Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturers, 2015 - 2016

Potential hosts should contact lecturers directly to book events. In making arrangements, hosts should be specific about dates, lecture topic, scope of the lecturer's visit and any special accommodations that may be called for.

Each lecturer has designated his or her topic(s) for three different types of audiences. Where more than one level is shown, the lecture can be adjusted to the needs of the audience:

  • P (Public)
    Aimed at presenting scientific issues of general concern to a public audience.
  • G (General)
    Intended for a normal Sigma Xi audience of both scientists and other scholars representing a broad range of disciplines.
  • S (Specialized)
    Aimed at scientists and students in fields that are closely related to that of the lecturer.

Andrea Bertozzi

Betsy Wood Knapp Chair for InnovationBertozzi and Creativity and Professor of Mathematics, University of California at Los Angeles 
Phone: 310-825-4340

  1. Mathematics of Crime (P,G,S)
  2. Image Processing and Large Data Analysis (G,S)
  3. Swarming by Nature and by Design (G,S)
  4. Mathematics in the Real and Imaginary World (P)

Andrea Bertozzi is an applied mathematician with expertise in nonlinear partial differential equations and fluid dynamics. She also works in the areas of geometric methods for image processing, crime modeling and analysis, and swarming/cooperative dynamics. Bertozzi completed all her degrees in Mathematics at Princeton. She was an L. E. Dickson Instructor and NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago from 1991-1995. She was the Maria Geoppert-Mayer Distinguished Scholar at Argonne National Laboratory from 1995-6. She was on the faculty at Duke University from 1995-2004 first as Associate Professor of Mathematics and then as Professor of Mathematics and Physics. She has served as the Director of the Center for Nonlinear and Complex Systems while at Duke. Bertozzi moved to UCLA in 2003 as a Professor of Mathematics. Since 2005 she has served as Director of Applied Mathematics, overseeing the graduate and undergraduate research training programs at UCLA. In 2012 she was appointed the Betsy Wood Knapp Chair for Innovation and Creativity. Bertozzi's honors include the Sloan Research Fellowship in 1995, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 1996, and SIAM's Kovalevsky Prize in 2009. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010 and to the Fellows of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics in 2010. She became a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2013. Bertozzi serves on the editorial boards of twelve journals: SIAM J. Math. Anal., SIAM's Multiscale Modeling and Simulation, Interfaces and Free Boundaries, Applied Mathematics Research Express (Oxford Press), Applied Mathematics Letters, Mathematical Models and Methods in the Applied Sciences (M3AS), Communications in Mathematical Sciences, Nonlinearity, and Advances in Differential Equations, Journal of Nonlinear Science, Journal of Statistical Physics, and Nonlinear Analysis Real World Applications.

Richard Canary

Professor of Mathematics, University of MichiganRichard Canary
Phone: 734-763-5861

  1. Non-Euclidean sports and the geometry of surfaces (P,G)
  2. Hyperbolic Sports and the Geometrization of 3-dimensional spaces (S)

Dick Canary received his B.A. from the New College of the University of South Florida in 1985, his M.Sc. from the University of Warwick in 1985 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1989. After two years as a Gabor Szego Assistant Professor at Stanford University, he joined the Department of Mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1991.  He studies the topology and geometry of surfaces and three-dimensional manifolds. (A three-dimensional manifold is an object which looks locally like three-dimensional Euclidean space, for example the universe we live in.)

Recently he has also worked in higher Teichmuller theory and served on the organizing committee of a research semester on that topic held at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley in Spring 2015. Pedagogically, he has a keen interest in inquiry-based teaching methods and developed an inquiry-based class in Topology at the University of Michigan. Personally, he enjoys travel, poker, golf and spending time with his family.

Lee Dugatkin

Professor of Biology, University of LouisvilleLee Dugatkin
Phone: 502-852-5943

  1. The Evolution of Goodness (P, G)
  2. Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: When Natural History and History Collide (P, G, S)
  3. Genes, Culture and Behavior: Mate-choice Copying in Humans and Nonhumans (P, G, S)
  4. Altruism Writ Small: Why microbes protect one another from antibiotics (G, S)

Dr. Dugatkin is Professor of Biology at The University of Louisville. His main areas of research interest are: 1) the evolution of social behavior, and 2) the history of science. He has spoken at over eighty universities around the world, including Harvard University, Oxford University, The University of Copenhagen, Taiwan National University, and The London School of Economics. He has also presented his work in public venues such as The Smithsonian Institute, The American Museum of Natural History, and The Museum of Colonial Williamsburg. Dr. Dugatkin is the author of over 150 technical articles on behavioral evolution, and is a contributing author to Scientific American, and The New Scientist. He has published three books on the evolution of cooperation, and a number of popular books, including Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose. He is the author of two textbooks: Principles of Animal Behavior and Evolution (with Carl Bergstrom).

Krishna L. Foster

Professor of Chemistry California State University, Los Angeles Foster
Phone: 323-343-6490

  1. Oxygenated-PAH as a source of singlet oxygen in the lower atmosphere (S)
  2. Elucidating the role of aged particulate matter on air quality (G)
  3. Investigating the role of fine particles on air quality (P)

Dr. Foster was awarded a B.S. in chemistry from Spelman College in 1992 and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1998.  Her dissertation investigates the interaction of surrogate polar stratospheric clouds with hydrogen halides, and was prepared under the direction of Drs. Margaret A. Tolbert and Steve M. George.  Her postdoctoral research examined the contribution of sea-salt particles to the oxidizing capacity of the lower-atmosphere. This work was conducted at the University of California, Irvine in the laboratory of Dr. Barbara Finlayson-Pitts.  She joined the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) in 2000 as an Assistant Professor, was promoted with tenure to Associate in 2006, and became a Full Professor in 2011.  Her current research focuses on elucidating the role of aged particulate matter on air quality.

Edward Hackett

Vice Provost for Research, Brandeis UniversityEd Hackett 
Phone:  781-736-2131

  1. From Salomon's House to Synthesis Centers (G, S)
  2. The Cultural Contradictions of Science: Jeopardy and Opportunity (P, G, S)
  3. Making Science Useful, Making Useful Science (G, S)
  4. Peer Review and the Conduct of Science (G, S)

Edward J. Hackett is a professor in Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, with appointments in the School of Sustainability, the School of Life Sciences, and the Consortium for Science Policy and Outcomes. He is former Director of the Division of Social and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation and has held faculty appointments at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Rockefeller University. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from Cornell University and BA from Colgate University. Hackett studies the social organization and dynamics of scientific research, asking how patterns of organization and interaction influence performance, and particularly how transdisciplinary collaborations achieve scientific synthesis. He has also written about research misconduct, the scientific career, science and law, university-industry research relations, and environmental justice. He is currently editor of Science, Technology & Human Values and recently co-edited The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (MIT, 2007).

Sandra Hanson

Professor of Sociology, Catholic University Sandra Hanson
Phone:  703-532-0060

  1. Girls in Science: Why So Few? (P, G)
  2. Science for All? Diversity in Science in a Global Economy (P, G)
  3. Swimming Against the Tide: African American Girls and Science Education (S)

Sandra L. Hanson is Professor of Sociology at Catholic University. Her research focuses on gender, race/ethnicity and science. In Swimming Against the Tide: African American Girls in Science Education (2009), she examined the experiences of African American girls in the science education system. Sandra’s book Lost Talent: Women in the Sciences (1996) was a culmination of her research on the loss of talented young women in the science pipeline. Dr. Hanson received a Fulbright award for teaching and research on gender in Eastern Europe at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow Poland. Her second Fulbright award was for teaching and research on gender and science in an international context at the Global and European Studies Institute, Leipzig University. Sandra testified before the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Science and Technology (Subcommittee on Research and Science Education) hearing on “Encouraging the Participation of Female Students in STEM Fields.”

John G. Hildebrand

Regents Professor, University of Arizona Hildebrand
Phone: 520-621-6626

  1. Learning from Insect Brains: Explorations of a Simple Olfactory System (P,G)
  2. The Most Dangerous Animals in the World: Arthropod Vectors of Disease (P,G)
  3. Neural Processing of Behaviorally Significant 'Odor Objects' in an Insect's Brain (G,S)

John G. Hildebrand (A.B. Harvard University, Ph.D. Rockefeller University) is Regents Professor of Neuroscience and Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Entomology, and Molecular & Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson. After 16 years of faculty service at Harvard and Columbia Universities, he joined UA in 1985 and headed Neuroscience until 2013. He studies insect nervous systems, mainly the neurobiology of the olfactory system, its roles in behavior, and related areas of chemical ecology and biology of disease vectors. He is author of over 215 research papers and reviews, editor of five books, and past president of several professional organizations. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, he serves as an elected member of its Council. He also is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Academy of Sciences - Leopoldina, and other academies.

Nicholas Hud

Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry,Nick Hud  
Georgia Institute of Technology

Phone:  404-385-1162

  1. The Scientific Quest for the Origin of Life (P, G)
  2. Experimental Investigations of the Origin and Early Evolution of Life (P, G, S)
  3. A Self-Assembly Approach to the Origin of RNA (G, S)

Nicholas Hud is Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also Director of the NSF-NASA Center for Chemical Evolution. Prof. Hud has studied the physical properties of DNA and RNA (the chemical sibling of DNA) for over twenty-five years. His research has produced fundamental insights regarding the packaging and functioning of DNA in living cells and viruses. Over the past decade, Prof. Hud’s research has become increasingly focused on questions related to the origin of life, and particularly the origin of RNA. Experiments carried out in his laboratory have provided several clues to how the first molecules of life could have spontaneously formed on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago. Prof. Hud received his B.S. degree from Loyola Marymount University and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He conducted postdoctoral research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and at UCLA.

Nola M. Hylton

Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging,Hylton University of California, San Francisco 
Phone: 415-885-7511

  1. Functional MRI techniques for assessing breast cancer response to treatment (P,G,S)
  2. MRI for breast cancer screening and risk assessment (P,G,S)

Nola Hylton, Ph.D. is Professor of Radiology and Biomedical lmaging at University of California, San Francisco.  Her research focuses on the development and clinical optimization of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for breast cancer detection, diagnosis and staging.  Dr. Hylton serves as Principal Investigator for the multi-center American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) clinical trials 6657 and 6698, evaluating advanced breast MRI techniques for assessing breast cancer response to pre-operative chemotherapy.  Dr. Hylton also leads two NCI-funded efforts to improve the integration of quantitative imaging (QI) in breast cancer clinical trials through the development of software tools and quality control processes.  She is a current member of the ACRIN Breast Committee, American College of Radiology (ACR) Accreditation Committee for Breast MRI, Susan G. Komen Scholars and the Advisory Council for the NIH National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

Bryant C. Nelson

Staff Research Chemist, National Institute of Standards and TechnologyNelson_Bryant
Phone:  301-975-2517

  1. Fundamental Interactions of Engineered Nanoparticles and Nanomaterials with DNA (P, G, S)
  2. Inhibition of DNA Repair Protein Activity by Gold [Au55] Nanoclusters (G, S)
  3. The Inhibition of Free Radical Induced DNA Damage by Both Single - and Multiwall Carbon Nanotubes (G, S)

Dr. Nelson is a staff research chemist and the Nanogenotoxicology project leader at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). He was educated at the University of Texas at Austin (B.Sc., Chemistry), the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry) and completed his postdoctoral training as an NRC research fellow at NIST in Analytical Chemistry in 1997. At NIST, he has been responsible for the design, technical development and leadership of research projects related to understanding and characterizing the potential environmental health and human safety risks of engineered nanomaterials. His predominant research efforts are focused on investigating and characterizing the biochemical mechanisms involved in nanomaterial-induced genotoxicity (oxidative damage to nucleic acids) through in depth studies involving increasingly complex biological exposure models. His laboratory develops and utilizes a combination of low- (e.g., comet assay) and high-resolution (tandem mass spectrometry) bioanalytical platforms to understand the fundamental interactions of nanomaterials with DNA and to quantitatively characterize the repertoire of potential genotoxic responses. Dr. Nelson is heavily involved in the development and application of new, tandem mass spectrometry based methods (GC/MS/MS and LC/MS/MS) for identifying and quantifying the formation and accumulation of nanomaterial induced DNA modifications (base and nucleoside lesions) and his group is also involved in research to understand the effects of nanomaterials on the activity and expression of base excision and nucleotide excision DNA repair proteins in relation to the potential use of nanomaterials in anticancer therapeutics. Dr. Nelson actively advises/mentors undergraduate/graduate students and postdocs in bioanalytical chemistry, biochemistry, nanogenotoxicology and DNA damage and repair. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 refereed publications, given more than 50 oral presentations domestically and internationally and is currently an Associate Editor for the Journal of Environmental Quality. He is Past President of the NIST Chapter of Sigma Xi (2008 – 2009).

Karen Oates

Karen OatesProfessor of Biochemistry and the Dean of Arts & Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Phone:  508-831-4678

  1. Bringing Civic Engagement into the Science Classroom (G, S)
  2. How People Learn And Creativity Of Science (P, G)
  3. Boosting Innovation: An Ecological Approach for Scientists & Engineers (G, S)
  4. The Obligation of Knowledge (P, G)

Dr. Karen Kashmanian Oates is a Professor of Biochemistry and the Dean of Arts & Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Oates received her B.S. in Biology from Rochester Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from The George Washington University. She then served as a Visiting Research Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, Oncology and Hematology division. Dr. Oates joined WPI from the National Science Foundation, where she had served as a deputy director of the Division of Undergraduate Education charged with supporting innovative programs to strengthen undergraduate education and help revitalize American entrepreneurship and competitiveness. She began her academic career at George Mason University, where, as associate dean for the new College of Integrated and Interdisciplinary Studies, she helped create George Mason's New American College environment. She later served as inaugural provost for the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, where she established the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement and helped secure NSF funds for Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities, which works to improve undergraduate STEM education by connecting learning to critical civic questions. Among the honors she has received are the Bruce Albert's Award, presented by American Society for Cell Biology for excellence in science education reform, and the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest civilian honor presented by the City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 2012 she was inducted as a fellow into the prestigious American Association for the Advancement as a Science Education fellow. As the inaugural holder of the Peterson Family Deanship of Arts & Sciences, she oversees seven academic departments (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Humanities & Arts and Social Sciences & Policy Studies), as well as several interdisciplinary programs including Environmental and Sustainability studies, Robotics and Interactive Media and Game Development.

Omowunmi (Wunmi) Sadik

Sadik_OmowunmProfessor of Chemistry and Director, Center for Advanced Sensors & Environmental Systems, State University of New York at Binghamton
Phone:  607-777-4132 

  1. Biochemical Sensor: An objective approach for pain measurement (P, G, S)
  2. Can your iPhone tell you what’s in your food? - Nanosensors for rapid detection of food pathogens (P, G)
  3. A new class of conducting polymers based on flexible poly(amic) acid membranes (S)

Omowunmi “Wunmi” Sadik is a Professor of Chemistry and the Director of the Center for Advanced Sensors & Environmental Systems at SUNY-Binghamton. Dr. Sadik completed her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Wollongong in Australia and did her postdoctoral research at the US Environmental Protection Agency. She has held appointments at Harvard University, Cornell University and Naval Research Laboratories. Her research areas include surface chemistry, chemical sensors, biosensors, and smart materials for solving problems in biological system, energy and the environment. Sadik has over 145 full-length publications and patents, and has given 130 keynotes and invited lectures, as well as contributed 180 conference lectures and abstracts. Dr. Sadik is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Fellow of the American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and the recipient of Harvard University’s Distinguished Radcliffe Fellowship, National Science Foundation’s Discovery Corps Senior Fellowship, SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Research, Chancellors Award for Scholarship & Creative Activities, Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Inventor, Harpur College Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer, Australian Merit Award, and NRC COBASE fellowship. Sadik holds four U.S. patents for her work on biosensors, which have been licensed for commercial products. Sadik chaired the inaugural “Gordon Conference on Environmental Nanotechnology in 2011 and has served as the nanotechnology editor for the RSC Journal of Environmental Science Processes and Impact. She co-edited the ACS Symposium series on environmental sensors and has organized and/or chaired over 30 symposia/workshops at national and international conferences. As the President and co-founder of the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization-SNO (, Sadik is promoting the responsible growth of nanotechnology around the world through research, education and outreach.

Mark Serreze (American Meteorological Society)

Serreze_MarkResearch Professor of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder
Phone:  303-492-2963

  1. The New Arctic (P, G)
  2. Communicating Climate Change: Lessons Learned at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (P, G)

Mark C. Serreze received a PhD in Geography from the University of Colorado Boulder, in 1989, for his work in understanding variability in Arctic sea ice. Subsequently he became a research scientist at the University of Colorado National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), which is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. He was promoted to Director of NSIDC and Professor of Geography in 2009. His Arctic research interests are wide-ranging, and include atmosphere-sea ice interactions, polar weather patterns, numerical weather prediction and climate change. In 2005, he published an award-winning textbook, “The Arctic Climate System”. A second edition was published in 2014. He has conducted field work in the Canadian Arctic on sea ice and icecaps, and on the Alaskan tundra. His work over the past ten years has increasingly focused on trying to make sense of the rapid environmental changes being observed in the Arctic, what they mean for the rest of the world, and communicating the science of climate change to the public.

Michael Spencer

Professor Department of Electrical Engineering, Cornell University Spencer
Phone: 607-351-2848

  1. Van der Waals Epitaxy of Graphene and 2D Materials
  2. III-Nitride devices for high voltage grid applications
  3. Radio isotope nuclear batteries for medical implants and sensors
  4. The promise of 2D materials

Electrical Engineer, Computer Scientist and Engineering Professor Michael G. Spencer was born on March 9, 1952 in Detroit, Michigan. He earned his B.S. degree in 1974 and his M.S. degree in 1975, both in electrical engineering from Cornell University. Spencer worked at Bell Laboratories before receiving his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University. In 1984, he joined the faculty of Howard University as an assistant professor and founded the Materials Science Center for Excellence. He spent the next eighteen years at Howard University, becoming a full professor in 1990. He returned to his alma mater Cornell University in 1999 as professor of electrical engineering. He served as associate dean of research and graduate studies for the College of Engineering from 2002 to 2008. Spencer directed the Wide Bandgap Laboratory and co-founded Widetronix. Spencer has written over 130 publications and has also co-authored eleven United States patents.

Herman Sintim

Herman SintimProfessor, Purdue University
Phone:  301-405-0633

  1. Bacterial conversation, what is it and how can it be stopped to prevent infections from spreading? (P, G)
  2. New strategies to curb bacterial infections via the disruption of quorum sensing and/or cyclic dinucleotide signaling (S)
  3. Personalized medicine and the role of simple diagnostic platforms (G, S)
  4. The bacterial resistance problem and why we should care (P, G)

Dr. Sintim obtained his BS in Medicinal Chemistry from the University College London and D.Phil. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Oxford, under the guidance of Professor David Hodgson. He then performed postdoctoral research in the chemistry of natural products at the University of Oxford in the laboratory of Professor Timothy Donohoe and a second postdoctoral research in Chemical Biology investigating the rules that govern DNA replication at Stanford University in the laboratory of Professor Eric Kool. In 2006, Sintim began his independent research at the University of Maryland as an assistant professor of chemical biology and was promoted to associate professor in 2012. In 2015, he was promoted to full professor and soon afterwards accepted an offer to move his laboratory to Purdue University.

Todd Surovell

Todd SurvolleAssociate Professor of Anthropology, University of Wyoming
Phone:  307-766-3239 

  1. Using the Present to Figure out the Past: An Ethno-Archaeological Study of Mongolia's Reindeer Herders (P, G, S)
  2. What Caused the Extinction of North America’s Mammoths? (P, G, S)
  3. Ice Age Hunter-Gatherers of the Rocky Mountains (P, G, S)

Todd Surovell is an Associate Professor and the Director of the George C. Frison Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming. He is an archaeologist specializing in the first peoples of the New World, ethnoarchaeology, geoarchaeology, lithic technology, and quantitative methods. In addition to fieldwork throughout the Rocky Mountain west, he has worked in Israel, Denmark, and Mongolia. He is the author of Toward a Behavioral Ecology of Lithic Technology, a book examining the economics of stone tool use. He excavated the Barger Gulch site, a large winter campsite occupied at the end of the last Ice Age. He is currently excavating the Fetterman mammoth kill site and the Late Prehistoric Wold Buffalo Jump. In 2012, he initiated the Dukha Ethnoarchaeological Project, which involves the study of the spatial organization of human behavior in campsites of nomadic reindeer herders in northern Mongolia.