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30th anniversary Ashtekar Frontiers of Science Lectures to begin Jan. 27

10 January 2024

The Ashtekar Frontiers of Science Lectures in the Eberly College of Science, a series of free public lectures now in its 30th year, will return to Penn State on Jan. 27.

In recognition of the milestone 30-year anniversary, this year’s lecture series, titled “Exploring Scientific Progress Over Time: Revisiting Past Lectures on the 30th Anniversary of the Ashtekar Frontiers of Science,” will look at how science has changed over the passage of time, including updates, breakthroughs, and how research fields have evolved. The series of lectures will look back at past topics, including updates from some speakers, as well as look ahead to the new advancements and future prospects of the impactful research in the college, across Penn State, and beyond. 

Attendees of the lectures will hear from researchers on topics that include the origin of cells; the earliest stars, galaxies and blackholes; signaling in the brain; energy and climate change; quantum computing; and gravitational waves.

The lecture series this year will be held on the Penn State University Park campus on six consecutive Saturday mornings, Jan. 27 through Mar. 2, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Most lectures will be held in the Berg Auditorium, 100 Huck Life Sciences Building. The Feb. 17 and March 2 lectures will be held in 100 Thomas Building.

This year’s speakers include:

January 27

Shapiro Professor of Chemistry Chris Keating will give a talk titled “Before cells: How the components of life might have come together,” with a special introduction by Phil Bevilacqua, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and head of the Department of Chemistry.

February 3

Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Joel Leja will give a talk titled “Surprises at the Dawn of Time from James Webb: A First Look at the First Stars, Galaxies, and Black Holes,” with a research update and brief topic introduction from past speaker and Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Michael Eracleous.

February 10

Nikki Crowley, assistant professor of biology and Huck Early Career Chair in Neurobiology and Neural Engineering, will present a talk titled “Signaling between cells in the brain: Bridging the past and present of neuroscience at Penn State with new tools and new questions,” with a research update and brief introduction by past speaker Andy Ewing, professor of chemistry and molecular biology at the University of Gothenburg, via video presentation.

February 17

Richard Alley, Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences and associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, previously spoke in 2008, and will give an updated lecture titled “Finding the good news on climate and energy.” He will be joined by Charlie Anderson, professor of biology and chair of the Eberly College of Science Sustainability Council, who will share information about the council and its work in the college. 

February 24

Morteza Kayyalha, assistant professor of electrical engineering, will present a talk titled “Going beyond classical computers,” with a research update and topic introduction by past speaker Nitin Samarth, Verne M. Willaman Professor of Physics and professor of materials science and engineering.

March 2

Gabriela Gonzalez, Boyd Professor of Physics at the Louisiana State University, will present a talk titled “Einstein, gravitational waves, black holes and other matters,” with a topic introduction by former presenter Abhay Ashtekar, Atherton Professor and Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor of Physics. A 30th anniversary celebration will follow this talk.

More information about the Ashtekar Frontiers of Science Lectures is available at

About the Ashtekar Frontiers of Science Lectures

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science was founded by Abhay Ashtekar in 1995, soon after he arrived at Penn State as director of a new research center that subsequently evolved to become the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos. It owes its success to tireless efforts and meticulous planning by Barbara Kennedy, who presided over the series during its first 25 years, making it one of the most successful science outreach events in central Pennsylvania.


Penn State encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about physical access provided, you may call 814-867-5830 or email in advance of your participation or visit.