Check back often for list of speakers and guests.


Sci Fi Night: Telling The Story 

:: Featured Author ::


Mary Doria Russell was born in suburban Chicago in 1950. Her mother was a Navy nurse and her father was a Marine Corps drill sergeant. She and her younger brother Richard consequently developed a dismaying vocabulary at an early age. She learned discretion at Sacred Heart Catholic elementary school; how to diagram sentences at Glenbard East High; cultural anthropology at the University of Illinois; social anthropology at Northeastern University in Boston; and biological anthropology at the University of Michigan.

A Hugo Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award, British Science Fiction Association Award winner and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Mary has challenged her audiences with insightful analysis of human nature.  Her science fiction books, The Sparrow and Thread of Grace are part of her outstanding list of publications.

Mary and Don Russell have been happily married for an unusually high percentage of the years since 1970. Don is a software engineer and one of the founders of AllTech Medical Systems, which designs and manufactures medical imaging equipment for the Chinese domestic market. Their son Daniel was born in Zagreb in 1985.




Jack McDevitt has been called “the logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke” by Stephen King. Before becoming a writer, he has been a naval officer, taxi driver, English teacher, customs officer, and motivational trainer. His science fiction frequently tackle the subject of first contact along with xenoarchaelogy. His 2006 novel Seeker won the Nebula Award for Best Novel. He has been nominated for the Nebula Award sixteen times. He holds a Master’s degree in literature. His most recent novels include StarHawk, Firebird, The Cassandra Project, and Time Traveler’s Never Die. He also edited the recently released anthology Going Interstellar.



Ken Scholes is the author of the internationally acclaimed Psalms of Isaak series, published by Tor, which includes the books Lamentation, Canticle, Antiphon, and Requiem, which were described by Kevin Anderson as “an iconic SF story cloaked in fantasy.” Lamentation, his first novel, won the American Library Association’s RUSA Reading List Award for Best Fantasy. His short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies since 2000 and is now collected in two volumes, Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Strange Journeys and Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects. Scholes has an eclectic background that includes time logged as a soldier, sailor, musician, minister, nonprofit executive, public procurement specialist and label gun repairman. Harry Turtledove described Ken Scholes as “a hot new voice to watch for on the interesting frontier between science fiction and fantasy.”



Karin Lowachee is a Canadian author of speculative fiction. She is the author of four novels: Warchild, Burndive, Cagebird, and The Gaslight Dogs. Her short fiction has appeared in everything from ON SPEC to Lightspeed Magazine. She has won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Novel, the Warner Aspect First Novel Award, and the Prix Aurora Award.  She was nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award and for the Locus Award for Best First Novel.


Keynote Luncheon Speaker

:: Interactive Storytelling, Relationships, and Gaming ::

Mr. Casey Hudson

Casey Hudson has been a videogame developer for 15 years, leading the development of some of the game industry’s most critically and commercially successful titles.

After earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Alberta, Casey started his career in game development as a Technical Artist, creating 3D art and technical solutions for MDK2 (2000) and Neverwinter Nights (2002).

Casey was the Project Director on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, winner of over 40 Game of the Year awards for 2003.  As the Project Director and Executive Producer on the Mass Effect trilogy (2007, 2010, 2012), Casey led a team in the development of an ambitious game series set in an original science-fiction setting, which pushed the boundaries of interactive cinematic storytelling and advanced digital actors.  Mass Effect has earned worldwide acclaim, expanding into comic books, novels, and a feature film in development.

Casey continues to oversee the growing Mass Effect franchise as Executive Producer, and is currently leading the development of a game set in a new fictional universe.



:: State of the Universe Panel Moderator ::

Jill Tarter, PhD., SETI Institute, Bernard M. Oliver Chair for Research 

Dr. Jill Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics Degree with Distinction from Cornell University and her Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley.

She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey, and has conducted numerous observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. She is a Fellow of the AAAS and the California Academy of Sciences, she was named one of the Time 100 in 2004, and one of the Time 25 in Space in 2012, received a TED prize in 2009, public service awards from NASA, multiple awards for communicating science to the public, and has been honored as a woman in technology.

Since the termination of funding for NASA’s SETI program in 1993, she has served in a leadership role to design and build the Allen Telescope Array and to secure private funding to continue the exploratory science of SETI. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact.


Adrian Tiplady, PhD. 

Project Scientist of the South Africa Square Kilometer Array Telescope Project

Adrian Tiplady’s “diverse skills set” has been credited as key to South Africa’s successful bid to host the SKA. A gifted saxophonist with a PhD in Physics, Adrian had to prepare a 27 000 page long scientific proposal for consideration by world experts, while also having to negotiate a complex minefield of interests to help boost South Africa’s bid.  Adrian Tiplady holds a PhD in Radio Astronomy and Digital Instrumentation from  Rhodes the University.


Charles Lindsay, SETI Artist-in-Residence

Charles Lindsay is a multi-media artist interested in the rapid assimilation of technology as it becomes a driving force in all aspects of human evolution. He is the SETI Institute’s first Artist in Residence and a Guggenheim Fellow.

Lindsay’s career trajectory has been diverse, ranging from exploration geology in the arctic to photojournalism in the jungles of southeast Asia. In the last decade he invented a carbon based imaging process and merged that with sound and sensors to create an immersive art installation called CARBON. Lindsay received a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship to develop this work.

His photographs have appeared in many international magazines including the New York Times Magazine, Blind Spot, Aperture, Natural History, Gastronomica, Audubon, Parabola, Orion, and German GEO. He’s also published in dozens of Japan’s leading magazines. Lindsay has published seven books of photographs, with Aperture and Little Brown.

Lindsay’s work has appeared in numerous museum shows and symposia, most recently including ISEA 2012 in New Mexico and the Zero1 Biennial in San Francisco. His art and environmental work has been featured on National Public Radio, Art International Radio ( CNN International, NHK Japan and He has lectured at the American Museum of Natural History, Mountain Film in Telluride, The School of Visual Arts and the Open Center in New York, Idea City in Toronto and at The Hat Creek Observatory for SETI. Lindsay is an active musician, field recorder and sound artist who participates on the Board of the Electronic Music Foundation.


David Charles Black, PhD, USRA

Dr. David Black is President Emeritus of Universities Space Research Association and a Visiting Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute.  He received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Minnesota, and has been an Adjunct Professor at University College, London, Stanford University, and Rice University.  He served as Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston for 13 years, and was Chief Scientist for Space Research at NASA’s Ames Research Center.  He also was the first Chief Scientist for the Space Station Program.

Dr. Black is an internationally recognized researcher in the fields of star and planetary system formation, and planetary science.  He was the first to discover evidence of extrasolar material that survived the formation of the solar system, providing insight into stellar nucleosynthesis and conditions in the early solar system.  He was a pioneer in numerical modeling of protostellar formation and evolution.  He is regarded as the father of modern efforts to search for other planetary systems.

He has appeared in numerous PBS NOVA features related to star and planetary system formation, and has served as Chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on Astronomy and Public Outreach.  Dr. Black has chaired numerous advisory committees for NASA and NSF.

Closer to home, he has coached Special Olympics softball, basketball, and power lifting for more than a decade, and has served as Chair of the Clear Creek Education Foundation.


Ariel Anbar, PhD, Arizona State University

Ariel Anbar is a biogeochemist interested in the past and future evolution of the Earth as a habitable planet and how this knowledge informs the search for inhabited worlds beyond Earth. His current research focuses on the chemical evolution of the environment, especially changes in ocean oxygenation through time, and its consequences for life.


Jeff Nosanov

Jeffrey P. Nosanov, J.D., LL.M. is Program Planning and Assessment Lead, Nuclear Space Power Office at Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA.

Jeff was previously Export Compliance Advisor at Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA, Consultant at Nosanov Computer Consulting, Legal Intern at New York City Department of Sanitation, System Administrator / Legal Intern at William Decandico, P.C., System Administrator / Legal Intern at The Ottinger Firm, P.C., Legal Intern at 4 Frontiers, Inc., System Administrator / Legal Researcher at Periconi, LLC, and GIS Analyst at City of Irvine.

He authored A Comprehensive Review of United States ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) Controversy, and Reform,The (Drug) War on “Cheese”, The Value of Space Exploration, andSave the James Webb Space Telescope.

Jeff earned his B.A. in Environmental Analysis and Design at University of California, Irvine in 2004. He earned his J.D. at New York Law School in 2008. He earned his LL.M. in Space and Telecommunications Law at University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2009.



Jennie Young

UN Education Science Cultural Health Advancement Foundation

Ms. Jennie Yeung was born in Hong Kong from a Southeast Asian overseas Chinese family with their ancestral home from Chao’en, Guangdong. She was one of the youngest and most accomplished corporate banking vice presidents of Citi group in Asia Pacific when she was only 28 in Hong Kong. Ms.Yeung was sent to New York for Citigroup’s Special People Development program in 1990, and become an outstanding Senior International Banker in Indonesia until 1993.  Since 1993 Ms. Yeung served as Financial Advisor, Corporate Finance Director and Group CFO of leading conglomerates in Indonesia, and advisor for businesses in USA and China.

Ms. Yeung speaks five languages and dialects.She was the cadet head in the Red Cross and a head girl in St. Clare’s Girls’ School in Hong Kong, and graduated with honor from Senator O’Connor College in Toronto. She is a graduate of University of Toronto (B.Sc.), China Europe International Business School (MBA), New York University Real Estate Institute (M.Sc.), and Harvard Business School (PGL).



Mmboneni Muofhe

Republic of South Africa

Mmboneni Muofhe is the Chief Director of International Cooperation and Resources at South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology.


Louis Friedman, PhD

Dr. Friedman is an American astronautics engineer and space spokesperson. He was born in New York and raised in the Bronx. Dr. Friedman was a co-founder of The Planetary Society with Carl Sagan and Bruce C. Murray.

In 1961 he earned his Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics and Engineering Physics from University of Wisconsin. In 1963 he graduated from Cornell University with a Masters of Science in Engineering Mechanics. In 1971 he graduated with a Ph.D. from the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department of MIT with his thesis on “Extracting Scientific Information from Spacecraft Tracking Data.”

He worked for AVCO Space Systems Division from 1963-1968. From 1970 through 1980 he was with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) leading the Advanced Planetary Studies and the post-Viking Mars Program. Other projects at the JPL include Mariner-Venus-Mercury, Planetary Grand Tour (Voyager), Venus Orbital Imaging Radar (Magellan probe), Halley’s Comet Rendezvous-Solar Sail, and the Mars Program.


Hakeem Oluseyi, PhD, Astrophysicist

Dr. Hakeem M. Oluseyi is an astrophysicist with research interests in the fields of astrophysics, cosmology, and technology development. He received B.S. degrees in Physics & Mathematics from Tougaloo College and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics from Stanford University. Since 2007 Dr. Oluseyi has been a professor of Physics & Space Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology. He currently has 7 U.S. patents, 4 European patents and over 60 scholarly publications in the areas of astrophysics, optics and detector technologies development; nanotechnology manufacturing; observational cosmology; and the history of astronomy.

Dr. Oluseyi is passionate about communicating the scientific process and the results of modern science to students and the public in the U.S. and around the world. He has appeared on Discovery, Science Channel, NatGeo, NBC, CNN and more. He has won several honors including selection as a 2012 TEDGlobal Fellow, a 2011 U.S. State Department Speaker & Specialist, the Outstanding Technical Innovation and Best Paper at the 2010 NSBE Aerospace Systems Conference, the 2006 Physics Technical Achiever of the Year by the National Technical Association, a 2005 NASA Earth/Sun Science New Investigator Fellow, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation Astrophysics Research Fellow, the Ernest O. Lawrence Astrophysics Research Fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (2001-2003), and as a NASA GSRP Fellow at Stanford University.

Dr. Oluseyi currently investigates Galactic structure and formation using time-domain survey data analyzed via big data astroinformatics and high-performance computing. He also leads a group studying processes by which electromagnetic fields and plasmas interact in order to understand solar atmospheric heating and acceleration, which has resulted in a new in-space propulsion technology.



:: Factors in Time and Distance ::

Eric W. Davis, PhD

Dr. Eric W. Davis, FBIS is a research physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies-Austin and EarthTech International, and is also the CEO of Warp Drive Metrics. His fields of specialization include spacecraft exploration of the outer solar system, planetary sciences, relativity theory and cosmology, space mission engineering, and NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics.
 r. Davis authored an award winning paper on the quantum vacuum zero-point energy (Space Technology & Applications Int’l Forum 2007), and authored several papers and reports on traversable wormholes, warp drives, laser propulsion, teleportation physics, advanced propulsion concepts, and contact with extraterrestrial visitors.. Dr. Davis is a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics, member of the New York Academy of Sciences, and member of the American Astronomical Society.


:: Becoming an Interstellar Civilization: Culture Governance, and Ethics ::

John C. McKnight, PhD

John Carter McKnight is a former corporate finance lawyer with a PhD in Human & Social Dimensions of Science and Technology from Arizona State University. His research focuses on emergent community governance, ethics and social norm enforcement in technologically-mediated spaces from internet gaming communities to spacecraft. His current work examines the role of social media platforms in changing the practice and communication of planetary science. He has developed and taught a range of graduate and undergraduate courses in games and culture, and the governance of emerging technologies. He has practiced corporate finance law with global law firms in New York and San Francisco, and served as officer and director of organizations involved in space exploration, science education and public policy.


:: Dimensions of Life In Vivo and In Vitro ::

Ronke Olabisi, PhD

Prof. Ronke Olabisi is a member of the 100YSSTM Research team (the Life Sciences focus) and a faculty member in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Rutgers University. Dr. Olabisi conducts tissue engineering and regenerative medicine research, particularly in the area of orthopedic and dermal tissues. Her research while at Rice University is currently being considered for a patent. She has presented her work in peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and conferences in 3 countries and her published work has been highlighted in Science and The Spine Journal. Dr. Olabisi is a member of the Orthopaedic Research Society, the Society for Biomaterials, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, and the American Society of Biomechanics. Dr. Olabisi received her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, masters’ degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Michigan, her doctorate degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and postdoctoral training at Rice University and City of Hope hospital. Dr. Olabisi received one of four nationally awarded Postdoctoral Fellowships from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute and as a graduate student was the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s GSK-12 award.


:: Design : Space ::

Karl A. Aspelund, PhD

Karl Aspelund, PhD, is Assistant Professor at the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design at the University of Rhode Island. His research interests lie in examining the role textiles and design play in the creation of identity, the impact of the textile life-cycle on the Earth’s environment, and how the design community can contribute to the goal of environmental sustainability. He is now turning toward investigating the design and cultural needs and constraints of apparel in long-term space exploration. After graduating from the Wimbledon School of Art (1986,) with a degree in 3d design, Karl worked as an artist and designer for theater and film for 20 years and has taught design since the early 1990′s. Before coming to URI in 1996, he was head of the Department of Industrial Design at the Reykjavik Technical College in Iceland. Karl completed a Ph.D. in 2011 in Anthropology and Material Culture from Boston University’s University Professors Program, where his dissertation was awarded the University Professors Edmonds Prize as the best dissertation of the academic year 2010-2011. Karl is the author of two design textbooks, “The Design Process,” (2006) and “Fashioning Society,”(2009.) The third, an introduction to designing, is due in early 2014.


:: The Next Generation : College Track ::

David Alexander, PhD

Dr. David Alexander is a professor in Rice University’s Physics & Astronomy Department  and the Director of Rice’s Space Institute. His research interests include solar activity, sunspots, flares and coronal mass ejections. Professor Alexander is a member of the Rice Faculty Senate and author of “The Sun” part of the Greenwood Press “Guide to the Universe” Series. He a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.


:: Interstellar Aspiration—Commercial Perspiration ::

Amy Millman

Amy Millman is a passionate advocate for women entrepreneurs building Big Businesses Starting Small.  In 2000, she co-founded Springboard Enterprises, a non-profit venture catalyst which sources, coaches, showcases and supports women-led companies seeking equity capital for product development and expansion.  Springboard has assisted hundreds of women entrepreneurs in raising billions in investments and connecting with thousands of expert resources.  The successes of Springboard entrepreneurs include 10 IPOs, legions of high value M&As and a community of accomplished serial entrepreneurs.  During her career in Washington, DC, she served as a representative for several industry groups and was appointed as Executive Director of the National Women’s Business Council during the Clinton Administration. She served on the boards of many organizations including her current service with JumpStart Inc. and Enterprising Women Magazine.



Joe Ritter, PhD

Joe Ritter is a NASA/NIAC fellow, has worked in government and private sectors and held faculty appointments in diverse areas from Space Systems Engineering to Astronomy to Animal science.  He is working on a number of cutting-edge projects that sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but in fact are real: Current projects include developing laser powered meta-material nano-actuators optical systems with the goal of launching 100 meter giant ultra-lightweight space telescopes, working on optical systems for Earth based analysis of exoplanet atmospheres and through a new advance radically reducing light pollution that affects astronomy, humans, sea turtles and other endangered species ( He is on the advisory board of the Open Source Starship Alliance ( and CEO of Neoteric Physics. Joe believes that having the big picture (an interdisciplinary view) is critical to scientific advancement. His previous research and consulting covered many fields, including Artificial Intelligence, Teratology, Genetics, Satellite Oceanography, Solar Power, Space Plasma Physics, Radiative Transfer, Active Structures, Adaptive Optics and many other fields.


Pamela Contag, PhD

Pamela R. Contag, Ph.D., is currently the CEO of Cygnet Biofuels and the CSO of Origen Therapeutics. Dr. Contag founded four venture-backed start-up companies; Xenogen Corp. completed a public offering in 2004 and was subsequently acquired; Cobalt Technologies, now in product demonstration; Cygnet Biofuels, developing low cost enzymes; and ConcentRx, a novel therapeutic for oncology indications. Dr. Contag was named one of the “Top 25 Women in Small Business” by Fortune magazine.

Contag has held various consulting and board positions, public, private and not-for-profit. Those positions include a consulting Professorship at Stanford School of Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics (1999-present), the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (1999-2005). Dr. Contag was a Director of Xenogen Corporation (Nasdaq) (1995-2005) and was CEO and Chairman of Cobalt Technologies (2005-2008) and a Delcath (Nasdaq) Board Member (2008-2011). She also joined in 2009 the DOE Biomass technology Advisory Committee and two nonprofit boards, Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator of women entrepreneurs and the Molecular Sciences Institute. In 2010 Dr. Contag joined the Merrick Engineering Consultancy specializing in the energy field.

With more than 25 years of microbiology research experience, Dr. Contag is widely published in the field of Microbiology and Optical imaging and has over 36 patents and patent applications. Dr. Contag received her Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1989 and completed her Postdoctoral Training at Stanford University School of Medicine in 1993 specializing in “Host/Pathogen Interactions”.


Dan Hanson, Technology Innovation Group

Dan Hanson has over 20 years experience in financial management, investment banking, and governmental policy development. His professional experience has included investment portfolio management and risk management, capital raising through the equity, bond, and securitization markets, and public policy development for various government agencies.

For the past five years, he has focused on venture capital formation, commercialization of technology, and research and development infrastructure in collaboration with centers of innovation. Mr. Hanson has a keen interest in leveraging art, science, and education infrastructure to promote economic development in regional economies. He helps build economic engines by forging partnerships among business, government, and nongovernmental organizations. These partnerships often are a mix of organizations operating on a local, national, and international level.

Mr. Hanson’s efforts are realized through a combination of business and volunteer activities. He participates in leadership roles on the board of directors of several state and local community organizations. These organizations include the North Texas Life Science Society, Big Thought: A Learning Partnership, and the State of Texas Product Development and Small Business Incubator Board.

Mr. Hanson is noted for his outstanding analytical and commercial skills, and for his commitment to achieving equitable outcomes of government policy and program initiatives across communities. Dan’s academic qualifications include a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science (in Industrial Relations) from the University of the Oregon . He also attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and graduated with a Master of Science in City and Regional Planning.