Starmus IV to celebrate outstanding contributions of women to science

Posted by David Eicher
on Thursday, November 17, 2016

Starmus IV will be held in Trondheim, Norway, June 18–23, 2017.





Women have not always received the recognition they deserve in the world of science. The balance is being readdressed and we are witnessing an increasing presence of women in science and their important accomplishments are being drawn to light, but there is still a long way to go.  The founder of Starmus, Garik Israelian, is proud to announce an incredibly strong list of influential women to be included in the festival’s fourth programme. Starmus IV will celebrate groundbreaking discoveries and contributions to neuroscience, physics, astrophysics, astronomy and biology, from female scientists across the world.

May-Britt Moser, a Norwegian neuroscientist, is one of very few women to win a Science Nobel Prize and she will grace the Starmus stage, providing fascinating insight into the human mind and groundbreaking discoveries she has been involved in. “We all need role models that we can identify with. Starmus is an arena for creating scientist role models for girls and boys alike. The festival allows for children to meet with excellent scientists and learn about the many wonders of the world that science has brought to light, inspiring them and nurturing their curiosity…. I have a dream of a day when a child being asked to draw a scientist, is just as likely to draw a woman as a man. Simply a human with passion.” May-Britt Moser

The following eight women will address audiences of thousands at Starmus IV, sharing their life’s work and important discoveries made in their field:

May-Britt Moser: a Norwegian Professor of Neuroscience, Founding Director of the Center for Neural Computation and Co-Director of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.  May is interested in how spatial location and spatial memory are computed in the brain. Her work includes the discovery of grid cells in the entorhinal cortex, which provides clues to a neural mechanism for the metric of spatial mapping. May-Britt was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2014 together with long term collaborator Edvard Moser and John O’Keefe for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.

 Sara Seager: Professor Sara Seager is a planetary scientist and astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been a pioneer in the vast and unknown world of exoplanets, planets that orbit stars other than the sun. Her groundbreaking research ranges from the detection of exoplanet atmospheres to innovative theories about life on other worlds to development of novel space mission concepts. She is known for inventing the main method used to study exoplanet atmospheres today. Now, dubbed an "astronomical Indiana Jones", she on a quest after the field's holy grail, the discovery of a true Earth twin. Dr. Seager was born and educated in Toronto, Canada, earned her PhD from Harvard University, and now lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. Professor Seager is a MacArthur “genius” Fellow and has numerous accolades including election to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2015, the 2012 Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences, was named in Time Magazine's 25 Most Influential in Space in 2012, and has Asteroid 9729 Seager named in her honor.

Katharine Hayhoe: Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist whose research focuses on developing and applying high-resolution climate projections to understand what climate change means for people and the natural environment. She is an associate professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, and has a B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Toronto and an M.S.  and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Illinois. Katharine has served as a lead author for the Second and Third U.S. National Climate Assessments, and has conducted climate impact assessments for a broad crosssection of organizations, cities and regions, from Boston Logan Airport to the state of California. Her work has resulted in over 120 peer-reviewed publications that evaluate global climate model performance, develop and compare downscaling approaches, and quantify the impacts of climate change on cities, states,  ecosystems, and sectors over the coming century. She has been named one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People and the Foreign Policy's 100 Leading Global Thinkers, as well as one of POLITICO’s 50 thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics. Katharine has also received the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of the Planet award, the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communication Prize, and the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service award. Katharine is currently serving as lead author for the upcoming Fourth National Climate Assessment and producing her new PBS Digital Studios short series, Global Weirding: Climate, Politics and Religion.

 Priyamvada Natarajan: Born and raised in India, she received undergraduate degrees in Physics and Mathematics at MIT. After graduate training in the History and Philosophy of Science at MIT’s Program in Science, Technology and Society,  she obtained her PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Cambridge, where she was elected fellow of the Trinity College.  Now a theoretical astrophysicist at Yale, she is recognized for her seminal contributions to the study of dark matter and the formation and growth of black holes. She is a phenomenologist and uses gravitational lensing observations, the deflection of light rays by matter in the universe, to map the detailed distribution of dark matter.  She works more generally on lensing tests of the theoretical predictions of the standard paradigm of structure formation. Another abiding interest has been the study of the growth history of black holes over cosmic time and, in particular, the formation of the first seed black holes. She has proposed and worked on models for the formation of massive black hole seeds, direct collapse black holes and their observational signatures. Natarajan is recipient of many awards and honors for her work including the Guggenheim and Radcliffe fellowships, she also holds the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professorship at the Dark Cosmology Center at the University of Copenhagen, and an honorary professorship for life at the University of Delhi. A fellow of the American Physical Society, she is the incoming Chair of the Division of Astrophysics at the APS. Her work has been featured in numerous news outlets including the NPR, BBC, CNN, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, ScienceNews, Scientific American, New Scientist, NOVA, National Geographic, Discover, and The New Yorker in addition to many websites devoted to science. Her own writing has been published in many outlets including CNN, Washington Post, and the Huffington Post. She is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and her first book, Mapping the Heavens: Radical Scientific Ideas that Reveal the Cosmos was published in May 2016 by Yale Press.

Carolyn Porco: is leader of the imaging team for the Saturn-orbiting Cassini mission, and a veteran imaging scientist on the 1980s Voyager mission to the outer planets. Over the course of a 40-year career, she has made seminal scientific contributions in a variety of disciplines in astronomy and planetary science, authoring over 120 scientific publications. Most recently, she has turned to the study of the Saturnian moon, Enceladus, known now to be home to the solar system’s most accessible extraterrestrial habitable zone. Carolyn was invited by Carl Sagan to be the character consultant on the 1997 film Contact, based on Sagan’s novel, and worked with him in planning and executing Voyager 1’s famous 1990 “Pale Blue Dot”  image of Earth. She is the creator of the July 19, 2013 “The Day the Earth Smiled”  event, inviting people the world over to participate in Cassini’s imaging of the Earth from Saturn. She has become a regular and popular public commentator on science,  astronomy, planetary exploration, and the intersection of science and religion. In 2012, she was named one of the 25 most influential people in space by TIME magazine. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley, and an All-Stars host on Star Talk Radio.

Emmanuelle Charpentier: is best known for her role in deciphering the molecular mechanisms of the bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 immune system and repurposing it into a tool for genome editing. In collaboration with Jennifer Doudna's laboratory,  Charpentier's laboratory showed that Cas9 could be used to make cuts in any DNA sequence desired. The method they developed involved the combination of Cas9 with easily created synthetic "guide RNA" molecules. Researchers worldwide have employed this method successfully to edit the DNA sequences of plants, animals,  and laboratory cell lines. Charpentier has been awarded several international prizes,  awards and acknowledgements, including the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Gruber Foundation International Prize in Genetics and the Leibniz Prize, Germany's most prestigious research prize. Also, in the Spring of 2015, Time Magazine designated Charpentier one of the 100 most influential people in the world.  Nathalie Cabrol: is the Director of the SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center since August 2015, where she is currently developing a new, multidisciplinary, roadmap to bridge astrobiology and the SETI search. Nathalie has a background in planetary science and astrobiology. She joined the SETI Institute in 1998. Her research focuses on the exploration of habitability and life beyond Earth. She counts over 470 peer-reviewed publications and proceedings of professional conferences. Nathalie's work is featured in the US and international media (e.g., TED talk, Discovery Channel, NOVA, M6, BBC, National Geographic, Scientific American, Popular Science, New, New Einsteins,, other). She is the recipient of NASA and other research awards. She was elected Carey Fellow in 2007, Women of Discovery (Air and Space) Wings Worldquest (2005), and received an International Women Leadership Association Award in 2012.

Dr. Sandra Magnus: the Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. Selected to the NASA Astronaut Corps in April, 1996, Dr. Magnus flew in space on the STS- 112 shuttle mission in 2002, and on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011. In addition, she flew to the International Space Station on STS-126 in November 2008, served as flight engineer and science officer on Expedition 18, and returned home on STS-119 after four and a half months on board. Following her assignment on Station, she served at NASA Headquarters in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Her last duty at NASA, after STS-135, was as the deputy chief of the Astronaut Office.While at NASA, Dr. Magnus worked extensively with the international community, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), as well as with Brazil on facilitytype payloads. She also spent time in Russia developing and integrating operational products and procedures for the International Space Station. Before joining NASA, Dr. Magnus worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company from 1986 to 1991, as a stealth engineer. While at McDonnell Douglas, she worked on internal research and development and on the Navy’s A-12 Attack Aircraft program, studying the effectiveness of radar signature reduction techniques. Dr. Magnus has received numerous awards, including the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and the 40 at 40 Award (given to former collegiate women athletes to recognize the impact of Title IX).

Tickets go on sale today

 For the festival’s full list of speakers so far please visit:

Notes to Editor

Starmus and its scientific and musical legacy:

Starmus Festival was born in 2011, the brainchild of astrophysicist Garik Israelian. His aim was to make the most universal science and art accessible to the public and that he achieved with three festivals that reached full capacity with participation from the world’s most influential scientists and astronomists along with superstar musicians. The magic of Starmus is not confined to science - music is also an essential component of the festival. One of the most prominent members of the Advisory Board, the great Peter Gabriel, former leader of UK band Genesis,  highlights the close ties between astronomy and music: "Musicians explore and define what exists inside us, astronomers explore and define what exists outside of us. That's precisely what I love about Starmus: the combination of the two worlds".

With an unbeatable panel of great minds, the countdown shall begin to the next Starmus, in June 2017, amid considerable international expectation. Over the coming months, the organisation will unveil new features and surprises in connection with the world's most ambitious science event, which will in turn raise Trondheim’s status as a city of culture, science and technology.

About Trondheim:

Trondheim is a renowned location for students and academics. It has been ranked several times as Norway’s most impressive student city and has long standing traditions in education with a Cathedral School that has been in existence since 1152. The roots of today’s university go all the way back to 1760, with the establishment of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS).  The city has a population of more than 188,000, with 33,000 students attending and nearly 7000 employees working at the university, NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The University contributes an incredibly high level of science, education and innovation. The university and its spin-offs is one of the main reasons why the city is referred to as the science and technology capital of Norway. Trondheim also has a vibrant cultural life. The city hosts festivals in genres including jazz, blues, chamber music, world music, rock and pop all year round with a peak during the summer when the light almost never leaves. During the Starmus festival in Trondheim in June 2017, the sun will go down at midnight and rises at 3am.

Situated just above 63 degrees north, the coastal city which was founded more than a thousand years ago (997), with its strong academic traditions combined with a culture-loving population is the perfect location for a festival such as Starmus, which brings out the best of both worlds.

For further information please contact:

Nicole Ettinger E. T. +44 7515 394107

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