Medal of Science winner and ‘connectomics’ guru highlight Gannett lecture series

Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

Esther Conwell is this year’s inaugural speaker for the Gannett lecture series.

RIT’s premier lecture series, the Caroline Werner Gannett Project, launches its 2011–2012 series, “Visionaries in Motion V,” Sept. 15 with a talk by National Medal of Science recipient Esther M. Conwell.

Conwell will discuss her current research in a talk, “Conductive Properties of DNA,” at 8 p.m. in Carlson Auditorium in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.

President Barack Obama awarded the National Medal of Science to Conwell in 2010. A pioneer woman in science for 70 years, Conwell is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. She holds a joint appointment in chemistry and physics at the University of Rochester.

The series’ capstone speaker, Sebastian Seung, professor of computational neuroscience at MIT, will discuss “Searching for the Self in the Brain’s Connections” on Feb. 2. Seung, also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, conducts interdisciplinary research in physics, computer science and neuroscience. His lab at MIT is inventing technologies for finding the “connectome,” the totality of connections among the brain’s neurons, analogous to the genome of the mind. His book Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are will be published in February.

Other speakers in the series include:

  • Ryan Knighton, “It’s, Like, for Real: A Life in Autopathography,” Oct. 10: A Canadian-born journalist, memoirist, professor and screenwriter, Knighton is the author of Cockeyed and C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark, and a screenplay based on his life and directed by Jodie Foster won awards from the Tribecca Film Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
  • Fred Ritchin, “After Photography,” Nov. 3: Ritchin is an author and professor of photography and imaging in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, former picture editor of The New York Times Magazine and executive editor of Camera Arts magazine.
  • Drew Berry, “Science and Aesthetics of Biology Through a Microscope,” Dec. 8: Berry is a MacArthur award-winning biomedical animator at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia.
  • Charles Burns, “Drawn in the Dark: The Art of Charles Burns,” March 15: A Harvey, Ignatz and Eisner award-winning cartoonist and illustrator, Burns’ work, which includes the books Big Baby, Skin Deep, Black Hole and X’ed Out, has appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Time, The New York Times Magazine and elsewhere.
  • David Bornstein, “Are We on the Verge of a New Enlightenment?” April 10: Bornstein is a social innovator and founder of (a website specializing in “solution journalism”); member of the Clinton Global Initiative; and author of several books, including How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurship and the Power of New Ideas.
  • Elizabeth Turk, “Emptiness of Matter,” May 2: Turk is an award-winning artist and marble sculptor, a 2011 Smithsonian Research Fellow and 2010 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Barnett and Annalee Newman Fellowship.

All talks are in RIT’s Webb Auditorium in James E. Booth Hall, with the exception of Conwell’s Sept. 15 talk in Carlson Auditorium. Gannett Project talks are free and open to the public.

For more information about the Caroline Werner Gannett Project, go to

Note: Audio available for this story