Many great discoveries in science are surprises.

To paraphrase Louis Pasteur, sometimes luck favors the prepared mind, as when Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by noticing that mold growing accidentally in his lab seemed to kill bacteria. At other times, new instruments offer unanticipated revelations: until Galileo looked at Jupiter with his telescope, he didn’t know it had moons or their importance to our understanding of the solar system. And, occasionally, methodical experiments find exactly the opposite of what they sought to prove. Scientists intending to measure the deceleration of the universe’s expansion, for example, found acceleration instead.

The 2018 Radcliffe Institute science symposium, to be held Friday, October 26, at the Knafel Center, 10 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138, will focus on how scientists explore realities they cannot anticipate. Speakers from across the disciplines of modern science will present personal experiences and discuss how to train scientists, educators, and funders to foster the expertise and open-mindedness needed to reveal undiscovered aspects of the world around us.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but interest in our program has exceeded our current capacity. We’re happy to add you to our wait list and will inform you as soon as possible if space becomes available. Please email to be added to the wait list. For those unable to attend in person, the symposium will be webcast live at on October 26th. Registration is not required to view the webcast.

Presenters and discussants:

  • Alyssa Goodman, faculty co-director of the science program, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Robert Wheeler Willson Professor of Applied Astronomy, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University
  • Stuart Firestein, professor of biological sciences, Columbia University
  • Joel Dudley, associate professor of genetics and genomic sciences, associate professor of population health science and policy, associate professor of medicine, and director of the Next Generation Healthcare Institute, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai
  • Robinson W. Fulweiler, associate professor in the Departments of Earth & Environment and of Biology and director of the Boston University Marine Program, Boston University
  • Immaculata De Vivo, interim faculty codirector of the science program, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School; and professor of epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Nathan E. Hultman, director of the Center for Global Sustainability and associate professor in the School of Public Policy, University of MarylandConevery Bolton Valencius, professor of history, Boston College
  • Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor in astronomy and director of the Carl Sagan Institute, Cornell University
  • Laura Kreidberg, junior fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows, and ITC Fellow, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
  • David Charbonneau, professor of astronomy and Harvard College Professor, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University
  • Jill Tarter, chair emeritus for SETI Research, SETI Institute

The live stream will be available Friday, October 26th, from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Time [13:30 to 21:00 UTC] at Join for as long as you are able.

Approximately four weeks after the event we will post videos of each conversation to the Harvard YouTube channel. You’ll find these videos linked from the same URL as the live stream:


Jennifer Birkett
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Harvard University
+1 617-496-9975