Invited Speakers' Abstract and Biography

Keynote Speaker

Dean William EasterlingWilliam Easterling

Dean, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

"Pasteur's Quadrant in the Twenty First Century: Why We Need to Rediscover Fundamental Research"

Abstract:  Differences between fundamental or basic and applied research are often difficult to distinguish clearly.  In its purest form, fundamental research is performed without thought of practical application; its conduct provides general knowledge about nature and its laws. The function of applied research is to provide complete answers to practical problems, often using an amalgam of fundamental knowledge.  For example, the fundamental principles of nuclear magnetic resonance were developed by I. Rabi at Columbia University in the mid-1930s, but it took 40 years for them to be applied by P. Lauterbur at SUNY-Stony Brook in the first magnetic resonance image of a human in 1977.  But Donald Stokes in his book Pasteur’s Quadrant argues that the fundamental-applied research dichotomy is not helpful because “fundamental” discoveries often emerge from “applied” or even “developmental” activities.  Pasteur’s Quadrant allows for all combinations of research to yield both fundamental and practical knowledge.  That has become the dominant model of US research policy.  Vannevar Bush argued in his influential report to President Franklin Roosevelt, Science, the Endless Frontier, “there is a perverse law governing research…that applied research drives out pure (basic) research.”   I assert that pure fundamental research, Pasteur’s Quadrant apart, has an important place in our lives and there are signs that in the US we have lost our way in the promotion of fundamental, especially high-risk, research in all of our sciences.  It is time to retake the high ground.

Bio: Dr. William E. Easterling III is the dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and professor of geography and earth system science at Penn State University.  Dr. Easterling was trained as an economic geographer and climatologist and holds three degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Easterling has held posts at the Illinois State Water Survey, Resources for the Future, Inc., and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Dr. Easterling joined Penn State in 1997 as an associate professor of geography and a faculty affiliate in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.  Before his appointment as dean in July 2007, he served as the founding director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment from 2001 to 2007. He is an internationally recognized expert on how climate change will likely affect the Earth's food supply and was nominated by the White House to serve as a convening lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report’s Chapter on Food, Fibre, Forestry, and Fisheries. The authors of the IPCC Assessment Report were co-awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore. In 2009, Dr. Easterling was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has authored more than 80 refereed scientific publications in the area of food and climate, and testified before the House Committee on Science and Technology on climate change. Dr. Easterling has chaired or served on numerous international and national committees, including those of the United Nations, National Research Council, National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and many other federal agencies.

Technical Talks

Tom RichardSusan McHale

Director, Social Science Research Institute

"The Social and Behavioral Sciences at Penn State: Addressing Critical Human and Social Problems in a Rapidly Changing World"

Abstract: Research in the social and behavioral sciences ranges from studies of large-scale social forces, including socio-economic, political, and socio-cultural influences, to dynamics in smaller group settings such as work organizations, schools, and families. It also encompasses research on behavior--from overt actions to underlying psychological processes such as cognitive, emotional, and motivational functioning.  And, there is an emphasis on the role of human behavior in adapting to change, in resilience in the face of challenge, and in effecting change--in the self as well as in individuals’ larger social and physical environments. In these ways, social science research extends from the genome to the globe, and its impacts range from the development of evidence-based and cost effective policies that target vulnerable populations, to education programs that enhance learning and skill building and everyday behavioral practices that promote health and prevent disease.  SSRI’s 2014-2019 strategic research directions capture many of the research activities of Penn State social scientists and include: the Human System, Social Disparities, Smart and Connected Health, Innovative Methods, and Dissemination and Implementation Science. Projects that exemplify each of these strategic directions will be described..

Bio: Susan McHale is Distinguished Professor of Human Development and professor of demography.  She has been director of the Social Science Research Institute since 2007 and, since 2009, has served as co-director of the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Professor McHale received her B.A. in psychology from Bucknell University and Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Professor McHale studies bio-psycho-social processes underlying human behavior, health and development across the lifespan.  Together with her collaborator, Dr. Ann Crouter, she directs the Penn State Family Relationships Project, a longitudinal study of family life and youth development that has been funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) since 1995. Professor McHale’s research focuses on youth development from childhood through young adulthood and highlights the effects of family experiences on both youth and their parents--particularly family roles, relationships, and daily activities and how these family dynamics are linked to psychological and physical health and development.  Professor McHale also studies diversity in the socio-cultural contexts of family dynamics, including how cultural values and practices have implications for family life and well-being in Mexican-origin and African American families. Her research on family influences uses a range of methods, including experimental, long-term longitudinal, and daily diary designs to illuminate complex family systems processes.  Professor McHale has published over 200 research articles and is co-author/editor of eight books.


Tom RichardTom Richard

Director, Institute of Energy and Environment

"Accelerating Innovation for Energy and the Environmental Solutions"

Abstract: Penn State is rich with energy and environmental research and innovation.  This presentation will showcase new and exciting research results on energy science, policy and technology, water and biogeochemical cycles, climate and ecosystem change, and health-environment interactions. A particular focus this year will be the Energy University initiative, which includes transformative new strategies for cutting-edge research, hands-on education, and utilization of all of our campuses and the Philadelphia Navy Yard as a living laboratory and operating station for collaborative industry-university project development, demonstration, and evaluation. By using the flexible Penn State IP policies to break down barriers to collaboration, we are forging deep interactions with company R&D teams, leveraging the breadth of Penn State's interdisciplinary expertise, accelerating the innovation cycle, and providing exceptional training for students. These students are the next generation talent that will be crucial for both addressing the "Wicked Problems" that challenge many aspects of society, and for building successful and profitable solutions in the energy and environmental domains.

Bio:  Tom Richard is a professor of agricultural and biological engineering and the director of Penn State’s Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE), where he coordinates a network of almost 500 faculty engaged in innovative interdisciplinary research on fossil and renewable energy, energy efficiency, water, climate, ecosystems, and environmental health. 

Dr. Richard currently directs the $10 million NEWBio Sustainable Bioenergy Consortium for the USDA, and serves as the deputy technical director for the DOE’s National Risk Assessment Partnership for geologic carbon sequestration. Dr. Richard is the author or co-author of over 140 research and technical publications and is a Fellow and Past President of the Institute of Biological Engineering.  He has a B.S. from the University of California at Berkeley, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell University.

Jenni EvansJenni Evans

Interim Director, Institute of CyberScience

"Cyberscience in Service of Society"

Abstract: Cyberscience—including science driven by big data and big simulations—is often said to be transforming the scientific process. Whereas science has traditionally relied upon observation and experimentation to develop knowledge, the advance of high-performance computing technology has made other methods of discovery possible. Researchers can mine immense databases for subtle patterns or perform millions of simulations of physical systems to generate accurate predictions about those systems. But if cyberscience is changing scientific inquiry, how will these changes manifest in the world around us? How can the power of twenty thousand computer cores be put to the service of society? I want to highlight a number of ways that cyberscience at Penn State is being used to make an impact. We enable socially relevant work across the disciplines—from psychology and political science to geosciences and meteorology to mechanical engineering and materials science, to name just a few. In offering some case studies of the projects we enable, I will demonstrate that cyberscience is not just a tool for gaining knowledge about the world, but a vital force for improving the human condition.

Bio: Jenni L. Evans is the interim director of Penn State’s Institute for CyberScience (ICS), a professor of meteorology and atmospheric science, and an associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute. Dr. Evans is a research fellow in Penn State’s Institutes of Energy and the Environment.

Her research encompasses tropical cyclones (hurricanes) from their genesis to decay or landfall. She has recently been exploring development of African Easterly Waves and how they evolve into hurricanes. 

Jenni Evans was one of a small group of scientists who developed a new understanding of extratropically transitioning (ET) tropical cyclones. ET storms can have potentially devastating societal impacts, even in Canada, Western Europe, and Japan. She collaborated on developing a framework for mapping the evolution of all cyclonic storms, the Cyclone Phase Space (CPS). The CPS is now used in operations at the US National Hurricane Center.

Dr. Evans is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society. Other current and former professional activities include the US Weather Research Program Science Steering Committee, Science Steering Committee for the US THORPEX Pacific Asian Regional Campaign, Advisory Board for the NOAA/NSF Developmental Testbed Center (for operational and research numerical models), and editor of AMS Monthly Weather Review.

Peter HudsonPeter Hudson

Director, The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

"Threats and solutions to global health issues"

Abstract:  Over the past 15 years our technical abilities in the life sciences have accelerated hugely, so we can now sequence an individual's genome for less than $1000. We are examining how your genes interact with the environment and your microbiome to shape the phenotype and personalized health. We have the tools and data to obtain insights into understanding human variation, the big challenge that Charles Darwin started to address more than 150 years ago. At the same time, the issues have become much more global than local. Emergence of infectious disease such as Ebola or Zika on one side of the world are threatening human health on the other side of the globe. Food security issues are also global, and while people in the developing world may not have electricity they have phones and other technologies. I will talk about some of the fine work being conducted at Penn State that will help with these issues, and how important it is for us to work with and train people in parts of Africa and Asia.

Bio: Peter Hudson is the director of the The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and The Willaman Professor of Biology at The Pennsylvania State University. At Penn State he builds research teams in The Life Sciences in an interdisciplinary manner.

He earned his B.Sc from The University of Leeds and his doctorate from Magdalen College, Oxford University, where he was in The Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology.

He investigates the dynamics of infectious disease in wildlife, how diseases spread through wild animal populations and how they impact host dynamics. He undertakes revealing field experiments and applies theory to understand how parasites interact with their hosts, other natural enemies, and shape host dynamics. He demonstrated that parasites are the cause of unstable population cycles in red grouse, and showed how parasites shared between hosts can lead to localized host extinction.

More recently he has been investigating how new disease invades hosts and the impact they have and is working on big-horned sheep in Idaho, tortoises in the Mojave, and wolves in Montana. He is adjunct faculty at The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science & Technology in Arusha (Tanzania), where he advises a number of students working in the Maasai Steppe.

He has published more than 300 scientific papers and 4 books on the ecology of infectious disease. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2008, a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Scotland in 2010, a fellow of AAAS in 2012, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from The University of London in 2014. He won The Carlton Herman Award from the U.S. Wildlife Disease Association in 2005, and the Laurent Perrier Award for Game Conservation in 1985. In 2002, he was named an honorary member of the British Falconers Club in recognition of his research on grouse and their natural enemies. Dr. Hudson is also the founding director of the Penn State Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and a faculty affiliate of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. He moved to the USA from the University of Stirling to Penn State in 2002. His passion is biology and he spends his spare time photographing animals and plants and studying nature but also runs his own nature reserve and builds things out of wood in his workshop.

Clive Randall

Director, Materials Research Institute

"Future Materials Manufacturing to Address Sustainability"

Abstract:  Collectively, researchers at The Pennsylvania State University have academic world leadership in the design, characterization, and modelling of new materials for many different functionalities. To explain and broaden this impact in society, it requires the transition of materials to industry and the establishment of cost effective manufacture of materials, providing desired and reproducible properties. With limited resources, environmental concerns, and globalized competition, we have to consider many more parameters in the discovery and development of materials going forwards. We can readily see that the energy budget, CO2 footprint for a cradle-to-grave lifecycle viewpoint will have to be embraced by industry and be carefully considered within university research. Here we will highlight some of our Penn State initiatives that embrace manufacturing of materials, including additive manufacturing, coupling other forms of energy to better enable kinetics to process at lower temperatures, utilizing biological processes and hydrothermal processes to develop sustainable production methods and to integrate and design new organic-inorganic composites.   

Bio:  Clive A. Randall is a professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Materials Research Institute at The Pennsylvania State University.    He received a B.Sc. with Honors in physics in 1983 from the University of East Anglia (UK), and a Ph.D. in experimental physics from the University of Essex (UK) in 1987.  He was director for the Center for Dielectric Studies, 1997-2013, and co-director of the Center for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics, 2013-2015, still serving as Technical Advisor.  He has authored/co-authored over 360 technical papers and holds 13 patents (with 1 pending) in the field of electroceramics.  His research interests are in the area of discovery, processing, material physics, and compositional design of functional materials with different processing and characterization methods. Prof. Randall has received a number of awards from various societies, including the American Ceramic Society Fulrath Award; Fellow of the American Ceramic Society; Academician of the World Academy of Ceramics; Spriggs Phase Equilibria Award; Friedberg Lecture at the American Ceramic Society; Edward C. Henry Best Paper of the Year from the American Ceramics Society Electronics Division; and the IEEE UFFC-S Ferroelectrics Recognition Award.