Next Scientia colloquium set for March 12

ScientiaFour faculty members from across campus will share their perspectives on “The Power of Ideas,” the theme of this year’s Scientia lectures. Each will present a five-minute talk about the ideas that have most powerfully influenced and engaged them in their careers and intellectual lives.

Scientia, which is free and open to the public, will be in Ray Courtyard, Rice Memorial Center, with a reception to be held afterward. In case of rain, the colloquium will be held in Duncan Hall’s McMurtry Auditorium.

The speakers and their topics are:

Devika Subramanian, professor of computer science and of electrical and computer engineering, will discuss “Computational Thinking.” What is computational thinking and why is it important for all of Rice’s students? Subramanian will describe what she learned by designing and fielding a first course in computational thinking at Rice from 2008 to 2012.

Evan Siemann, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will present “Who’s Eating Who?” Ecologists have been fascinated by food webs for nearly a century. At a basic level this is “Who’s eating whom?” but exploration of this simple question plays a central role in many of the intellectual themes of ecology. Moreover, the answers to this question are critical for understanding contemporary environmental problems.

Rosemary Hennessy, the L.V. Favrot Chair in Humanities, professor of English literature and director of the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality, will present “Standpoint.” Knowledge is never disinterested. Those who live on the margins know this too well. From their lives has emerged a powerful critical project that exposes the social location and history of knowing. Welcome to the concept of standpoint — one that has shaped Hennessy’s work and others’ in feminist theory.

Farès el-Dahdah, professor of architecture and director of the Humanities Research Center, will discuss “The Villain.” Something must be off when well-known fictional villains are suspiciously similar to villains people actually fear in the news. It is as if plots of villainy are borrowed from literature to describe world events, and this must surely have unfortunate consequences.

Scientia is an institute of Rice University faculty founded in 1981 by the mathematician and historian of science Salomon Bochner. The lecture series provides an opportunity for scholarly discussion across disciplinary boundaries; its members and fellows come from a wide range of academic disciplines. For more information on Scientia, visit



About Rice News Staff

The Rice News is produced weekly by the Office of Public Affairs at Rice University.