Campus Dispatch
Life on Earth, Mars and Beyond

The inaugural Toronto Science Festival, hosted by U of T, will feature leading scientists addressing fundamental questions about human existence


How did life on Earth begin? How does it survive in extreme environments? Is there intelligent life beyond Earth? Members of the public are invited to hear U of T scientists, alumni and top-notch researchers discuss these questions during the inaugural Toronto Science Festival, being held on campus September 27 to 29.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to ponder the role of chance in the development of life on Earth, to catch up on the latest findings on Mars, and to hear about space exploration first-hand from astronaut Julie Payette,” says Professor Ray Jayawardhana, senior adviser on science engagement to the president of U of T. “There will also be plenty of science-inspired entertainment, including film and TV screenings, as well as a chance to interact with U of T scientists at a Sunday brunch.”

Astronaut Julie Payette


Payette (MASc 1990), who flew two NASA missions on the space shuttles Discovery and Endeavour, opens the festival with a keynote talk about space exploration.” “It’s very presumptuous to think that we are alone, that we are ‘it,’ she says. “Five hundred years ago, we thought we were the centre of the universe and that everything revolved around us, and today we know absolutely that we are not.”

Sean B. Carroll, an evolutionary biologist and former New York Times science columnist, will discuss and sign his new book, Brave Genius, which focuses on Jacques Monod, a Nobel Prize-winning French biologist, and his research into the function of human cells.

Jim Bell, a professor of planetary science at Arizona State University, has worked on NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission. His keynote talk is titled, “Postcards from Mars: Using Rovers to Search for Evidence of Life on the Red Planet.”

Other festival participants include: Prof. Barbara Sherwood Lollar (earth sciences); developmental biologist Cassandra Extavour; paleontologist David Evans; Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist and science adviser for Hollywood films; Prof. Shelley Wright (astronomy and astrophysics); Prof. Spencer Barrett (ecology and evolutionary biology); and evolutionary genomicist Stephen Wright.

Tickets for these three keynote talks are still available on the Toronto Science Festival website. Limited tickets are also available for the screening of the film Contact at Innis Town Hall, and the Café Scientifique brunch. Join the conversation by following the festival on Twitter: @tosciencefest.

Watch Julie Payette’s U of T Alumni Portrait video:


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