revenue Watch.  Her most recent book is “Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Reporting from Around the World” New Press, 2014).  Her previous book (Co-edited with SIPA alum Eamon Kircher-Allen) was “From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices from the Global Spring” (New Press, 2012).

Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University and has taught at Stanford, Princeton, MIT and Yale. Stiglitz was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1993-95, during the Clinton administration, and served as CEA chairman from 1995-97. He then became Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank from 1997-2000. In 2001, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for his analyses of markets with asymmetric information, and he was a lead author of the 1995 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He is the author several bestseller, including  The Price of Inequality (WW Norton, 2012) and Globalization and Its Discontents (WW Norton, 2002).

Global Muckraking is available at Book Culture.

Sonya Dyhrman, "A Sea of Genes:  The Revolution That Is Shaping Our Understanding of Microbes, Oceans, and Human Health"
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Rennert Hall

Microbes in the sea produce about half of the global oxygen supply, and play a critical role in shaping our environment on a planetary scale.  These unseen heros are difficult to study, and many are only known from the presence of their DNA or genetic code in different environments.  As our understanding of the earth and climate evolves, scientists are using molecular level tools to explore how marine microbes like phytoplankton shape their environment, and how the environment shapes them. This revolutionary approach to studying microbes and their activities allows us to look at the complex interplay between the ocean and microbes with new insight.  Sonya spends time traveling the world's oceans on research cruises that track this sea of genes, spanning from polar to tropical ecosystems.

Sonya T. Dyhrman is a tenured associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University with the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. Her research uses molecular tools to study how ocean microbes drive the earth’s biogeochemical cycles, and how environmental stressors influence the distribution of both harmful and beneficial microbes. With more than 50 peer-reviewed papers, she is shaping our understanding of how these tiny cells produce the oxygen we breathe, cycle carbon, and in some cases cause human illness.  Much of what she does leverages technological advances from the human genome project, and she uses these advances to study the genomes of ocean microbes. She tracks hundreds of millions of gene sequences to understand what marine microbes are doing at present and how they will change in the future. For example, she just launched a 4-year genome study of how ocean acidification will influence the distribution and activities of key ocean microbes.  Dyhrman received her PhD in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and did her postdoctoral training at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where she was a tenured scientist until 2013. In 2007, she was a Marie Tharp Fellow of the Columbia University Earth Institute and more recently a Sir Allan Sewall Fellow of Australia's Griffith University. Dyhrman is on the scientific steering committee for the U.S. Ocean Carbon Biogeochemistry Program and an investigator in the National Science Foundation Center for Microbial Oceanography. She has logged more than 400 days at sea on research ships collecting samples, landing in remote destinations like Antarctica and Easter Island.  Her current field work is focused on studying how microbes communicate with each other in the western North Atlantic and South Atlantic.  In addition to her research efforts, Dyhrman is driven to instill her enthusiasm for oceanography in others, and building a diverse workforce in science, technology and math. Her students are now working in policy, industry and academia. She is particularly interested in science education in the context of virtual environments, and has developed ocean science literacy activities for the virtual world Whyville, giving more than one million children exposure to ocean literacy standards and the process of scientific discovery.

Richard Bulliet, "Revolution Revolutions:  The Three Inventions of the Wheel"
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Davis Auditorium

Who invented the wheel and why?  To answer this old but still puzzling question one must realize that there are three fundamentally different types of wheel used for transportation.  The separate stories of invention--two set in the fourth millennium B.C. and the third in the 18th century A.D.--interconnect in ways that have had powerful but generally unrecognized global impacts.

Richard Bulliet is Professor of Middle Eastern History at Columbia University where he also directed the Middle East Institute of the School of International and Public Affairs for twelve years.  Born in Rockford, Illinois, in 1940, he came to Columbia in 1976 after undergraduate and graduate work at Harvard and eight years as a faculty member at Harvard and Berkeley.  He is a specialist on Iran, the social history of the Islamic Middle East, the history of domestic animals, and the history of technology.

His most recent scholarly book, Cotton, Climate, and Camels:  A Moment in World History (2009), deals with the economic history of Iran between 700 and 1200 C.E.  The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization (2004) offers a brief interpretation of the post 9/11 crisis we are still immersed in.  Islam:  The View from the Edge (1994) presents an alternative interpretation of Islamic history that departs from the political history of the caliphate and emphasizes the role of religion as a social force.

His earlier books include The Patricians of Nishapur (1972), The Camel and the Wheel (1975), Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period:  An Essay in Quantitative History (1979), The Earth and Its Peoples:  A Global History (co-author, 6ed. 2014), and The Columbia History of the Twentieth Century (editor, 1998).  In 2005 he published a history of human-animal relations with the title Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers.  He has also written five novels set in the contemporary Middle East, the most recent being The One-Donkey Solution (2011) and Chakra (2014).

Within the next few months he will publish Wheels: A Book about Invention.

Jos Vandelaer, "Vaccination: A Revolution in Public Health"
Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Davis Auditorium

Since the late 1700s, immunization has profoundly revolutionized child health by preventing deadly diseases like smallpox and measles which decimated entire populations – with a disproportionate effect on children. By drastically lowering child mortality and dramatically improving health, vaccination has helped spur social and economic development around the world.

To make sure that all children benefit, UNICEF helped pioneer the extension of immunization programs to developing countries with the establishment of the “Expanded Program of Immunization” forty years ago. Today, these programs are as active as ever, delivering more vaccines to more children than ever before and helping to get other basic health services to some of the most remote and challenging places on earth.

Dr. Jos Vandelaer is the Chief of UNICEF’s global Immunization program, based in New York, USA. In this function he leads the agency’s HQ Immunization Team of about 20 professionals, and is responsible for strategy development, program management, and coordination.

Dr. Vandelaer has been working in the field of immunization since 1996, and has held immunization-related positions at the World Health Organization in the Philippines, India, and Myanmar.  He joined UNICEF in 2001 as Senior Health Specialist based in WHO/Geneva with specific focus on Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination and routine immunization.

He started his career with Médecins Sans Frontières in 1986, working in emergencies in Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Surinam, and Thailand.  Later he worked in migration/refugee health for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Vietnam and Croatia/Bosnia-Hercegovina and for UNHCR in Myanmar.

Dr. Vandelaer holds a Medical Doctor degree from the University of Leuven (Belgium), a diploma in Tropical Medicine from the Antwerp Institute for Tropical Medicine (Belgium), and a Masters degree in Public Health from Harvard University (USA). He speaks English, French and Dutch and is a national of Belgium.

 Chris Wiggins, "What Is the Deal With Data?"
Thursday, January 22, 2015 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Davis Auditorium

Nearly every field of human endeavor--the sciences, the humanities, and industry--is being transformed by the scale of data, the availability of powerful tools to make sense of data, and a shift in mindset.  Surprisingly common pain points unite "pure" research and commercial applications as we, collectively, try to make sense of a world in which data are cheaper to store than to analyze and a variety of sensors allow us to quantify our world as never before. I hope to unite applications of data science in our daily lives with academic research built on the same tools. I'll also provide some historical context as to what's new, now, with data, and what data insights have been brewing for decades, now coming to fruition.

Chris Wiggins is an associate professor of applied mathematics at Columbia University in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. His research focuses on applications of machine learning to real-world data, particularly biology.

At Columbia he is a founding member of the Department of Systems Biology, the executive committee of the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering (IDSE ), and IDSE's education and entrepreneurship committees. He is also an affiliate of Columbia's Department of Statistics and a founding member of Columbia's Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (C2B2) and Department of Systems Biology. He also teaches as part of the Lede program, a certification program in data, code, and algorithms organized jointly between Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism and Department of Computer Science. 

He is a co-founder and co-organizer of hackNY (, a nonprofit which since 2010 has organized 9 student hackathons, and a summer startup internship program, now hosting its 5th class of hackNY Fellows. Since January 2014 he has also served as the Chief Data Scientist at the New York Times. 

Prior to joining the faculty at Columbia, he was a Courant Instructor at NYU and earned his PhD at Princeton University in theoretical physics.

Nick Frearson, Revolutionizing the way we see our planet, and others.

Wednesday, February 4, 2014 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Davis Auditorium

In December 1911 Amundsen and Scott were racing to be the first human beings to reach the South Pole. On each team was a scientific officer who faithfully recorded observations in a note book along the way throughout the many weeks of travel. In 2014, just over 100 years later, we flew from Ross Island to the South Pole in just a few hours, along almost the same route as those first expeditions.  Along the way we collected Terra-bytes of data each hour from the surface, interior and base of the ice, as well as the near surface and interior of our planet.  Combining this with satellite data collected over the same area and using techniques such as Big Data analysis to link loosely related data sets we will be able to better understand the processes that make and shape our planet and others. Truly a revolution in the making. What will happen in the next 100 years? What will happen in the next 20 years? Maybe you can tell me? Interesting times indeed!

Nick developed the concept for and is the Lead Engineer on the Icepod program. He heads up a team of engineers who have spent the last three years bringing the Icepod to life. This device enables a variety of sensors to be integrated into an airborne portable platform which can be used to remotely monitor the changes happening in ice-sheets, ice-shelves and ice margins.

Nick obtained his degree in Electronics and Physics at Northumberland University in the UK in 1984 and has spent many years since then developing sensors and remote sensing systems. Originally applying this knowledge to military systems and subsequently commercial systems, he eventually managed to combine his love for science and engineering when he went to work for the British Antarctic Survey in the UK. There he developed a radar system capable of looking through the deepest ice on the planet which is found in Antarctica and can be up to 2.5 miles thick. In early 2007 he was approached by Dr Robin Bell at Lamont to help her and her colleagues set up a Polar Geophysics group with the aim of taking an airborne remote sensing system to Antarctica in the winter of 2008. This they did, successfully mapping an extensive mountain range buried beneath 2 miles of ice in the remote central part of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.  In the process they provided much data for Climate modelers amongst others to use to model the way that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet has changed over time. For the last three years he and his team of engineers have been developing the Icepod, an 8.5ft long cylinder capable of carrying a variety of sensors that are attached to the side of the New York Air National Guard’s LC-130 aircraft. These aircraft fly regularly to Greenland and Antarctica and with this system will enable scientists to collect data about these regions that has not been possible in this detail before.

Nick lives in New York City’s West Village with his wife and two cats. When he is not away at one or other pole he enjoys cycling, playing tennis and generally being outdoors.

Todd Gitlin, "Why the University Is Dangerous (and Ought to Be)"
Thursday, February 19, 2015 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Rennert Hall

Thinking can be upsetting. It flies in the face of what we--whoever we are--used to take for granted. It can lead to action, and action always has beneficiaries and victims, and it's not altogether clear who's going to be who.  Getting passionate about ideas is what makes the world move, but it doesn't always make it move where you want.  We'll talk about this theme with reference to Columbia '68, Occupy Wall Street, and climate change.

Todd Gitlin, an American writer, sociologist, communications scholar, novelist, poet, and not very private intellectual, is the author of fifteen books, including Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street.  Before that, he published the novel Undying and (with Liel Leibovitz) The Chosen Peoples:  America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election. Other titles include The Bulldozer and the Big Tent: Blind Republicans, Lame Democrats, and the Recovery of American Ideals; The Intellectuals and the Flag; Letters to a Young Activist; Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives; The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars; The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage; Inside Prime Time; The Whole World Is Watching; Uptown: Poor Whites in Chicago (co-author); three novels, Undying, Sacrifice and The Murder of Albert Einstein; and a book of poetry, Busy Being Born. He also edited Watching Television and Campfires of the Resistance. He has been a columnist at the New York Observer and the San Francisco Examiner. His poems have appeared in The New York Review of Books, Yale Review, and The New Republic.

He holds degrees from Harvard University (mathematics), the University of Michigan (political science), and the University of California, Berkeley (sociology). He was the third president of Students for a Democratic Society, in 1963-64, and coordinator of the SDS Peace Research and Education Project in 1964-65, during which time he helped organize the first national demonstration against the Vietnam War and the first American demonstrations against corporate aid to the apartheid regime in South Africa. During 1968-69, he was an editor and writer for the San Francisco Express Times, and through 1970 wrote widely for the underground press.  In 2003-06, he was a member of the Board of Directors of Greenpeace USA.

He is now a professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph. D. program in Communications at Columbia University. Earlier, he was for sixteen years a professor of sociology and director of the mass communications program at the University of California, Berkeley, and then for seven years a professor of culture, journalism and sociology at New York University. During 1994-95, he held the chair in American Civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has been the Bosch Fellow in Public Policy at the American Academy in Berlin, a resident at the Bellagio Study Center in Italy and at the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, California, a fellow at the Media Studies Center in New York, and a visiting professor at Yale University, the University of Oslo, the University of Toronto, East China Normal University in Shanghai, the Institut Supérieur des Langues de Tunis in Tunisia, the American University of Cairo, and the Université de Neuchatel (Switzerland).

John Allen, “Sometimes You Just Need to Look Up”- “Cool Jobs Series”
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 (7:00-9:00 pm), Davis Auditorium

It’s too easy to get focused exclusively on our life indoors, in our palms or our inbox. Yet many of the defining moments of our lives are found outside the confines of this comfort zone. This talk will discuss how one defining meteorological event as a child shaped a career in the atmospheric sciences, and how truly seeing the science of the outside world can inform our day-to-day work. John spends his time balancing a double life as a storm and nature photographer, and as an early career researcher in tornadoes, hail and interactions with the climate system.

John Allen is a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at the Earth Institute of Columbia University. His research specializes in understanding the interface between the climate system and the smaller scales, particularly severe thunderstorms. In 2013 he completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne, looking at the impacts of climate change on severe thunderstorms in Australia. His present research is at the forefront of both severe thunderstorm climatology and seasonal forecasting, and already has published 11 peer-reviewed articles in top ranking journals, along with several OpEd's in national outlets. His present projects include developing a new historical tornado climatology of Australia, realizing unconventional sources of severe weather observations, developing the first seasonal outlooks for severe thunderstorms, and exploring other interactions between the climate system and severe thunderstorms.

Beyond his research, John has actively chased thunderstorms in Australia since 2003 and regularly travelled to the U.S. plains to chase storms and tornadoes since 2010. His weather photography has featured in the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Calendar, on the Weather Channel, Scientific American and Climate Central, as well as the Columbia website and has won a number of awards in international competition. These interests have overlapped with his scientific research as part of a National Geographic Expeditions Grant on the El Reno Tornado of 31st May 2013. This project uses crowdsourced visual imagery from storm chasers to build a lightning synchronized record of storm development and facilitate production of the first 3D visualizations of an observed tornado and a new template for post-storm data collection. As part of this project, John will feature in a upcoming National Geographic documentary to be released later in 2015.


Jonathan Israel, "Revolution and Radical Enlightenment: The Advent of Universal Human Rights (1775-1800)"
March 5, 2015 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Rennert Hall

"Recent research has shown that the 'invention' of universal human rights during the Eighteenth Century was due to a dramatic intellectual mutation in the 1770s specifically.  It was definitely not, as has been widely argued in recent decades, the outcome of a slow, bottom-up 'cultural process' but rather a directed top-down diffusion. This emanated both within the American Revolution and the lead-up to the French Revolution from a small, highly articulate intellectual fringe very much in conflict with mainstream, conventional values in politics and social theory no less than in moral philosophy and religion. Alongside 'universal human rights', the closely related phenomenon of Anti-colonialism arose in the 1770s  and 1780s among exactly the same trans-Atlantic Radical Enlightenment circles."

Jonathan Israel’s work is concerned with European and European colonial history from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century. His recent work focuses on the impact of radical thought (especially Spinoza, Bayle, Diderot, and the eighteenth-century French materialists) on the Enlightenment and on the emergence of modern ideas of democracy, equality, toleration, freedom of the press, and individual freedom. His books include European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550–1750 (1985); The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477–1806 (1995); Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650–1750 (2001); Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670–1752 (2006); and A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy (2009).

Jonathan Israel earned his D.Phil at the University of Oxford.  He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Corresponding Fellows of the  Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion.  He is the recipient of the Wolfson Literary Award for History, the Leo Gershoy Award from the American Historical Association, the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize in History from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the London Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and the Frans Banninck Cocq Medal from the City of Amsterdam.

Roxana Geambasu, "XRay: Toward a Transparent Web"
Tuesday, April 7, 2015 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), 401 Lerner


Today’s Web services--such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook--leverage user data for varied purposes, including personalizing recommendations, targeting advertisements, and adjusting prices. At present, users have little insight and at best coarse information about how their data is being used. Hence, they cannot make informed choices about the services they use.

To increase transparency, we developed XRay, the first personal data tracking system for the Web. XRay predicts which data in an arbitrary Web account (such as emails, searches, or viewed products) is being used to target which outputs (such as ads, recommended products, or prices). XRay’s core functions are service agnostic, easy to instantiate for new services, and can track data within and across services. To make predictions independent of the audited service, XRay relies on the following insight: by comparing outputs from different accounts with similar, but not identical, subsets of data, one can pinpoint targeting through correlation. We show both theoretically, and through experiments on Gmail, Amazon, and YouTube, that XRay achieves high precision and recall by correlating data from a surprisingly small number of extra accounts.

Roxana Geambasu is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. She joined Columbia in Fall 2011 after finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Washington.  For her work in cloud and mobile data management, she received a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship, an NSF CAREER award, an Honorable Mention for the 2013 inaugural Dennis M. Ritchie Doctoral Dissertation Award, a William Chan Memorial Dissertation Award, two best paper awards at top systems conferences, and a Google Faculty Research Award.

Emanuel Derman, "Understanding the World"
Wednesday, April 8, 2015 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Davis Auditorium

You can try to understand the world using data, intuition, models and theories. Raw data has no voice. It takes models, theories and intuition to use data. Models are metaphors that explain the world we don’t understand in terms of worlds we do. Models tell you only what something is more or less like. Theories try to tell you what something really is. It takes intuition to discover a theory.

Emanuel Derman is Co-Head of Risk at Prisma Capital Partners and a professor at Columbia University, where he directs their program in financial engineering. He was born in South Africa but has lived most of his professional life in Manhattan.  He started out as a theoretical physicist, doing research on unified theories of elementary particle interactions. At AT&T Bell Laboratories in the 1980s he developed programming languages for business modeling. From 1985 to 2002 he worked on Wall Street where he co-developed the Black-Derman-Toy interest rate model and the Derman-Kani local volatility model. His latest book is Models.Behaving.Badly: Why Confusing Illusion with Reality Can Lead to DisastersOn Wall Street and in Life, one of Business Week’s top ten books of 2011. He is also the author of My Life As A Quant, also one of Business Week's top ten of 2004, in which he introduced the quant world to a wide audience. 

Jeff Kluger & Amy Mainzer, "Rising Power: Earth Becomes a Player in a Very Big Universe" Thursday, April 23, 2015 (6:00-8:00 p.m.), Rennert Hall 

Our exploration of the cosmos is always changing: where once we looked at the universe only in the visible, we now see it in the spectra of infrared, x-ray, gamma ray.  We do not just watch comets fly by, but we chase them, catch them, land on them. Most important, we are not merely witnesses of the cosmos or merely occasional explorers of it. We are now, slowly, becoming shapers of our celestial environment. Amy Mainzer’s work, developing the first satellite dedicated to looking for Earth-threatening asteroids, is a very good example of that. We're not living out in the wild anymore.  In cosmic terms, we're coming in out of the rain.

Jeffrey Kluger is the science editor for Time magazine and, principally covering science and social issues. His most recent book, The Narcissist Next Door, about narcissism in American and global culture, was recently released.   His books include The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us (2011), his newest novel, Freedom Stone, a young tale set on a South Carolina plantation in 1863, (2011), and six other books, including Apollo 13, coauthored with Jim Lovell, which served as the basis of the 1995 movie.  In his time at Time, Kluger has written hundreds of stories, including 36 cover stories. Among them are 2003’s coverage of the loss of the shuttle Columbia, 2005’s cover on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and a 2001 cover on global warming, which won the Overseas Press Club Award for best environmental reporting of the year.

Before coming to Time, Kluger worked for Discover magazine, where he was a senior editor and humor columnist. Prior to that, he was health editor at Family Circle magazine, a story editor at The New York Times Business World Magazine, and Associate Editor at Science Digest magazine. His features and columns have appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times MagazineGentlemen's QuarterlyThe Wall Street JournalCosmopolitanOmniMcCall'sNew York MagazineThe New York PostNewsday, and, of course, Time.  He has worked as an adjunct instructor in the graduate journalism program at New York University; is a licensed—though non-practicing—attorney; and is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the University of Baltimore School of Law. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughters.

Amy Mainzer is an astrophysicist, a deputy project scientist for the Wide field Infrared Survey explorer (an infrared, deep field satellite) a principal scientist with the Jet Propulsion laboratory, and the Principal investigator for the proposed Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) satellite, which, if given final approval, will be the first satellite built specifically to look for potentially Earth-endangering satellites.

Her main research interests include asteroids, brown dwarfs, planetary atmosphere, debris disks, and star formation, as well we the design and construction of novel instrumentation for ground and space.

Amy earned her B.S. in Physics at Stanford University and her PhD in Astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Among other awards, she is the recipient of the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (2012), the  NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal (2011), and the   Lew Allen Award for Excellence (2010).

Nick Frearson, Lead Engineer, Polar Geophysics Group with Scholars Nick Frearson, Lead Engineer, Polar Geophysics Group with Scholars Professor Gitlin talking with scholars Professor Gitlin talking with scholars

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