World Science Scholars

Faculty

Adam Riess

Adam Riess

2011 Nobel Laureate, Astrophysicist | Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University

Adam Riess is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and the Thomas J. Barber Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. He is a distinguished astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His research involves measurements of the cosmological framework with supernovae (exploding stars) and Cepheids (pulsating stars), and he leads the Supernova H0 for Equation of State (SHOES) Team’s efforts to improve the measurement of the Hubble Constant. In 2011, he was named a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and was awarded the Albert Einstein Medal for his leadership of the High-z Supernova Search Team’s discovery that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating, a phenomenon widely attributed to a mysterious, unexplained “dark energy” filling the universe. His accomplishments have been recognized with numerous other awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008, and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

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Alan Guth

Alan Guth

2012 Breakthrough Prize Winner, 2014 Kavli Prize Laureate, Cosmologist | Professor of Physics, MIT

Alan Guth is a professor of physics at MIT, and world-renowned for his discovery of inflationary cosmology, the dominant cosmological paradigm for over two decades. His current research focuses on developing mathematical tools for quantitatively analyzing inflation’s suggestion that there are an infinite number of universes. He won the 2012 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the invention of inflationary cosmology, and the 2014 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for “for pioneering the theory of cosmic inflation.”

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Alfred Mele

Alfred Mele

Philosopher | Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University

Alfred Mele is the William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. He is known for his development of a causal theory of how intentional actions are produced and for his deflationary view of self-deception, which serve to disprove scientists’ claims that free will is an illusion. Mele is the author of 12 books, including Manipulated Agents: A Window to Moral Responsibility; Aspects of Agency: Decisions, Abilities, Explanations, and Free Will; and Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will. Mele also has authored more than 200 articles and served as the editor or co-editor of six books. He previously worked as the director of the Big Questions in Free Will project and the Philosophy and Science of Self-Control project, both of which featured collaborative research by scientists and philosophers.

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Andrea Ghez

Andrea Ghez

2020 Nobel Laureate, Astrophysicist | Professor of Physics and Astronomy, UCLA

Andrea M. Ghez, professor of Physics and Astronomy and Lauren B. Leichtman & Arthur E. Levine chair in Astrophysics, is one of the world’s leading experts in observational astrophysics and heads UCLA’s Galactic Center Group. She is best known for her ground-breaking work on the center of our Galaxy, which has led to the best evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes. Ghez has received numerous honors and awards including the Crafoord Prize in Astronomy from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, Bakerian Medal from the Royal Society of London, a MacArthur Fellowship, election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Oxford in 2019, and was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy.
Advances in high resolution imaging technology enabled Ghez’s work and her group to continue pushing the frontiers of these technologies forward. She serves on several leadership committees for the W. M. Keck Observatory, which hosts the largest telescopes in the world, and the future Thirty Meter Telescope. Ghez is also very committed to the communication of science to the general public and inspiring young girls to explore science.

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Andrei Linde

Andrei Linde

2014 Kavli Prize Laureate, Cosmologist | Professor of Physics, Stanford University

Andrei Linde is a professor of physics at Stanford University, one of the authors of the inflationary theory and the theory of inflationary multiverse. He invented the theory of chaotic inflation, which is the most general version of inflationary cosmology. Linde also helped to develop the theory of eternal chaotic inflation, and the mechanism of vacuum stabilization in string theory, which helped to incorporate the theory of inflationary multiverse in the context of string theory. He is the author of the books Inflation and Quantum Cosmology and Particle Physics and Inflationary Cosmology. His honors include the Dirac Medal, Peter Gruber Prize, the Fundamental Physics Prize, and the Kavli Prize.

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Andrew Strominger

Andrew Strominger

2017 Breakthrough Prize Winner, Physicist | Professor of Physics, Harvard University

Andrew Strominger is the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics at Harvard University and a founding member of the Black Hole Initiative. He is a renowned theoretical physicist who has made path breaking contributions to classical and quantum gravity quantum field theory and string theory. These include his seminal work on Calabi-Yau compactification of string theory which provides a unified framework for quantum gravity and the theory of elementary particles the statistical origin of the Bekenstein-Hawking black hole entropy and the conformal symmetry of astrophysical Kerr black holes. Recently Strominger discovered an exact equivalence unifying three disparate phenomena which have been separately studied for the last half-century: quantum field theory soft theorems, asymptotic symmetries and the memory effect. This equivalence has deep implications for infrared phenomena ranging from quantum electrodynamics to the black hole information paradox. He was awarded the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for transformative advances in quantum field theory, strong theory, and quantum gravity, and the 2014 Physics Frontiers Prize in Fundamental Physics for numerous deep and groundbreaking contributions. In 2020, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

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Barbara Natterson-Horowitz

Barbara Natterson-Horowitz

Cardiologist, Psychiatrist | Professor of Medicine, UCLA

Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D., is a cardiologist and psychiatrist who turns to the natural world for insights into human health and development. Faculty in Harvard-MIT HST Program, Harvard Department of Human Evolutionary Biology and Professor of Medicine at UCLA, she studies a diverse range of animals and disorders from congestive heart failure in okapi, bats, and wallabies, to compulsive disorders in birds, cats, and horses. She is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller, Zoobiquity, which was a Finalist in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)’s Excellence in Science Books Award, a Smithsonian Top Book of 2012, a Discover Magazine Best Book of 2012, and the China Times Best Book of 2012. Zoobiquity has been translated into seven languages and has been the common read at universities across the country. Dr. Horowitz was the invited keynote at the 2019 Nobel Conference in Stockholm, Sweden. She is President of the International Society of Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health.

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Barry Barish

Barry Barish

2017 Nobel Laureate, Physicist | Professor of Physics, Emeritus, Caltech

Barry Barish is an experimental physicist and a Linde Professor of Physics, emeritus at California Institute of Technology. He became the Principal Investigator of LIGO in 1994 and was LIGO Director from 1997-2005. Barish led the effort through the approval of funding by the NSF National Science Board in 1994, and the construction and commissioning of the LIGO interferometers in Livingston, LA and Hanford, WA in 1997. He created the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which now numbers more than 1,000 collaborators worldwide to carry out the science. The Advanced LIGO proposal was developed while Barish was director and he has continued to play a leading role in LIGO and Advanced LIGO. He was president of the APS, the American Physical Society in 2011. He was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. In 2018, Barish was honored as the Alumnus of the year by the University of California, Berkeley, received an honorary doctorate at Southern Methodist University, and was conferred the Honorary Degree Doctor Honoris Causa of Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski.

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Brian Greene

Brian Greene

Physicist, Author | Co-founder, World Science Festival; Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University.

Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, where he also serves as the director of Columbia’s Center for Theoretical Physics. Greene is recognized for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in his field of superstring theory, including the co-discovery of mirror symmetry and the discovery of spatial topology change. His books—The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality—have collectively spent over 67 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and were the basis of two award-winning NOVA mini-series, which he hosted. In 2008, Greene co-founded the World Science Festival, where he serves as Chairman of the Board. His latest book, Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe, was released in 2020.

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Carlo Rovelli

Carlo Rovelli

Theoretical Physicist | Director, Quantum Gravity Group, Center for Theoretical Physics

Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist in the field of quantum gravity and in the history and philosophy of science. He is a co-founder of the loop approach to quantum gravity and an author of several books including Quantum Gravity, Covariant Loop Quantum Gravity, The First Scientists: Anaximander and His Legacy and Seven Brief Lectures on Physics, and The Order of Time, which was named one of TIME’s Ten Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade after its publication in 2018. After earning his Ph.D. in physics at the Università of Padova, Rovelli held several faculty appointments in the U.S. and Europe before landing at the Aix-Marseille University in France, where he currently serves as the director of the Quantum Gravity Group of the Center for Theoretical Physics. A member of the Institut Universitaire de France and the International Academy of the Philosophy of Science, he is also an honorary professor at the Normal University of Beijing. In 2019, Foreign Policy magazine included Rovelli in its list of the 100 most influential global thinkers.

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Christof Koch

Christof Koch

Neuroscientist | Chief Scientist, MindScope Program, Allen Institute for Brain Science

Born in the American Midwest, Christof Koch grew up in Holland, Germany, Canada, and Morocco. He studied physics and philosophy and was awarded his Ph.D. in biophysics. In 1987, Koch joined the California Institute of Technology and eventually became Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive & Behavioral Biology. After a quarter of a century, he left academia for the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, where he is now Chief Scientist of the MindScope Program. Christof’s passions are neurons—the atoms of perception, memory, behavior and consciousness—and their diverse shapes, electrical behaviors, and computational function within the mammalian brain, in particular in neocortex. Koch has authored more than 300 scientific papers and five books concerned with the way computers and neurons process information and the neuronal and computational basis of visual perception. Together with his longtime collaborator, Francis Crick, Koch pioneered the scientific study of consciousness. His latest book, The Feeling of Life Itself—Why Consciousness is Everywhere But Can’t be Computed, was published in 2019.

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Cumrun Vafa

Cumrun Vafa

2017 Breakthrough Prize Winner, Physicist | Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy, Harvard University

Cumrun Vafa is the Hollis Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy at Harvard University. He received his BS in Math and Physics from MIT in 1981 and his PhD in Physics from Princeton University under the direction of Edward Witten in 1985. Vafa’s primary area of research is string theory. String theory is at the center of efforts by theoretical physicists to find a unified fundamental theory of nature— that is, all particles and the forces between them—in a consistent quantum theory. In a single theory, one studies the mysteries of confinement of quarks inside atomic nuclei, as well as enigmatic properties of astrophysical objects such as black holes. String theorists have the exciting task of building new mathematics as tools to explore new laws of physics. Therefore, string theory is at the crossroads of many fields, including mathematics, particle phenomenology and astrophysics—Cumrun Vafa’s research has involved all these aspects. Together with colleagues he has worked on topological strings, tries to elucidate new mathematics originating from string theory, and uses these techniques to uncover the mysteries of black holes, particularly the Bekenstein-Hawking entropy. Cumrun Vafa is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences and has received a number of awards and recognitions for his work including the Dirac Medal of ICTP, the AMS Leonard Eisenbud Prize for Math and Physics, the APS Dannie Heineman Prize in Mathematical Physics and the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. In 2020, Cumrun Vafa released his newest book, Puzzles to Unravel the Universe, exploring the simple mathematical underpinnings that formulate physical laws.

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David Holland

David Holland

Physical Climate Scientist | Professor of Mathematics and Atmosphere, NYU

David Michael Holland is a Professor of Mathematics and Atmosphere-Ocean Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University. His research focuses on using mathematics to understand mechanisms by which significant sea-level change could arise from the great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, over the coming decades in an ever-warming world. He applies advanced applied mathematical techniques to data collected in remote environments. A veteran of almost two decades of Greenland and Antarctic field expeditions, Holland continues to spend summer seasons collecting vital information about the state of the oceans and glaciers in those regions. This data is used to improve computer modeling of the interaction of the great ice sheets with warming global ocean waters leading to more robust projections of global sea-level change.

David Holland has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles on polar environmental science. In 2000, he was awarded an NSF Career Award He served as Director of the Center for Atmosphere-Ocean Science in the Courant Institute during 2008-2013. Since then he has become the Director of the Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at NYU New York and the Center for Global Sea Level Change at NYU Abu Dhabi.

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Dimitar Sasselov

Dimitar Sasselov

Astronomer | Phillips Professor of Astronomy and Director, Origins of Life Initiative, Harvard University

Dimitar Sasselov is an astronomer and the founding director of Harvard's Origins of Life Initiative, a new interdisciplinary institute that joins biologists, chemists, and astronomers in searching for the starting points of life on Earth and extrasolar planets. He is also a co-investigator on NASA's Kepler mission, which is monitoring 100,000 stars in a hunt for exoplanets—a process that is described in his 2012 book The Life of Super-Earths: How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells Will Revolutionize Life on Our Planet. Sasselov has a Ph.D. in physics from Sofia University and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Toronto. Previously he was a senior science advisor for the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a member of the Global Agenda Council on space security at the World Economic Forum.

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Drew Endy

Drew Endy

Synthetic Biologist | Bioengineering Professor, Stanford University

Drew Endy is an associate professor of Bioengineering at Stanford. His Stanford research team develops genetically encoded computers and redesigns genomes. Endy co-founded the BioBricks Foundation as a public-benefit charity supporting free-to-use standards and technology that enable the engineering of biology (BioBricks.org). Endy joined the Stanford faculty in late 2008, having previously studied with and served on the Biological Engineering faculty at MIT. He is also the founding director of the public benefit BIOFAB facility in Emeryville, CA. Endy is a member of the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law at the U.S. National Academies and has been nominated to serve on the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity. Endy recently gave testimony and provided opening remarks regarding synthetic biology before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the President’s Commission on Bioethics, respectively. He earned a BS and MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering, respectively, from Lehigh University and a PhD in Biochemical Engineering from Dartmouth College. Esquire magazine recognized Endy as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century. He released the book Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives in 2009.

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Edward Frenkel

Edward Frenkel

Mathematician | Professor of Mathematics, UC Berkeley

Edward Frenkel is a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, and the winner of the Hermann Weyl Prize in mathematical physics. Frenkel’s recent work has focused on the Langlands Program and dualities in quantum field theory. He has authored three books—including Love and Math, which has been published in 19 languages. He has lectured on his work around the world, and his YouTube videos have garnered more than 2.5 million views combined.

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Gabriela González

Gabriela González

Physicist | Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Louisiana State University; Former Spokesperson, LIGO Scientific Collaboration

Gabriela González is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University, which is only 30 miles away from one of two gravitational wave detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project, where she served as the spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration from 2011 to 2017. González has published several papers on Brownian motion as a limit to the sensitivity of gravitational-wave detectors, and with her strong background in data analysis for gravitational-wave astronomy, she searches for the waves produced by binary systems of compact stars in the last orbits of their cosmic dance, before they coalesce into single black holes. González was elected to membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2017 and was named 2019 SEC Professor of the Year. She earned her Ph.D. from Syracuse University.

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George Ellis

George Ellis

Cosmologist | Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics, University of Cape Town

George Ellis is Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town and investigates cosmology, the nature of time, and the emergence of complexity. He is the co-author with Stephen Hawking of The Large Scale Structure of Space Time. He is past president of the International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation and of the Royal Society of South Africa, a Founder Member of the South African Academy of Science, and a Fellow of the Third World Academy of Science and of the Royal Society, London. He has been awarded the Herschel Medal of the Royal Society of South Africa, the Star of South Africa Medal (awarded by President Mandela), the Templeton Prize (2004), the South African National Science and Technology Forum lifetime contribution award, the Academy of Science of South Africa Gold medal, and the Order of Mapungubwe (awarded by President Thabo Mbeki). One of his most recent articles regarding "top down causation and emergence: some comments on mechanisms" was published in Interface Focus.

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Gerard 't Hooft

Gerard 't Hooft

1999 Nobel Laureate, Theoretical Physicist | Distinguished Professor of Theoretical Physics, Utrecht University

Gerardus ’t Hooft is a Dutch theoretical physicist and Nobel Laureate. He shared the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics with Martinus Veltman. Since his Nobel Prize, 't Hooft received numerous awards, honorary doctorates and honorary professorships. He was knighted commander in the Order of the Netherlands Lion, and officer in the French Legion of Honor. The asteroid 9491 Thooft has been named in his honor, and he has written a constitution for its future inhabitants. Born and raised in the Netherlands, ’t Hooft studied theoretical physics and mathematics at Utrecht University, where in 1977 he became Professor of theoretical physics. He spent several sabbatical periods in Harvard, Stanford, Caltech and Durham, North Caroline. His early work with Veltman involved the question: how to renormalize the forces due to vector particles (particles with spin 1) in the formalism of relativistic quantized fields. Later, he turned his attention to the deepest remaining mystery in particle physics: how to “quantize” the gravitational force, and what the role should be of sub-microscopic black holes in this question. ‘t Hooft is Ambassador of the highly ambitious “Mars One” project, an attempt to realize the first human colony on Mars.

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Harold Varmus

Harold Varmus

1989 Nobel Laureate, Oncologist | Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine

Harold Varmus, M.D., co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for studies of the genetic basis of cancer, joined the Meyer Cancer Center of Weill Cornell Medicine as the Lewis Thomas University Professor of Medicine in 2015. Prior to joining Meyer Cancer Center, Dr. Varmus was the Director of the National Cancer Institute for five years. He was also the President of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for 10 years and Director of the National Institutes of Health for six years. A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard University in English literature and Columbia University in Medicine, he trained at Columbia University Medical Center, the National Institutes of Health, and the University of California San Francisco, before becoming a member of the UCSF basic science faculty for over two decades. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine and is involved in several initiatives to promote science and health in developing countries. The author of over 350 scientific papers and five books, including a recent memoir titled The Art and Politics of Science, he was a co-chair of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a co-founder and Chairman of the Board of the Public Library of Science, and chair of the Scientific Board of the Gates Foundation Grand Challenges in Global Health. He received the Double Helix Medal in 2011 and the Glenn T. Seaborg Medal in 2012.

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Justin Khoury

Justin Khoury

Physicist | Professor of Physics, University of Pennsylvania

Justin Khoury is a professor of physics and the undergraduate chair of physics and astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. He obtained his B.Sc. from McGill University and his Ph.D. from Princeton University, under Paul Steinhardt. Following postdoctoral fellowships at Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Khoury became a faculty member of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, before moving to the University of Pennsylvania. His awards and honors include a W. M. Keck Foundation Science and Engineering Grant (2017-2019), a New Initiative Research Grant from the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation (2015-2017), a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2012-17), and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship (2010-12). His research lies at the interface of particle physics and cosmology, where he investigates new models and screening mechanisms related to dark matter and baryonic matter. Another central theme of his research is the development of innovative cosmological theories of the very early universe, including the Ekpyrotic Universe.

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Katherine Freese

Katherine Freese

Cosmologist | Professor of Physics, University of Texas at Austin

Katherine Freese holds the Jeff and Gail Kodosky Endowed Chair in Physics at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously, she was the George E. Uhlenbeck Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan and Visiting Professor of Physics at Stockholm University. She works on a wide range of topics in theoretical cosmology and astroparticle physics. She has been working to identify the dark matter and dark energy that permeate the universe, as well as to build a successful model for the early universe immediately after the Big Bang. She is author of a book The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter, published by Princeton University Press. Dr. Freese’s work has been described in The New York Times, BBC, Scientific American, New Scientist, National Public Radio, Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, and other media. Her public appearances include Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, a BBC Horizon Dark Matter documentary, a New York Academy of Sciences Panel, TV Ontario, and the Isaac Asimov Debate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

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Lee Berger

Lee Berger

2016 Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year, Paleoanthropologist | Phillip Tobias Chair of Paleo-Anthropology, University of the Witwatersrand

Lee R. Berger is an award-winning researcher, author, paleoanthropologist, and speaker. For more than two decades, his explorations into human origins in Africa, Asia, and Micronesia have resulted in many new discoveries—including the most complete early hominin fossils that belong to a new species of early human ancestor (Australopithecus sediba)—while revolutionizing applied exploration methods and technologies. Berger is a fellow of both the Royal Society of South Africa (FRSSAf) and the Explorers Club, and is a member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf). He is currently a National Geographic Explorer-at-Large and was named the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year in 2016. Berger received a B.A. in anthropology from Georgia Southern University, his Ph.D. in paleoanthropology from the University of the Witwatersrand, and became a postdoctoral research fellow in the university’s department of anatomy and human biology.

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Mandë Holford

Mandë Holford

Marine Chemical Biologist | Associate Professor of Chemistry, Hunter College

Mandë Holford is an Associate Professor in Chemistry at Hunter College and CUNY-Graduate Center, with scientific appointments at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medical College. Her joint appointments reflect her interdisciplinary research, which combines chemistry and biology to discover, characterize, and deliver novel peptides from venomous marine snails as tools for manipulating cellular physiology in pain and cancer. She has received several awards, including being recently named a “New Champion Young Scientist” by the World Economic Forum, the prestigious Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, an NSF CAREER Award, the Wings Worldquest Humanity Award, and she was named a “21st Century Chemist” in the NBC-Learn “Chemistry Now” series. Holford is actively involved in science education, advancing the public understanding of science, and science policy. She is co-founder of KillerSnails.com, a learning games company, and RAISEW.org, an NSF project to increase women in science. She received her Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University.

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Maria Spiropulu

Maria Spiropulu

Physicist | Shang-Yi Ch’en Professor of Physics, Caltech

Maria Spiropulu is an experimental particle physicist at the California Institute of Technology. Born and educated in Macedonia/Greece, she moved to the U.S. to pursue her Ph.D. at Harvard. Upon completion, she was a Fermi Fellow at the Enrico Fermi Institute, and she worked at the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) and at CERN as a Physics Researcher. Spiropulu’s research focuses on the search for dark matter and the ways dark matter cuts across particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. Her research efforts target instigating innovation in data analyses and creative thinking towards answering fundamental questions on the physics of the universe at the largest and smallest length scales while pioneering alternative “new physics” search analyses platforms. While researching elementary particles and their interactions at Fermilab’s Tevatron and CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), Spiropulu used, for the first time, the double blind data analysis method in searches for supersymmetry at the Tevatron.

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Mark Van Raamsdonk

Mark Van Raamsdonk

Physicist | Professor of Physics, University of British Columbia

Mark Van Raamsdonk is a professor of physics at the University of British Columbia, where he also received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics. He completed a Ph.D. in physics at Princeton University followed by postdoctoral research at Stanford University. Van Raamsdonk was a Canada Research Chair and Sloan Foundation Fellow and is currently a Simons Investigator and a member of the Simons Foundation It From Qubit Collaboration. He was awarded the Canadian CAP/CRM Medal in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics in 2014. Van Raamsdonk’s research focuses on understanding quantum gravity using string theory. He is known for his work connecting ideas in quantum information theory with gravity and in particular the suggestion that spacetime emerges from quantum entanglement.

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Markus Buehler

Markus Buehler

Materials Scientist | Professor of Engineering, MIT

Markus J. Buehler is a materials scientist and engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a professor and the department head at MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, he leads the Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics (LAMM). His primary research focuses around materials science and mechanics of natural and biological protein materials (materiomics), how protein materials define our body and how they fail catastrophically (fracture, deformation, disease), large-scale atomistic modeling, protein based materials and biopolymers, interaction of chemistry and mechanics, bridging chemical scales to continuum theories of materials, modeling of bio-nano-materials phenomena, multiple-scale simulation, development and use of multi-scale simulation tools. His teaching activities center on the application of a computational materials science approach to understand functional material properties in biological and synthetic materials, specifically focused on mechanical properties. He has published several hundred scholarly articles on biomaterials design and modeling, material characterization and synthesis, and authored several books. He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award for exceptional distinction in teaching and in research or scholarship, the highest honor bestowed on young MIT faculty.

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Matias Zaldarriaga

Matias Zaldarriaga

2006 MacArthur Fellow, Physicist | Richard Black Professor of Astrophysics, Institute for Advanced Study

Matias Zaldarriaga is a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He has a Ph.D. from MIT and is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Gribov Medal from the European Physical Society, and the Helen B. Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society. He has made many influential and creative contributions to our understanding of the early universe, particle astrophysics, and cosmology as a probe of fundamental physics. Much of his work centers on understanding the clues about the earliest moments of our universe encoded in the Cosmic Microwave Background, the faint glow of radiation generated by the Big Bang, and in the distribution of matter in the late universe. In 2018, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Max Tegmark

Max Tegmark

Physicist, AI Researcher | Professor of Physics, MIT

Max Tegmark is a physicist, cosmologist, and machine learning researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also the scientific director of the Foundational Questions Institute and a co-founder of the Future of Life Institute, where he investigates the existential risk of artificial intelligence while advocating for beneficial use of technology. He is the author of over 200 publications, as well as The New York Times bestsellers Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality. After Tegmark earned his Ph.D. in physics at the University of California, Berkeley, he was an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania before landing at MIT in 2004. He was elected fellow of the American Physical Society in 2012.

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Michael Turner

Michael Turner

Theoretical Astrophysicist | Bruce V. & Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, Senior Strategic Advisor, The Kavli Foundation

Michael Turner is a theoretical cosmologist and the Bruce V. & Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. He was formerly the Assistant Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences for the US National Science Foundation. Turner helped establish the interdisciplinary field that combines together cosmology and elementary particle physics to understand the origin and evolution of the Universe. His research focuses on the earliest moments of creation, and he has made contributions to inflationary cosmology, particle dark matter and structure formation, the theory of big bang nucleosynthesis, and the nature of “dark energy,” a term he coined in 1998. His book The Early Universe, co-written with fellow Chicago cosmologist Rocky Kolb, is a standard text on the subject of cosmology. For his groundbreaking work, Turner has received the Dannie Heineman Prize, the Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society (APS), the Klopsted Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the Heineman Prize of the AAS and American Institute of Physics; and the Darwin Lecture of the Royal Astronomical Society. Currently, Turner is Chairman of the Board of the Aspen Center for Physics, a Director of the Fermi Research Alliance, and a member of the Governing Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS Council). He is also the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, which he helped establish. Turner received his B.S. in physics from California Institute of Technology and his M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. He also holds an honorary D.Sc. from Michigan State University and served as president of the American Physical Society in 2013.

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Miguel Nicolelis

Miguel Nicolelis

Neuroscientist | Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience, Duke School of Medicine

Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., is the Duke School of Medicine Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience at Duke University, professor of neurobiology, biomedical engineering, and psychology and neuroscience, and founder of Duke’s Center for Neuroengineering. He is founder and scientific director of the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute for Neuroscience of Natal. Nicolelis is also founder of the Walk Again Project, an international consortium of scientists and engineers, dedicated to the development of an exoskeleton device to assist severely paralyzed patients in regaining full body mobility. Nicolelis has dedicated his career to investigating how the brains of freely behaving animals encode sensory and motor information. As a result of his studies, he was first to propose and demonstrate that animals and human subjects can utilize their electrical brain activity to directly control neuroprosthetic devices via brain-machine interfaces (BMI).

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Nergis Mavalvala

Nergis Mavalvala

Physicist, MacArthur Fellow | Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics and Dean of the School of Science, MIT

Nergis Mavalvala is a physicist whose research focuses on the detection of gravitational waves and quantum measurement science. She has been working on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) since 1991 and was a member of the team that announced LIGO’s first detection of gravitational waves in 2016. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at the California Institute of Technology before joining the physics faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002, where she is currently the Dean of the School of Science. Mavalvala is the recipient of a 2010 MacArthur “genius” award and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Paul Steinhardt

Paul Steinhardt

Physicist | Professor of Physics, Princeton University

Paul J. Steinhardt is the Albert Einstein Professor in Science and Director, Princeton Center for Theoretical Science at Princeton University, where he is also on the faculty of both the Department of Physics and the Department of Astrophysical Sciences. His research focuses on the interface between fundamental physics (including particle physics and string theory), general relativity, and astrophysics, with specific interest in the mechanisms for driving inflationary expansion in the early universe, the connection between inflation and elementary particles, and the observational consequences of inflation. Over the last decade, Steinhardt’s research has turned to an alternative known as the "cyclic universe," in which the big bang is not the beginning of space and time, but rather a bounce from a pre-existing phase of contraction into a phase of expansion accompanied by the creation of hot matter and radiation. Steinhardt earned his Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University and is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the recipient of the P.A.M. Dirac Medal from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, the Oliver E. Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society, and the John Scott Award. He also has been a Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics, a Radcliffe Institute Fellow at Harvard, and a Moore Fellow at Caltech. He is the author of over 200 refereed articles, 100 reviews and popular articles, nine patents, four patents pending, three technical books, numerous popular articles, and two books—Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang with Neil Turok in 2007 and The Second Kind of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter in 2019. He is one of the co-discoverers of icosahedrite, the first natural quasicrystal, and, in 2011, led a successful geological expedition to Chukotka in Far Eastern Russia to find new information about its origin and retrieve more samples.

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Priyamvada Natarajan

Priyamvada Natarajan

Astrophysicist | Professor of Astronomy and Physics, Yale University

Priyamvada Natarajan is a professor at the Department of Astronomy and Physics at Yale. She is a theoretical astrophysicist interested in cosmology, gravitational lensing, and black hole physics. One of her research projects involves mapping the detailed distribution of dark matter in the universe exploiting the bending of light en-route to us from distant galaxies. She also works on deriving and understanding the mass assembly history of black holes over cosmic time. She has proposed the formation of an early population of massive black holes—direct collapse black holes—and their observational consequences and detectability. Recipient of many awards and honors for her research including the Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships, Natarajan also holds the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professorship at the Dark Cosmology Center in Copenhagen and an honorary professorship for life at Delhi University, India. Her first book Mapping the Heavens was published in 2016.

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Rai Weiss

Rai Weiss

2017 Nobel Laureate, Physicist | Professor of Physics, Emeritus, MIT

Rai Weiss is a Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 and the 2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics. Dr. Weiss is known for his pioneering measurements of the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation and his seminal leadership in the conception, design, and operation of the laser interferometer gravitational wave detector. He is currently working on the LIGO project, a joint Caltech and MIT effort, to observe gravitational waves and use them to study gravitation and astrophysics. He has received numerous scientific and group achievement awards from NASA, an MIT Excellence in Teaching Award, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Medaille de lADION Observatoire de Nice, the Gruber Cosmology Prize, and the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society. Dr. Weiss is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, and The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from MIT.

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Rein Ulijn

Rein Ulijn

Nanochemist | Director, Nanoscience Initiative, Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Rein Ulijn is the founding director of the Nanoscience Initiative at the Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He was previously professor and vice dean of research at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, where he continues to hold a position. Prior to this, he started his independent career at the University of Manchester. His education was from the University of Wageningen, Netherlands (M.Sc. biotechnology), Strathclyde (Ph.D. physical chemistry), Edinburgh (postdoc in chemistry). He has held several personal fellowships and won a number of awards, including the RSC Norman Heatley Medal and Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award. He was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Scotland’s national academy of science) in 2014.

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Robbert Dijkgraaf

Robbert Dijkgraaf

Mathematical Physicist | Director and Leon Levy Professor, Institute for Advanced Study

Robbert Dijkgraaf is Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world’s leading centers for curiosity-driven research in the sciences and humanities. Dijkgraaf is a mathematical physicist who has made important contributions to string theory and the advancement of science education. In addition to discovering deep connections between matrix models, topological string theory, and supersymmetric quantum field theory, Dijkgraaf has developed precise formulas for the counting of bound states that explain the entropy of certain black holes. Past President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and Co-Chair (since 2009) of the InterAcademy Council, Dijkgraaf is a distinguished public policy adviser and passionate advocate for science and the arts. Many of his activities, which have included frequent appearances on Dutch television, a monthly newspaper column, and the launch of the science education website Proefjes.nl are at the interface between science and society. In 2019, he received honorary doctorates from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Leiden University and was awarded the inaugural Iris Medal for Excellent Science Communication.

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Sam Sternberg

Sam Sternberg

Biochemist | Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University

Samuel H. Sternberg, Ph.D., runs a research laboratory at Columbia University, where he is an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. He received his B.A. in Biochemistry from Columbia University in 2007, graduating summa cum laude, and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2014. He earned graduate student fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, and received the Scaringe Award and the Harold Weintraub Graduate Student Award. Sternberg’s research focuses on the mechanism of DNA targeting by RNA-guided bacterial immune systems (CRISPR-Cas) and on the development of these systems for genome engineering. In addition to publishing his work in leading scientific journals, he recently co-authored a popular science trade book together with Jennifer Doudna, entitled A Crack in Creation: The Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution, about the discovery, development, and applications of CRISPR gene-editing technology.

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Samir Mathur

Samir Mathur

Physicist | Professor of Physics, The Ohio State University

Samir Mathur is a physicist with a background in string theory, general relativity, and astrophysics. He is best known for developing the Fuzzball conjecture as a resolution of the black hole information paradox, which asserts that the fundamental description of black holes is given by a quantum bound state of matter which has the same size as the corresponding classical black hole—an assertion that strengthens Stephen Hawking's original version. Mathur obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Bombay, held postdoctoral appointments at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and at Harvard University, and was a junior faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before becoming a professor at the Ohio State University.

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Sara Walker

Sara Walker

Astrobiologist | Assistant Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

Sara Walker is an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist, researching the origin of life and how to discover life on other worlds. She is developing a new theory to understand life, based on the fundamental role information plays in living matter. Her goal is to develop quantitative criteria for the origin of life and for identifying life on other worlds. Walker is Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Associate Director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems and an Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration Arizona State University. She is also Co-founder of the astrobiology-themed social website SAGANet.org, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Blue Marble Space. Her public appearances include being featured on “Through the Wormhole” and NPR’s Science Friday.

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Shep Doeleman

Shep Doeleman

Astronomer | Founding Director, Event Horizon Telescope Project, Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian

Shep Doeleman received his B.A. from Reed College in 1986 and left soon after for a year in Antarctica where he ran multiple experiments in the polar cusp program at McMurdo Station on the Ross Ice Shelf. With an appreciation for the challenges and rewards of instrumental work in difficult circumstances, he returned to complete a Ph.D. in Astrophysics at MIT. Now as an astronomer and senior research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, he leads the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) whose goal has been to image the event horizon of a black hole: the boundary where gravity is so strong that even light cannot escape. The EHT does this by linking radio dishes around the globe into a virtual Earth-sized telescope with the highest angular resolution possible from the surface of our planet. On April 10th, 2019, the EHT project announced the first image of a black hole, confirming (at least for the moment) Einstein’s theories at the boundary of a supermassive black hole, and opening a new window onto the study of these most mysterious objects. Doeleman is working now on next steps to improve the EHT, sharpening our focus on black holes even further by adding to the global array and extension to telescopes in space. The goal now is to move beyond still images and make real-time movies of black holes. Doeleman was awarded the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics as the Founding Director of the EHT Collaboration for the first image of a supermassive black hole.

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Stephen Wolfram

Stephen Wolfram

Computer Scientist | Founder and CEO, Wolfram Research

Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language; the originator of the Wolfram Physics Project; and the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research. Over the course of more than four decades, he has been a pioneer in the development and application of computational thinking—and has been responsible for many discoveries, inventions and innovations in science, technology and business. Wolfram has been involved with education for many years, founding the Wolfram Summer School in 2003, and in 2015 publishing An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language to introduce young students and others to modern computational thinking. In 2020, building on ideas developed over the course of nearly thirty years, Wolfram announced breakthroughs in finding a fundamental theory of physics, and launched the Wolfram Physics Project to stimulate broad involvement in this ambitious and historic project. Wolfram has been president and CEO of Wolfram Research since its founding in 1987. In addition to his corporate leadership, Wolfram is deeply involved in the development of the company's technology, personally overseeing the functional design of the company's core products on a daily basis, and constantly introducing new ideas and directions. His most recent and notable books include A Project to Find the Fundamental Theory of Physics, Adventurers of a Computational Explorer, A New Kind of Science, and Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People.

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Suzana Herculano-Houzel

Suzana Herculano-Houzel

Neuroscientist | Associate Professor of Psychology, Associate Director for Communications, Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt University

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Ph.D,. is a biologist and neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University, where she is associate professor in the Departments of Psychology and Biological Sciences. Her research focuses on what different brains are made of, how that matters in terms of cognition, energy cost, and longevity, and how the human brain is remarkable, but not special, in its makeup. She is the author of The Human Advantage (MIT Press, 2016), in which she tells the story of her discoveries on how many neurons different species have—and how the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of humans is the largest of them all, thanks to the calories amassed with a very early technology developed by our ancestors: cooking. She spoke at TEDGlobal 2013 and TEDxNashville 2018 and is an avid communicator of science to the general public.

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Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle

Oceanographer, Marine Biologist | President, Chairman, Mission Blue

National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia A. Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer who has been called a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress and “Hero for the Planet” by TIME magazine. Formerly chief scientist of NOAA, Earle is the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc., founder of Mission Blue and SEAlliance, and chair of the Advisory Councils of the Harte Research Institute and the Ocean in Google Earth. She has a B.S. degree from Florida State University, M.S. and Ph.D. from Duke University, and 22 honorary degrees. She has authored more than 190 scientific, technical, and popular publications; lectured in more than 80 countries; and appeared in hundreds of radio and television productions.

Earle has led more than a hundred expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours underwater, including leading the first team of women aquanauts during the Tektite Project in 1970; participating in ten saturation dives, most recently in July 2012; and setting a record for solo diving in 1,000-meter depth. Her research concerns marine ecosystems with special reference to exploration, conservation, and the development and use of new technologies for access and effective operations in the deep sea and other remote environments.

Earle’s more than one hundred national and international honors include the 2011 Royal Geographical Society Gold Medal, 2011 Medal of Honor from the Dominican Republic, 2009 TED Prize, Netherlands Order of the Golden Ark, Australia’s International Banksia Award, Italy’s Artiglio Award, the International Seakeepers Award, the International Women’s Forum, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Academy of Achievement, Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year, and medals from the Explorers Club, the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Lindbergh Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Sigma Xi, Barnard College, and the Society of Women Geographers.

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Veronika Hubeny

Veronika Hubeny

Theoretical Physicist | Professor of Physics, University of California, Davis

Veronika Hubeny is currently a Professor in the Department of Physics at University of California, Davis. She is one of the founding members of the Center for Quantum Mathematics and Physics (QMAP). She received her Ph.D. in Physics in 2001 from UC Santa Barbara, held a postdoctoral research position at Stanford University (and at UC Berkeley for a few months) followed by a Professorial position at Durham University in the U.K., before joining the faculty at UC Davis in 2015. Her research interests lie mainly in areas of string theory and quantum gravity. Hoping to elucidate the fundamental nature of spacetime, she is particularly fascinated by "holographic dualities" which describe higher-dimensional gravitational theory by a lower-dimensional non-gravitational one. Much of her work involves deeper understanding of black holes within this context, and their mysterious links to quantum information theory.

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