x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Innovators

This event occurred on
March 22, 2017
6:00pm - 10:00pm MST
(UTC -7hrs)
Tempe, Arizona
United States

Innovation is the act of taking a new outlook on an old problem. The theme of TEDxASU: Innovators will be focused on the bright minds that are changing the way that the world looks at education, research, and entrepreneurship. These innovators are not only having a meaningful impact on the ASU community, but the world in which we all live.

Tempe Center for the Arts
700 W Rio Salado Pkwy
Tempe, Arizona, 85281
United States
Event type:
University (What is this?)
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Ariel Anbar

Ariel Anbar is a scientist and educator interested in Earth’s past and future evolution as an inhabited world, and the prospects for life beyond. His group’s major focus is the chemical evolution of the atmosphere and oceans, as revealed by the development of novel geochemical methods. Trained as a geologist and a chemist, Anbar is a President’s Professor at Arizona State University, where he is on the faculty of the School of Earth & Space Exploration and the School of Molecular Sciences, and a Distinguished Sustainability Scholar in the Global Institute of Sustainability. The author or co-author of over 100 refereed papers, Anbar directed ASU’s NASA-funded Astrobiology Program from 2009 – 2015, and oversees ASU’s new Center for Education Through eXploration. He is a graduate of Harvard (A.B. 1989) and Caltech (Ph.D. 1996). Before coming to ASU he was on the faculty of the University of Rochester from 1996 to 2004. Anbar is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, which awarded him the Donath Medal in 2002. He was recognized as an HHMI Professor in 2014, and elected a Fellow of the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry in 2015.

Danielle McNamara

Danielle S. McNamara, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology in the Psychology Department and Senior Scientist in the Institute for the Science of Teaching and Learning at Arizona State University. Her academic background includes a Linguistics B.A. (1982), a Clinical Psychology M.S. (1989), and a Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. (1992). She is an international expert in the fields of cognitive and learning sciences, comprehension, literacy, writing, natural language processing, and intelligent tutoring systems. She develops educational technologies and conducts research to better understand cognitive processes involved in comprehension, knowledge and skill acquisition, and writing. Her research also involves the development and assessment of game-based intelligent tutoring systems (e.g., Writing Pal, iSTART) and natural language processing (NLP) tools (e.g., Coh-Metrix, SÉANCE, CRAT, TAACO, the Writing Assessment Tool). Two of her projects, the Writing Pal and iSTART, are computer assisted learning programs designed to improve students’ writing and reading comprehension. Much of Dr. McNamara’s research employs computational linguistic as a means of analyzing discourse. Such tools allow for quick, efficient, and reliable analyses of large corpuses of text, which is particularly relevant and valuable when analyzing big data. More information about her research is available at

Jaime Sanchez de la Vega

Jaime Sanchez de la Vega is an aerospace engineering student at the Arizona State University. After living in Mexico for 18 years, he joined the Sun Devil community as an international student to pursue his goals of expanding human access to space. Far from being just a student, Jaime has made an impact in the aerospace community. He is currently the president of the Sun Devil Satellite Laboratory, a student organization dedicated to the design and development of spacecraft and related technologies. Through this organization, he has advocated for the understanding and importance of space and its exploration. As Chief Engineer, Jaime is currently leading the first ASU student-lead satellite mission – the Phoenix CubeSat, a NASA-funded, Earth observing mission that will image urban heat islands across multiple American cities. The mission is composed by an interdisciplinary team of more than 60 student and faculty members across different schools in ASU and ultimately aims to generate knowledge that will allow us to better structure our cities. Jaime is also a researcher, graphic designer, award-winning sculptor, and most importantly, an avid learner.

Jessica Rajko

Jessica Rajko is an interdisciplinary artist exploring the embodied, corporeal, and lived experience of data. As an assistant professor at Arizona State University, her work blends praxis and scholarship from dance, somatic practices, phenomenology, and human-computer interaction design. She is a founding co-Director of the ASU Human Security Collaboratory, a non-departmental collective of artists and scholars addressing complex problems affecting the security of individuals and communities, with a special emphasis on digital technologies and their uses. Considering issues such as digital civil rights and equity in tech, her research aspires to integrate intersectional feminist frameworks within all her practices. Jessica has presented and performed in various collaborative artworks nationally and internationally, including Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche festival and New York City’s Gotham Festival at The Joyce Theatre. She was named one of Phoenix New Times’s “100 Creatives of 2016.” She is the co-founder and co-director of urbanSTEW (, a non-profit arts collective that creates participatory, art/tech installations to engage local communities in multisensory, felt experiences. Jessica received her MFA in Dance and Interdisciplinary Digital Media at Arizona State University in 2009 (outstanding graduate of the year) and her BA in Dance and Psychology at Hope College in 2005.

Klaus Lackner

Dr. Klaus Lackner is the Director of Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and Professor at the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University. Lackner’s scientific career started in the phenomenology of weakly interacting particles. Later searching for quarks, he and George Zweig developed the chemistry of atoms with fractional nuclear charge. After joining Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lackner became involved in hydrodynamic work and fusion related research. In recent years, he has published on the behavior of high explosives, novel approaches to inertial confinement fusion, and numerical algorithms. His interest in self-replicating machine systems has been recognized by Discover Magazine as one of seven ideas that could change the world. Trained as a theoretical physicist, he has made a number of contributions to the field of carbon capture and storage since 1995, including early work on the sequestration of carbon dioxide in silicate minerals and zero emission power plant design. In 1999, he was the first person to suggest the artificial capture of carbon dioxide from air in the context of carbon management. His recent work at Columbia University as Director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy advanced innovative approaches to energy issues of the future and the pursuit of environmentally acceptable technologies for the use of fossil fuels.

Meenakshi Wadhwa

Meenakshi Wadhwa is Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies and Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. She received her PhD in Earth and Planetary Science in 1994 from Washington University in St. Louis. Her research focuses on the origin and evolution of the Solar System and planets through studies of meteorites, Moon rocks and other extraterrestrial samples returned by spacecraft missions. She has hunted for meteorites in Antarctica with the NASA- and NSF-funded Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) Program. Dr. Wadhwa serves on several national and international advisory committees, including the National Academies Space Studies Board (which advises US policy makers on all aspects of space science and applications) and the NASA Advisory Council’s Planetary Protection Subcommittee (which provides recommendations on matters relating to the biological planetary protection of Earth and all Solar System bodies to which NASA spacecraft will be sent). She currently also serves as Vice President of the Meteoritical Society. She is a fellow of the Explorers Club (2012) and the Meteoritical Society (2006). She is a recipient of the Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award (2015), the Guggenheim Fellowship (2005) and the Nier Prize of the Meteoritical Society (2000). Asteroid 8356 has been named 8356 Wadhwa in recognition of her contributions to planetary science.

Nancy Gray

Nancy received her PhD in Design, Environment, and the Arts from the Herberger Institute, Arizona State University. Nancy received her Master of Science in Design Degree (Industrial Design) from Arizona State University and Bachelor of Arts Degree from Valparaiso University. Nancy’s professional background in marketing communications, branding, and design complement her teaching and research initiatives. Her client base includes firms in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and information technology fields as well as many consumer product and service brands. For Nancy, design and marketing is a strategic profession – blending business knowledge, technology, aesthetics, and creativity into product and service experiences that benefit people, society, the planet, as well as the brand and their stakeholders. Nancy’s research includes mixed-method investigations of the phenomenon of people who are disequilibrating the command economy through their creative and co-creative actions. Her findings indicate that, beyond utilitarian goals, people are motivated by the sense of meaning and happiness their creative activities provide them. Nancy encourages designers and organizations to apply this understanding in building equitable relationships with creating-customers. This effort is warranted considering the potential for creating-customers to contribute to new product innovation, firm profitability, and to simply making the world a better and more interesting place.

Pat Pataranutaporn

Pat Pataranutaporn is a creative biologist, artist, innovator and undergraduate student within Barrett, the Honors College and College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Arizona State University. His work examines a range of topics, including environmental biotechnology and interactive media at the intersection of biodesign, futurism, and computation. He has collaborated with people from a variety of disciplines around the world to push the boundary of possibility. Born and raised in Thailand, Pat has developed great appreciation for both the arts and sciences. Much of Pat’s creativity and innovative passion for prototyping originated from his love of dinosaurs. Currently, Pat is a research fellow at the Biodesign Institute, School of Art, Media & Engineering, and the cofounder of award winning technology startups, Humanity X Technologies and BioX.

Sara Walker

Sara is a theoretical physicist and astrobiologist, researching the origins and nature of life. She is particularly interested in addressing the question of whether or not “other laws of physics” might govern life, as first posed by Erwin Schrodinger in his famous book What is life?. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. She is also Fellow of the ASU -Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, Founder of the astrobiology-themed social website, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Blue Marble Space. She is active in public engagement in science, with recent appearances on “Through the Wormhole” and NPR’s Science Friday.

Sethuraman Panchanathan

Sethuraman Panchanathan is the chief research and innovation officer at Arizona State University. He is also the executive vice president of the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, which advances research, innovation, strategic partnerships, entrepreneurship, global and economic development at ASU. Panchanathan was the founding director of the School of Computing and Informatics and was instrumental in founding the Biomedical Informatics Department at ASU. He also served as the chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department. He founded the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC) at ASU, to develop person-centered tools and ubiquitous computing technologies for enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Panchanathan was appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. National Science Board (NSB) and is Chair of the Committee on Strategy. He has also been appointed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). Panchanathan is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) among other prestigious organizations. He currently serves as the Chair of the Council on Research (CoR) within the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). His research interests are in the areas of human-centered multimedia computing; haptic user interfaces; ubiquitous computing technologies; and machine learning for multimedia applications, medical image processing, and media processor designs.

Steven Desch

Dr. Steve Desch is a Professor of astrophysics in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University (2003-present). In 1998 he earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with a background in physics and astrophysics. Throughout his career he has applied these skills to interdisciplinary problems, broadening his research to meteoritics, planet formation and evolution, astrobiology, exoplanets, and now the Arctic. Steve Desch was the 2003 recipient of the Alfred O. Nier Prize of the Meteoritical Society for his work modeling the formation of chondrules, millimeter-sized melt droplets found in abundance in meteorites. He has developed models of the internal thermal evolution and structure of Pluto’s moon Charon, and the largest asteroid, Ceres; each at the forefront of research to interpret data from the New Horizons and Dawn spacecraft. He is the Chair of the NASA-sponsored biennial Astrobiology Science Conference, as well as the principal investigator of a NASA-sponsored project at ASU working to understand geochemical cycles on exoplanets. Most recently, Steve Desch has expanded his horizons to consider Earth as a planet, and to develop strategies for managing and maintaining sea ice in the Arctic.

Theodore Pavlic

Ted Pavlic is an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University jointly appointed with the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering and the School of Sustainability. He is also an adjunct faculty in ASU’s School of Life Sciences and an external professor at the Human Computation Institute. Pavlic studies autonomous decision-making systems using a combination of theoretical and empirical methods. His research seeks out unifying theoretical frameworks of rational behavior that cut across biology, economics, and engineering. Some projects in his highly interdisciplinary laboratory study animal systems directly to gain insight into how nature has solved complex decision-making challenges without the advanced communication capabilities assumed to be present in most engineered systems. In other projects, automation systems are constructed to show how relatively simple decision-making rules can be both robust and adaptive. Previously, he worked as a behavioral ecologist in a social-insect laboratory, which followed working as a computer science researcher studying automated verification of mixed-autonomy urban intelligent transportation systems. He mentors students from animal behavior, industrial engineering, computer science, and even astrophysics; together, they study collective phenomena from robotics to social science even the origin of life itself.

Organizing team


Tempe, AZ, United States


Tempe, AZ, United States
  • Hamza Amjad