South Side Science Festival

Panel Discussions

Check out some of the panel discussions for this year's festival!

Water Quality and the Great Lakes

What is in the water we drink and where does it come from? This panel will explore the different factors that influence water quality and different ways to improve the water in the Great Lakes and our homes.




  • Seth Darling, Chief Science & Technology Officer for the Advanced Energy Technologies Directorate, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Alaina Harkness, Executive Director, Current
  • Eduardo Salinas, City of Chicago
  • Maureen Coleman, Associate Professor of Geophysical Sciences, UChicago

The Origin of the Universe

What do we know about the origin of the universe? This panel will discuss our current understanding of how the universe was formed, how new astronomy tools like the James Webb Telescope will change our understanding, and how and when planets formed.



  • Angela Olinto, Dean of the Physical Sciences Division, UChicago
  • Jeff McMahon, Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UChicago
  • Leslie Rogers, Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UChicago

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Ethics

What is “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” and how do we help make sure that machines learn ethically and equitably? This panel will introduce concepts of AI and ML and then discuss potential pitfalls in AI/ML related to issues of equity and how we can better teach computer programs.



  • Rebecca Willett, Professor of Statistics and Computer Science & Director of AI at the Data Science Institute, UChicago
  • Sanjay Krishnan, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, UChicago
  • Bo Li, Associate Professor of Computer Science, UChicago

It’s the Little Things in Life: How our Microbes Affect our Health

How do the microbes in our bodies affect our health? This panel will discuss our microbiomes and what we know, and don’t know, about how our microbiomes could impact our health.



  • Cathy Nagler, Bunning Family Professor in the Biological Sciences Division and Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, UChicago
  • Ran Blekhman, Associate Professor of Medicine, UChicago
  • Jennifer Pisano, Associate Professor of Medicine, UChicago
  • Rosemary Pope, Committee on Immunology, UChicago
  • Joyce Ghali, Committee on Molecular Metabolism and Nutrition, UChicago
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