Our program is subject to change. Speakers have confirmed their intent to participate; however, scheduling conflicts may arise.


Ken Albala, Ph.D.

David Christian, Ph.D.

Robert Hazen, Ph.D.

Jill Tarter, Ph.D.

Ken Albala, Ph.D. is Professor of History a the University of the Pacific. He has written or edited 25 books on food including academic monographs, popular food histories, cookbooks, encylopedias, and reference works. His Beans: A History won the International Assocation of Culinary Professionals Jane Grigson Award for Food Writing. Albala has edited several food series with over 100 titles for Greenwood Press, ABC-CLIO, and Rowman and Littlefield. He was also co-editor of the journal Food, Culture and Society. His food history course is available on DVD or as a free podcast from The Great Courses company and he is now writing a second series on the history of cooking. His latest work is Noodle Soup: Recipes, Techniques, Obsession. He is currently working on a history of aphrodisiacs and a travel book on walking with wine.

David Christian, Ph.D. is by training a historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, but since the 1980s he has become interested in world history and in history at very large scales and across many disciplines. He began teaching Russian and European history at Macquarie University in 1975; from 1989 he also began teaching courses in Big History. In 2001 he took up a position at San Diego State University, where he taught courses on World History, Big History, World Environmental History, Russian History, and the History of Inner Eurasia. In January 2009 he returned to Macquarie University, where he has mainly taught Big History, but is now teaching Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet history.

He is a member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities, and the Royal Society of N.S.W. He is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Global History and the Cambridge World History. He has held temporary appointments at the University of Vermont and at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, and was the founding President of the International Big History Association.

He has written on the social and material history of the 19th century Russian peasantry, in particular on aspects of diet and the role of alcohol. He has also written a text book history of modern Russia, and the first volume of a synoptic history of Inner Eurasia (Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia). In 2004, he published the first monograph on “Big History”, Maps of Time. With Bill Gates, he is co-founder of the Big History Project, which has built free online high-school courses in big history. Since 2013, he has been Director of Macquarie University’s Big History Institute, and led the collaboration of twenty academics across all faculties to develop Macquarie University’s MOOC on big history: Big History: Connecting Knowledge, on the Coursera platform. He is co-creator of Macquarie University’s Big History School, which provides K-12 online courses in Big History. In May 2017 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by North Carolina State University.

His 2011 TED talk, A History of the Universe in 18 minutes has been viewed more than eight million times. Recent publications include Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, Penguin, 2018.

Robert Hazen, Ph.D. is the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Sciences at George Mason University. He received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the MIT, the Ph.D. at Harvard University in Earth science, and was NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at Cambridge University. Hazen is author of more than 450 articles and 25 books on science, history, and music. His next book, Symphony in C: Carbon and the Emergence of (Almost) Everything, will be published by Norton in 2019. His recent book The Story of Earth (Viking-Penguin) was finalist in the Royal Society and Phi Beta Kappa science book competitions. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geochemical Society, and the Geological Society of America, he received the 2016 Roebling Medal, the Mineralogical Society of America Award, and MSA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, the American Chemical Society Ipatieff Prize, the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, the Educational Press Association Award, and was the 2012 recipient of Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award. He has presented numerous named lectures and was Distinguished Lecturer for Sigma Xi and MSA, for which he is a past President. The biomineral Hazenite was named in his honor.

Hazen’s recent research in part examines roles of minerals in life’s origins, with a focus on mineral-catalyzed organic synthesis and interactions between biomolecules and mineral surfaces. Since 2008 Hazen and his colleagues have explored “mineral evolution” and “mineral ecology” — new approaches that exploit large and growing mineral data resources to explore the co-evolution of the geo- and biospheres.

In 2008 Hazen was named Principal Investigator and in 2011 Executive Director of the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a 10-year effort to achieve fundamental advances in understanding the chemical and biological roles of carbon in Earth. With significant funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the DCO is an international community of more than 1,000 collaborators from 45 countries with total anticipated funding from governmental, corporate, and private sources approaching $1 billion.

In October 2016 Hazen retired from a 40-year career as a professional trumpeter. He performed with numerous ensembles including the Metropolitan, Boston, and Washington Operas; the Royal, Bolshoi, and Kirov Ballets; and the Boston Symphony, the National Symphony, and the Orchestre de Paris. Prior to his retirement he was a member and soloist with the Washington Chamber Symphony, the National Philharmonic, the Washington Bach Consort, and the National Gallery Orchestra.

Jill Tarter, Ph.D. is the Emeritus Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California and serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for that institution. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics Degree with Distinction from Cornell University and her Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. She has spent the majority of her professional career attempting to answer the old human question “Are we alone?” by searching for evidence of technological civilizations beyond Earth. She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey, and has conducted numerous observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. She is a Fellow of the AAAS, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Explorers Club. She was named one of the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2004 and one of the Time 25 in Space in 2012. As a speaker, Tarter received a TED prize in 2009; two public service awards from NASA, multiple awards for communicating science to the public, and has been honored as a woman in technology. She was the 2014 Jansky Lecturer, and received a Genius Award from Liberty Science Center in 2015. She served as President of the California Academy of Sciences 2015–16. Asteroid 74824 Tarter (1999 TJ16) has been named in her honor. Since the termination of funding for NASA’s SETI program in 1993, she has served in a leadership role to design and build the Allen Telescope Array and to secure private funding to continue the exploratory science of SETI. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact. Her biography Making Contact was written by Sarah Scoles and published in 2017.