The Institute for the Science of Origins is excited to sponsor the Origins Science Scholars Program for the general public at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

red-rectangle-join-us-button-hiDuring this unique program, members of the community engage with each other and with leading scholars of the origins sciences to investigate everything from the big bang to the developing mind and emerging life. Each evening begins with a presentation by a world-class researcher, followed by dinner and open discussion among all the participants.

We are excited to share unique and challenging perspectives and hope to leave participants better educated about origins research and the Institute for the Science of Origins.

We look forward to seeing you!

Click here to see videos of past OSS lectures!
Click here to register online
To register by phone: Call Felicia at 216-368-2090

Fall 2020 Program

.The seven-week program addresses::

African and Tibetan Archeology
Physics of Exoplanets, Gravitational Waves, and Observational Cosmology


When: Oct 6, 2020 through Nov 17, 2020
Where: ONLINE! (access info provided with registration)
n.b. Sessions usually take place on the campus of Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, but this semester all will be online for a nominal fee. Also check out the free online talks in our “Life, the Universe and Hot Dogs” series! 

Tuesday evenings
Lectures begin at 6pm, followed by Q&A and discussion
(n.b. Our in-person evenings include dinner but due to current circumstances, we can’t eat together this semester. However, we encourage you to order in a meal from one of the great University Circle restaurants or one of your own local favorites and enjoy it at leisure while listening to our speakers!)


Oct 6

Blanton Tolbert
Case Western Reserve University

RNA viruses: A chemist’s approach to discovering antiviral targets. 

This session will be held online.

Research in the Tolbert Group endeavors to understand the molecular mechanisms RNA viruses use to express their genomes. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and other solution biophysical methods are used to determine 3D structures and physiochemical properties of viral RNA regulatory elements both free and bound to their cognate host proteins. Their primary focus has been to understand how the HIV regulates RNA processing events, with other projects including the molecular mechanisms of Enterovirus 71 (EV71), the etiological agent of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. This year Tolbert has turned his virtuosity toward the SARS-2 coronavirus and will explain what his work here means for understanding the virus.


Oct 13

Jurgen Bosch
Johns Hopkins University & Case Western Reserve University

SARS-2 Coronavirus: Innovations in Testing Technologies”

This session will be held online.

Dr. Jurgen Bosch has over fifty scientific publications and five patents. He is an expert on vaccine design and has been working on a vaccine and Rapid Diagnostic Tests for malaria but has retooled for coronavirus. He will give us an insider’s view of how the SARS-2 virus ticks and what progress is being made in the area of testing. He will also introduce us to his newest coronavirus undertaking. 

October 20

Lisa Hildebrand
Stony Brook University

“Stone-Age Africa: Sophisticated Shared Identity Among Cultures”
This session will be held online

Elisabeth Hildebrand and colleagues recently published stunning data on social complexity among nomadic pastoralists in what is now Turkana, Kenya with date drawn from excavations and ground-penetrating radar surveys at the earliest and most massive monumental site in eastern Africa. Lothagam North Pillar Site. Such architecture requires many people to build a conspicuous structure commemorating shared beliefs, and was thought to pertain only to stratified civilizations; yet these mobile herders in Turkana created large cemeteries and practiced other forms of commemoration, preserving stunning work stretching across many generations –a tangible reminder of shared identity.


October 27

Mark Aldenderfer
University of California, Merced

“Genes, Evolution, and Archaeology Meet in the High Himalayas: Denisovans, Tibetans, and Others”
This session will be held online

Archeologist Dr Mark Aldenderfer, the MacArthur Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Merced, has spent his life investigating the origins of settled village life, human adaptation to high altitude environments, hunting and gathering, and early plant and animal domestication. Dr, Aldenderfer’s work encompasses the sites of Asana, Qillqatani, and Jisk’a Iru Muqu, and survey projects in the Osmore valley of Peru, and in river valleys in the Lake Titicaca Basin, as well as projects in Ethiopia, the US, and Tibet, where his research on Buddhist and pre-Buddhist occupations in the Himalayas have elucidated the fascinating cultures of this region. He will discuss the peopling of the Tibetan plateau, illustrated by very new discoveries by his research team on this topic, focused upon ancient DNA from sites in the Himalayas.


November 3

Sara Seager
MacArthur Fellow and MIT Professor

“The Future of Exoplanet Research”

Presented in collaboration with CWRU’s Emeriti Academy.
This session will be held online

In 25 years we have gone from knowing only about the (then 9) planets of our solar system to a wealth of over 4000 known planets around thousands of stars.   MacArthur Fellow and MIT Professor Sara Seager will look forward to the next 25 years during which we expect to examine many of those planets  to understand their atmospheres and  see if they host life.  She will also share with us reflections from her soon to be published memoir.


November 10

Neil Cornish
Montana State University

“The Future of Gravitational-Wave Astronomy”

Presented in collaboration with CWRU’s Emeriti Academy.
This session will be held online

In September 2015, 100 years after Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity, the LIGO collaboration announced the first every observation of gravitational waves emanating from the merger of two black holes over 1 billion light years away, opening up a new window on the universe. LIGO has been upgraded and continues to observer mergers of black holes and neutron stars, but the near future will see new gravitational wave detectors  on Earth and in space.  Dr. Neil Cornish of Montana State University is a leader in this effort, and one of the proposers of the Big Bang Observer, an exciting future space-based observatory.


November 17

John Ruhl
Case Western Reserve University

“The Future of CMB Observations and What They Will Tell Us About Cosmology”

Presented in collaboration with CWRU’s Emeriti Academy.
This session will be held online

The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is the glow of the universe from when it was just 400,000 years old.   It has also been our most valuable tool in deciphering the nature of the universe on large scales, especially the universe before that time.   There is much more to learn, and CWRU Physics Professor John Ruhl is a leader in building the current and next generation of ground and balloon-based instruments to measure the CMB, including the US’s new flagship instruments CMB-S4.


Postponed til Spring 2021:

Katie Hinde, Arizona State University  “Mother’s Milk & the Evolving Microbiome

Katie Hinde is studying breast milk’s status as the first superfood, providing babies with invaluable microbes custom-tailored to their individual needs, via an incredible and unlikely dialogue between the mother’s enzymes and the baby’s saliva. Mother’s milk is older than dinosaurs. Interestingly, the biological recipe of milk differs between sons and daughters. Breast milk is food and medicine and is the message that organizes a baby’s brain, body and behavior. Milk has been shaped by hundreds of millions of years of natural selection. As scientists decode the mysteries of milk and its evolution, we gain essential new tools for human health and well-being.

Many Thanks! 

The ISO Origins Science Scholars Program is presented in cooperation with Case Western Reserve University’s College of Arts and Sciences and The Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and taped and broadcast in cooperation with CWRU’s MediaVision and IdeaStream.


Learn more:

For more information about the program, you can:
Download the Origins Science Scholars brochure

Click here to register online.
To register by phone: Call Felicia at 216-368-2090

CWRU Students:
If you’d like to sign up for a chance to attend the lecture and dinner on one of the above dates, please follow this link