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Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference Discussed Big Data and the Future of Research, Ethics, and Science Communication

October 29, 2018

Jeff Dean

Jeff Dean, head of Artificial Intelligence at Google, gave a plenary talk during the 2018 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference. Photo by Scott Buschman Photography.

Media Contact:

Heather Thorstensen
Manager of Communications
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society or (919) 549-4691 ext. 216

BURLINGAME, CA—Sigma Xi members, science supporters, and students came together at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport hotel in Burlingame, California, October 25–28 for the 2018 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference. This year’s theme affects all areas of science and engineering, “Big Data and the Future of Research.”

The meeting began with a business meeting for chapter representatives, called delegates, of the 132-year-old honor society for scientists and engineers. Sigma Xi has chapters around the world at colleges, universities, government laboratories, industry research centers, and area chapters that cover multiple institutions. Delegates heard updates from Society leaders and president-elect candidates, and discussed how to improve their programming. Chapters connect the public with research and bring members from different research backgrounds together. Chapter award winners and the chapters who initiated the most new members in the last year were recognized. 

Plenary speakers included Jeff Dean, head of Artificial Intelligence at Google, who discussed Google’s research accomplishments through the use of machine learning and robotics. Another plenary speaker, Steve Ritz, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, described how big data driven by new technology is affecting astrophysics, such as the amount of information expected to be collected by the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile: 32 trillion object observations in 10 years. Additional plenary speakers included Sigma Xi’s 2018 award winners. Breakout sessions included symposia on big data in biology and medicine; physics and astronomy; and climate, energy, and the environment as well as sessions about the responsible conduct of research, science communication, and professional development. SAS Institute demonstrated a new product and evening entertainment included Science Cafés and a Science Comedy Show by comedian Brian Malow. 

Approximately 140 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students attended the meeting and presented their research during a poster session. Sigma Xi members judged the students on their scientific thought, method, and communication skills. Top presenters were selected for awards and nomination to Sigma Xi with their initiation fee and first year’s dues paid. 

The 2019 Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference will be held November 14–17 at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin. A 25 percent registration discount is available to those who sign up by November 30. 

Updated on 12/12/18.