Plenary Speakers

Prof. Dr. Pauline Gagnon

Retired Senior Research Scientist, Indiana University

I was born in Chicoutimi in Quebec, Canada in 1955. After teaching physics for a few years in local colleges, I moved to California, where, I first studied at San Francisco State University then completed a Ph.D. in particle physics at the University of California in Santa Cruz in 1993. I then started my research activities at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics located near Geneva, with Carleton University then became Senior Research Scientist at Indiana University until I retired in 2016. Within the ATLAS Collaboration, I searched for dark matter in the decays of the Higgs boson and for hypothetical dark photons.

From 2011 until 2014, I worked within the CERN Communication group, writing blogs for the Quantum Diaries and answering questions from numerous media worldwide. Explaining particle physics in simple and accessible terms became my trademark. Since 2013, I have given more than a hundred presentations to large audiences in nine countries on particle physics, dark matter, diversity issues as well as on the contributions of Mileva Marić Einstein to her husband’s work. I wrote a popular science book covering all these topics entitled Who Cares about Particle Physics: Making Sense of the Higgs boson, the LHC and CERN to reach even larger audiences since I think particle physics is too much fun to leave it only to physicists! Since 2014, I live happily in Germany with my wife.

Dr. Marcela Uliano da Silva

Postdoctoral Fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and Science communicator

Marcela Uliano-Silva is a brazilian-italian computational biologist and a science communicator. Her central work revolves around the study of animal genomes, evolution and communicating science to a broader public with the intention to help society to incorporate scientific evidence in the decision-making process of every-day life. She holds a PhD in Biophysics from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), where she sequenced the genome of the golden mussel; an invasive species threatening the biodiversity of the South American waters.

Marcela has done a crowdfunding to partially fund the golden mussel genome sequencing during her PhD studies (, she is a TED Fellow since 2014 and works actively to promote gender equality in science. Currently she is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow (MSCA) at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, where she is studying the genomes of the living sloths and the convergent evolution that led these extraordinary animals to evolve to live exclusively hanging from the trees of the Central and South American forests.

Photo by Viet Nguyen-Kim

Dr. Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim

Science journalist and communicator

Dr. Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim is a science journalist and trainer at the National Institute for Science Communication (Nawik, Karlsruhe). She studied chemistry at the University of Mainz and at MIT, then followed up with a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry at the Fraunhofer Institute of Applied Polymer Research and Harvard University.

Mai Thi discovered her passion for science communication during her Ph.D. She started by sharing her research on stage, at Falling Walls, TEDxBerlin, or Science Slams. Currently, she is writing, hosting and producing for the German TV and online channels funk and ZDF (‘Terra X Lesch & Co.’). She is also the host and producer of the YouTube channels ‘The Secret Life Of Scientists’ and ‘schönschlau’ and was awarded First Place in the Fast Forward Science contest for her video ‘Trust me I’m a scientist’.

Prof. Dr. Olfa Kanoun

Professor of Measurement and Sensor Technology at TU Chemnitz

Olfa Kanoun studied electrical engineering and information technology at the Technical University in Munich from 1989 to 1996, where she specialized in the field of electronics. Her Ph.D. was awarded in 2001 by the Commission of Professors in Measurement Technology (AHMT e. V.) in Germany. As a senior scientist from 2001-2006, she founded a working group on impedance spectroscopy. In 2004 she founded the German IEEE chapter for instrumentation and measurement. In 2007 she became a full professor for measurement and sensor technology at Technische Universität Chemnitz, Germany and initiated in the same year the international Workshop on Impedance Spectroscopy (IWIS). Her research in the field of smart sensors has been growing up and she succeeded to establish international cooperation with many countries worldwide.

In 2014, she initiated together with colleagues at TU Chemnitz the Interdisciplinary symposium for women in the MINT area (ISINA) to encourage young women to strive for a strong career in science and industry. In 2016 she has been appointed as Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Society.

Since more than 20 years she has been carrying out research on sensors, measurement systems, and measurement methods. She is a specialist of smart sensors with focus on impedance spectroscopy, wireless sensors, and nanocomposite sensors. She edited a. o. 13 books, 77 peer-reviewed journal papers, over 250 papers in international conferences and 6 journal special issues.

Prof. Dr. Ada Yonath

Nobel laureate (chemistry)

Ada Yonath focuses on protein biosynthesis, on antibiotics paralyzing this process, on the global problems relating to antibiotic resistance, on attempts to design novel antibiotics and on the origin of life.

She graduated from Hebrew University (1964), earned her Ph.D. from Weizmann Institute (1968) and completed postdoctoral studies at Mellon-Institute and MIT, USA. In 1971 she established the first biological-crystallography laboratory in Israel, which was the only lab of this kind in the country for almost a decade. Since then, she has been a faculty member at the Weizmann Institute, where she is also the Director of Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structures. In parallel, in 1978 she spent a Sabbatical year at the University of Chicago, and during 1980-2004 she headed the Max-Planck-Research-Unit for Ribosome Structure in Hamburg while collaborating with Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin.

Among others, she is a member of the US-National-Academy-of-Sciences; Israel Academy of Sciences-and-Humanities; German Academy for Sciences (Leopoldina); European Molecular Biology Organization; Pontifical (Vatican) Academy of Sciences; Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology. She holds honorary doctorates from over 20 universities worldwide, in USA, Latin America, Europe and the Far East.

Her awards include the Israel Prize; Linus Pauling Gold Medal; Albert Einstein World Award for excellence; UNESCO-L’Oréal Award for Woman in science; Wolf Prize; the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize; Erice Peace Prize; Indian Prime-minister medal; Nobel Prize for Chemistry.