University faculty to attened AAAS

Scientists from across the country and the world will converge on Chicago this weekend for the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences.

The meeting, which starts Wednesday and ends Monday, will cover topics from across fields of science with the theme of the event centering on global challenges.

A number of University researchers will be attending the meeting. 

The AAAS is an international, non-profit organization that aims at advancing science and technology, according to the group’s website. 

“I really think it represents the collective voice of science here in the United States and probably around the world as well,” said Stephen Boppart, bioengineering professor. 

The topics that will be covered at sessions at the meeting range from climate change to evolutionary biology.

“Every year they tend to have more topical discussions at these meetings … Things such as global warming, or just generalized health and healthcare, global health, energy, those types of very active scientific topics,” Boppart said. “So being able to hear the general state of these different areas is going to be really interesting as well.” 

This contrasts the more technical meetings or talks that researchers attend where everything is centered around a certain area of study. 

“I think an AAAS meeting can cross a wider range of topics so it’s a good chance to see top researchers and thought leaders in a number of different fields that might be kind of adjacent to your own area of expertise, but at the same time, could be enlightening in terms of opening up new ideas or new opportunities for cooperation,” said John Rogers, material sciences and engineering professor.  

Among other topics, anthropology professor Kathryn Clancy is speaking in a symposium called “Building Babies: Development, Evolution and Human Health.” 

“I think it’s going to be a really fun way of bringing some more evolutionary ways of thinking to AAAS,” Clancy said.

Clancy, who is also a science writer, is looking forward to seeing some her friends in that business.

“It certainly covers a whole lot of scientific disciplines, and so I think a lot of big people tend to go, so you tend to hear some hot new research or hear from really established big name folks,” Clancy said. “It’s a really good networking opportunity for science writers for that reason as well.”

Christine Herman, a graduate student studying journalism and a former Illini Media employee, will be attending for networking purposes as she prepares to graduate in May.

Herman, who holds a doctorate in chemistry, is hoping to network with different science magazines for internships and jobs in the future. 

“There is all kinds of interesting science that is going to be presented, but the big reason for me at this point is that I’m getting ready to graduate and launch my career, so it’s a really important time for me to start meeting other people in my field,” Herman said. 

Networking and getting to know other people in various fields is not limited simply to journalists. Getting to know other scientists in other fields and from across the globe is something Boppart is looking forward to at his first AAAS meeting.

“Obviously here in the US, we have some idea of the status and thinking of science and engineering, but I don’t always know how other people feel about that, so I think that’s going to be really interesting,” Boppart said.

Miranda can be reached at [email protected]