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Public release date: 9-Feb-2009

Free public events at the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting: Health News, Neanderthal DNA, Hip-Hop Math, and more

CHICAGO Families with children, teachers, early-career scientists and all others with a curious mind are invited to come to events that are free and open to the public at the AAAS (Triple-A-S) Annual Meeting, 12-16 February in Chicago, Ill.

With cutting-edge, lay-friendly lectures on topics such as climate change and science-based efforts to create better forms of energy as well as hands-on science activities for children, the AAAS Annual Meeting promises something for people of all ages and interests. A summary of AAAS events is provided below.

Registration for these free events is required either in advance or on-site. To register online, visit → Registration → Register via the Internet "Fast and Easy" → Go to Non-Member Registration. On-site registration is located at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Gold Level, East Tower, Grand Ballroom Lobby.


Middle School Science Summit on Evolution
Wednesday, 11 February, 9:45 a.m. - 1:45 p.m.
The Field Museum

AAAS reaches out to local schools, too, as part of the AAAS Annual Meeting and the Association's cradle-to-grave support for science careers. The 2009 AAAS Public Science Day billed as the "Middle School Science Summit on Evolution" is being co-sponsored by AAAS and The Field Museum. The event, open to all and promoted to schools, celebrates the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. Some 300 sixth- through eighth-graders and their teachers are expected to experience Darwin's legacy first-hand through a special presentation by a Darwin impersonator; games on natural section and other evolution essentials; small-group tours of museum exhibits; and more. For more information, contact Kirk Anne Taylor, (312) 665-7442,


Saturday Sunday, 14-15 February, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Exhibit Hall, Riverside Center, Hyatt Regency Chicago
(See → Family Science Days)

On Saturday and Sunday, the public is invited to the popular Family Science Days, organized by AAAS in partnership with area laboratories, universities, and museums. This event, a free event with hands-on activities and stage shows for families, children, and young adults, also features the Meet the Scientists Series, hosted in collaboration with Science Chicago (see below).

The Field Museum will bring an exact replica of a T. rex dinosaur, for instance, the "Physics Van" from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will offer exciting demonstrations, and experts such as chemist Lee Marek of the University of Illinois, Chicago, will be on hand to answer children's questions. Argonne National Laboratory will feature winning entries from its annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for high school students, and Fermilab will provide a "Mr. Freeze!" show. Among other activities, children will be able to make and fly kites indoors, use balloons to investigate how a multi-stage rocket works, peddle an energy bike that transfers power to light bulbs, fans and electronic appliances, and observe and predict hermit crab movement. To attend, the public should plan to pick up a free badge first in the Exhibit Hall.


Saturday Sunday, 14-15 February, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Exhibit Hall, Riverside Center, Hyatt Regency Chicago
(See → Family Science Days)

Middle- and high-school students also are being encouraged to participate in a series of short, interactive presentations by leading scientists during Family Science Days. The 2009 Meet the Scientists series will include fossil-hunter Paul Sereno, insect scientist May Berenbaum, and peregrine falcon specialist Mary Hennen. Computer scientist Juan Gilbert will talk about hip-hop music and math, while physicist Uwe Bergmann plans a presentation on "x-ray vision," and astronomer Mark Hammergren will explore "Asteroids, Alien Life, and UFOs."


Thursday Sunday, 12-15 February
Fairmont Chicago, Imperial Ballroom
(See → Program → Plenary Speakers → Topical Speakers)

AAAS President James J. McCarthy, Ph.D., President's Address, Thursday, 6:30 p.m. McCarthy is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. He received his Ph.D. degree from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and B.S. degree in biology from Gonzaga University. He teaches courses in ocean and climate science and oversees Harvard's program in Environmental Science and Public Policy. His research interests relate to marine plankton, biogeochemical cycles, and climate. He has served on and led many national and international groups charged with planning and implementing studies of global change, including chair of the international scientific committee that establishes research priorities and oversees implementation of the International GeosphereBiosphere Program from 1986 to 1993; founding editor for the American Geophysical Union's Global Biogeochemical Cycles; co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II, which had responsibilities for assessing impacts of and vulnerabilities to global climate change for the Third IPCC Assessment (2001); lead author of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment; and vice-chair of the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment. He has been elected a fellow of AAAS and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Sean B. Carroll, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species, Friday, 4:30 p.m.
Until recently, scientists studying evolution relied on fossil records and morphology to painstakingly piece together a picture of how animals evolved. Today, scientists are now using DNA evidence collected from modern animals to find new clues. Molecular biologist Sean Carroll focuses on the way new animal forms have evolved, and his studies of a wide variety of animal species have dramatically changed the face of evolutionary biology. Major discoveries from his laboratory have been featured in Time, US News & World Report, The New York Times, Discover, and Natural History. Carroll is the author of Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2005) which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and The Making of the Fittest (2006) which won the Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award. His most recent book, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species, will be published in 2009. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and an AAAS Fellow. He received his bachelor's degree at Washington University and his Ph.D. degree in immunology from Tufts University.

Susan W. Kieffer, Ph.D., Center for Advanced Study Professor of Geology and Physics, and Walgreen University Chair, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Celebrating the Earth: Its Past, Our Present, a Future?, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Planetary scientist Susan Kieffer has degrees in math, physics, geology, and planetary science, which is apparent in the interdisciplinary nature of her work. She is internationally renowned and a leading authority on the mechanisms of meteorite impact, geyser dynamics, volcanic eruptions, and river floods. She was the first scientist to describe the physics and chemistry involved in the eruptions on Jupiter's moon Io, the lateral blast associated with the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, the dynamics of Old Faithful as seen by a micro video camera lowered into the geyser between violent eruptions, and the hydraulics of the rapids of the Colorado River. With colleagues, she described the dynamics of the Chixculub meteor impact that caused vaporization of limestone, which resulted in massive amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and ultimately resulted in a major extinction event 65 million years ago. Kieffer is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow, and has received numerous awards and honors. She attended Caltech, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Allegheny College.

Svante Pbo, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Department of Genetics, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, A Neanderthal Perspective on Human Origins, Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
A biologist specializing in evolutionary genetics, Svante Pbo is known as one of the founders of paleogenetics, a discipline that uses the methods of genetics to study early humans and other ancient populations. He is conducting some of the most exacting work ever attempted on the DNA of human and nonhuman primates. His track record of discoveries began in 1985 when he isolated DNA from a 2,400-year-old Egyptian mummy. In 2006, after decoding fragments of DNA from the remains of Neanderthal, he announced plans to reconstruct the entire genome. In 1992, he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, which is the highest honor awarded in German research. Pbo's department in August 2002 published findings about the evolution of the "language gene," FOXP2, which is lacking or damaged in some individuals with language disabilities. He was born in Stockholm and earned his Ph.D. degree from Uppsala University. He is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences.


Friday Sunday, 13-15 February
Hyatt Regency Chicago
Times and Rooms Below
(See → Program → Plenary and Topical Lectures)

Friday, 13 February, NOON - 1:15 p.m. (Topical Panel)

  • Jzsef Plinks, Ph.D., President, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, and Professor of Physics, University of Debrecen; Lord Martin Rees, Ph.D., President of the Royal Society, Master of Trinity College, and Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge, U.K.; The Central Role of International Scientific Cooperation in Meeting Global Partnerships, Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom A

Friday, 13 February, 12:30 p.m. 1:15 p.m. (Two concurrent lectures)

  • T. Conrad Gilliam, Ph.D., Marjorie I. and Bernard A. Mitchell Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, Ill., Human Genetics, Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom C
  • Daniel G. Nocera, Ph.D., Professor of Energy and of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Harnessing the Sun and Oceans To Meet the World's Energy Demands, Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom B

Saturday, 14 February, 12:30 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. (Four concurrent lectures)

  • Ekaterina Dadachova, Ph.D., Sylvia and Robert Olnick Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research, and Associate Professor of Nuclear Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Bronx, N.Y., New Approaches to the Therapy of Infectious Disease, Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom B
  • Lene Vestergaard Hau, Ph.D., Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., Wizardry with Light: Freeze, Teleport, and Go!, Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom A
  • 2008 George Sarton Memorial Lecture in the History and Philosophy of Science: Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine, Illusions and Delusions of Memory, Hyatt Regency, Regency Ballroom A
  • Tim D. White, Ph.D., Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, Evolution of Early Humans, Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom C

Sunday, 15 February, 12:30 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. (Four concurrent lectures)

  • 2008 John P. McGovern Lecture in the Behavioral Sciences: Ken Alder, Ph.D., Professor of History and Milton H. Wilson Professor in the Humanities, Northwestern University, Evanston, A History of the International Scientific Conference, Hyatt Regency, Regency Ballroom A
  • Colin F. Camerer, Ph.D., Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Interface Between Cognitive Psychology and Economics, Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom A
  • Amory Lovins, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute, Snowmass, Colo., Profitable Solutions to the Oil, Climate, and Proliferation Problems, Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom B
  • Jeannette Wing, Ph.D., Assistant Director, National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va., Computational Thinking, Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom C


Friday Saturday, 13-15 February, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, 17 February, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Times and Locations Vary
(See → Program → Career Support)

The AAAS Annual Meeting is rich with activities for professional and career development. Sessions are designed for everyone regardless of degree level or career stage and offer many opportunities for networking and meeting colleagues and peers. Career-Building Workshops for scientists, students and others are planned throughout the weekend and will cover topics ranging from basic skills such as interviewing to more advanced subjects, including dealing with career transitions and communicating with the U.S. Congress. Career Guide to the Meeting contains a list of workshops and other open events; available at Registration, Hyatt Regency Chicago. In addition, many Exhibitor-Sponsored Workshops will take place during the AAAS Annual Meeting.


HISTORY: The first AAAS Annual Meeting took place in 1848 in Philadelphia, Pa. In 2007, the AAAS Annual Meeting drew some 8,000 participants, including nearly 900 press registrants from around the world. Past meetings have featured such notables as Albert Einstein, former U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, and Google Co-Founder Larry Page.

REPORTER NOTE: Specific details from scientific presentations and lectures scheduled to take place at the AAAS Annual Meeting will remain strictly embargoed, meaning they cannot be published, broadcast, posted online or otherwise made public until the event.

This news release contains only general, publicly available information about this year's program, and is therefore appropriate for immediate release.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.