CSE Public Lecture


As you know, universities across the country are making efforts to address the significant challenges presented by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The safety and well-being of our entire community, including event attendees, is a top priority for the College of Science and Engineering and the University of Minnesota.

Based on recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the April 7, 2020 CSE Public Lecture was rescheduled to October 8, 2020.  

If you have questions, please email csealumni@umn.edu.

For more information on how the University of Minnesota is handling issues related to COVID-19, see the University’s Safe Campus website

Curiosity Drives Progress Lecture Series: Impacting Communities

featuring talks presented by CSE distinguished professors Saif Benjaafar (Industrial and Systems Engineering), Lucy Fortson (Physics and Astronomy), and Ellad Tadmor (Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics)

Thursday, October 8, 2020
6 p.m. – Doors open
6:30 – Lecture 

Coffman Memorial Union, Theater and livestream*
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Registration information will be posted on this page in August.
* Protecting the health and safety of our community is our highest priority and we are closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak. At this time, we plan to host this event on campus, as well as stream live online. If there are any changes to the in-person component of this event, we will communicate them to you as soon as possible. 

About the talks

“The Rise of Global Online Platforms: The Promise and Perils of the Sharing Economy”

A portrait of Saif Benjaafar.

By Saif Benjaafar, Department Head and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering 

We are witnessing two fundamental shifts in the economy: (1) the emergence of online platforms that connect many small suppliers with many individual buyers engaged in many small transactions anytime anywhere and (2) a growing shift away from private ownership to the on-demand and shared access to products and services facilitated by online platforms.

In this talk, Professor Benjaafar will discuss these shifts and examine underlying technological, economic, and social drivers. He will also discuss the impact of these shifts on society, including the impact on consumers, workers, and the environment.

“To the Zooniverse and Beyond: How Crowdsourcing Science is Solving Big Data Problems for UMN Researchers"

Lucy Fortson

By Lucy Fortson, Associate Department Head and Professor, School of Physics and Astronomy

What do lions, galaxies, cell nuclei and notes taken by the Justices of the United States Supreme Court have in common? Each of these is a topic of intense research by faculty at the University of Minnesota—and each suffers from a similar problem: too much complex data for researchers to properly analyze. You might think that computers should be able to tackle these problems, but in fact, pattern matching (a hallmark of analyzing complex data) is exactly where computers still lag behind even a human child.

So how can researchers make any progress in problems where human visual processing of millions of images is required? By turning to the general public and asking for their help. This talk will describe the Zooniverse project, and will take you on a tour of the engaging projects in the Zooniverse—from the lions in the Serengeti to galaxies in the furthest reaches of time and space. Along the way, Professor Fortson will describe the issues that researchers now face with “Big Data,” what crowdsourcing is, and how combining human intelligence with artificial intelligence is revolutionizing how science is being done.

“Can Truth Save Democracy? We’re Trying in Science Court”

Ellad Tadmor

By Ellad B. Tadmor, Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics

Some say we live in a "post truth" world, but there is no such thing. Humans would not have survived as a species if they were not able to rationally assess the world about them and make sensible decisions. In “Science Court” we are trying to apply this common sense thinking to tackle controversial societal issues that divide us as Americans. The students participating in this Honors Seminar pick the topic, spend a semester researching the facts, and argue the pros and cons in a mock trial in front of a diverse jury of citizens.

Science Court draws on the traditions of the U.S. jury system, but adapts the process based on understanding from scientific research on how people reason and collaborate to maximize the likelihood of reaching consensus. The hope is that by spreading this model to other universities, Science Court will help to reduce polarization and help our democracy function in a time when trust in all institutions (including democracy itself) are at historical lows.

Read more about his class in Inventing Tomorrow, Winter 2020.