Penn Science and Lightbulb Cafe Lecture Series - Fall 2017

Enjoy an evening of engaging, stimulating conversation with expert faculty from the University of Pennsylvania! Presented by Penn Arts and Sciences, in partnership with the Office of University Communications, Penn Science and Lightbulb Café events allow faculty specializing in science, social sciences, arts and humanities to present and discuss their research with audience members. 

Held on Tuesday evenings at World Cafe Live, from September 12 - December 5, 2017, Science and Lightbulb Cafe lectures are free and open to the public, but RSVPs are encouraged.  Each talk begins at 6 p.m. and is followed by a Q&A session.

For more information or directions, contact Gina Bryan at 215-898-8721 or email at

Here is a listing of upcoming Science and Lightbulb Cafes for Fall 2017:

Re-invasion of Lyme Disease in the Northeastern United States

Tuesday, September 12 – PENN SCIENCE CAFÉ

Lyme disease appears to have re-emerged in the late 1900s after hundreds of years of near complete absence. In this talk, Dustin Brisson, associate professor in the Biology Department will share his research exploring how and why Lyme disease has recently and rapidly returned to be the most prevalent vector-borne disease in North America.

Dismantling the Carceral State: Law, Order and Criminal Justice Reform in the Age of Trump

Tuesday, Sepember 26 – PENN LIGHTBULB CAFÉ

Marie Gottschalk, professor of political science, studies the origins and politics of mass incarceration, focusing on the idea of a "carceral state" with millions of people who are in prison, on probation or on parole.  Dr. Gottschalk specializes in American politics, criminal justice, health policy, race, the development of the welfare state and business-labor relations. She was one of the 30 academics, historians, activists and politicians included in Ana DuVernay’s “13th,” a Netflix documentary about mass incarceration that refers to the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery but left an exploitable loophole: "except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."

Poverty in the American South

Tuesday, October 10 – PENN SCIENCE CAFÉ

Although poverty and uneven development exists throughout the United States, the South has had a disproportionate share of the nation’s socioeconomic problems. For decades, poverty has been the highest and most persistent in that region, and the Great Recession has only worsened the problem.  In this talk, ,assistant professor of sociology, Dr. Regina Baker, will address the reasons for this regional disparity and why, as a nation, Americans should care. Drawing on her research on the South, Dr. Baker will discuss the role of demographic, economic, political and racial factors in understanding poverty in the context of place. She will also touch on the uncertainty of future safety nets for America’s most vulnerable populations in the current political climate.

The Real Record on Racial Attitudes

Tuesday, October 24 – PENN LIGHTBULB CAFÉ

Issues of race and racial division have been prominent features of  social organization and culture in the United States from as far back as the historical record goes. As a leading scholar in American race relations, Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Social Sciences, Dr. Camille Charles, maps the major divisions of, and trends in, U.S. racial attitudes, and documents both significant progressive changes as well as substantial enduring frictions and conflicts that continue to make race such a fraught terrain. She will tackle the conceptually broad and analytically powerful record which is a strong caution against glib generalities that attempt to reduce an enormously multifaceted social phenomenon to simplistic catch phrases like "racist America," "the end of racism" or, more recently, "post-racial America."

Listening Under Global Trumpism

Tuesday, October 31 – PENN LIGHTBULB CAFÉ

The crisis of political legitimacy and the collapse of the center left that have fueled the rise of the far right is often described as a failure to listen. Within this context, assistant professor of music, Dr. Naomi Waltham-Smith, will examine how neoliberalism has transformed the way we hear, leading to a crisis of listening, and how studying the soundscapes of protest can provide new insights about a phenomenon that might be called global Trumpism. Dr. Waltham-Smith will share field recordings she made at marches, demonstrations and occupations in the U.S., the U.K. and France in response to the Brexit referendum, the election of Trump and the French presidential-election campaign.


Where Is ‘Home’? Displacement and Exile in Persian Literary Tradition

Tuesday, November 14 – PENN LIGHTBULB CAFÉ

Although terms such as "displacement" and "exile" have been more recurrent in the wake of the ongoing refugee crisis across the world, the constant search of "home" has been always present in various literary traditions including Persian literature. In this talk, Dr. Fatemeh Shams, Persian poet and professor in Near Eastern languages and civilizations, will explore various meanings and representations of "home" throughout the classical and modern literary traditions in an attempt to understand the notion of “exile” and “displacement” as a mental and physical mode of existence.

Unseen Objects in Our Solar System

Tuesday, December 5 – PENN SCIENCE CAFÉ

Masao Sako, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, will discuss his research on searching for new objects in the solar system. He will describe efforts to discover objects beyond the orbit of Neptune, some of which contain valuable information about the complicated dynamical history of the system. Dr. Sako will also discuss why astronomers think that there is a massive previously-unseen planet out there, called Planet Nine, and how it might be found.

Arts & Sciences News

Emily Hannum Named Associate Dean for the Social Sciences

In this new role, Hannum will oversee the Departments of Anthropology, Criminology, Economics, History and Sociology of Science, Political Science, and Sociology, as well as several research centers.

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Matthews Named Scialog Fellow

Scialog supports cohorts of early-career scientists addressing globally significant challenges.

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Dean’s Global Inquiries Fund Projects Announced

Dean Steven J. Fluharty established the fund to advance the School’s commitment to driving global change, a key priority in the Power of Penn Arts & Sciences fundraising campaign.

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Making a Difference in Diverse Communities Grants Announced

The initiative encourages faculty to explore innovative ways of applying their expertise.

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LPS to Launch New Bachelor’s Degree and Online Certificate Programs

New online bachelor’s degree and certificate programs at Penn Arts and Sciences’ College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) are giving adult students flexible options to pursue a college education and advance their professional skills.

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Lauren Sallan Honored by Alma Mater University of Chicago for Achievements in Paleobiology

With an impressive complement of achievements and contributions to her field,

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