PopTech Blog

Introducing the Science Fellows Class of 2012

How can we better understand ocean ecosystems, encourage human cooperation, build resilience in the face of climate change, prevent malaria and make mental health care a global priority? The 2012 PopTech Science Fellows are bringing strong leadership to these challenges and many more, and we are proud to introduce them today.

The PopTech Science Fellows program is a unique leadership development opportunity designed to help high potential working scientists become more effective communicators, collaborators and leaders both within and beyond the traditional bounds of academia. Fellows learn key skills from a faculty of experts, form an extensive network of mutual support, and play a highly visible role within the PopTech global community of innovators.

Meet the Science Fellows Class of 2012:

  • Kelly Benoit-Bird, an oceanographer at Oregon State University, applies acoustics to the study of ecosystems in the open ocean.
  • Flaminia Catteruccia is a molecular entomologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, specializing in the reproductive biology of Anopheles mosquitoes, the only mosquitoes capable of transmitting human malaria.
  • Sriram Kosuri is a biological engineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, developing next-generation DNA synthesis technologies.
  • Thaddeus Pace is a biological psychologist at Emory University, exploring how compassion meditation and other complementary practices may improve the health and well-being of children and adults in challenging circumstances.
  • David Rand is a behavioral scientist at Yale University, using a deeply interdisciplinary approach to understand human cooperation, generosity and altruism.
  • Giuseppe “Bepi” Raviola is a psychiatrist with Partners In Health, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, working to integrate mental health services into global health care efforts.
  • John Rinn is a biologist at Harvard and the Broad Institute, researching how “junk genes” actually play key regulatory roles in human health and disease.
  • Leila Takayama is a research scientist with Willow Garage, focused on understanding how humans interact with robots.
  • Tiffani Williams is a computer scientist at Texas A&M University, creating algorithmic tools to reconstruct the Tree of Life, which depicts the evolutionary connections among the world's species.
  • Benjamin Zaitchik is a climate scientist at Johns Hopkins University, researching ways to understand, manage and cope with climatic and hydrologic variability.

The Fellows will join us in Maine in mid-October for a three-day intensive training session, and then go on to introduce their work on stage at PopTech 2012, giving their work greater visibility and finding new opportunities for collaboration and to engage the public in science.

The PopTech Science Fellows program is generously supported by the Rita Allen Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Geographic.

This week in PopTech: Musicals, awards and the democratizing of art

There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.

If you'd like to receive a stream of these updates (and more) throughout the week in real time, follow us on TwitterTumblrFacebook, sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the PopTech blog.

Image: eL Seed

Announcing the Social Innovation Fellows Class of 2012

PopTech is delighted to announce the Social Innovation Fellows Class of 2012!

The members of this year’s class are addressing major global challenges by connecting health workers, bringing clean water to children, building farmers’ incomes, using unmanned aerial vehicles for remote deliveries of medical supplies, fighting for Internet privacy, and much more. Their work has impacted lives around the world, in places like Kenya, China, Ghana, Liberia and Haiti, as well as throughout the United States.

Meet this year’s inspiring Fellows:

  • Jamila Abass is CEO of MFarm, which uses mobile technology to help farmers increase their incomes.
  • Lukas Biewald is CEO and founder of CrowdFlower, a crowdsourcing internet company that breaks large digital projects into small microtasks and distributes them to workers around the world.
  • Rachel Brown founded Sisi ni Amani - Kenya to pioneer the use of mobile technology to get the right communication capacity into the hands of local peacebuilders, enabling communities to participate in democratic processes and prevent violence.
  • Bryan Doerries is the founder of Theater of War, a project that presents readings of ancient Greek plays to service members, veterans, caregivers and families to help them start talking about the challenges faced by military communities today.
  • Touré McCluskey is the founder of OkCopay, a unique search engine for medical procedures that helps Americans with inadequate insurance find affordable local health care.
  • Nicholas Merrill created the Calyx Institute to educate the public regarding the lack of privacy in telecommunications and to develop the infrastructure to implement secure mobile phone and Internet services in a way that has not been done before.
  • Jacobo Quintanilla works with Internews supporting local media in enabling people in the midst of disasters to access the information they need and to take an active role in their own survival and recovery.
  • Andreas Raptopoulos is the founder and CEO of Matternet, building a network of unmanned aerial vehicles to transport medicine and goods in places with poor road infrastructure.
  • Aishwarya Ratan is director of the Global Financial Inclusion Initiative at Yale University and Innovations for Poverty Action, with a goal of ensuring that the financial products, services and tools available to the poor to manage and grow their money are affordable, efficient, secure and welfare-enhancing.
  • Eric Stowe believes that every child has a right to clean water; to act on that belief, he founded A Child’s Right (soon to be Splash), which cleans water for over 200,000 children in schools, orphanages, street shelters, hospitals, and rescue homes in Asia and East Africa.
  • Eric Woods is the CEO and founder of Switchboard, which uses mobile phones to create nationwide networks of health workers in developing countries.
  • Daniel Zoughbie created Microclinic International to leverage the power of social network relationships to spread healthy behaviors throughout under-resourced communities.


The Fellows will participate in an intensive five-day training just prior to this year’s Oct. 17-20 PopTech conference, and present their ideas on stage to conference participants and viewers of the worldwide webcast, helping them build new skills, contacts and visibility.

The Social Innovation Fellows program is generously supported by the Rita Allen Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and National Geographic.

We are delighted to have these extraordinary leaders joining the PopTech network, and look forward to accompanying them on their journey as the impact of their work grows and spreads.

Additional speakers announced for PopTech Camden - including first ever female Olympic gold medalist for middleweight boxing!

Claressa Shields stepped into the boxing ring at the London Olympics August 9th and fired off a series of sharp combinations that dumbfounded Russian Nadezda Torlopova and won her the first gold medal ever awarded for women's middleweight boxing. At just 17, and with an incredible tale of personal resilience, she has risen to the top of the women’s boxing world in two short years, and is now an international star and an inspiration to millions of people.

PopTech is thrilled to announce that Shields joins a new round of speakers just added to this year’s convening in Camden, Maine. Other newly announced presenters include a world-class adaptive snowboarder who is a double-amputee and an expert in in climate mitigation and adaptation who teaches “experiential” environmental law courses.

Meet the latest presenters to join the PopTech Camden speaker lineup:

Vicki Arroyo is the executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center of Georgetown University Law Center. She specializes in climate mitigation and adaptation at the state and federal level, and teaches “experiential” environmental law courses.

Claressa Shields won the first gold medal ever for women’s middleweight boxing in the Olympics in London this past summer, marking her meteoric rise to the very top of international boxing in just two years. “Many Boxers are very fast or very strong,” the New Yorker wrote about Shields last May. “Shields is both.” Shields grew up in Flint, Michigan amid boarded-up houses and abandoned car factories. Her father spent nearly a decade in prison, and Shields lived with her grandmother and then an aunt. She trained in the basement of Berston Field House, which didn’t even have a speed bag. Her reservoir of resilience, determination, smarts, and talent is hard to fathom.

Amy Purdy is a world-class adaptive snowboarder who has won three back-to-back Paralympic World Cup gold medals and is currently training for the Paralympic Games. She is an “adaptive” snowboarder because at age 19 doctors amputated both her legs below the knee following complications from bacterial meningitis.

Interested in joining us? There's still time! Secure your ticket here

This week in PopTech: Mythologies of the not yet, building with biology and why things bounce back

There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.

If you'd like to receive a stream of these updates (and more) throughout the week in real time, follow us on TwitterTumblrFacebook, sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the PopTech blog.

Image: Ignacio Diez

Watch now: Kári Stefánsson on decoding genetics

Dr. Kári Stefánsson is recognized as a leading figure in human genetics who studies the fuzzy relationship between genetic mutations and environmental factors. “Where is the line of distinction between nature and nurture? Where is the line of distinction between genes and environment? It really doesn’t exist.”

Watch now: Steve Lansing on Bali’s efficient water temples

Steve Lansing, a senior fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, discusses the Byzantine system for the distribution of water from a volcanic lake in Bali to over two hundred farming villages. It’s worked since the 12th century, it’s egalitarian and it’s still sustainable. “It’s one of the few functioning, ancient democratic institutions that we know about. It’s kind of beautiful.”

Watch now: Margrét Pála on educating children differently

Margrét Pála is a preschool management specialist in Iceland who advocates sex-segregated classes, natural play material instead of conventional toys, and a long-forgotten belief in discipline to develop optimism, courage and resiliency in young children. “Feel the cold! I even take them into the snow -- and then the lava. Scream a little bit! But continue! And enjoy it!”

New speakers added to PopTech Camden lineup!

PopTech is thrilled to announce a new round of speakers added to this year’s convening in Camden, Maine. New presenters include a civil rights leader and public health advocate, an epidemiologist who studies how traumatic events alter population health, and a former bank-thief-turned-neuroscientist who has shown how to project patients' thoughts onto a screen in front of their eyes by implanting electrodes deep inside their brains.

Our focus this year is on resilience: How do we become more resilient as individuals? How do we become a more resilient nation? What makes one institution capable of handling disruption while others collapse in the face of crisis? Other speakers include a distinguished Harvard professor who was told she'd never read or write, an expert on the innate human ability to survive trauma who has turned her attention to education reform, and an ecologist who combines biomechanics and paleontology to bolster coral reef survival. Each of our speakers bring unique expertise and fresh perspective to this important conversation.  

You'll enjoy three days of riveting presentations as well as quality interactions with your fellow participants. From workshops to randomly assigned lunches, wine and cheese gatherings to structured meetups, you'll engage with a wide array of fascinating people. Nobel Laureates, social innovators, designers, business leaders, scientists, and researchers are just a few of the types of individuals you’ll meet.

This year’s convening will be held October 17-20 in Camden, Maine, recently voted by Down East magazine readers as Maine’s prettiest village. Watch this video for a glimpse of what to expect. Join us for a special experience at PopTech during a beautiful time of year when the leaves change from green to gold.  

Meet the latest presenters to join the PopTech Camden speaker lineup:

  • Ken Banks, founder of kiwanja.net, leverages mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world. His most recent project, Means of Exchange, uses everyday technology to promote the use of local resources. 
  • Moran Cerf is a neuroscientist who has shown how to project patients' thoughts onto a screen in front of their eyes by implanting electrodes deep inside their brains and reading the activity of cells. Oh, and he used to rob banks.
  • Jason Hackenwerth creates stunning, large-scale, vibrant installations made with latex balloons that sometimes look like a cross between a rainbow-colored space amoeba, a floating internal organ, and a psychedelic dream. 
  • Peter Kareiva is the chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Kareiva is often noted for his emphasis on nature’s resiliency rather than its impending doom.
  • Steve Lansing is a senior fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. He is working to help preserve the Byzantine system for distributing water from a volcanic lake in Bali to over two hundred farming villages. 
  • Jennifer Leaning is a doctor who conducts research on human rights and international humanitarian law in crisis settings. 
  • Ann Masten studies resilience in human development and how to promote success in young people exposed to poverty, homelessness, migration, disaster and war. 
  • Aaron Shirley is a doctor and civil rights leader who in 1965 became the first African-American to take a pediatrics residency at the University of Mississippi. 
  • Jay Silver invents cool stuff. He invented Makey Makey, a kit that allows users to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet, like creating a working piano out of bananas. Time magazine named one of his inventions “Top 15 Toys for Young Geniuses.”
  • Jer Thorp is a data artist in residence at the New York Times who explores the boundaries between science, data, art, and culture. His work making sense of the deluge of information we are inundated with has appeared in the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.
  • Julia Watson is an Australian landscape architect who researches sacred ecology, biological mimicry and ecosystem adaptations of traditional and indigenous peoples. Along with PopTech presenter Steve Lansing, Watson is involved in an effort to preserve an ancient water distribution system in Bali.

Watch now: John Thackara on the end of endless growth

Social critic John Thackara argues that the current human paradigm of endless growth is obviously unsustainable, so we should consider the brilliance of the Brazilian Jequitiba tree, which soaks up four tons of water a day. “I am a proper tree hugger, as well as a lichen hugger.”