Arizona Science Lecture Series | 2020

Join us Tuesdays at 7PM in Centennial Hall starting February 4, 2020 for four free lectures exploring the catalysts—both positive and negative—influencing the pace of global change and how these scientific advances will profoundly impact how we live 20 years from now and beyond.

Visit our lecture series website to learn more and view past lectures.

February 4

Life Beyond Earth

Chris Impey
University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy
College of Science, University of Arizona

Betül Kaçar
Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Astronomy
College of Science, University of Arizona

After four billion years of life on Earth, one species is altering the planet to make it less habitable. That same species is also poised to leave the planet and live on other worlds. As we contemplate life off-Earth we’re also making rapid progress in our search for life beyond Earth. The lecture will look at the trajectory of life on Earth, and what our planet can tell us about the likelihood of life on the many exoplanets that are being discovered. It will address the most profound questions we can ask about our place in the universe: Are we alone? The search for life beyond Earth will inform how we live on this planet. As T.S. Eliot wrote: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

February 18

Our Rapidly Changing Biosphere

Brian Enquist
Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
College of Science, University of Arizona

What does the future hold for the biodiversity of our planet, and why should we care? Ecosystems connect the biosphere’s living and physical components through the flow of energy and the cycling of nutrients—and ecosystems sustain society. However, the biosphere is now rapidly changing. In this talk, we will travel from lowland tropical rainforests to alpine wetlands to highlight the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems. From the diversity and complexity of microscopic life in soils to the diversity of ecosystems along climate gradients, we will show why biodiversity is changing across scales and why this matters. Throughout, we emphasize the factors that promote and maintain biodiversity as well as why change in the biosphere is accelerating. Many questions remain: what is the future of the biosphere and biodiversity on an increasingly human dominated planet? And how much time do we have left to promote a sustainable earth?

February 25

The Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence

Stephen Kobourov
Professor, Computer Science
College of Science, University of Arizona

Carlos Scheidegger
Assistant Professor, Computer Science
College of Science, University of Arizona

The word robot is 100 years old, but only recently has AI begun to make real-life impact, from Apple’s Siri to Uber’s self-driving cars. Rapid advances in machine learning have renewed the idea of modeling how the human brain works by building deep neural networks that learn how to solve problems with the help of many examples. Like other revolutions, AI comes with great promise: better medical diagnoses, more efficient transportation, and personalized recommendations from shopping to music to fitness routines. There’s also peril, since AI enables mass surveillance and manipulation, and perpetuates societal biases. There are technological challenges—deep neural networks can solve only narrow problems, are not robust, and do not generalize how we expect them to—but a truly humane, AI-enabled future will require much more than just technologists. We must work with ethicists, policy-makers, and particularly the people that will be affected by these systems.

March 3

Our World Is Changing Faster Than We Are

Howard-Yana Shapiro
Chief Agricultural Officer, Mars Advanced Research Institute Fellow, Mars Inc, Senior Fellow, Plant Sciences
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Davis
Distinguished Fellow, The World Agroforestry Centre
Rockefeller Foundation Advisor

Society faces enormous challenges to feed the future population, heal us from known and unknown diseases and find those solutions quickly. The question becomes, what scientific tools do we have that enable resilient solutions to those problems. The world of science is international; today we need collaborations yielding discovery, translation and scale to those issues. Unconventional ideas/unconventional solutions are mandated more than ever before. As we study the complexity of biological systems, strategy not tactics and determined innovation gives hope for the future.

Presenting Sponsor



Funding provided by



Free! Thanks to our underwriters, every lecture is free to attend.

The lecture series is held in Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona Campus. Centennial Hall now performs bag checks. Please note, bags larger than 12” x 6” x 12” are not permitted. Learn more about the Centennial Hall Security Policy.

Yes, but please note that Centennial Hall performs bag checks. Bags larger than 12” x 6” x 12” are not permitted. Learn more about the Centennial Hall Security Policy.

The closest parking garage is the Tyndall Avenue Garage. There are two more nearby garages at Main Gate and 6th Avenue. See the campus map.

Lectures begin at 7:00 PM. Doors open at 6:00 PM and we encourage you to arrive at Centennial Hall before 6:30 PM, as seating is limited.

Yes, there will be an overflow location within a short walking distance from Centennial Hall.

Yes, each lecture is streamed live by AZPM. YouTube video links are generally posted on this website within one to three days after each lecture.

Thank you! Donate now to the Science Lecture Series, or contact us if you have questions about how to give. 

History of the Arizona Science Lecture Series

In spring 2006, the College of Science launched its first public lecture series on the topic of Evolution. Bringing together educators and researchers from inside the College, this inaugural series was received by audiences that have grown in size and passion ever since. Since that time, UA Science has provided an annual lecture series on a wide range of science topics that impact our community. Topics have included cosmology, neuroscience, transformative science, life science, evolution and climate change. 

In past years, a companion program for educators is offered as a for-credit course with discussion, lecture, and activities to help teach series topics in the classroom. This course is structured for science teachers at the 6-12 grade level, but K-12 teachers at all levels are invited to participate. Pre-service teachers who are not yet certified may also take the course and earn undergraduate credit.

While thousands look forward to this free public series every year, many thousands more have participated in these series by downloading the lecture podcasts available on this site. Lectures are also available as podcasts on the UA's iTunes U.

UA Science Lecture Series:

Spring 2019: Searching for Certainty

Spring 2018: Humans, Data and Machines

Spring 2017: Rethinking Reality

Spring 2016: Earth Transformed

Spring 2015: Life in the Universe

Spring 2014: The Evolving Brain

Spring 2013: Genomics Now

Spring 2012: Living Beyond 100

Spring 2011: Cosmic Origins

Spring 2010: Mind and Brain

Spring 2009: Science that Transforms

Spring 2008: The Edges of Life

Fall 2006: Global Climate Change

Spring 2006: Evolution