(En)Lightning Talks


Phi Beta Kappa's (En)Lightning Talks series brings together arts and sciences experts from around the country to give electrifying five-minute talks.




 "We, Too, Sing America"

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author, poet, and activist. She is the McDavid Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Houston.




 "NASA's HERA has the 'Right Stuff' for Isolation Research in Space and on Earth"

Patrice O. Yarbough is a senior scientist employed by KBRwyle and contracted to NASA's Human Research Program. She is the principal investigator for the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA). 



 "The Border Trilogy: Three Myths about the U.S.-Mexico Border" 

Tony Payan is the director of the Mexico Center at Rice University's Baker Institute and an expert in border governance, flows, immigration, security, and organized crime. 



 "When Artists Become Mathematicians" 

Fumiko Futamura is an artist and associate professor of mathematics at Southwestern University, specializing in the intersections between mathematics and the arts.




 "Social Sculpture: The Shaping of a Community"

Rick Lowe is a Houston-based artist who develops world-renowned projects including Project Row Houses. He is an associate professor at University of Houston.




 "The Marvel of Science: Comics Illuminate the Universe"

Clifford Johnson is a scientist, writer, science communicator, and a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southern California. 




 "Self and Others: Why Not Knowing May be a Good Thing" 

Nancy Marie Mithlo is an associate professor of art history and visual arts at Occidental College, and an acclaimed scholar of contemporary Indigenous arts.  (Photo credit: Julien McRoberts) 



 "Mathematics for Human Flourishing" 

Francis Su is the Benediktsson-Karwa Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College and the past president of the Mathematical Association of America. 



 "The Terror of History: The Witch Craze in Early Modern Europe" 

Teofilo Ruiz is a scholar of the social and popular culture of late medieval and early modern Spain at UCLA.  (Photo credit: Scarlett Freund) 




 "The Big Ones" 

Lucy Jones is one of the world’s most influential seismologists and founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society. 





Natasha Trethewey is a former U.S. Poet Laureate and Professor of English and Creative Writing. 




 "The Rise of Multicellular Life: What Yeast Tells Us About Evolution" 

Will Ratcliff was one of Popular Science's 2016 "Brilliant 10," and is an Assistant Professor of Science and Technology.  




 "Promis(ed) Land - Migration Through the Lens of Contemporary Art" 

Cosmo Whyte is a trans-disciplinary artist and lecturer of visual arts. 



 "The Man Who Knew Infinity" 

Ken Ono is a Professor of Mathematics, expert in number theory and Associate Producer of the film, The Man Who Knew Infinity. 



 “The Breakup?: EU-US Relations in a Populist World”

Eleanor Morris is the Associate Professor of Political Science and Program Director of International Relations at Agnes Scott College.



 “Along Came a Spider: The Value of a Single Arachnid” 

Greta Binford is a professor of biology at Lewis & Clark College. Professor Binford has traveled across the world collecting venomous spider specimens to reveal how species diversify over eons of time. 


Turiya Autry headshotTURIYA AUTRY

 “Roots, Reality, and Rhyme”

Turiya Autry is a poet, playwright, university lecturer, youth engagement specialist, and public speaker. She is also the author of a poetry collection, Roots, Reality, and Rhyme



Rebecca Vega-Thurber headshotREBECCA VEGA THURBER

 "Coral Reef Decline in the Age of the Anthropocene"

Rebecca Vega Thurber is a marine biologist at Oregon State University who investigates the microbial and viral ecology of threatened marine species and habitats. 


Anoop Mirpuri headshotANOOP MIRPURI 

 “Why do We Have Police?” 

Anoop Mirpuri is Assistant Professor of English and affiliate faculty in Black Studies at Portland State University. His research focuses on the relation between American capitalism and representations of crime and prison in U.S. narrative culture.


Ellen Millender headshotELLEN MILLENDER 

 "Democracy and Its Discontents: Why Ancient Athens Matters Today"

Ellen Millender is a professor of classics and humanities at Reed College. She has published articles and contributed to several books on Spartan society. 




Paul Sereno headshotPAUL SERENO

 “Why Dinosaurs Look The Way They Do" 

Paul Sereno is a paleontologist, University of Chicago professor and National Geographic Explorer. 



Audry Petty headshotAUDREY PETTY 

 "Up South: Hospitality and Foodways in Chicago Public Housing" 

Audrey Petty is an educator and writer of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. She is the editor of High Rise Stories, which depicts life in Chicago public housing.  


Vicky Kalogera headshotVICKY KALOGERA

 "Discovering the Sounds of Black Holes"

Vicky Kalogera is the Daniel I. Linzer Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University, and the co-founder and director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics.


Miguel De Baca headshotMIGUEL DE BACA

 "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Contemporary Art"

Miguel de Baca is an author and associate professor of Art History at Lake Forest College. His specialties include cultural history and American studies; memory studies; and photography. 


Eugenia Chang headshotEUGENIA CHANG 

 "When 1 + 1 = 3"

Eugenia Cheng is the Scientist In Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and tenured in Pure Mathematics at the University of Sheffield (UK).