The Civic Scientist Program aims to increase the engagement of scientists and engineers with society to increase knowledge as well as interest in science. The program is based on the premise that a more informed and engaged public will lead to improved science policy in both the private and public sector. Neal F. Lane, senior fellow for science and technology policy and former director of the National Science Foundation and science advisor to President Clinton, describes the civic scientist as "someone who uses his or her knowledge, accomplishments and skills to help bridge the gap between science and society."


    The Civic Scientist Lecture Series features leading scientists and engineers who have had an impact on public policy. Past events in the series have been sponsored by the Baker Institute Science and Technology Program with generous support from Dr. Virginia Clark and Benjamin and Winifer Cheng. Additional support was provided by Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering and Wiess School of Natural Sciences.

    Visit our event library to view a list of all events in the Civic Scientist Lecture Series.

    Past Speakers

    Bruce Alberts, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, Science Magazine

    Frances Arnold, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate and Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, California Institute of Technology

    Norman Augustine, Retired CEO and Chairman of Lockheed Martin

    David Baltimore, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate and the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor, California Institute of Technology

    Robert Bazell, Nonresident Fellow in Science and Technology, Baker Institute; Adjunct Professor, Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, Yale University

    Vint Cerf, Ph.D., Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google

    Stephen Chu, Ph.D., William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Physics and Molecular & Cellular Physiology, Stanford University; Former U.S. Secretary of Energy; Nobel Laureate

    Rita R. Colwell, Ph.D., Chairman, Canon US Life Sciences, Inc.; Distinguished Professor, University of Maryland; Adjunct Professor, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; Former Director, National Science Foundation

    France A. Córdova, Ph.D., Former Director, National Science Foundation

    Robert F. Curl Jr., Ph.D., University Professor Emeritus, Rice University; Nobel Laureate

    Kelvin K. Droegemeier, Ph.D., Former Science Advisor to President Donald Trump; Former Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

    David Eagleman, Ph.D., Director, Laboratory for Perception and Action, Baylor College of Medicine

    Sylvia Earle, Ph.D., Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic

    Sylvester James Gates Jr., Ph.D., Member, National Academy of Sciences; University System Regents Professor and the John S. Toll Professor of Physics, University of Maryland, College Park

    Cullen Geiselman Muse, Ph.D., Vice Chair, Houston Advanced Research Center; Chairman, Board of Trustees, The Cullen Trust for Health Care

    Gretchen Goldman, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Environmental Science, Engineering, Policy, and Justice, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

    Katherine Hayhoe, Ph.D., Co-Director, Climate Center, and Political Science Endowed Professor in Public Policy and Public Law, Department of Political Science, Texas Tech University; Founder and CEO, ATMOS Research

    John Hennessy, Former President of Stanford University; Former Chairman of the Board of Directors, Alphabet Inc.

    Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., Fellow in Disease and Poverty, Baker Institute

    Alice Huang, Ph.D., Senior Faculty Associate in Biology, California Institute of Technology

    Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

    Anita Jones, Ph.D., Department Chair and Owen R. Cheatham Professor of Computer Science, Emerita, University of Virginia

    Sir Harry W. Kroto, Ph.D., Professor, Florida State University; Nobel Laureate

    Neal Lane, Ph.D., Senior Fellow in Science and Technology Policy, Baker Institute

    David Laude, Ph.D., Senior Vice Provost and Professor, The University of Texas at Austin

    Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    Shirley Malcom, Ph.D., Director, Education and Human Resources Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science

    Marcia McNutt, Ph.D., President, National Academy of Sciences

    John Mendelsohn, M.D., Former President of MD Anderson Cancer Center

    Antonio Neri, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Sethuraman Panchanathan, Ph.D., Director, National Science Foundation

    William H. Press, Ph.D., Raymer Professor, Department of Computer Science, The University of Texas at Austin

    Aleida Rios, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Engineering, bp

    Eric Schmidt, Chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence; Co-founder of Schmidt Futures; Former CEO, Google

    Subra Suresh, Sc.D., Former Director, National Science Foundation

    Richard Tapia, Ph.D., Maxfield-Oshman Chair in Engineering and Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics, Rice University; Director, Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity

    Jeannette M. Wing, Ph.D., Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research; Consulting Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University

    Huda Zoghbi, M.D., Board Member, Baker Institute; Professor, Baylor College of Medicine; Director, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Texas Children’s Hospital


    The “Developing Civic Scientist Leaders” (DCSL) program was created to provide Rice University science and engineering graduate students with an opportunity to learn about the intersection of scientific research and government policymaking processes, and to develop the communication and leadership skills necessary to effectively engage with state and federal legislators on policy challenges related to science, technology, innovation and higher education. The goal of the program is to build a network of civically engaged scientists, engineers and other technical professionals who use their knowledge of science to advance policy in the public interest as they progress in their respective careers at Rice, in Houston and across the country.

    Fact Sheets: Public Funding of Science and Technology Research and Development: 2020

    DCSL graduate students from Rice University’s schools of Natural Sciences and Engineering developed the following infographic fact sheets. They were virtually presented to federal and Texas state congressional representatives and their staff in the fall of 2020 to promote the need for public funding of science and technology research & development.  

    America’s Economy Needs Federally-Funded Basic Research

    Support U.S. Research and Development 

    Continued Success for Texas and the U.S. Depend on Funding for Basic Science Research

    Bolster Federal Investment in Basic Research to Drive Innovation and Progress in Texas

    Research Fuels Houston

    Blogs and Opinion Pieces

    The 2020 DCSL cohort produced a series of opinion pieces on a variety of topics related to science and technology policy. Read them at the Baker Institute Blog or the Science and Technology Policy Program’s Medium page.

    Blake Atkinson
    "Is My Neighborhood Polluted? The Case for Mobile Monitoring in Houston"

    Kathryn Brink
    "Biomanufacturing at Epi(demi)c Proportions"

    Robert Bullard
    "Supporting resourceful space exploration"

    Prakash Reddy Chintakunta
    "Restoring natural bodies of water: An emerging crisis"

    Janelle Clark
    "Preparing for the next employment revolution"

    Lauren Howe-Kerr
    "Facing our climate contradictions"

    Robert Laroche
    "The Ones the COVID-19 Relief (CARES) Bill Left Behind"
    "The Unspoken Threat of the Anthropocene"

    Jordin Metz
    "Destroying environmental protections during Covid-19 will cause more respiratory illness"
    "Environmental policy update: More deregulation by the Trump Administration"
    "Texas Should Adopt Stricter Standards on Persistent Chemical Pollutants"

    Nicole Mitchell
    "Sears: Once your ordinary department store, now a vehicle for tech sector gentrification"

    Adam Navara
    "How can we prevent the next ‘CRISPR babies’?"


    Funding for the 2020 DCSL cohort was generously provided by Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders, with additional support from Benjamin and Winifer Cheng and Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering and Wiess School of Natural Sciences.


    Achievement in math and science among America’s school children is a point of serious concern for both education and business leaders. The Civic Scientist Program aims to address this problem by sending Rice University and other Houston-area scientists and engineers who have demonstrated leadership in science and in the public sphere to local middle and high schools. The goal of these visits is to present science to underrepresented students in a way that educates and invigorates them about scientific discovery and purpose. The scientists share information about what ignited their interest in science, the trials and tribulations that have led to their success, what inspires them on a daily basis and the importance of science in our society.

    Support for community outreach is generously provided by Winifer and Benjamin Cheng.

    Since the program began in 2011, more than 10,000 students from more than 50 schools have participated. The program has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and teachers.

    For the 2017-2018 school year, the program received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students, and 100% of the teachers surveyed enjoyed the presentation and would recommend the program to other teachers.

    For more information on the program or if you are interested in participating as a class or speaker, please email or (713) 348-4784.


    “Ever since we talked about gene editing at school I have been interested in what the future will look like and how we can help others through gene editing. When you came here I was so excited, because I learned more and maybe some day I will study that and cure cancer.”

    —Eighth-grader from KIPP Academy Middle School (Civic Scientist: Kirstin R.W. Matthews, Ph.D.)

    “My students and I were genuinely fascinated by Dr. Solomon's presentation, and many of my seniors are now thinking of going in to biology research for college.”

    —Teacher from Heights High School (Civic Scientist: Scott Solomon, Ph.D.)

    “The students loved her talk. It was a great balance of advanced information presented in a very understandable way. They also really enjoyed the first part of her talk about her own background growing up as child of immigrants to the US.”

    —Teacher from YES Prep North Forest (Civic Scientist: Junghae Suh, Ph.D.)



    Rita Colwell presents at DeBakey High School
    Rita Colwell presents at DeBakey High School.
    Jim Gates lectures to middle school students at Jane Long Academy.
    Jim Gates lectures to middle school students at Jane Long Academy.

    Pulickel Ajayan, Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor of Engineering, Rice University

    David Alexander, Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Director of Rice Space Institute, Rice University

    Oluwatoyin Asojo, Associate Professor of Pediatrics in Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine

    Matthew Baring, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and Co-Chair, Graduate Admissions and Recruiting, Rice University

    Scott Basinger, Assistant Dean and Associate Professor of Opthalmology and Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine

    Janet Braam, Wiess Professor of BioSciences and Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives, Rice University

    Audrea Burns, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ambassador, Baylor College of Medicine

    Dan Carson, Professor of BioSciences and Schlumberger Chair of Advanced Studies & Research, Rice University

    Daniel Cohan, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

    Micheal Cone, Assistant Teaching Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Rice University

    Margaret French-Dieter, Program Manager, Physics of Living Systems, Rice University

    Michael Gustin, Professor of BioSciences, Rice University

    Matthias Heinkenschloss, Noah Harding Chair and Professor of Computational Applied Mathematics and Operations Research, Rice University

    Mackale Joyner, Assistant Teaching Professor of Computer Science and Director of Master of Computer Science Program, Rice University

    Stacey Kalovidouris, Executive Director of the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering, Rice University

    Nathasha Kirienko, Associate Professor of BioSciences and CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research, Rice University

    Neal F. Lane, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy, Rice University; Senior Fellow, Baker Institute, Rice University; Former Director of the National Science Foundation

    Stephan Link, Adjunct Research Professor, Department of Chemistry, Rice University

    Kirstin R.W. Matthews, Fellow for Science and Technology Policy, Baker Institute, Rice University

    Richard Meisel, Associate Professor, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston

    Antonios Mikos, Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering & Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Director of the Biomaterials Lab, Center for Excellence in Tissue Engineering, and J.W. Cox Laboratory for Biomedical Engineering, Rice University

    Carolyn Nichol, Associate Research Professor, Department of Chemistry, and Director of the Rice Office of STEM Engagement, Rice University

    K.C. Nicolaou, Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Chemistry, Rice University

    Jamie Padgett, Stanley C. Moore Professor in Engineering, Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

    Mesias Pedroza, Lecturer in Natural Sciences, University of Houston Downtown

    Amina Qutub, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, Rice University

    Beatrice Riviere, Noah Harding Chair and Professor of Computational Applied Mathematics and Operations Research, Rice University

    Malcolm Ross, Adjunct Professor of Earth Science, Rice University

    Maude Rowland, Nonresident Scholar for Science and Technology Policy, Baker Institute, Rice University

    Laura Schaefer, Burton J. and Ann M. McMurtry Chair in Engineering and Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Rice University

    Yousif Shamoo, Ralph and Dorothy Looney Professor of BioSciences, Rice University

    Scott Solomon, Associate Teaching Professor of BioSciences, Rice University

    Lauren Stadler, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

    Junghae Suh, Professor of Bioengineering, Rice University

    Yizhi Tao, Professor of BioSciences, Rice University

    Ned Thomas, Ernest Dell Butcher Professor Emeritus of Engineering, Rice University

    James Tour, T.T. and W.F. Chao Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science & NanoEngineering, Rice University

    Robert Vajtai, Research Professor, Materials Science and Nanoengineering, Rice University

    Daniel Wagner, Associate Professor of BioSciences, Rice University

    Kelly Weinersmith, Adjunct Assistant Professor, BioSciences, Rice University

    Jennifer West, Chair and Isabel C. Cameron Professor of Bioengineering, Rice University