Emory Report
September 4, 2007
Volume 60, Number 2


Sept. 14
Benedict Gross
Dean, Harvard College; professor of mathematics; member, National Academy of Sciences

Sept. 24
Nancy Moran
Regents’ Professor, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of Arizona; member, National Academy of Sciences

Oct. 5
Carlos Bustamante
Department of molecular and cellular biology; University of California, Berkeley; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; member, National Academy of Sciences David Clapham Professor of neurobiology and cardiovascular research, Harvard Medical School; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; member, National Academy of Sciences

Nov. 1
Peter Agre
2003 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; vice chancellor for science, Duke University; member, National Academy of Sciences

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September 4, 2007
Luminaries in Science attracts thought leaders to Emory

By Kim Urquhart

The Luminaries in Science lecture series continues this fall with visits by several internationally renowned scientific scholars. Nobel Laureates and members of the national academies will speak about their vision for the most transformative areas of science.

The fall line-up begins Sept. 14. Benedict Gross, dean of Harvard College, professor of mathematics and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, will discuss “Unity and Applicability of Mathematics.” The brown bag luncheon lecture, with light refreshments provided by the provost’s office, will be held in White Hall 207 from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.

The series began last spring with a lecture by Nobel Laureate Andrew Fire, professor of pathology and genetics at Stanford University. Speakers this fall include professor Peter Agre of Duke University, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry and a possible candidate for a seat in the Minnesota Senate.

But lectures are only one of the activities these “luminaries” participate in during their visits to Emory. The scholars also act as “thought leaders” for a provost’s committee charged with recruiting eight to 10 leading science faculty to Emory College, meeting with and advising Emory’s Science Distinction Committee as it selects areas of focus for hiring distinguished new faculty researchers in accordance with Emory’s strategic plan.

According to Provost Earl Lewis, Emory’s Science Hire Initiative is intended to strengthen the core sciences in Emory College while elevating the sciences and enhancing scientific collaboration throughout the University. “We will leverage the existing strengths of our College science departments and recruit new visionary scientists. We expect to increase Emory’s national reputation in the sciences and break new ground in scientific discovery at Emory over the next decade,” Lewis said.

The Science Distinction Committee will advise the provost and the dean on the recruitment of a number of new faculty members within each of two or three selected areas that are expected to transform science at Emory College. The committee previously solicited suggestions from all College science faculties for areas of focus that are university-wide and cut across disciplines, said Lanny Liebeskind, director of university science strategies and Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Organic Chemistry who leads the initiative with Vice Provost and Deputy Provost Santa Ono.

“We hope to use the Luminaries in Science visits to help us refine our deliberations of focus areas,” Liebeskind said.

Gross, for example, is not simply a great mathematician, Liebeskind said. “He is also an administrator who has thought long and hard about the structure of institutions and how universities can stimulate and support scholarship that crosses disciplines.”

What are the most transformative areas of science? Where might chemistry, biology, physics and psychology come together with mathematics at a high level to impact all disciplines? One way to answer these questions, Liebeskind said, “is to look at how other universities are structured to help stimulate and support interdisciplinary science, and to engage each of these luminaries in a conversation about the future of science.”

Ono added: “The presence of this elite group of scientists on campus will not only help us select areas of focus and to identify outstanding future hires for Emory College, they shall also via their lectures contribute to scientific discourse at Emory over the upcoming months, a discourse that I hope will include all parts of the Emory community.”

The Luminaries in Science series is open to all members of the Emory community and there is no charge for admission. Ono said plans are under way for a Luminaries in Arts and Humanities series next semester.