Department of Social Sciences

Great Problems, Great Minds Seminar Series

The Great Problems, Great Minds seminar series explores the major problems facing humanity as we move into the heart of the 21st century. At a technical school, we often forget that humans play a major role in shaping the implementation of every technical solution that is developed and applied. Major problems faced by society include climate change, food security, energy security, education, poverty, and disease, all of which have partial solutions that have been opposed by segments of society. As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, a simple solution like a mask doesn’t work if people don’t accept it.

In this series, we’re bringing in some of the world’s Great Minds to speak on the Great Problems facing society. We will discuss potential solutions, and especially the interaction of people with potential technical solutions.

For more information, contact Assistant Professor of Social Sciences Hao Huang.

Spring 2024

Jan 10Syllabus and BlackboardIntroductionOnline
Jan 17New Approaches to the Exploration of the Spatial and the Temporal Patterns of CrimeNaru ShiodeWatch the Video
Jan 24Achieving Green Space Equity—Projects, Policies, and Systems ChangeAlessandro RigolonWatch the Video
Jan 31Caribbean Science-Policy Interfaces—A Case Study of the Grenada National Ecosystem AssessmentNatalie BoodramWatch the Video
Feb 7Revisiting Foreign Direct Investment in Less Developed Countries and Peripheral RegionsPetr PavlinekWatch the Video
Feb 14Planning with Extended Urbanization: Elements of a Strategic Spatial Planning VocabularyNicholas PhelpsWatch the Video
Feb 21Modeling Human Mobility Patterns from Big Geodata – What Are We Missing?Yihong YuanWatch the Video
Feb 28Outlook for the US and Midwest EconomiesThomas WalstrumWatch the Video
Mar 6World Geography, World Orders, and World Development—Societal and Civilizational ModelsMichael DunfordOnline
Mar 13No seminarNo Classes – Spring BreakOnline
Mar 20Making Music Cities: Creative Economies in Urban Policy and PlanningOla JohanssonOnline
Mar 27Computational Methods and GIS Applications in Social SciencesFahui WangJohn T. Rettaliata Engineering Center, Room 104 and Online
Apr 3Innovative Infrastructure Finance in the U.S. State and Local GovernmentsCan ChenOnline
Apr 10Making a Difference Through Urban Data ScienceKaren ChappleOnline
Apr 17TBDZhuo ChenOnline
Apr 24TBDSanjiv KapoorOn campus

Fall 2023

Sept 8The Driverless City ProjectRon HendersonWatch the Video
Sept 15Initiatives and Research Toward Sustainable Air MobilityYu ZhangWatch the Video
Sept 22System Thinking When Modeling Complex Systems—Covariation Mining and System Dynamics SimulationDanlin Yu, Montclair State UniversityWatch the Video
Sept 29Assessing Older Adult Mobility Using Wearable TechnologyBruce Newbold, McMaster UniversityWatch the Video
Oct 6Achilles’ Heel: Architecture Change and Competitive Disadvantage of Geographical ClusteringPengfei Li, University of CalgaryWatch the Video
Oct 13Humanistic GIS: Towards A Research AgendaBo Zhao, University of WashingtonWatch the Video
Oct 20Crafting Just, Equitable and Circular Food SystemsWeslynne Ashton, Illinois TechWatch the Video
Oct 27Understanding Capitalist Globalization: A Spatio-temporal PerspectiveEric Sheppard, UCLAWatch the Video
Nov 3Workforce Gender Inequality—What Can We Learn from the Physician Workforce? Xiaochu Hu, Association of American Medical CollegesWatch the Video
Nov 10Housing Production and the Structural Changes in China’s Real Estate Development IndustryLan Deng, University of MichiganWatch the Video
Nov 17Coping with the Age of Paradox: Exploring the Role of a Quantum PerspectiveDaniel Sui, Virginia TechOnline
Dec 1Uncertainty in Spatial Analysis: Visualization, Measurement, and ModelingYongwan Chun, UT DallasWatch the Video

Spring 2023

DateTitleVideo Link
Jan 19Maternal and Infant Health Inequality: New Evidence from Linked Administrative DataWatch the Video
Jan 26Data-Driven Wildfire Evacuation Modeling for Communities with Transient Populations in the Wildland-Urban InterfaceWatch the Video
Feb 2Research Parks and Innovation Districts: Established and Contemporary Innovation Strategies for Economic DevelopmentWatch the Video
Feb 16Crime Geography and Crime AnalysisWatch the Video
Feb 23The New Global Politics of Waste and RecyclingWatch the Video
March 2Using Google Street View to Examine Associations between Built Environment Characteristics and U.S. Health Outcomes—Census Tract, County, and Individual LevelsWatch the Video
March 9Incorporating Uncertainty Into Geographical Data VisualizationWatch the Video
March 23Combating Disinformation on Social Media and Its Challenges 
March 30Toward Carbon Neutral: A Discussion on New Planning and Research ChallengesWatch the Video
April 6Small Area Fair Market Rents and Opportunity MovesWatch the Video
April 13Comparative Sensitivity of Social Media Data and Their Acceptable Use in ResearchWatch the Video
April 20Local Economic Specialization and The Long-term Impact of an EarthquakeWatch the Video
April 27Sustainability Science Trilemma: Puzzle and PathwaysWatch the Video

Fall 2022 Events

DateTitleVideo Link
Sept 1Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and Geographical ImaginationsWatch the Video
Sept 8Facilitate Smart Planning with Cloud-Computing and Crowdsourcing Technologies for Small City-Town RegionsWatch the Video
Sept 15India’s Rural-Urban TransitionWatch the Video
Sept 22Migration and Split Households in the Global South: Gender and Intergenerational PerspectivesWatch the Video
Sept 29Artificial Intelligence Enabled Urban PlanningWatch the Video
Oct 6Exploring the Impact of Perceived Travel Environment on E-scooter Riders’ Stress LevelWatch the Video
Oct 13An Integrated Approach for Spatiotemporal Research, Teaching, and ApplicationsWatch the Video
Oct 20Understanding the Impact of Local Economic ChangeWatch the Video
Oct 27Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Economic Development PolicyWatch the Video
Nov 3Mapping Social Networks: Visualization, Metrics and Case StudiesWatch the Video
Nov 10Adversarial Social MediaWatch the Video
Nov 17Modeling Transmissibility of COVID-19 from a Geospatial PerspectiveWatch the Video

Spring 2022 Events

DateTitleVideo Link
Jan 20How Conspiracy Theories, Misinformation, and Politics Can Limit the Impact of Science (And What To Do About It)Watch the Video
Jan 27When Do States Make Environmental Treaties Easy to Modify, and Does It Work When They Do?Watch the Video
Feb 3Inter- and Intraregional Patterns of Shrinking Places in the United StatesWatch the Video
Feb 10Gentrification and Health: Measured, Perceived, and ExperiencedWatch the Video
Feb 17A Political Scientist's Adventures in the Wonderland of Science and TechnologyWatch the Video
Feb 24New Strategies for Solving Chicago’s Intercity Transportation PuzzleWatch the Video
March 3Shaping the World's Urban Future: Planning Megacities in the Global SouthWatch the Video
March 10Worlds Lost and Found: Analytical Contributions in Support of Collective Decision Making for Collective ActionWatch the Video
March 24Precision Public Health in the Era of the Mobile Phone: A Geography PerspectiveWatch the Video
March 31What Does the Future of Nuclear Energy Look Like?Watch the Video
April 7Global Governance and Corporate Social ResponsibilityWatch the Video
April 14Book Talk: Feeding the Hungry: Advocacy and Blame in the Global Fight Against Hunger 
April 21The Convergence of Global "Protein" Industries: Implications for Sustainability and ResilienceWatch the Video
April 28Does Skill Make Us Human? Migrant Workers in 21st Century Qatar and BeyondWatch the Video

Fall 2021 Events

DateTitleVideo Link
Sept 2Nuclear Energy and Society, Today and TomorrowWatch the Video
Sept 9NASA Health and Air Quality ApplicationsWatch the Video
Sept 16The Lonely Ideas: A History of Chinese TechnologyWatch the Video
Sept 23U.S. Interstate Trade Will Mitigate the Negative Impact of Climate Change On Crop ProfitWatch the Video
Sept 30The Geography of Brains in the Sunbelt and RustbeltWatch the Video
Oct 7From Food Deserts to Supermarket Redlining: Reframing Discussions of Food AccessWatch the Video
Oct 14Rethinking Disasters: Politics and Policymaking in the COVID-19 EraWatch the Video
Oct 21A Weapon or a Default Option? Nationalism, Weaponized Interdependence, and South Korea’s Strategies for Mutual Prosperity in East AsiaWatch the Video
Oct 28Will There Be a "Post-Pandemic City"?Watch the Video
Nov 11Rethinking China and InnovationWatch the Video
Nov 18Addressing Disparities in Cognitive Aging: What Can Economists Contribute?Watch the Video
Dec 2Extreme Weather, Air Pollution, and Urban ExposomeWatch the Video

Spring 2021 Seminars

Cia Verschelden, M.S.W., Ed.D.

Cia Verschelden, M.S.W., Ed.D., discusses strategies and practices for creating learning environments that can help students in certain minoritized groups recover cognitive capacity.

Financial Foundations for Thriving Communities

Shayne Kavanagh, senior manager of research at the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, discusses a new formula for how local governments can maintain their financial health and thereby contribute to a thriving community.

Inventing Future Cities

Michael Batty, Bartlett Professor of Planning at University College London (UCL), explores what we need to understand about cities in order to invent their future, focusing on many of the ideas concerning science, prediction, and complexity of the last 50 years.

Movement Analytics for Sustainable Mobility

Guest speaker Harvey Miller, a professor in the Department of Geography at The Ohio State University and Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, discusses the concept of sustainable mobility and how new, data-driven science helps to address essential transportation issues. 

Immigrant Entrepreneurship and Urban Development

Cathy Yang Liu, professor and chair of the Department of Public Management and Policy at Georgia State University, discusses theories and evidence around various dimensions of immigrant entrepreneurship including economic development, community building, transnational activities, high-technology, and urban policy.

Do EU Regions Benefit from Smart Specialization?

Guest speaker David Rigby, a professor of geography and statistics at UCLA, discusses smart specialization, a framework developed by EU policymakers to identify new growth paths connected to the existing knowledge cores of regions, and looks at GDP growth and employment growth in EU cities from 1981 to 2015.

Geospatial Analysis in Health Studies

Guest speaker Xun Shi, a professor of geography at Dartmouth College, discusses geospatial analyses used in epidemiology and public health studies, including discussion of some fundamental concepts, theories, methodologies, technologies, and case studies.

Urban Health Risk Mapping

Guest speaker Junfeng Jiao, an associate professor and director of the Urban Information Lab at the University of Texas at Austin, discusses his work with a machine learning system that can measure the health effects of neighborhood environments in ten major U.S. cities using public data.

AI in the Wild

Peter Dauvergne, a professor of international relations at the University of British Columbia, argues that although artificial intelligence is generating some environmental gains, powerful corporations and states are exaggerating the benefits, ignoring the risks, and deploying AI in ways antithetical to sustainability.

Breaking the Social Media Prism

Chris Bail, a professor of sociology and public policy at Duke University and the author of Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing, discusses how stepping outside of our echo chambers can make us more polarized, not less.

Building Walkable Communities

Guest speaker Li Yin discusses her research using Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS), Global Positioning System (GPS), and artificial intelligence (AI) to explore how people interact with places for better health and quality of life.

Fall 2020 Seminars

Jeff Terry Seminar Slide Thumbnail

What happens when people, the economy, and technology clash? Social Sciences Department Chair Jeff Terry provides the kickoff lecture for the seminar series.

Ken Caldeira Seminar Slide Thumbnail

Ken Caldeira is a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and a professor at Stanford University’s Department of Earth System Science. In this lecture, he considers how people’s values and goals affect decision making around climate solutions.

Bonnie Jenkins

Bonnie Jenkins served from 2009 to 2017 as Special Envoy and Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation; a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; and teaches at Georgetown University and George Washington University.

Great Problems, Great Minds: Infrastructure Resilience Under Climate Uncertainty Presentation Thumbnail

Costa Samaras, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses stormwater infrastructure in the United States and how infrastructure managers, engineers, researchers, and policymakers can manage uncertainty and ensure climate-safe infrastructure systems for the 21st century and beyond.


Engineering Humanitarian Missions Slide Thumbnail

Shamsnaz Bhada discusses systems engineering, which pushes the domain boundary by not only supporting engineering missions but also humanitarian and social missions. Bhada is an assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Nuclear Weapons and Society and You! slide thumbnail

Martin Pfeiffer argues that our distorted official nuclear history hampers us from acknowledging and fixing past and ongoing harms from nuclear energy projects. He also argues that this distorted history threatens democratic governance by concealing past social movements and citizen governance around nuclear weapons. Pfieffer is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of New Mexico.

Rep. John Shimkus

Nuclear waste has no final disposition solution in the United States, even though Yucca Mountain, the proposed site of a deep geological nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada, is the law of the land. John Shimkus, a Member of the United States House of Representatives for the 15th District of Illinois, will discuss the prospects of developing a solution to this issue.

Protecting the Vote slide thumbnail

In an age of disinformation, and amidst growing questions about the legitimacy of American government, protecting the vote means building a participatory representative democracy suitable for the 21st century, and defending it against enemies foreign and domestic who would do it harm. Alexander Konetzki is a Chicago-based lawyer who served on the voter protection staff of President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. 

Human Dynamics in Smart Cities Collage

Xinyue Ye is an associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at Texas A&M University, where he also directs the Urban Data Science Lab. In this talk, he shares case studies illustrating human-centered urban informatics in the big and new data context.

Jesse Jenkins Decarbonizing Electricity Title Slide

Jesse Jenkins is an assistant professor at Princeton University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment. In this webinar, he discusses the deep decarbonization of the electricity sector, the portfolio of solutions needed to reach this key goal at an affordable cost, and the potential role of commercial fusion power plants in future 100 percent carbon-free electricity systems.

David Kang

David Kang is the Crutcher Professor of International Relations and Director of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California. In this talk, he argues that if scholars and policymakers want a meaningful discussion of a way out of the U.S.-China conflict, they need a more careful analysis of the East Asian historical record itself.