PopTech Announces 2011 Class of Science and Public Leadership Fellows

2011 Fellows Advance Natural Disaster Detection, Surgery, New Energy Technologies, Games That Contribute to Basic Science, and More

Camden, ME & New York, NY – August 2, 2011 – PopTech, the global social innovation incubator and thought leadership network, today announced its 2011 class of Science and Public Leadership Fellows. Designed to address the critical need for scientists to be collaborative and socially engaged public communicators, the Science and Public Leadership Fellows program acknowledges the significant role science plays in improving society. Committed to accelerating the positive impact of world-changing people, projects and ideas, PopTech identifies and nurtures rising scientists to collaborate among their peers and to become visible leaders within both the scientific and public realms. The 2011 class of Science and Public Leadership Fellows includes ten dynamic scientists hailing from diverse areas of study, including cognitive neuroscience, materials science and computer science, to name a few.

Scientists often receive little training in leadership, collaboration and communication as they pursue admirable, impactful research endeavors in their fields. To help address this issue, PopTech selects high potential, early- and mid-career working scientists and provides them with intensive, high-quality training, a powerful social network, ongoing mentoring and opportunities for scientific and public leadership and engagement. The yearlong 2011 Science and Public Leadership Fellows program begins with a special leadership retreat at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, DC. The Fellows then present their work on stage at the annual PopTech 2011 conference, taking place October 19-22 in Camden, Maine. The Fellows’ stage talks can be found on the PopTech website following the conference.

“It’s with pride and great excitement that we announce the 2011 class of Science and Public Leadership Fellows,” said Andrew Zolli, PopTech’s Executive Director. “The most critical issues our society faces call for scientific collaboration, counsel and insight. Whether it’s public policy, medical and social advancements, or environmental action – scientists can contribute honest assessments and guidance to such discourse. Visible scientific leaders shouldn’t be a rarity and we believe the Science and Public Leadership Fellows program helps to fill this gap.”

“Microsoft Research is thrilled to continue its support for PopTech’s Science and Public Leadership Fellows program, which provides the resources and networks that help these scientists to become empowered public communicators and collaborators in their respective fields of research,” said Tony Hey, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research Connections, a division of Microsoft Research. “We proudly stand behind these chosen scientists, who are tackling some of the world’s toughest challenges.”

“We have invested in the Fellows because we believe that now, more than ever, scientists must contribute to the public dialogue and help guide policy decisions,” said Elizabeth Christopherson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Rita Allen Foundation. “We want to encourage these outstanding young scientists and equip them to fully engage in discourse, provide facts and offer solutions.”

“At National Geographic, where the mission is to inspire people to care about our planet, we believe that great stories well told are one of the most effective ways to engage the public. We are delighted to partner with our friends at PopTech to identify, encourage and enlist scientists who can be meaningful voices and story tellers across a wide range of disciplines,” said Betty Hudson, Executive Vice President, Communications, National Geographic Society.

PopTech is grateful to its partners and supporters, without whom this vital and innovative program would not be fully realized. The following have had an integral role: Microsoft Research, the Rita Allen Foundation, National Geographic, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the National Science Foundation. PopTech would also like to extend gratitude to the world-renowned advisory board that assisted with recruitment of the 2011 class of Fellows and with the program’s leadership training retreat.


Iain Couzin, a biologist at Princeton University, is investigating collective “herd” behavior among populations ranging from insects to fish to birds to humans.

Milton Garcés, a geophysicist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, uses infrasound for detection and warning of natural and man-made disasters.

Katherine J. Kuchenbecker, a roboticist at the University of Pennsylvania, is developing interface systems that enable users to touch virtual objects and distant environments as though they were real and within reach, which has applications in surgery, medical training, autonomous robots and games.

Shaily Mahendra, an environmental engineer at the University of California Los Angeles, is studying how microbes interact with nanomaterials and environmental contaminants, for applications ranging from ecotoxicology and disinfection to biofuels and bioremediation.

Alysson Muotri, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Diego, is challenging the concept of “junk DNA” through his research on stem cells and the neurobiology of autism.

Raul Rabadan, a theoretical physicist at Columbia University, is developing computational tools to reveal biological and clinical information from large data sets in areas such as infectious disease, cancer and electronic medical records.

Pardis Sabeti, a systems biologist at Harvard University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, is using emerging genomic resources to study the effects of natural selection on evolutionary adaptation in humans and pathogens.

Clifford Saron, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California Davis, is researching the effects of intensive meditation practice, as well as brain function limitations in children with autism spectrum disorders.

Jessika Trancik, a materials scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is working to accelerate the discovery and scaling of new energy technologies aimed at mitigating climate change.

Adrien Treuille, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, brings crowdsourcing, computer games and simulation techniques together to advance knowledge in areas ranging from fluid motion to how new drugs can best target diseases.

About PopTech

PopTech is a new kind of innovation accelerator – a community of cutting-edge leaders, thinkers and doers from many different disciplines who come together to explore the social impact of technology and the forces of change shaping the future. PopTech’s one-of-a-kind network includes innovators in wide-ranging fields such as science, technology, green energy, sustainable ecomaterials, violence cessation, design, and the corporate, entrepreneurial and social sectors. PopTech’s mission is to accelerate the positive impact of world-changing people and ideas and foster unconventional collaborations that tackle some of the world’s most significant challenges and lead to real and lasting change. PopTech is a non-profit 501©(3) organization. Please visit poptech.org and poptech.org/sciencefellows for more information.
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About the Rita Allen Foundation

Since 1953, the Rita Allen Foundation has invested in outstanding young scientists and leaders. Rita Allen Scholars include a Nobel Prize winner and members of the National Academy of Sciences as well as others recognized for significant achievements and contributions to scientific research. In addition, the Foundation now supports programs to foster civic engagement, and to build sustainable communities. We seek to motivate thinkers and doers in a variety of fields, including biomedical research, and then to intervene at the right time to increase their impact. By investing in individuals, ideas, and organizations in early stages, we help create and accelerate innovative solutions to significant problems. Learn more about us at www.ritaallen.org

About National Geographic

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. Throughout its 120-year history, the Society has encouraged conservation of natural resources and raised public awareness of the importance of natural places, the plants and wildlife that inhabit them, and the environmental problems that threaten them. National Geographic’s explorers, writers and photographers have traveled the Earth, sharing its amazing stories with each new generation. The Society has funded more than 9,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects around the globe, and grantees make exciting new discoveries every day in both traditional and emerging fields.

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The foundation’s Medical Research Program supports the PopTech Science and Public Leadership Fellows Program as part of its ongoing efforts to support the career development of clinical investigators.