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Science on Saturday Lecture Series takes audiences on a weekly scientific adventure

Science fans who are staying close to home can still explore the world of science as the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s (PPPL) continues its 36-year tradition of offering weekly cutting-edge, informative talks on a wide variety of science subjects with a live online version.

The Ronald E. Hatcher Science on Saturday Lecture Series will be held each Saturday from 9:30 to 11 a.m. through March 13 on the Zoom virtual meeting platform. You can register here for the lectures. Once you register, you can use the same unique link to join all of the lectures.  

The lecture series attracts hundreds of people each week, ranging from high school students to senior citizens who have been coming to the lectures for decades. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

“After a challenging year when science moved front and center, we are very pleased to be able to announce the agenda for our beloved Ronald E. Hatcher Science on Saturday 2021 fully-remote lecture series,” said Andrew Zwicker, head of Communications and Public Outreach. “We have a wonderful lineup of outstanding scientists this year that you can view from your living room.”

While PPPL cannot offer its traditional coffee, donuts and bagels to audience members, they also won’t have to worry about getting a seat. Deedee Ortiz, the Science Education program manager who organizes the program, said she is delighted PPPL can offer the program online. “Even though we won’t be together in person, I’m really look forward to seeing our regular faces,” Ortiz said. “We can still have coffee together but you’re going to have to make it yourself!”

The series kicked off on Jan. 9 with a lecture on “The Renaissance of the Stellarator Fusion Concept,” by PPPL physicist David Gates, head of Advanced Projects. Stellarators, a type of fusion energy facility that has twisty coils, were invented by PPPL founder Lyman Spitzer in the 1950s. The complex devices have been a less popular choice for fusion experiments than donut-shaped tokamaks but are making a come-back as scientists find new approaches to stellarator design. 

Upcoming highlights include a talk by Geeta Govindarajoo, professor of chemistry at Rutgers University, on the intersection between chemistry and art. Govindarajoo will discuss the role of chemistry in creating and restoring art and detecting forgeries, and a Feb. 27 talk by Tracy Drain, of NASA, on the “Mars Exploration Program.”  A few of the lectures also pertain to research on the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A few of the lectures pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Feb 13, Slobain Duffy, of Rutgers University, will discuss “Virus Host-Shifting: Insights from Laboratory Experimental Evolution,” and on March 6, Sophia Gershman, of PPPL, will discuss “Plasma Science Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

If you can’t make it to the live lecture, the talks will be posted on the Science Education website

The complete schedule for the remainder of the year is: 

  • Jan. 9: David Gates, PPPL, “The Renaissance of the Stellarator Fusion Concept”
  • Jan. 16: Arvind Narayanan, a computer scientist and professor at Princeton University, “How to Recognize AI Snake Oil”
  • Jan. 23: Geeta Govindarajoo, of Rutgers University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, “Chemistry and Art: Like Dissolves Like. How Solubility Influences Creating and Restoring Art, Forgery and Telling a Good Story”
  • Jan. 30: Cristian Galbiaiti, of Princeton University’s Department of Physics, “From studying the Sun, to searching for dark matter, to fighting COVID-19”
  • Feb. 6: Adam Ruben, author, “Public Perception of Science: Lesson from a Dead Sheep.”
  • Feb. 13: Slobain Duffy, “Virus Host-Shifting: Insights from Laboratory Experimental Evolution”
  • Feb. 27: Tracy Drain, of NASA, “Mars Exploration Program”
  • March 6: Sophia Gershman, PPPL, “Plasma Science Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic”
  • March 13: Kory Evans, Rice University, “Ecology and Evolution of Teleost Fishes”

The complete schedule is available on the Science on Saturday archives. Please note that there will be no lecture on Feb. 20 when PPPL will host the U.S. Department of Energy’s New Jersey Regional Science Bowl.

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which  is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit energy.gov/science.


U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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