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Insight Lecture Series

The Insight Lecture Series fosters wide-ranging discussions of issues in sciences, health, politics, and the arts in the Rockefeller campus community.  The lectures are open to Rockefeller faculty, students, postdocs, and staff, as well as to colleagues in the Tri-Institutional network. Initiated by Rockefeller University faculty member Professor Zanvil Cohn, M.D. in 1990, and called the “Cohn Forum” during its early years, the lectures became the Insight Lecture Series in 2004. Speakers are selected by the Insight Lecture Committee. To share suggestions, please email committee chair, Jesse Ausubel, at


Wednesday, May 8, 2024
Second Avenue Subway: Building New York City’s Most Famous Thing Never Built
Dan McNichol, Author
Bill Goodrich, Former Executive Vice President New York State MTA
Patrick J. Cashin, Photographer

Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Data to Bridge the Divide: How Computational Science Can Save Democracy
Sam Wang, Professor of Neuroscience, Princeton University


Monday, December 4, 2023
Past is More Than Prologue: Finding the Future of Science in Natural History Museums
Sean M. Decatur, President, American Museum of Natural History

Monday, April 10, 2023
History Worth Remembering: Lessons for Today Learned from a Period and Ongoing Process in American History Called Reconstruction
Selwyn M. Vickers, President and CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center


Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Improving Equality of Opportunity in America: New Insights from Big Data
Raj Chetty, William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics; Director Opportunity Insights, Harvard University

Tuesday, April 12, 2022
COVID-19 Vaccines: Science vs. Anti-science
Peter Hotez, Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology; Texas Children’s Hospital Chair in Tropical Pediatrics; Dean, National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine


Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Taking the Universe’s Baby Picture
David Spergel, President, Simons Foundation

Tuesday, November 2, 2021
Confronting Coastal Risk in an Age of Sea Level Rise
Robert Kopp, Climate Scientist, Geobiologist, and Climate Policy Scholar, Rutgers University

Monday, March, 29 2021
How Science Can Save Our Planet by Reinventing Meat
Patrick O. Brown, Founder and CEO, Impossible Foods

Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Expanding the Public Realm
Elizabeth Diller, Architect and Partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Museums in the Time of COVID-19: Notes from the Field
Glenn D. Lowry, The David Rockefeller Director, The Museum of Modern Art


Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Identity at Home and in the Wider World
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy and Law, New York University

Monday, February 3, 2020
Special Insight Screening of Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own
Ursula von Rydingsvard, Artist

Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Bug Fixes for Democracy: Fighting Gerrymandering with Law, Math, and Data
Sam Wang, Professor of Neuroscience and Director, Princeton Gerrymandering Project


Monday, December 16, 2019
Deep Learning and the Future of AI
Yann LeCun, Vice President, Chief AI Scientist, Facebook; Silver Professor, New York University

Monday, November 25, 2019
More Than Pretty Pictures
Felice Frankel, Research Scientist, Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Monday, March 25, 2019
Deterring Cyber Attacks on the United States: Principles and Practices
Craig I. Fields, Former Head, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); Chairman, Defense Science Board

Monday, February 25, 2019
Placebo Effects in Medicine
Ted Kaptchuk, Professor of Medicine and Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School


Tuesday, September 18, 2018
The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America
Frances FitzGerald, Journalist and Author

Monday, June 4, 2018
The Digital Identity Revolution: Accelerating The World’s Social and Economic Development
Joseph Atick, Executive Chairman, ID4Africa and Identity Counsel International

Monday, February 12, 2018
The Leonardo da Vinci DNA Project: Exploring the Intersections of Science and Art
Jesse Ausubel, Director, Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University
Karina Åberg, Visual Artist
Thomas P. Sakmar, Richard M. and Isabel P. Furlaud Professor, Senior Physician, The Rockefeller University


Monday, December 4, 2017
Science as Literature: Diane Ackerman and Jonathan Weiner in Conversation with Harold Varmus
Diane Ackerman, Author
Jonathan Weiner, Author
Moderated by: Harold Varmus, Lewis Thomas University Professor and Senior Advisor to the Dean and Provost, Cornell University

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Music and Madness: Creative Genius and Psychiatric Illness
Richard Kogan, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College; Artistic Director, Weill Cornell Music and Medicine Program

Monday, May 22, 2017
Sculpture: Intuition and Process
Ursula von Rydingsvard, Artist

Monday, February 13, 2017
Biography of My Life in Flowers
Jamaica Kincaid, Author; Professor of African and African American Studies in Residence, Harvard University

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
On Forensics, Law, and Literature
Linda Fairstein, Author; Former Special Victims Prosecutor, Manhattan District Attorney’s Office


Monday, April 25, 2016
Space for Science: The Random Field of Creativity
Rafael Viñoly, Lead Designer and Principal, Rafael Viñoly Architects

Monday, March 7, 2016
Precision Public Health
Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


Thursday, December 10, 2015
Einstein’s God
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Visiting Professor of English, NYU; Visiting Professor of Philosophy, New College of the Humanities

Wednesday, December 9, 2015
The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence
Steven Pinker, Johnston Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

Monday, November 2, 2015
The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?
Dale Russakoff, Author

Monday, October 19, 2015
NASA Science: Searching for Life in the Solar System and Beyond
Ellen Stofan, Chief Scientist, NASA

Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Decade of Disorder: The Human Perspective
David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee

Monday, April 20, 2015
Don’t Rent Your Health. Invest In It!
Esther Dyson, Founder, HICCup; Chairman, EDventure Holdings

Monday, March 23, 2015
Notes on Post-Literary Culture
Jonathan Galassi, President and Publisher, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Thursday, February 5, 2015
Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Foreign Policy
Thomas Pickering, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations


Monday, December 15, 2014
A Special Briefing: Facing Ebola in the New Pandemic Age
Nathan Wolfe, Virologist; Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor of Human Biology, Stanford University; Founder and CEO, Metabiota, Inc.; Founder and CEO, Global Viral

Monday, November 17, 2014
Global Shifts in Economics, Politics, and Business: What’s it Going to Take to be Successful in Our Future World?
Dambisa Moyo, International Economist and Author

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Lyndon Johnson and the Uses of Power
Robert A. Caro, Journalist and Biographer

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
20% Doctor Included
Vinod Khosla, Founder, Khosla Ventures

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
The Discovery of Insulin: A Life-Saving Achievement, the First Nobel Controversy, and Rockefeller’s Underappreciated Role
Arthur Ainsberg, Author, “Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin and the Making of a Medical Miracle”
Jeffrey M. Friedman, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Marilyn M. Simpson Professor, The Rockefeller University


Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Science in Extreme Environments: Building Extraterrestrial and Earth-Based Research Capabilities
Kate Rubins, Astronaut, NASA

Monday, October 14, 2013
Reinventing Graduate Tech Education and Research
Daniel P. Huttenlocher, Ph.D., Jack and Rilla Neafsey Dean and Vice Provost, Cornell Tech

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Preparing for Water-Related Disasters in the Years Ahead
John M. Barry, Distinguished Scholar, Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research; Author of “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America”

Monday, April 15, 2013
The Coming Work-Family Revolution
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University; Contributing Editor, The Atlantic

Monday, March 18, 2013
In the Beginning: Science, Religion, and Origins
Eugenie Scott, Executive Director, National Center for Science Education

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
A Bird’s Eye View of Cancer
Siddhartha Mukherjee, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Irving Cancer Research Center, Columbia University

Monday, January 28, 2013
Exploration: Past, Present and Future
Robert D. Ballard, President, Ocean Exploration Center, Sea Research Foundation; Director, Center for Ocean Exploration and Archaeological Oceanography, and Professor of Oceanography,
Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island; Senior Scientist Emeritus, Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Calendar of Events & Lectures

Browse upcoming and past Events and Lectures by keyword, program, date and type



Shawn Davis
Outreach Programming and Events
The Rockefeller University
1230 York Avenue, Box 164
New York, NY 10065