2018 Speakers

 

Meet the speakers of the Falling Walls Conference 2018:


Field: Neuroscience & Stem Cell Biology

Paola Arlotta is a professor at Harvard University and a world-leading pioneer on the intersection of neuroscience and stem cell biology. Focusing on the human cerebral cortex, she uses highly innovative approaches to investigate the roots of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases. Her latest studies have involved 3D cerebral organoids, miniature live brain compounds cultivated from human stem cells which provide a novel platform for ´in vitro´ modelling of diseases and remedies. More...

 

 

 

 


Field: Blockchain

Brian Behlendorf is the Executive Director at Hyperledger, an international, collaborative effort to find real-world applications of blockchain technology.  Under Brian’s stewardship, Hyperledger has grown to include over 160 companies that are looking to incorporate this revolutionary new technology into their business model. For Brian, this is only the beginning though as he seeks out partners in the world of government and research to create reliable, decentralized ways of storing, sharing and controlling information which could benefit citizens all over the world by regaining control of their data. More...

 


 

 


Field: Biodiversity

Gerardo Ceballos is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Ecology at UNAM and a major figure in global conservation science, particularly researching and actively tackling the loss of biodiversity in his native Mexico and globally. His theoretical work resulted in the first evaluation ever of the conservation status of the entire class of land mammals on a global scale. In a recent study on the decimation of animal species worldwide, Gerardo and colleagues warn of the dramatic scope of the coming sixth mass extinction event caused by human-made habitat destruction, overhunting, toxic pollution and climate change. More...

 


 

 


Field: Genetic Engineering

Kevin Esvelt is the director of the Sculpting Evolution Group and Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab. Kevin is both an expert in genetic engineering as well as a trailblazer when it comes to scientific transparency and ethical research. The gene drives he works on have the capability of introducing long-lasting, fundamental changes into the ecosystems they are implemented in because they can change an entire species’ genetic code. At the same time, he is a vocal and active proponent of responsible and transparent science, going to great lengths to include the communities he works in into the decision-making process. Combining these two important endeavours, Kevin has become a breakthrough scientist as well as a science communicator who empowers the people his research will affect. More...

 

 

 

Field: Industrial Sustainability

Steve Evans is the Director of Research at the Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge and leads the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Industrial Sustainability. Working at the crossroads of industry and academia, his research aims at understanding how the industry can bring environmental and social sustainability concerns into its design and manufacturing practices. In his advisory and policy roles, he lays dual emphasis on urgent & practical change now and system level change that offers hope for a sustainable future. More...

 

 


 

 

Field: Biopsychology

Onur Güntürkün is a professor of behavioural neuroscience at Ruhr University Bochum. His decades-long foundational research into brain development has been the source of numerous insights on how cognition, thoughts and memories are created in the brain. A particular focus of his research are the cognitive abilities of mammals and birds, reaching from the level of the brain cell to behaviour patterns. Onur’s celebrated work reveals some universal ideas on how our thinking evolved over millions of years and gives hope that we may at some point understand all the underlying principles of cognition. More...


 


 


Field: Coral Reef Ecology

Terry Hughes is Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef studies, which is headquartered at James Cook University, Australia. His research focuses on the linkages between the ecology of reefs and their importance for societies and economies. An important aspect of his work is understanding the dynamics and resilience of coral reefs, and translating this knowledge into innovative and practical solutions for improved reef management. For Terry’s leadership in responding to the global coral bleaching event caused by climate change, Nature recognised him as one of the ten most important scientists of 2016. More...

 

 

 


Field: Deep Space Exploration

Abraham (Avi) Loeb is a professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University, Founding Director of the Black Hole Initiative as well as the chair of the Advisory Committee of the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative. This latest stage of his highly distinguished career focuses on practical solutions to deep space exploration and the search for signs of extra-terrestrial life. Using a fleet of laser-powered nanocrafts, the $ 100 million Starshot Initiative is a stepping stone for developing the technologies needed for a long-term mission to explore the Alpha Centauri star system in order to transmit research data and images to earth. More...

 


 

 


Field: Big Data Politics 

Stefania Milan is an associate professor of new media and digital culture at the University of Amsterdam and an associate professor of media innovation at the University of Oslo. She also heads DATACTIVE, a project funded by the European Research Council with the objective to explore the politics of big data, privacy and surveillance. By analysing civil society’s engagement with massive data collection, Stefania’s highly interdisciplinary work seeks to understand the risks and promises of big data while showing paths to the future of civic engagement and “data driven” liberal democracies. More...

 

 



 

 

Field: Recycling

Veena Sahajwalla is the director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at UNSW Australia. A materials scientists and engineer, she works towards a revolution in recycling science to unlock the valuable resources in complex and toxic waste found in landfills. By developing micro-factories or „urban mines“ that recover precious materials from waste, and by locating these factories in the domain of towns and communities, Veena wants to bridge the gap between waste and manufacturing. More...

 

 

 

 


Field: Memory Reconsolidation

Daniela Schiller is a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry and the director of the Schiller Lab at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Through a series of ground-breaking experiments, she proved that negative emotions, such as fear, grief and trauma, can be disconnected from the memory that triggers them. This changes the general understanding of memory as immutable. Her research has shown that memory is something that we create and recreate depending on who we are at the time of remembering. Her research has the potential to help people all over the world who have experienced traumatising events in making peace with their past and their memories. More...


 

 

 

 

Field: Artificial Intelligence

Bernhard Schölkopf is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen. With his foundational research, Bernhard was able to become one of the most important voices in machine learning and specifically the area of causality. His work includes “common sense”-based artificial intelligence, which smartly separates coincidental correlation from actual causation. His research has won him several prestigious awards and he is currently co-heading an AI research lab funded by Amazon. Bernhard’s research is essential in shaping the intelligent systems we will increasingly interact with on a daily basis. More...

 


 

 


Field: Materials Science

Nicola Spaldin is a professor and the head of the Materials Theory Group at ETH Zurich. She is internationally known for conceiving and developing a new class of “two in one” materials – multiferroics – which are both ferroelectric and ferromagnetic, allowing for both storing and processing of information in the same component. Using computer models and specialised facilities for the synthesis of multiferroics, Nicola and her interdisciplinary group are further developing these materials that are promising a novel generation of technologies that are lighter, smaller and more energy-efficient. More...

 

 



 

 


Field: Human-Robot Interaction

Leila Takayama, Associate Professor at the University of California, is on the forefront of making human-robot interaction more natural, easy and effortless. She uses her experience as a senior Google researcher as well as a psychology professor to assess what humans want from robots and why they like or dislike certain traits. Leila is a researcher, entrepreneur and innovator and her research has the potential to redefine how we interact with robots and what our future co-existence with them could look like. More...

 

 


 


Field: Political Science

Jan Zielonka is the Professor of European Politics and a Ralf Dahrendorf Fellow at St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford. He is a prolific –  and at times, combative – political scientist who keeps producing deep insights into the present-day state of liberal democracies. His analysis does not hold back with criticism towards liberalism and elites, pointing out deep-rooted flaws in the political processes and institutions of the last decades. Despite the gloomy diagnosis, Zielonka's critique is highly constructive as he tries to reimagine what a liberal democracy can and should be in order to stand the tests of time in the 21st century. More...