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Rice Space Institute

Scientia: Speaker Profiles


Space Exploration and Human Imagination: Space Futures

Mario Livio, Ph.D.
Senior Astrophysicist
Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute
Mario Livio is an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), the institute which conducts the scientific program of the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr. Livio has published more than 400 scientific papers and received numerous awards for research, for excellence in teaching, and for his books. His interests span a broad range of topic in astrophysics, from cosmology, dark energy, black holes, and neutron stars, to extrasolar planets and the emergence of intelligent life in the universe.
Livios’ popular book, “The Golden Ratio”, won him the “Peano Prize” for 2003, and the “International Pythagoras Prize” for 2004. His most recent book, “Is God A Mathematician?”, was selected by the Washington Post as one of the best books of 2009. Livio’s new book, “Brilliant Blunders”, is scheduled to appear in May, 2012.
Cindy Evans, Ph.D.
Deputy Manager, Astromaterials Acquisition & Curation Office
ISS Associate Program Manager for Earth Observations
Johnson Space Center, NASA

Cindy Evans is a scientist and Deputy Manager in JSC’s Astromaterials Acquisition Curation Office, and the International Space Station Associate Program Scientist for Earth Observations.  In these roles, Evans brings more than 20 years experience supporting science activities for human spaceflight operations, including training astronauts in Earth Observations and geology, managing the Image Science & Analysis Lab after the Columbia accident and during the first years of return to flight, leading Earth Observation activities from the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, and defining and leading the NASA-Mir Crew Earth Observations program. Evans has worked extensively with astronaut crews and mission operations teams to develop and implement science requirements, including crew training, mission planning, data evaluation and database sharing. Her recent research has included remote sensing studies using imagery collected from spaceflight missions.  As the PI for the GeoLab project – a habitat-based prototype laboratory facility for examining geological samples, Evans also performs research on science operations and prototype hardware supporting geoscience exploration activities. She has participated in NASA’s analog activities to test the GeoLab hardware and perform science operations that simulate the collection of geological materials from other planetary surfaces and preserve them for detailed study on Earth. Evans has also participated in several field and ship-based campaigns studying rocks from ocean basin environments.

Jacques Arnould, Ph.D.
Ethics Advisor, French Space Academy
Jacques Arnould  holds Ph.D.s in the history of science and in theology, and is also an agronomical engineer. Arnould has an active interest in the interrelation between sciences, cultures and religions with a particular interest in two themes: the first related to the life sciences and their evolution; the second to space conquest.
Dr. Arnould is the French Space Academy’s (CNES) expert in charge of ethical, social and cultural aspects of space activities. He is also a correspondent for the French Academy of Agriculture, and was a member of the commission which organized the French public debate on nanotechnologies (2009-2010). He recently published “Icarus’ Second Chance: The basis and perspectives of space ethics” (Springer, 2011).
W. Patrick McCray, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara

Patrick McCray is a professor in the Department of History at UCSB where he researches and teaches about science and technology after 1945. Before coming to UCSB, McCray worked at the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics. He received his Ph.D. in 1996 and is the author of numerous publications and books on the history of science and technology including Giant Telescopes: Astronomical Ambition and the Promise of Technology (Harvard, 2004), Keep Watching the Skies: The Story of Operation Moonwatch and the Dan of the Space Age (Princeton, 2008), and The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future (2012). 


Laurie Leshin, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Science
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Laurie Leshin serves as Dean of the School of Science and Professor of Earth & Environmental Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she leads the scientific academic and research enterprise at the oldest technological University in the United States. With a long tradition of collaboration spanning fundamental science to high value applications, Rensselaer is a true pioneer in interdisciplinary and translational research in Biotechnology, Nanoscience, Energy, Data Science, and Astrobiology. Prior to coming to Rensselaer, Leshin spent six years as a senior executive at NASA, where she worked in both the science and human exploration programs. Leshin’s scientific expertise is in cosmochemistry, and she is primarily interested in deciphering the record of water on objects in our solar system.

James Kasting, Ph.D.
Professor of Geosciences
Penn State University

James F. Kasting  is a geoscientist and Distinguished Professor of Geosciences at Penn State University. Kasting was educated at Harvard University and the University of Michigan, where he received his Ph.D. in atmospheric science in 1979. Kasting has published dozens of reviews and papers, covering the geophysical history and status of the Earth, with a focus on atmospherics. He has also considered the habitability criteria of other stellar systems and planets and is broadly considered the world leader in the field of planetary habitability. Professor Kasting is also a member of numerous professional scientific societies and committees. He was elected Fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciencesand Geochemical Society in 2008. He has served NASA in various capacities, including as a member of the scientific working group for the Terrestrial Planet Finder, and as a civil servant for most of the 1980s.  Kasting chaired NASA’s ExoPAG (Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group) from 2010-2012. 

Asif Siddiqi, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of History
Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies
Fordham University
Asif Siddiqi is an associate professor of history at Fordham University. He specializes in the history of science and technology and modern Russian history. He has written several books on the history of space exploration. His most recent book The Rockets’ Red Glare: Spaceflight and the Soviet Imagination, 1857-1957 (Cambridge, 2010) recovered the social and cultural roots of cosmic enthusiasm in the Russian context dating back to the 19th century. Siddiqi’s major contribution to space history scholarship has been to apply academic training, theory, and methodology to the study of Soviet space program history. Siddiqi utilized newly available archival materials from Russia, published works such as memoirs, and other sources and essentially pioneered Soviet space history scholarship in the post Cold War-era. His articles have been published in the leading Russian space journal Novosti kosmonavtiki (News of Cosmonautics) as well as the official history journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Voprosy istorii estestvoznaniia i tekhniki (Problems in the History of Natural Sciences and Technology). He also regularly publishes pieces in the Moscow English language daily, Moscow Times. Most recently, he co-edited a book of essays on cultural aspects of Soviet fascination with space, Into the Cosmos: Space Exploration and Soviet Culture (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011).
Leslie Gertsch, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Geological Engineering
Missouri S&T

Leslie Gertsch earned her Ph.D. at Colorado School of Mines. She  joined the Missouri S&T Geological Engineering faculty in 2003. Previously she  taught at the Colorado School of Mines and Michigan Technological University. Dr. Gertsch has ongoing research activities in rock fragmentation, innovative excavation techniques, mine planning and management, and rock engineering. She is also Deputy Director for Rock Mechanics of the Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center at MS&T. She teaches courses in Rock Discontinuity Analysis, Asteroid Mining, Engineering Mechanics, and basic Physical Geology for Engineers. 

Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom
VP, Operations
Singularity University

Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom is currently the VP of Operations for Singularity University, located inside NASA Research Park in Mt. View, CA.  SU is a unique educational institution focusing  on teaching  exponential technologies like AI & Robotics, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and Digital Manufacturing and how they can be leveraged to solve global issues. 

Emeline has degrees in Physics, and Earth and Space Science, and attended the International Space University (ISU) summer program as a student in Strasbourg, France. She has been involved with the ISU for 20 years serving as full time and volunteer staff for nine ISU summer programs around the world in different operations and academic capacities.

Previously, Emeline has worked as the Director of Program Development and Research and Director of Operations for Space Adventures Ltd, a space tourism company sending private citizens to the International Space Station. She has also worked as a space consultant working on proposal management and research for government and private space and aerospace companies. Emeline is co-author of the book Realizing Tomorrow: The Path to Private Space Flight for the Outward Odyssey Book Series, University of Nebraska Press.