Meet the speakers of the Falling Walls Conference 2019 confirmed so far:
Alfred Wegener Institute of Marine and Polar Research, Bremerhaven
Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius is Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute of the Helmholtz Center of Marine and Polar Research, Germany’s national polar research centre. She is a deep-sea and polar researcher and an expert of marine biogeochemistry, biological oceanography, deep-sea biology and marine microbial ecology. Her institute is at the helm of an unprecedented mission involving hundreds of scientists from 19 different countries – the MOSAiC expedition, which sees the research icebreaker ‘Polarstern’ drifting through the Arctic ocean to take the closest look ever at the Arctic as the epicenter of global warming. At Falling Walls, Antje will talk about this exceptional endeavour, and explain how the wonder of penetrating the unknown has turned into an urgent quest to understand what’s happening in the Arctic and the impact on the health of our planet.
Hannah Arendt International Institute of Artivism, Havana
Art and Political Activism
Tania Bruguera is an internationally acclaimed Cuban artist, whose politically motivated installations and performances engage the audience as active participants rather than spectators. She proposes practical solutions to sociopolitical problems through an approach she calls arte útil (useful art) and her research focuses on how art can effect social change and teach civic responsibility in the face of oppression. Alongside works examining the social implications of political and economic power, Tania has also developed more long-term projects, such as setting up an institute in Havana which offers residencies for international artists that combine their artistic work with political activism.
University of Zimbabwe
Dixon Chibanda is Professor of Psychiatry and Public Health at the University of Zimbabwe, Associate Professor of Global Mental Health at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Director of the African Mental Health Research Initiative (AMARI). Dixon is a leading academic, practitioner and advocate for cutting-edge public mental health initiatives. His research focuses on developing sustainable community-based mental health programs such as the Friendship Bench, which trains Zimbabwean grandmothers as lay health workers to deliver counselling from a wooden bench. The project has been successfully scaled up and not only replicated in other countries in Africa but is also attracting attention for its potential to improve mental health in other underserved communities around the world.
Grégoire Courtine and Jocelyne Bloch
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne / Lausanne University Hospital
Grégoire Courtine is Associate Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), where he is director of a laboratory within the Center for Neuroprosthetics and the Brain Mind Institute. Grégoire and his team create innovative technologies and interventions to restore motor functions after central nervous system disorders like paraplegia. Jocelyn Bloch is a neurosurgeon in charge of the functional neurosurgery unit at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). Grégoire and Jocelyn recently combined forces to achieve groundbreaking progress in their field: a surgically implanted wireless device which emits a very precise electrical stimulation to the spinal cord, mimicking how the brain would operate in a healthy person and thus enabling people with spinal cord damages to get on their feet again.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Sheperd (Shep) Doeleman is an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the project director of the Event Horizon Telescope. 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, Shep and his team of 200 researchers captured the first ever image of a supermassive black hole. This image, which took the world by storm when it was released in April 2019, not only revolutionizes our understanding of the universe and heralds a new era of precision, horizon-scale observations of black holes, but has already become an icon, representative of the unimaginable, awe-striking unknowns lurking in space.
Climate Change Economics
Dabo Guan is a Distinguished Professor at Tsinghua University, China, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, UK. He specialises in environmental economics for international climate change mitigation and adaptation in both developed and developing countries. He was a Lead Author for the Working Group III of the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).Dabo’s special expertise in the driving forces behind environmental and economic policies in China makes him particularly well placed to act as a bridge between the interests and sustainability efforts of both China and Western countries.
Technical University of Munich
Robotics and Machine Learning
Sami Haddadin is a leading figure and innovator in the interface between robotics and machine intelligence. As Full Professor at the Technical University of Munich, Germany (TUM), and founding director of its School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence, one of Sami’s goals is to bring safe, intuitive and reliable robotics to the real world. To this end he has successfully created human-centered robots with an artificial sense of touch that can safely interact with people and learn during these interactions how to self-improve. His own robotics start-up FRANKA EMIKA pursues the vision of robots forming the next level of tools that make our lives easier.
International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi
Molecular Plant Pathology
Segenet Kelemu is the Director General and CEO of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Nairobi, Kenya. After several years applying cutting-edge bioscience in the US and Latin America, Segenet returned to Africa in 2007 to contribute to the continent’s development. As a molecular plant pathologist with first-hand experience of the challenges and successes associated with African agriculture, she focuses on developing innovative and accessible solutions to problems caused by insects and plant disease, including genetic engineering and biopesticides. Within the framework of icipe she strives to tackle the interlinked problems of poverty, poor health, low agricultural productivity and environmental degradation.
Sang Yup Lee
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Sang Yup Lee is Dean and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). A pioneering leader in systems metabolic engineering, Sang Yup harnesses biotechnology to create microorganisms that are capable of producing chemicals, fuels and materials from renewable biomass in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. As chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Biotechnology he is a strong advocate for the increasing role of biotechnology in addressing a range of global problems such as climate change, aging societies, food security, energy security and infectious diseases.
University of Maryland
Christopher Monroe is Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland and a Fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute. Chris experiments in the areas of atomic, molecular, and optical physics and quantum information science. Following unprecedented success in teleporting quantum information between matter separated by a large distance in 2008, his group has continued to carry out pioneering work using ultrafast laser pulses and trapped ions. Most significantly, they have proposed and made the first steps toward a scalable quantum computer that could eclipse the performance of conventional information systems. Chris is also the founder of ‘IonQ’, whose use of trapped atomic ion technology rivals the silicon-based quantum computers being built by some big hitting competitors such as Google and IBM.
Heidelberg University Hospital
Faith Osier is a Professor of Malaria Immunology and Group Leader at the Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany and at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kenya. Faith’s focus on understanding how people develop a natural immunity to malaria and her research into these mechanisms have won international recognition and several prestigious awards. Her ultimate goal is to eliminate malaria for the health and economic empowerment of Africa. In the same vein she is committed to improving the prospects of African Scientists – a mission that will be bolstered by her recent appointment of president of the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS), where she will oversee an effort to train 1,000 African PhD students in immunology over the next 10 years.
Mark Post is Chair of Physiology and Vice Dean of Biomedical Technology at Maastricht University. He is trained as a Medical Doctor and has been investigating ‘in vitro meat’ since 2008. He is widely and internationally acclaimed for having developed the world’s first hamburger bioengineered from bovine muscle stem cells in 2013, proving it is scientifically possible to create edible meat from cultured cells. Mark also serves as the Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder of MosaMeat, a company which aims to develop tissue engineering into a technology that can mass-produce affordable meat without harming animals, leading to a far more sustainable food system as well as health benefits for humans.
New York University
Meredith Whittaker is a Distinguished Research Scientist at New York University (NYU). With more than a decade’s experience in industry, she has also worked extensively on matters of privacy and security, advising institutions such as the White House, the European Parliament and many other governments and civil society organisations on both policy direction and technical implementation. Meredith is the co-founder and co-director of the AI Now Institute at NYU, which investigates the political and ethical impact of artificial intelligence on society. Meredith is vocal about the ethical dangers of AI and was part of the recent movement that called for Google to rethink their AI ethics council.
University of California, Los Angeles
Neuroscience and Developmental Psycholinguistics
Maryanne Wolf is the Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. An internationally renowned cognitive neuroscientist and dyslexia specialist, her research and writing revolve around global literacy and the effects of the digital age on our reading abilities. Maryanne’s work explores the decline of deep-reading skills in today’s society and proposes policies as well as solutions for parents and educators to improve the reading skills of children in various age groups. As member of an influential global literacy initiative, she also strives to reduce world poverty by bringing literacy to as many children as possible.
Harvard Business School
Shoshana Zuboff is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School (retired). Over the last decades her research has focused on the digital revolution, the evolution of capitalism and the historical emergence of psychological individuality. With several notable publications under her belt, her most recent and highly acclaimed work critically examines the business model that underpins the digital world, exposing the emergence of ‘surveillance capitalism’ – a system whereby free services used by billions of people are exploited by the providers to monitor user behaviour, often without their explicit consent. Shoshana’s book has already drawn comparisons to some of the most distinct socio-economic heavyweights of our times and promises to become a seminal reference work in years to come.