This year's Scientia lecture series calls on numerous members from the Rice community to talk about their work. Each lecture will include three speakers talking about their research for 10-12 minutes each and revolving around the topic for that lecture. The aim behind this year's theme, PANOPLY, is to introduce the audience to the dazzling array of research and creative works that constitutes Rice. The series promises to be both wide-ranging and impressive.

2020 Spring Lecture Schedule

  • Tuesday, February 25, 2020, 4pm | McMurtry Auditorium

Determinism in Behavior

Julia Saltz
Assistant Professor, Biosciences, Rice University
Caleb Kemere
Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Bioengineering, Rice University. Adjunct Associate Professor of Neuroscience, BCM
Simon Fischer-Baum
Assistant Professor, Psychological Sciences, Rice University

Debates about the causes of human and animal behavior—sometimes referred to as “nature vs. nurture”—have captured public interest because of their implications for economics, public policy, philosophy, and more. In this talk, three scientists working on the causes of behavior will weigh in on the debate—including questioning whether the debate makes sense at all.

Video is available here.

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2019, 4pm | McMurtry Auditorium - BOCHNER LECTURE

Our Bochner Lecture is postponed to Fall 2020. Please check back for more details.

From Haiti to California - Challenges and Opportunities for Reducing Earthquake Risks

Reginald des Roches
William and Stephanie Sick Dean, Professor, Civil & Environmental and Mechanical Engineering

The 2010 Haiti earthquake resulted in one of the most devastating natural disasters in modern times. It is estimated that over 230,000 fatalities and 300,000 injuries resulted from the earthquake. Globally, earthquakes are becoming more destructive and costly. In the United States, nearly half of Americans live in earthquake-prone regions, and the risk of a mega disaster continues to increase. Challenges for managing the risks from earthquakes includes increasing populations in urban areas, ageing infrastructure, and the increasing interconnectedness of infrastructure systems. Improved computational methods, coupled with new materials and structural systems are providing engineers with unique tools to minimize the impact from earthquakes and to enhance resilience in communities around the world. However, the intersection of environmental degradation, history, culture, politics, and technology, make reducing earthquake risks a continuing challenge.

  • Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 4pm | McMurtry Auditorium

This will be a virtual lecture, please join Zoom meeting:
Meeting ID: 513 997 842

Greening At Home

Rick Wilson
Herbert S. Autrey Professor, Professor, Statistics and Psychology, Rice University
Lisa Lin
Manager of Transportation Demand Management, Rice University
Richard Johnson
Director of the Admin. Center for Sustainability & Energy Management, Professor in Practice Environ Study, Sociology, Adjunct Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

This series of mini lectures deal with the question: What can you do to lower your carbon footprint? Rather than focus on global solutions the speakers talk about what you can do at Rice, in your commute and at your home. Richard Johnson, Rice’s Director of Sustainability, will discuss the important role that students have played in greening their campus home. Lisa Lin, Rice’s Transportation Demand Manager will talk about that thing that all of us dread – the commute – and what we can do to reduce our footprint. Rick Wilson, Political Science, will focus on the design and building of a “green” home and what it means to try to live sustainably in Houston.

Video is available here.

2019 Fall Lecture Schedule

  • Tuesday, September 17, 2019, 4pm | McMurtry Auditorium

Porous Matter: Rethinking Building Technologies

Juan Jose Castellon
Assistant Professor of Architecture
Anthony Melchiorri
Associate Director, Biomaterials Lab
Muhammad M. Rahman
Research Scientist, Ajayan Research Group

The intentional distribution of voids into the solid matter affects decisively its mechanical and thermodynamic behavior. Porosity plays a fundamental role in the design of artificial bones, nano-materials, aerospace components or buildings structures. With this regard, the emergence of digital manufacturing technologies give rise to a new design paradigm based on porous, ultra-lightweight and highly resistant materials. This lecture puts forth interdisciplinary perspectives in order to rethink building technologies in the search of an integral, multi-scalar and contemporary architecture.

No video available.

  • Tuesday, October 8, 2019, 4pm | McMurtry Auditorium

The Apocalypse

Matthias Henze - The American Apocalypse: Evangelical Expectations of the End in Trump’s America
Isla Carrol and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies, Director of the Program in Jewish Studies
Scott E. Solomon - The Ecological Apocalypse: How Long will the Earth be Habitable?
Associate Teaching Professor of Biosciences
Moshe Y. Vardi - The Intelligence Apocalypse: The Prospect of an Artificial-Intelligence Singularity
University Professor, Director of Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology and Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Engineering

The word “apocalypse” has entered into our vocabulary from the opening line of the Book of Revelation, the last book in the New Testament, where it refers to appearance, or revelation, of the risen Christ. Whereas the original meaning of “apocalypse” simply is “uncovering; revelation,” in common parlance today “apocalypse” has become synonymous with the expectation of an end-time catastrophe.
The three talks discuss three very different, contemporary apocalyptic visions. Matthias Henze will discuss the nature of apocalyptic beliefs in modern American evangelicalism and how President Trump effectively taps into popular end-time speculations. Scott Solomon will address the ecological demise due to climate change and environmental degradation. And Moshe Vardi will speak about the diminution of humanity because of the development of super-intelligent machines.

Video is available here.

  • Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 4pm | McMurtry Auditorium

Women in Leadership

Eden King
Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences
Melissa Marschall
Professor of Political Science, and Director of Center for Local Elections in American Politics
Rosemary Hennessy
L.V. Favrot Professor of Humanities, and English Deparment Chair

The lack of women in leadership roles is a persistent and pernicious problem in American society. Indeed, there are more men named John among Republican Senators and Fortune 500 CEOs than there are women in these groups. Three Rice scholars will unpack the political and psychological dynamics that underlie, represent, and explain gender disparities in American institutions and society and point to some alternatives. In so doing, an evidence-based, timely, and significant conversation will be inspired.

Video is available here.

  • Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 4pm | McMurtry Auditorium

Origins: Our Universe, Planet, Life

Mustafa Amin
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Andrea Isella
​Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Luay Nakhleh
J.S. Abercrombie Professor or Computer Science, Professor of Biosciences, and Department Chair of Computer Science

Where did “it” all come from? These three talks will focus on three different “it”s. Mustafa Amin will report on our current understanding of the origin of structure and matter in our cosmos — taking us from the Big Bang to the formation of stars and galaxies. Andrea Isella will then speak about how planets, like our own might have formed around stars like our sun. Luay Nakhleh will explore the challenges of inferring the origins of life on Earth from molecular data.

Video is available here.

  • Thursday, December 5, 2019, 4pm | McMurtry Auditorium

Environmental Diversity

Laura Schaefer
Burton J. and Ann M. McMurtry Chair in Engineering, Professor, Department Chair
Laurence Yeung
Assistant Professor, Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences
Jim Elliott
Professor and Sociology Department Chair

Our environment is changing in myriad interconnected ways, with both short and long-term developments expected that will be felt differently in different communities and continents. We bring together three perspectives – from Engineering, Earth Sciences, and the Social Sciences – to illuminate not only the complex changes we are seeing today, but also the diversity of their impacts on society and of technological approaches being developed at Rice to address this most pressing challenge facing humanity.

Video is available here.

Scientia Institute - MS 08

Fondren Library 518
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Phone: 713-348-4695


Duncan Hall

Traveling on Main Street, enter the Rice University campus at Entrance #2. Directly ahead is Lovett Hall (the building with the arch/Sallyport) and Duncan Hall (lecture site) is the first building to the right, across the street.


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