Invited speakers

Magdalena Skipper
Editor in Chief, Nature, Chief Editorial Advisor, Nature Portfolio

Contributing to the special topic: “Evaluating the role of literacy in evolution during the COVID-19 crisis”

Magdalena is a geneticist by training and has considerable editorial and publishing experience: having started in Nature Publishing Group in 2001, she was Chief Editor of Nature Reviews Genetics, Senior Editor for genetics and genomics at Nature, and more recently Executive Editor for the Nature Partner Journals. Before joining Nature as Editor in Chief she was Editor in Chief of Nature Communications. She studied sex determination at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK, and Notch signalling in the vertebrate gut epithelium at the ICRF Laboratories (CRUK today), London. She is passionate about mentorship, transparent science and clarity in science communication. She has a keen interest in innovation in science publishing. Magdalena is based in the London office.

Oded Rechavi
Full Professor in the Life Sciences Faculty at Tel Aviv University

Contributing to the topic: Interdisciplinarity, tradeoffs between specialization and explore new fields through collaboration with experts in other fields

His mission is “to challenge fundamental long-held scientific dogmas”. Using C. elegans nematodes he provided direct evidence that an acquired trait can be inherited, worked to elucidate the mechanism and rules of small RNA-mediated transgenerational inheritance, discovered that the nematodes’ brains can control the behavior of their progeny, and identified a simple neuronal circuit-level mechanism that explains economic irrationality. Aside from his work on nematodes, Oded utilized genome sequencing of ancient DNA to “piece together” fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and demonstrated that Toxoplasma parasites can be genetically engineered to deliver drugs to the nervous system. He is an ERC Fellow, and was awarded many prestigious prizes, including the Polymath prize (Schmidt Futures), the Kadar award, the Blavatnik award, the Krill Wolf award, the Alon, and F.I.R.S.T (Bikura) Prizes, and the Gross Lipper Fellowship. Prof. Rechavi was selected as one of the “10 Most Creative People in Israel Under 40”, and one of the “40 Most Promising People in Israel Under 40”.

Ute Harms
Department of Biology Education at IPN, Kiel (Germany)

Contributing to the topic: “Challenges and opportunities to improve the scientific literacy on evolution through formal or informal education”

Dr. Harms is Director at the IPN –Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education and Full Professor for Biology Education at the University of Kiel (Germany) since 2007. She owns a Ph.D. in Cell Biology and has worked as a high school teacher for several years. From 2000 to 2007 she held Chairs for Biology Education at the  University Of  Munich  and  Bremen. As  a  VisitingProfessor(2011  to  2013)  she collaborated  with  her  colleague  Prof.  Lena  Tibell  at Linköping  University  (Sweden)in  the EvoVis project dealing with questions about how to enhance the understanding of evolution focusing on  threshold  concepts and  visualizations.Competitive  grants  she  received until today add up to more than 9 million Euros. Her publication list comprises today more than 160  contributions  to  national  and  international  journals  and  books several  of  them addressing research about evolution teaching and learning.

Harmit Malik
PhD. Professor of  Associate Director of Basic Sciences at Fred Huch, Seatle.
Ph.D., Biology, University of Rochester, 1999
B.Tech., Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, 1993
President of the Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Contributing to the topic: “The challenge of dealing with ideologies, interests, beliefs and evolutionary theory”

Harmit Malik is a renowned researcher in the field of genetics and basic experimental evolution. Despite not yet reaching 50, he has held positions of exceptional seniority, in the same way that he has always received various mentions and honors for his risky research investigating concepts bordering on genetics and evolution. He has made remarkable contributions on topics such as: The genetic conflict between host and pathogen, the paradox of the Red Queen “It takes a long time to stay in the same place”

When we strive to conquer deadly viruses, evolutionary biologist Dr. Harmit Malik believes we need to understand that their complexity and ferocity has been bred through tens of millions of years of tugging and pulling against the human race.”In this genetic conflict, either the host is winning or the virus is winning,” Malik said, pointing to the roughly 8 percent of the human genome that is made up of old retroviruses that we carry inside of us like bits of shrapnel from ancient wars.

Dr. Elizabeth Hénaff
Assistant Professor | NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Contributing to the topic: Interdisciplinarity, tradeoffs between specialization and explore new fields through collaboration with experts in other fields

Elizabeth is a computational biologist with an art practice. Her academic trajectory started with a Bachelors in Computer Science, followed by a Master’s in Plant Biology (both from UT Austin) and a PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Barcelona. 

At the center of her work is a fascination with the way living beings interact with their environment. This inquiry has produced a body of work that ranges from scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, to projects with landscape architects, to working as an artist in environments from SVA to the MIT Media Lab. She has made contributions to understanding how plants respond to the force of gravity, how genome structure changes in response to stress, and most recently has turned her attention to the ubiquitous and invisible microbial component of our environment. Some recent highlights include the design for the bioremediation of a local toxic Superfund site which won a design competition, had a gallery exhibit, and a scientific publication. Her work with the MIT Media Lab led to the development of a novel approach to urban microbiome sampling using honeybees, an exhibit at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, and a curriculum for international workshops. Most recently, she has shown work at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC and the Detroit Science Gallery. She has consistently made the tools – software, wetware, hardware – needed to answer her research questions. 

She currently holds an Assistant Professor position in the Technology, Culture and Society department at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in New York City. 

Kostas Kampourakis
University of Geneve (Section of Biology and IUFE)

Contributing to the topic:  “Challenges and opportunities to improve the scientific literacy on evolution through formal or informal education”.

Kostas Kampourakis is a science educator currently working at the University of Geneva. He is interested in the teaching and the public understanding of science, especially of evolution and genetics as well as of the nature of science. He has published dozens of scientific papers on various topics as well as authored and edited several books for specialized audiences and the general public. Kostas broad interests and competence will provide our meeting with the points of view of science education and philosophy of science to understand the influence that evolutionary biology may have on scientific literacy in the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

A. Cecile J.W. Janssens
Research professor of translational epidemiology of the Emory University, Atlanta, USA. 

Contributing to the topic: “The challenge of dealing with ideologies, interests, beliefs and evolutionary theory”

Her research concerns the translation of genomics to applications in clinical and public health practice, with a focus on the genetic prediction of multifactorial diseases, focuses on theoretical and methodological questions in prediction and the assessment of the clinical validity and utility of predictive testing. She has written many invited commentaries about the appropriate use and interpretation of research methods and statistics. In recent years, she developed CoCites, a fundamentally new method for searching scientific literature. This method uses citations instead of keywords to find articles on the same specific topic. The method is ideal for literature reviews and meta-analyses, but also for quick searches to find the best-known studies on a niche topic. Also, she teaches Critical Thinking, Grant Writing, and Scientific Writing At the Rollins School of Public Health  and moderates the capstone projects and the journal club for our PhD students. At Emory College, she teaches Critiquing Health News.

David Jou Mirabent
Physicist and a poet, author of a wide literary, essay and scientific work

Contributing to the topic: “The challenge of dealing with ideologies, interests, beliefs and evolutionary theory”

David Jou is a physicist and a poet, author of a wide literary, essay and scientific work. PhD in Physics at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, from 1989 he is full professor of Physics of Condensed Matter at this University, and doctor honoris causa of the Universitat de Girona. He has published more than 270 research papers and several research books and monographs. As a poet, he has published 23 books with a special focus on scientific, religious, political topics, as well as movies, paintings and arts. His essays are one of the most active examples of the third culture, namely, a bridge between science and humanities. Some examples are God, cosmos, chaos: horizons of the dialog between science and religion (2008), The expressivity of Creation (with Mònica Rozman, 2010) and The poetry of infinite: science and mysticism (2012). He has also translated to Catalan and Spanish language several books by Stephen Hawking as the Brief history of time, The universe in a nutshell or The grand design. As a popular-science writer, he was a collaborator of the section of science and technology of La Vanguardia (the main newspaper in Barcelona) from 1984 to 1994, and has given more than 350 public lectures.

Leslea J. Hlusko
Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley / CENIEH, Spain.

Contributing to the topic: Interdisciplinarity, tradeoffs between specialization and explore new fields through collaboration with experts in other fields

She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1992. After four years exploring the non-academic life in Washington, D.C., she went to Penn State University, where she earned an M.A. (1998) and Ph.D. (2000).  Leslea was an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 2000-2004, and then moved to the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley. She received tenure in 2008 and was promoted to full professor in 2018. In 2021, she moved into a research professor position at CENIEH, Spain

Fernando González Candelas
FullProfessor of Genetics, Instituto de Biología Integrativa de Sistemas UV-CSIC,
I2SysBio, and Departamento de Genética. Universitat de València.

Contributing to the special topic: “Evaluating the role of literacy in evolution during the COVID-19 crisis”

His research interests are in population and evolutionary genetics, molecular and evolutionary epidemiology, molecular systematics and genomics, bioinformatics and conservation biology. he is  currently working on the molecular evolutionary epidemiology of different pathogens, mainly RNA viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and bacteria, such as Legionella pneumophila, Treponema pallidum, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae, among others. Recently, his lab started to analyze the genomic epidemiology of antibiotic resistance in Enterobacteriaceae. His basic approach is the analysis of nucleotide sequence variability at different levels, from intrapatient to world-wide samples, and from particular genes to complete genomes, depending on the specific goals of the different projects. Previously, he has studied the population and evolutionary biology of endemic Mediterranean plants, such as Limonium (Plumbaginaceae) species, by using an array of genetic markers (RAPDs, AFLPs, microsatellites, isozymes) and including the analysis of quantitative traits. He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers and written two books.

Dr. Josefa González
P.I. Evolutionary and Functional Genomics Lab (http://gonzalezlab.eu)
Tenured Scientist at the Spanish Research Council (CSIC).

Dr. González lab research combines omic approaches with detailed molecular and phenotypic analyses to identify and characterize adaptive mutations, and in particular those induced by transposable element insertions. She is currently a council member of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE) and the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB). She is the co-founder of the European Drosophila Population Genomics Consortium (droseu.net): a grass-root, collaborative, gender-balanced effort that brings together 61 labs from 27 European countries and beyond. She is also committed to increase public awareness of science by co-leading a citizen science project that involves high school teachers and students in an ongoing research project (http://melanogaster.eu) and actively participating in several outreach activities.

Fernando Simón Soria
Coordinator of the Spanish IHR Focal Point and GOARN, member of the Advisory Forum of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and National focal point for Scientific Advice and member of the Health Security Committee of European Union.

Contributing to the special topic: “Evaluating the role of literacy in evolution during the COVID-19 crisis”

Fernando Simón coordinates the public health response for the COVID-19 crisis in Spain, is member of European Commission Advisory Panel, the National Scientific advisory committee and the National Committee for the management of the crisis and plays the role of technical spoke person for the population and the media.

Fernando Simón is a Medical Doctor and Epidemiologist trained in Spain, England and France, Fernando Simón is holding the post of Director of the Spanish Coordinating Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies at the Ministry of Health since 2012 and coordinates the National Surveillance Network. He was researcher at the Spanish Instituto de Salud Carlos III between 2003 and 2011 and previously hold posts of responsibility in public health, epidemiology and research in several countries and international organisations in Africa, Latin America and Europe. He has extensive experience in health crisis response coordination, public health surveillance, epidemiology, research, planning preparedness and control of infectious diseases and teaching in different settings at national and international level.

Esther Vera
Director of one of the major newspapers in Spain, Diari Ara.

Contributing to the special topic: “Evaluating the role of literacy in evolution during the COVID-19 crisis”

Has a double bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science and she is specialized in international relationships. During her career in journalism she has work in radio, television and printed press. She has an extensive experience covering European and nord-american politics. She has been a delegate of the 24h CNN+, and has also worked with Tv3, Cuatro, Catalunya Radio and El País.

Esther Vera has also been part of the Catalonian Government in the recent past, as a political advisor and head of the Economic and Knowledge Department with Andreu Mas Colell.

Robert Harris Frank
Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management
and a professor of economics at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. 

Who was the greater economist–Adam Smith or Charles Darwin? 
The question seems absurd. Darwin, after all, was a naturalist, not an economist. 

Robert Frank, contributor to the “Economic View”, New York Times economics column and  best-selling author of “The Economic Naturalist”, predicts that within the next century Darwin will unseat Smith as the intellectual founder of economics. The reason, Frank argues, is that Darwin’s understanding of competition describes economic reality far more accurately than Smith’s. Frank has published on the topic of wealth inequality in the United States, the race for status, the importance of emotions in economy and the bias against cooperation that students of economy receive during their training. His work is a clear example of the transversality of evolutionary theory across disciplines and the importance of cooperation to economic growth.

Johannes Jaeger
Associate Faculty, Complexity Science Hub (CSH) Vienna

Contributing to the topic: Interdisciplinarity, tradeoffs between specialization and explore new fields through collaboration with experts in other fields

I am a freelance evolutionary systems biologist and philosopher with an extremely transdisciplinary track record. My research, first as the leader of an empirical research group, later as the director of an institute for the philosophy of biology, has always focused around a process perspective on the organism and its evolution. I am interested in fundamental questions such as the limits of (genetic) reductionism, dynamical systems modeling, and mechanistic explanation in biology. My current projects deal with the use of models as epistemic tools, with causality in complex adaptive systems, and with the nature of organismic agency and its role evolution. In recent years, I have also developed an interest in promoting open science and open innovation. Crossing disciplinary boundaries between biology, mathematics, and philosophy is an essential aspect of my work. Teaching and mentoring are my passions.

My workshop explores some parallels between the processes underlying biological evolution and the evolution of human (scientific) knowledge. In particular, I use concepts from my own work on organismic evolutionary biology to argue that too much pressure and focus on productivity leads to an intellectual monoculture, prone to get stuck in local fitness maxima. As evolutionary biologists, we know about the importance of diversity. I would like to discuss, in very general terms, how such experiences and insights could be brought into practical discussions about research strategies and policies. The workshop will have a deliberative and participatory format.

Sílvia Zurita
Bofill Foundation and Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña

Contributing to the topic:  “Challenges and opportunities to improve the scientific literacy on evolution through formal or informal education”.

PhD in Chemistry from the University of Barcelona, she has a long experience as a teacher and as a teacher trainer, especially in issues related to educational innovation in the fields of Science and Technology. He has participated in European projects such as Ingenious and Go Lab, and has coordinated the Roboresme work group. He is currently working on the coordination of the Magnet project, promoted by the Department of Education and the Bofill Foundation, an independent, socially-committed institution, which has worked with quality and rigor to promote reflection, discussion, research and other initiatives to improve society and increase the education knowledge-base in Catalonia for over 40 years. Sílvia also teaches in the Teacher Training Master at the UPC.