University of Illinois institute leads efforts at session on energy and agricultural issues


The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is taking a leadership role in the upcoming session "Innovative Convergence Approaches to Solving Energy and Agricultural Issues" at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting. IGB Director Gene E. Robinson is co-organizing the session, at which IGB faculty member and Gutgsell Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology Stephen Long will speak.

"Convergence is increasingly appreciated as a driving force for innovation," said Robinson, who is also Swanlund Professor of Entomology at Illinois. "The grand challenges that we face can no longer be restricted to unilateral perspectives and we must adopt partnerships at the intersection of the life sciences, physical sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities. Our Institute was founded with this approach in mind ten years ago, and was an early adopter of what has become known as convergent science."

Using a convergence approach-integrating the efforts of multiple disciplines to capitalize on the benefits of each-allows a way forward in addressing otherwise intractable problems that define some of the grand challenges of the day. In this session the discussion will center around pressing global concerns in food security, energy sources, and water use, from both research and policy perspectives.

"The need for research across disciplines to address real-world challenges continues to grow. We hope this discussion will contribute to a broader dialogue on how using a convergence approach can help solve problems in areas of energy and agriculture," said Katherine Bowman of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, who is also serving as co-organizer.

The session will feature leaders in the use of convergent science related to food, energy, and water: Ellen Williams, Distinguished University Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland; Carlos Olguin, Co-founder at; and Long.

"The exciting scientists in this AAAS session will illustrate how convergence science addresses the challenges of food availability and environmental quality that will define our future," said Nobel Laureate Phillip Sharp, Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and moderator for the session.


The AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting is an interdisciplinary, inclusive event for AAAS community members to gather and discuss recent developments in science and technology. This year the meeting will take place from February 16th through 20th in Boston, Massachusetts.

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