By MARTY LEVINE
“We’ve always focused on what are the hottest areas of science right now,” says Chuck Staresinic about Science 2018, the annual two-day event, this year on Oct. 18 and 19, which features presentations on the latest research by Pitt faculty and students as well as talks by scientists from across the U.S.
Staresinic, communications director for the Office of Academic Affairs and International Programs in the Health Sciences, says, “There’s really something for everyone” in this free event. It covers everything from the secret lives of bacteria and clinical decision-making in oncology to helping the public stay focused on facts in public discourse about scientific topics. Each of a dozen themed spotlight sessions features presentations from four Pitt faculty.
“They approach their work from different perspectives using different tools, and that makes for a very good presentation and discussion,” he says. “That approach can sometimes lead to unexpected insight.”
Four headliners offer featured talks this year:
- Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University on “Tiny Conspiracies: Cell-to-Cell Communication in Bacteria”: Bassler discovered the universal use of chemical communication within bacteria colonies — how bacteria collectively decide “when to lay low and when there are enough of them to mount an attack against their host,” Staresinic explains. “That has a lot of implications for health care.”
- Feng Zhang of Massachusetts Institute of Technology on “Development of CRISPR-Cas Systems for Genome Editing”: “Zhang is one of the pioneers of genome editing — editing DNA almost as easily as you would edit film using software,” Staresinic says. “We’re rapidly moving toward being able to edit the genome to alter organisms and potentially to cure human disease by editing out disease-causing genes.”
- Arthur Lupia of the University of Michigan on “Communicating Science in Challenging Environments”: Staresinic labels him “an expert on how we communicate science, in how we take scientific information and process that information, or perhaps ignore it, in making decisions,” from science policy to electoral choices.
- Paul E. Turner of Yale University on “Using Viruses to Select for Reduced Virulence of Bacterial Pathogens in Human Patients”: “The work in his lab is highly interdisciplinary,” Staresinic notes. “They use classic microbiology approaches, but also computation and mathematical modelling, and they pull all that together to get some answers about viruses that are of importance to humans.”
The day also features poster presentations of student research and a “Scientists as Artists” display of the humanities-focused side of Pitt science practitioners.
“We hope that attendees leave with a new appreciation for how this kind of interaction among scientists — an interdisciplinary, campus-wide interaction — is important and valuable,” Staresinic says, “because it can lead to new and unexpected ideas and interactions.”
The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required — either online here or at the event, which is divided between Alumni Hall and the Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center.
Marty Levine is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.