Science Revealed 2021: A Public Lecture Series

Science is more important in our society than ever before.  Science forms the basis for our technology, health care, transportation, and many other aspects of our daily lives; it even features in our politics and public policy.   This series will connect select researchers -- who have expertise in science and in communicating about science -- with members of the public interested in learning more about, and discussing, science.  How does science work?  How does science impact our lives?  What are the limitations of science?  Come to our sessions, and experience Science Revealed!

Our Programs

"Nothingness: So much to talk about!"
December 2, 2021, 8-9:30 p.m. EST

Words like “nothingness” and “empty space” may seem like simple concepts, referring to the complete absence of content. But in practice, these concepts have been topics of ongoing debate with important implications for our understanding of the universe.  This panel discussion and Q&A at this event, involving several leading Pitt experts as well as our distinguished visitor James Owen Weatherall (author of the popular book Void: The Strange Physics of Nothing), will reveal in publicly accessible terms some of the complications and interesting ideas that arise when we try to get a grip on…nothing.  What is (or is not) really out there? What are its properties? What shape does it take? Join us to find out a lot about nothing!

This event is presented in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Center for Philosophy of Science and is free and open to the public. Please register to receive log in information for this Zoom Webinar event. 


Marian J. R. Gilton is an assistant professor in the Dietrich School Department of History and Philosophy of Science. Her primary research interests are in the history and philosophy of physics. She's interested in the mathematical and conceptual foundations of contemporary particle physics; the relationship between classical and quantum field theories; the history of quantum mechanics; and the history of mathematical, metaphysical, and other conceptual precursors to the Scientific Revolution. She has secondary research interests in philosophical logic, especially as applied to moral reasoning.




Kiumars Kaveh is a professor in the Dietrich School Department of Mathematics. Kaveh works in algebraic geometry and Lie theory. Specifically he is interested in connecting the geometry/topology of varieties and group actions, with the study of combinatorial objects such as convex polytopes with integer vertices. Some keywords in his research are: transformation groups, toric varieties, flag varieties, Schubert calculus, spherical varieties, Newton polytopes, Newton-Okounkov bodies, equivariant cohomology, localization and GKM theory. He also has a side interest in quantum information and cryptography (algebraic geometric methods).




James Owen Weatherall is a physicist, mathematician, and philosopher. He is Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine, where he is also a member of the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Science. He currently serves as Director of Graduate Studies for the department; he is also the department DECADE mentor. Weatherall has been a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University; at Clare Hall College, Cambridge; at the Center for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics; and at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.








Andrew Zentner is a professor in the Dietrich School Department of Physics and Astronomy. He is a theorist with research interests that range throughout a broad cross section of cosmology to encompass galaxy formation, the phenomenology and identification of the dark matter and dark energy, and astrophysical limits on fundamental physics.





Moderator, Edouard Machery is Distinguished Professor in the Dietrich School Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Philosophy of Science. His research focuses on the philosophical issues raised by the cognitive sciences. He has written extensively about concepts: he has argued that the notion of concept is ill-suited for a scientific psychology, and he has criticized the neo-empiricist accounts of concepts. His current research focuses on the methodology of experimental psychology, with a special focus on null hypothesis significance testing, external validity, and issues in statistics. Recent research projects and publications also include the nature and origin of racial categorization, the application of evolutionary theories to human cognition, the nature of culture, and the structure of moral concepts. Finally, he is involved in the development of experimental philosophy, and he has used experimental and quasi-experimental methods to study intuitions about reference, folk judgments about intentional action, causation, the folk concept of race, and the folk concept of phenomenal consciousness.



"Environmental Justice: Safe Water in Homewood and Throughout Pittsburgh"
October 5, 2021, 2 - 3 p.m.

How are water challenges in Pittsburgh neighborhoods connected to the larger global fight for environmental justice? Be a part of this important conversation featuring Dr. Emily Elliott, professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science and Director and co-founder of the Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, and Outreach that bridges efforts in water research, governance, and action at the University of Pittsburgh; Alyssa Lyon (A&S '12), Director of the Black Environmental Collective; Zinna Scott, community activist and Ambassador with ReEnergize Pittsburgh; and, NaTisha Washington, environmental justice organizer at One Pennsylvania.

This event is organized in partnership with the Black Environmental Collective. All are welcome to this Civic Action Week program. Please register in advance to receive log in information.




African American woman wearing a covid mask"Perspectives on Health: (In)Equity Across Communities"
June 2, 2021, Noon - 1 p.m.
This event is a joint presentation with the Pitt Alumni Association Deliberative Dialogue Series.
All are welcome. Please register by June 1.

Amidst a global pandemic, the status of our mental and physical health has been brought to the forefront this past year and highlighted the effects of stress on our well-being. The pandemic has also brought attention to the disparities in healthcare access across different populations. 

Pitt alumnae and faculty members, Anna Marsland and Abimbola Fapohunda, will discuss the impact that stress and other factors have on our susceptibility to viral infection and response to vaccination, and the importance of taking action to address the long-standing disparities that existed in health equity worldwide and at home. Their conversation will be moderated by Mario Browne, the inaugural Associate Dean for Equity, Engagement, and Justice, and Associate Professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Abimbola Fapohunda, DrPH (GSPH ’97, ’99)

Prior to teaching in the Dietrich School's Department of Africana Studies, Abimbola Fapohunda was a visiting assistant professor of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. 

Over the past 10 years, she has conducted several studies among African Americans, Africans in the Diaspora, and on the African Continent. She is an epidemiologist and health educator with over 20 years’ experience running her own consulting company in public health, conducting needs assessments and program evaluations on the effectiveness of numerous community-based initiatives related to health disparities in both behavioral and physical health, including nutrition, smoking cessation, HIV/AIDS, and oral health in Black communities. The focus of her research is “Healthy Community for Black Immigrants” in Allegheny County, PA. 


Anna Marsland, PhD (A&S ’92, ’97G)
Anna Marsland is a professor in the Biological and Health Psychology Program in the Dietrich School’s Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on the association of psychological, social, and lifestyle factors with risk for physical disease. In particular, she researches how these factors impact the immune system in ways that may contribute to susceptibility to immune-related diseases, such as viral infections. Some of her work has examined factors that are associated with risk for viral-infection and with magnitude of immune responses to vaccination. She plans to talk about her work and the work of others in her field and discuss possible implications for response to the COVID-19 vaccination.



Mario Browne (GSPH ’05), Moderator
Mario Browne is the inaugural Associate Dean for Equity, Engagement, and Justice, and Associate Professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the immediate past director of the Office of Health Sciences diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Schools of the Health Sciences. Mr. Browne is an Affiliate Faculty Member of the Center for Health Equity in the Graduate School of Public Health and a past Faculty Fellow in the Center for Urban Education in the School of Education.

He is a Certified Diversity Practitioner and a Certified Health Education Specialist, and hold a BS in Biology and a BS in Medical Technology from Salem University and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health, and currently pursuing his Doctorate of Education in Administrative and Policy Studies at Pitt’s School of Education. Mr. Browne serves on various community and professional Boards and Committees including the Pennsylvania Department of Health COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, and is the Co-Chair of the Community Research Advisory Board (CRAB) at Pitt School of Public Health’s Center for Health.


The Deliberative Dialogue series is hosted by the Pitt Alumni Association to promote constructive conversations around difficult topics. Each presentation will highlight a topic related to an underserved population to help bring awareness to the variety of experiences across Pitt alumni. Questions about the Deliberative Dialogue series may be directed to Cassie Hayt at


"Safety in Numbers?  The Use (and Misuse) of Data in Society"
April 15, 2021
7 p.m. EST

Data is everywhere: from COVID efficacy rates to election polling, from the justice system to the internet. 

Data can be a tool to improve our lives, but what about the downside to all of this use of data – not only through hacks and security breaches, but also when data is manipulated to advance certain political and social agendas?

Join Dietrich School faculty members Thomas Hales, Lucas Mentch, Sandra Mitchell, Lara Putnam, and moderator Lisa Parker for a lively conversation about the role that data plays in society--the good, the bad, and the life altering.

This event was recorded and is available for viewing.


Thomas HalesThomas Hales, Andrew Mellon Professor
Department of Mathematics 

Topic: "Safe data with encryption"
Encryption uses math to keep data from falling into the wrong hands.  In ongoing "crypto wars," some governments are fighting against strong encryption.


Lucas Mentch, Assistant Professor
Department of Statistics

Topic: "Data in the Justice System"
The abundance of data available today can be used throughout the justice system for everything from validating forensic science procedures, to investigating disparities in police killings, to creating algorithms to predict prison sentencing.  What are the ways in which this can strengthen our trust in such institutions and what are the pitfalls we must be careful to avoid?




Sandra Mitchell, Distinguished Professor
Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Topic: “What data can and cannot tell us”
Scientific data from controlled experiments is the best source of causal information but it has limitations for application to everyday decisions and policies. The difference between judgments of efficacy and effectiveness of covid-19 vaccines exposes the additional considerations required in knowing HOW to use scientific data in different contexts.

Lara Putnam, UCIS Research Professor
Department of History

Topic: "Social Media and Social Movements: Crowdsourcing Knowledge, Combatting Disinformation”
The rise of social media has created new ways for people to learn about and join social movements. Researchers have kept step, creating new crowdsources platforms that enable us to seeing the scope and spread of protest movements like those supporting racial justice or opposing policies or regimes. But social media has also made it possible for disinformation and false narratives about protestors and social movements to spread: creating new challenges for democracies in a digital age.

Lisa Parker, Moderator
Professor and Director, Center for Bioethics & Health Law