TEDxNothwesternU 2016: Beyond Boundaries

This year’s conference is all about the creativity and ingenuity that drives innovation at Northwestern and around the world.  Explore what it means to invent the next big thing, surpass great expectations, unite the divided, and shatter limitations.

Videos from this year’s conference can be found here.


Session 1: 10:00am – 12:00pm

RodriguezCarl Rodriguez

Listening to Einstein’s Final Symphony

Carl Rodriguez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University. His research focuses on how dense star clusters act like factories for black holes, crashing them into each other with phenomenal energy. Carl’s TEDx talk will describe how binary black holes are forged in the cores of star clusters, and how we can “hear” them collide with a new type of telescope designed to listen to tiny vibrations in the fabric of spacetime itself. Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, Carl earned his B.A. in Physics from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, before starting his Ph.D. at Northwestern. He is a recipient of a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, and will be joining MIT next year as a Pappalardo Fellow in Physics. When not working on black holes, Carl can be found either climbing or backpacking through the wilderness.

AlstonKori Alston

Hip Hop and Theatre: A Potential Symbiosis

Kori Alston is a sophomore theatre major and Spanish minor with a concentration in playwriting at Northwestern. He was born and raised in the Berkshires but attended an arts high school in Boston where theatre became an integral part of his life. His play, The Alexander Litany, was featured in the Vertigo Productions Winter Reading Series in January and his ten-minute play, Poplar and Rope, was featured as a part of Vertigo’s Ten Minute Play Festival. He has played Mika in a Wirtz Center production of Ike Holter’s Hit the Wall and can be seen as Ferdinand in the Wirtz Center’s upcoming production of The Tempest. He considers himself a student of hip-hop and aims to incorporate hip-hop/rap styles and forms in his work. His TED talk focuses on the intersection of hip-hop and theatre and the potential and necessary symbiotic relationship that could exist between the two art forms.

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Laronda_2016Monica Laronda

Form Follows Fertility: Innovations in Complex Tissue Engineering

Monica Laronda, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Monica’s TEDx talk will describe current innovations at NU that advances the state of tissue engineering that has been stalled at the production of simple tissue constructs, like skin. Monica collaborates with materials scientists and engineers to advance beyond the boundaries of single scaffold layers with single cell types to complex organs with multiple compartments and several unique cells working synchronously to orchestrate organ function. Monica uses intelligently designed bioactive scaffolds and stem cells toward developing personalized ovary replacements. She envisions this research beyond the bench to the patient by developing clinical-grade techniques. Monica received her Ph.D. from the Integrated Graduate Program at Northwestern University and was recently awarded the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface that will fund her transition into independent academic research. Monica is currently applying for a tenure-track professor positions.

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Eureka Foong_TEDx profile originalEureka Foong

Don’t start with the solution: What hackathons can tell us about solving big problems

Eureka Foong is a Ph.D. student in Technology and Social Behavior, a joint program in computer science and communication at Northwestern University. She received her B.A. degree in psychology and media studies from Linfield College in Oregon. Prior to joining Northwestern, Eureka led user research at Piktochart, an online infographic tool for non-designers. She currently studies how people collaboratively solve problems at civic hackathons, events where experts in technology, data science, design and community issues rapidly create solutions to social problems. Her TEDx talk is about the global growth of these hackathons, as well as their drawbacks. This is Eureka’s second TEDx talk. When not engaged in research, Eureka can be found contemplating the taste of home cooked Malaysian food.

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Session 2: 1:00pm – 3:00pm


Sean Oliver

Don’t Bring a Knife to a Word Fight

Sean Oliver is a senior at Northwestern double-majoring in the fields of Economics and Communication studies, with a career focus on business. Sean’s TEDxNorthwesternU talk centers around the importance of speech and communication in catalyzing self-empowerment and societal change. Before signing with the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, Sean was a speech and debate coach at Evanston Township High School as well as a competitive debater during his high school years in Plano, Texas, earning top speaker of Public Forum Debate at the 2012 Harvard National Forensics Tournament. He is also a former Northwestern football player and is currently involved in rugby, boxing and Northwestern’s business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi.

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AnsariHeba Ansari

How to impact the world and make money

Heba is an Associate at The Boston Consulting Group and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. Her passion lies in using the intersection of the private and public sector to solve our world’s biggest problems. In particular she has a passion for digital innovation, efficiency, and operations. Her study of the coordination of public and private sectors extends to the US, Latin America, and Africa. In her free time Heba enjoys learning about new social entrepreneurship ventures and trying new cuisines. Heba’s TEDx talk will discuss how anyone can have a career that “saves the world” and makes money.

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Janesh Rahlan

Lost in Translation: The Importance of Language in Cultural Exchange

Janesh Rahlan is a 2014 Northwestern grad in Economics and Political Science. Immediately after graduation he spent a year in Turkey as a Fulbright Scholar and now works in Strategy and Analytics at LinkedIn. His TedXNorthwesternU talk focuses on the importance of language learning as a means to bridge cultures and enhance experiences abroad. When not at work, he can be found reading about economic inequality and international affairs, or spending an inordinate amount of time trying to dissect rap lyrics and come up with what he thinks are witty one-liners.

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Kelleher PhotoNeil Kelleher

A Plan to Weigh Every Protein in the Human Body: The Cell- Based Human Proteome Project

Since 2011, Dr. Kelleher has served as the director of the Proteomics Center of Excellence at Northwestern University, where dozens of Northwestern laboratories are supported and beyond state-of-the-art in Top Down proteomics is developed. Dr. Kelleher was elected Treasurer of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry in 2012 and established the Consortium for Top Down Proteomics that same year. With more than 200 papers published over the course of his career and teaching duties in two departments, Dr. Kelleher is a trans-disciplinary investigator with visible streaks of international impact in mass spectrometry-based proteomics and the discovery of new natural products from the microbial world. Validation of protein-based biomarkers in organ transplantation and cancers of the blood are among the focused areas currently being pursued in clinical research at Northwestern.

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Session 3: 3:30pm – 5:30pm

Anna Professional TedXAnna Bethune

Yes Girls Can! Social Impact through Tech Empowerment

Anna Bethune is a 3rd year PhD student in the School of Education and Social Policy. She enjoys discussing and thinking about the systemic problems faced by developing countries, like Jamaica, and the ways in which education and technology further social inclusion and development. Anna is currently exploring youth civic engagement, civic tech, design-based research, and student activist groups of color. Anna also co-founded Brave Initiatives, a non-profit that encourages high school girls to view themselves as agents of change. Brave Initiatives offers a 5 day camp that teaches coding, design-thinking, public speaking and leadership. She received a BA in economics from Stanford University and previously worked as an economics researcher and as a program coordinator at a start-up in Silicon Valley.

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Rehak_810_6234Jay Rehak

Creating a Class-Sourced Novel: an Exercise in Collaboration and Empathy

Jay Rehak is an English instructor at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School where he teaches sophomore Honors English Literature, as well as Senior Honors Broadcast and Print Journalism. His students produce a weekly television show, a bi-monthly newspaper and two to four novels each year. A teacher for the past thirty years, Jay has written and published nine novels with his students in the past three years. The “father” of class-sourced novels, Jay focuses his TEDx talk on this exciting new genre of literature. Jay’s TEDx talk details the magic of collaborating with his students on the world’s first high school class-sourced novels. His first such collaboration, 30 Day to Empathy won the Chicago Writer’s Association 2013 Book of the Year for Non-Traditional Literature. His subsequent collaborations, four versions of Someone Else’s Shoes and four versions of The Absolutely Awesome Adventures of Internet Ed are to be followed by two versions of The Long, Strange Trip of Augie Stone, due out in June 2016. Jay received his B.A. degree in Honors English from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and his M.S. Ed from Northern Illinois University. Jay was also the recipient of the 2014 Chicago Public Schools Technology Innovator of the Year Award and is the current sponsor of the TED Talks Club at Whitney Young.

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Dan IvankovichDaniel Ivankovich

Transforming Chicago: OnePatient At A Time

Daniel Anthony Ivankovich MD is an American orthopedic surgeon, humanitarian, media personality and blues musician from Chicago, Illinois where he is known for his advocacy on behalf of the inner city’s under-served. He is medical director and co-founder of OnePatient – Global Health Initiative, a Chicago based non-profit foundation created “to treat patients…who have musculoskeletal health disorders, regardless of their ability to pay.” Ivankovich attended Northwestern University, received his doctor of medicine from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and postgraduate training at Rush University Medical Center, with additional fellowship training at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.Dr. Dan was named NASW’s Citizen of the Year for Chicago & Illinois in 2010, Chicago Magazine named him Chicagoan of the Year in 2011. In 2013 he received the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation’s Inspiration Award and in 2015, he was named a CNN Hero and finalist for CNN “Hero of The Year.”

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