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Friday, October 22, 2021

Chancellor’s Distinguished Speaker Series to launch Wednesday

The UC Davis Chancellor’s Colloquium Distinguished Speakers Series kicks off its second year with three experts in agriculture, economics and biochemistry starting tomorrow.

Entirely free and open to all students, faculty and staff, the series features national leaders in government and higher education that will talk about pressing issues in their fields of expertise.

“People at the cutting edge of research are invited to talk about their vision of the future to our campus’ scholars,” said Carolyn de la Peña, American studies professor and organizer of the colloquium series. “We bring someone who is a scholar but who also leads agencies and makes funding decisions about research.”

A different format from a standard speaker event, the colloquium sparks an engaging dialogue amongst researchers and students and will help set research agendas, de la Peña said.

“[The series] is very dynamic,” she said. “The topics are cutting-edge – where research is going. It sparks interesting conversations about the big picture, and why we should care about the types of questions we ask.”

The events begin with Chancellor Linda Katehi’s introduction followed by the invited speaker’s talk, de la Peña said. Afterward, faculty at UC Davis doing compatible research will add more information, and then the event will conclude with a discussion between the audience and the researchers.

Wednesday’s speaker will be Dr. Roger N. Beachy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Beachy will address some of the challenges that the U.S. and global society face in agriculture, such as adaptation to climate change, sustainability, ensuring adequate nutrition and receiving sufficient funding.

“How can we answer those questions without the kind of funding that allows the answering of those societal challenges?” Beachy said. “One of the big questions is, why is it so difficult in Congress to find ways to increase support of this very critical sector in American economy and health? And what needs to change in order for this to be something that congress cares about sufficiently [enough] to invest more in this research and development?”

UC Davis should help pave the future for agricultural research and support, said Dr. Neal van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, in an e-mail interview. UC Davis is the leading university in the world in areas related to the research objectives of NIFA, and the school currently receives more competitive research grants from the USDA than any other U.S. university.

“I don’t know of a greater challenge that our world faces, yet the research needed to solve these problems is not considered a priority by our nation,” van Alfen said. “Since we are among the world leaders in research in these important areas, we should be helping to set the agenda.”

All talks start at 4 p.m. in the Mondavi Center’s Vanderhoef Studio Theatre. Laura D. Tyson, a professor at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and a member of President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, will speak on March 30 and Bruce Alberts, president-elect of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and professor emeritus at UC San Francisco on May 24.

MARTHA GEORGIS can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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