2021 Programs



January 27th, February 3rd & February 10th

8:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.

Each lecture will be preceded by a musical program beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The 2021 series will be at 7:30 p.m. on January 27th, February 3rd & February 10th, 2021. As in the past, each program will consist of an understandable talk by a scientist involved in research on the topic, and an opportunity for questions from the audience. Brochures giving speakers, and subjects and the location will be distributed in January. The purpose of these lectures is to bring together the general public and scientists to explore topics of interest and importance to everyone. Admission is free.

2021 Science in Your Life will be virtual

2021 Science In Your Life Programs

Wednesday, January 27, 2021


7:30 PM Music by Vivace Orchestra (string orchestra conducted by Jonathan Handman)

8:15 PM “"What Race Is and What It Is Not and Why It Matters”

Speaker: Agustín Fuentes

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

Race as we use it is not a biological category, not a way in which the forces of biology and evolution have divided up our species. There is no inherently biological reason that most starting running backs in the NFL are black or most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are white. Nor is there a “natural” explanation for why race relations are often difficult, but there are lots of interesting social, political, psychological, and historical ones. Race and Racism are completely intertwined making Race a tangible reality in our society. But Race is not what most think it is. Racism pervades the very structures of daily life in the USA, and most of us are afraid to talk about race or racism in any depth or with any detail. Fear and ignorance surround the concepts and realities of Race and Racism. In an effort to tackle that this lecture engages what race is, what it is not, and why that matters.

Agustín Fuentes, trained in Zoology and Anthropology, is a Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. His current explorations include the roles of creativity and belief in human evolution, multispecies anthropology, evolutionary theory, and the structures of race and racism. Fuentes’ books include “Race, Monogamy, and other lies they told you: busting myths about human nature” (U of California), “Conversations on Human Nature(s)” (Routledge), “The Creative Spark: how imagination made humans exceptional" (Dutton), and “Why We Believe: evolution and the human way of being” (Yale)

Wednesday, February 3, 2021


7:30 PM “Music by Arlington High School Philharmonia (string orchestra conducted by Jonathan Handman)

8:15 PM “Thinking Outside the Sphere”

Speaker: Bonnie J. Dunbar

Professor of Aerospace Engineering

Director, Aerospace Human Systems Laboratory, Texas A&M University

Member, National Academy of Engineering

College Station, TX

What inspires us to ask “why” and to become excited about exploring the unknown? Why pursue science and engineering? How does a girl who grew up on a farming ranch, first in her family to attend college, find a way to space? Dr. Dunbar will present the lecture given when she received the Sigma Xi John P, McGovern Science and Society award in November, 2020. She received the award for her leadership and contributions in aerospace engineering; work spanning industry, academia, and government; a commitment to furthering engineering and science education.

Dr. Dunbar worked in industry on the Space Shuttle before serving for 27 years at NASA where she completed five space shuttle flights, logging more than 50 days in space. She was also selected into the SES NASA management, serving for 7 years. After retiring from NASA, she became president and CEO of Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA. There she established a new space gallery and expanded the K12 STEM offerings. She has also consulted as president of Dunbar International LLC and is an internationally known public speaker. Dr. Dunbar was elected into the National Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is a Fellow of the AIAA, the ACerS, the RAeS, and was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2013. She also served as President of the Association of Space Explorers from 2016 to 2018. Dr. Dunbar has devoted her life to furthering engineering education, to the pursuit of space exploration, and to asking “why”.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


7:30 PM Music by Arlington High School Jazz Machine (Conducted by Rich Guillen)

8:15 PM “Climate Change in Human History: What’s Our Future?”

Speaker: Dr. James Green

NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC

The Earth is 4.5 billion years old and since it was created it’s climate has continually changed. Over the last several decades, scientists have pieced together the history of climate change on Earth uncovering many more details during the time humans have inhabited the Earth. What is emerging from this research is that a baseline of climatic change can be established and then used to compare with current trends. Key components of the baseline involve the evolution of our sun, the Milankovitch cycles, and the biosphere. The increase in solar illumination with time and the Milankovitch cycles which describe how our orbit around the sun evolves are well understood and can be calculated. Our biosphere has responded to these changes by creating everything from deserts to lush vegetation regions. It is the human dimension of our biosphere that creates the greatest uncertainty for our future on this planet.

Dr. James Green is NASA’s Chief Scientist who focuses on NASA’S strategic science objectives. He has written over 120 scientific papers.

Gravity Assist Podcast

Dr. Jim Green, NASA’s Chief Scientist, taps some of the leading experts in planetary science and other fields to give you a guided tour of the solar system and beyond. Come along to learn about planets, the Moon, asteroids, and more. Jim also explores how scientists get inspired to pursue careers in science – that “gravity assist” that leads them to become the explorers they are today.

Officers 2020-2021

Maung S. Htoo, President, Ph.D.

Robert Brickner, Secretary

Arne C. Christensen, Treasurer

Board of Trustees

Robert Brickner

Arne C. Christensen

James Holmgren

Margaret A. Horton

Maung S. Htoo, Ph.D.

Steven C. Johnson

David Pfirman

Edwin E. Fitchett

This year’s lectures are dedicated to Edwin E. Fitchett, Vice President and Senior Trustee who passed away in September, 2020.

Ed was the longest serving trustee in Vassar Brothers Institute's history (1980 - 2020).