x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Consilience

This event occurred on
February 22, 2014
9:00am - 6:00pm EST
(UTC -5hrs)
Wellesley, MA
United States

Consilience (n) kən-ˈsil-yən(t)s: The linking together of principles from different disciplines especially when forming a comprehensive theory.

In 1998, the term ‘Consilience’ was introduced to popular lexicon through a critically-acclaimed book of the same title by scientist Edward O. Wilson, who argued that the integration between the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities is necessary in solving the greatest challenges facing our civilization.

In the past century, we witnessed a remarkable explosion of information and diversification of human enterprise. Amidst the rapid process of disciplinary fragmentation and specialization, we risk an ever increasing rift between the arts/humanities and the sciences, the perpetuation of information silos within industries, disengagement between practitioners of different disciplines, and the narrowing of intellectual paradigms and perspectives.

The inaugural TEDxWellesleyCollege conference, inspired by the theme of Consilience, is dedicated to the antithesis of fragmentation. What are the different and similar ways in which bankers and biologists, poets and physicists, artists and computer scientists, etc. approach and perceive the richness of our world? How do we promote meaningful and creative collaboration across the different fields? Do the paths to truth and beauty converge? As we explore these and other questions, it is our hope that our conference will revive a conversation on the classical ideal of a unity of knowledge.

Wellesley College
Wellesley College
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA, 02481
United States
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman is an American writer, physicist, and social entrepreneur. Born in 1948, he was educated at Princeton and at the California Institute of Technology, where he received a PhD in theoretical physics. He has served on the faculties of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was the first person at MIT to receive dual faculty appointments in science and in the humanities. Lightman is currently professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT. His essays, articles, and stories have appeared in the Atlantic, Granta, Harper’s, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, Salon, and many other publications. His novel Einstein’s Dreams was an international bestseller, has been the basis for dozens of independent theatrical and musical adaptations around the world, and appears on numerous college reading lists. His novel The Diagnosis was a finalist for the National Book Award. His book Origins won the Association of American Publishers’ award for the best book on science of the year. Lightman is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has won numerous awards, including the Gemant Award of the American Institute of Physics for linking science to the humanities and the McGovern award in science and society from the international Sigma Xi Society. Lightman is also the founding director of the Harpswell Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to empower a new generation of women leaders in Cambodia.”

Seung-Chan Lim

Seung Chan (Slim) Lim is an award-winning designer and researcher/engineer. He is the author of the award-winning book “Realizing Empathy: An Inquiry Into the Meaning of Making.” He first started his career in 1999 at MAYA Design practicing both human-centered design and distributed computing systems research. There, he spent close to 10 years leading and participating in numerous projects to help fortune 500 companies innovate. Afterwords, he spent nearly 5 years exploring and conducting research into the disciplines of craft and visual/performing arts. From this experience, he developed a new approach to creativity and collaboration through the lens of empathy. Integrating together his 15 years of cross-disciplinary experiences, he now consults, speaks,and runs workshops globally focusing on the development of empathy for the purpose of interdisciplinary collaboration/communication, organizational change/leadership, innovation, social entrepreneurship, as well as personal growth and empowerment.

Katherine Collins

Katherine Collins, one of our alumnae speakers from the Wellesley Class of 1990, is Founder and CEO of Honeybee Capital, dedicated to pollinating ideas in pursuit of optimal investment practices. She is author of the forthcoming book, The Nature of Investing, and her newest neighbors in Massachusetts are several thousand honeybees. Katherine has over twenty years of professional investment experience. At Fidelity Management & Research Company, she served as portfolio manager for a number of multi-billion dollar equity funds and as head of equity research, leading one of the largest buy-side research teams in the world. As her interest in sustainable and regenerative finance grew, Katherine set out to re-integrate her investment philosophy with the broader world, traveling as a pilgrim and volunteer, earning her MTS degree at Harvard Divinity School, and studying the natural world and biomimicry as guides for investing in a valuable and integrated way, beneficial to our communities and our planet. Katherine has volunteered in over 20 countries with Habitat for Humanity, and has held numerous leadership positions with Wellesley College and its Business Leadership Council. Additionally, she serves on the boards of the Biomimicry Group, Last Mile Health, and Common Impact. Katherine is a member of the Harvard Divinity School Dean’s Council and of Sprout Lenders, and serves on the investment committee for BELLE Capital USA. She is an advisor to Ethical Markets Media, Criterion Institute, the PopTech Impact Fund, and the Massachusetts chapter of the Trust for Public Land. Katherine is an alumna of HDS and Wellesley College, and is a CFA charter holder.

John Maeda

John Maeda became president of Rhode Island School of Design in 2008, after serving as head of research at MIT Media Lab. He bridges design, technology, and business with backgrounds in computer science, art, and organizational leadership. He is the author of The Laws of Simplicity and Redesigning Leadership — the latter expands on his Twitter account @johnmaeda, named one of TIME Magazine’s best Twitter feeds. He serves on the boards of Sonos, Wieden+Kennedy, and Quirky, and on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership. He has received a variety of awards for his creative work, including induction to the Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame and the White House’s National Design Award.

Janet Iwasa

Janet Iwasa is a molecular animator and a new faculty member in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Utah. Her broad goal is to create accurate and compelling molecular and cellular visualizations that will support biological research, learning and communication. Dr. Iwasa’s award-winning illustrations and animations have appeared in scientific journals including Nature, Science and Cell, as well as in the New York Times. Her work has also been featured on television and in museum exhibits. Dr. Iwasa was recently recognized as one of the “100 Most Creative People” of 2012 by Fast Company Magazine. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Iwasa created a multimedia exhibit with Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak (Harvard University) and the Museum of Science, Boston, and later worked on biological visualizations as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. She received her Ph.D. in 2006 from the University of California, San Francisco for her work on the actin cytoskeleton in the laboratory of Dyche Mullins, and completed 3D animation training at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects later that same summer.

Makenna Murray

Makenna Murray is completing her final year at Wellesley College with a major in History and a concentration in Architectural History. Throughout her time here she has developed an interest in the built environment and the role of historic structures in in the modern landscape. She has worked with a variety of preservation organizations in her home state of California. Ranging from local Historical Societies to CyArk, the internationally-reaching nonprofit on which she will be presenting. She credits her course choice at Wellesley with leading her to the emerging Digital Humanities movement, while her work at CyArk has been a confirmation of the possibilities and need for technological innovation in the field of cultural preservation. She hopes to bring history up-to-date so to speak with a degree in historic preservation. A life-long wanderer, Makenna will be completing a south-bound through hike of the Appalachian Trail following graduating in June before applying to graduate school in January.

Annette Diefenthaler

Annette Diefenthaler is a Senior Design Lead at IDEO’s New York studio. She focuses on creating a deep understanding of people’s behaviors that translates into meaningful design outcomes. Annette is invested in evolving methodologies for (re)search for inspiration and explores how empathy catalyzes new design solutions. Since joining IDEO in January 2008, Annette has lead teams in designing solutions as diverse as bank branches, toys, hospital experiences, and the future vision for a university. Her work has received multiple design awards. Annette’s passion is bringing human-centered design to systemic challenges in education. She has worked with clients in K-12 and higher education, rethinking learning tools, empowering entrepreneurs to design teaching apps, and envisioning a new educational model for an entire state. Annette is co-author of IDEO’s Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators. She regularly speaks about design thinking and education. As an adjunct professor, she is currently designing a fellowship program for non-traditional students at The New School of Public Engagement with Dean David Scobey. Based in New York, Annette grew up in Germany and lived and worked in many cultures, including Russia, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. In her free time, she is usually training for her next marathon.

Margaret and Irene Li

Sisters Margaret and Irene Li own and operate the Boston-based food truck and restaurant enterprise collectively known as the Mei Mei Group. Founded with their older brother Andrew, their award-winning truck Mei Mei Street Kitchen merges modern techniques and genre-bending creativity with sustainable practices and tech-savvy communications. Margaret brings entrepreneurial experience in bootstrap fashion startups, real-world adventure games, secret supper clubs and an MBA to manage the business side of the Mei Mei Group. Irene’s background of living on an organic farm, working the restaurant line, and organizing for social justice inform her leadership of the food and sourcing program. They work alongside a diverse team of former lawyers, neuroscientists, zoologists, English majors and fellow food obsessives to bring fun, innovative and ethical cuisine to the streets of Boston.

Silvia Galis-Menéndez

Silvia Galis-Menéndez is a member of Wellesley College’s green class of 2013. She is originally from New York City, where she attended Bard High School Early College and received an Associate’s Degree in addition to her high school diploma upon graduating. While at Wellesley, Silvia founded Familia, an organization for LGBTQQIAP students of Latin@ descent, and served as co-president of Mezcla, Wellesley’s largest organization for Latin@ students, in addition to working at Café Hoop, a student cooperative. Silvia is the 2013 winner of the Margaret E. Ward Prize for Excellence in Women’s and Gender Studies, and graduated from Wellesley with honors in the Women’s and Gender Studies department. Since graduating from Wellesley in May, Silvia has presented her research at the El Mundo Zurdo Conference for the study of Gloria Anzaldúa. She currently lives in New York City where she works as the Operations Coordinator at La Casa Azul bookstore, and spends her free time trying to understand what is happening on Scandal.

George Hart

George Hart is a sculptor who demonstrates how mathematics is cool and creative in ways you might not have expected. Whether he is slicing a bagel into two linked halves or leading hundreds of participants in an intricate geometric sculpture barn raising, he always finds original ways to share the beauty of mathematical thinking. An interdepartmental research professor in the engineering school at Stony Brook University, he holds a B.S. in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT. Hart is an organizer of the annual Bridges Conference on mathematics and art and the editor for sculpture for the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts. His research explores innovative ways to use computer technology in the design and fabrication of his artwork, which has been exhibited widely around the world. Hart co-founded the Museum of Mathematics in New York City and developed its initial set of hands-on exhibits. He also makes videos that show the fun and creative sides of mathematics.

Arlene Blum

Arlene Blum PhD, biophysical chemist, author, and mountaineer is a Visiting Scholar in Chemistry UC Berkeley and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. The Institute brings government, industry, scientists and citizens groups together to support chemical policies to protect human health and the global environment. This work has contributed has contributed to stopping the use of tens of millions of pounds of toxic chemicals such as flame retardants in children’s sleepwear, furniture, pillows, bed coverings, electronics etc. Arlene Blum also led the first American ascent of Annapurna I, considered one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult mountains, co-led the first women’s team to climb Denali, was the first American woman to attempt Mt. Everest, completed the Great Himalayan Traverse across the mountain regions of Bhutan, Nepal, and India, and hiked the length of the European Alps with her baby daughter on her back. She is the author of Annapurna: A Woman’s Place and Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life. Blum’s awards include selection by the UK Guardian as one of the world’s 100 most inspiring women and National Women’s History Project choice as one of 100 “Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet”, selection as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, and election to the Hall of Mountaineering Excellence.

Story Musgrave

Story Musgrave was born on a dairy farm in Stockbridge, MA. He was in the forests alone at 3, floated his homebuilt rafts on rivers and rode combines by 5, drove trucks and tractors at 10, and repaired them alone by 13. He never finished school, and ran off to Korea with the U. S. Marines where he was an aircraft electrician and engine mechanic. Over the next 58 years, he accumulated 18,000 hours in over 160 aircrafts. He is a parachutist with over 800 freefalls. He has 6 graduate degrees in math, computers, chemistry, medicine, physiology, literature, and 20 honorary doctorates. He was a part-time trauma surgeon. As a NASA astronaut, he flew on six spaceflights, performed the first shuttle spacewalk on Challenger’s first flight, piloted an astronomy mission, conducted two classified DOD missions, was the lead spacewalker on the Hubble Telescope repair mission, operated an electronic chip manufacturing satellite on Columbia, and was the communicator in mission control for 25 missions. Today he is a producer/director of multimedia, landscape architect, heavy equipment operator, innovator with Applied Minds Inc, and design professor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.

Organizing team

Yong Wei

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Wellesley Hills, MA, United States
  • Crystal Myung
    Communications Executive
  • Mika Asaba
    Communications Executive
  • Alison Noehrbass
    Logistics Executive
  • Amaya Arcelus
    Logistics Executive
  • YuMei Lay He
    Logistics Executive
  • Annie Wang
    Media Executive
  • Claire Cerda
    Media Executive
  • Karen Su
    Media Executive
  • Amanda Hui
    Finance Executive
  • Connie Shen
    Finance Executive
  • Sarena Ahmad
    Finance Executive
  • Emily Grandjean
    Logistics Executive
  • Joyce Lim
    Logistics Executive