Recent happenings


Youth Initiative Selected as Falling Walls Engage Finalist

Science & Society’s initiative combining science and social justice for disadvantaged American youth, Our Future Is Science, is named a Top 30 Falling Walls Engage Finalist. Of the 136 applications submitted from around the world, 20 winners will move forward on the path to Science Breakthrough of the Year in Science Engagement and receive a chance to compete in the Falling Walls Science Summit pitch competition in Berlin.

Social Compact Between Corporate Innovation and Society

At the Vanguard Leadership Forum Life Sciences CEO Forum in Boston, Executive Director Aaron Mertz delivers remarks to a group of life sciences executives about the social compact between the society and corporate-sector innovation that grew during the COVID-19 pandemic and still has room for enhancement.


Science Communication Journal Club and Celebrating a Czech Colleague’s Fulbright Year

In New York City, Executive Director Aaron Mertz participates in the monthly science-communication journal club convened by Brazilian microbiologist Natalia Pasternak (with whom Aaron organized and chaired the Aspen Global Congress on Scientific Thinking & Action and who was featured in Science & Society’s docuseries about science and misinformation around the world), with Charles University Ph.D. student Karolína Poliaková (celebrating her birthday and completion of her Fulbright year at Columbia University with Dr. Pasternak), science writer and journalist Carlos Orsi, and Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute Jeff Schlegelmilch.

Meeting with a Science Publisher and Fellow Conference Organizer

In New York City, Executive Director Aaron Mertz meets with MIT Press Director and Publisher Amy Brand to discuss plans for their 2025 joint conference in Boston on science communication for civic engagement. Dr. Brand and Aaron first connected in 2021 to discuss the documentary film she executive produced, Picture A Scientist, as Aaron was embarking on Science & Society’s documentary film, Six Degrees From Science.

Arts in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

In preparation for the Science & Society Program’s upcoming roundtable about meaningful intersections of arts and science, Executive Director Aaron Mertz attends “Arts in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” a series of conversations with multidisciplinary artists moderated by physicist Brian Greene in New York City at the World Science Festival, for which Aaron previously served as a World Science Scholars Teaching Fellow for physics and biology courses for mathematically talented students around the world.

Third Cohort of Interns in Civic Service Start at Science & Society

Rising college sophomores Alexandra Montgomery and Kyler Zhou join the Science & Society team, marking the program’s third year partnering with Princeton University Internships in Civic Service (PICS). Throughout the summer, the interns will organize a convening focused on the intersection of the arts and the sciences, support recruitment efforts for the Our Future is Science mentorship program, and gain hands-on experience with nonprofit management.

Connecting with a Mentor in Austria and Exploring Where the Human Soul Can Blossom

In Carinthia (Kärnten), Austria, Executive Director Aaron Mertz visits his mentor, the Professor of Anatomy and former Vice President of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Reinhard Putz, and together, in the great tradition of the Aspen Institute founded in the Rocky Mountains, they explore places like the Alps of rural Austria “where the human soul can blossom”(“wo die menschliche Seele blühen kann”).

Connecting with Science & Social Justice Advisors to Honor Black Youth Empowerment

Executive Director Aaron Mertz connects with Science & Social Justice Advisors Ebony Tyler and Caroline Gelb at an event hosted at Caroline’s home in Brooklyn, New York, in honor of Ebony’s nonprofit, Liberated Success. The organization seeks to nurture Black young adults in their transition from high school to careers so they may have lives full of choice and joy.

Joining Open Research Community Accelerator (ORCA) Advisory Board

Associate Director Jylana Sheats is selected as a member of the inaugural, cross-sector Open Research Community Accelerator (ORCA) Advisory Board. Through regular engagement with the ORCA team, the Board will support the organization in meeting its goals of making open science “more rewarding, more equitable, and easier to practice.”‘

Reconnecting with Former Physics Doctoral Advisor

In New York City, Executive Director Aaron Mertz reconnects with his beloved doctoral physics advisor Eric Dufresne, who moved a year ago from his faculty position in Switzerland to the Cornell University Departments of Materials Sciences and Engineering and Physics. While at Yale University with Dr. Dufresne, Aaron carried out research on the mechanical properties of epithelial cells, before Dr. Dufresne became Professor of Soft and Living Materials at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH).

New Science Communication Advisor Joins Team

Toxicologist and science communicator Martina Efeyini, previously a Civic Science News Fellow, joins the Science & Society Team to help amplify the program’s work and create engaging content that inspires society to get excited about science.


National Strategy for Constructing a Diverse Workforce with Expanded Opportunities

In Washington, DC, Executive Director Aaron Mertz participates in the 2024 White House Summit on STEMM Equity and Excellence: Propelling Progress and Prosperity by 2050 co-hosted by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) and the STEMM Opportunity Alliance, for leaders across the nation who are taking a pivotal shift toward aligned actions and implementation to achieve a more equitable and excellent STEMM enterprise. At the Summit, he connects with Senior Advisor to the CEO and Director of the SEA Change initiative at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Shirley Malcolm, who was a key participant in the Science & Society Program’s recent report on building trust in science, and Hunter College and American Museum of Natural History biochemist Mandë Holford, who is a member of the Our Future Is Science Advisory Group

Aaron Mertz’s Promotion at the Aspen Institute

Because of the intellectual, programmatic, and financial success of the Science & Society Program over the five years since he founded the program, Aaron Mertz is promoted from Director to Executive Director at the Aspen Institute.


International Partnerships to Further Science Diplomacy

In Washington, DC, at the Johns Hopkins Science Diplomacy Summit, organized by chemistry graduate student Ona Ambrozaite, Senior Manager of Global Science Nataliya Shulga and Director Aaron Mertz present on the Science & Society Program’s efforts to promote international partnerships and lay out their vision for future work in the program’s Global Science pillarKarolina Poliaková, a Fulbright Fellow at Columbia University studying science communication, is also at the summit. She and Nataliya are working on Czech, Ukrainian, and Russian translations of the Science & Society Program’s docuseries about science and misinformation around the world.


Meeting Top Cancer Immunologists and a Former Advisor

In Boston, Director Aaron Mertz attends the Innovators in Science Award Ceremony, sponsored by Takeda and The New York Academy of Sciences, honoring top researchers in cancer immunology. For the first time in person, he meets Leah Lindsay, Takeda’s Lead for R&D Science Philanthropy and Community Engagement and a member of the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program Advisory Council in 2023.



Physicist and Writer Joins Advisory Council

In Concord, Massachusetts, Director Aaron Mertz meets with physicist and writer Alan Lightman and recruits him to join the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program Advisory Council. Dr. Lightman and Aaron first met nearly 20 years ago, when Aaron was an undergraduate in St. Louis and invited Dr. Lightman to speak with students about building a career that transcends both sciences and humanities.

Community-Engaged Science in Sitka, Alaska

The Sitka Sound Science Center hosts Communications Coordinator Sejal Goud for a week-long field course. During her visit, Sejal and other students from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs gained an inside view into topics such as ocean acidification, sustainable fishing, tribal governance, and ecotourism.

2024 AAAS Annual Meeting: Toward Science Without Walls

At the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Denver, Senior Manager of Global Science Nataliya Shulga represents the Ukrainian Science Club; notably, the two organizations have great overlap in membership. The ad hoc Ukrainian delegation also included Cathleen Campbell, Chair of the RESET Ukraine Action Group at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), who organized a session titled “Catalyzing University Science Research and Competitive Grantmaking in Ukraine.” Following the meeting’s theme, “Toward Science Walls,” the event was aimed at informing and promoting US-Ukraine partnerships in science. 

Policy Education Trip in Egypt

Program Coordinator Davina Thompson visits Cairo, Egypt with a delegation from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. The group teamed up with the American University in Cairo to explore the country’s strategic location in the Middle East and North Africa. Students participated in discussions around Egypt’s economic and political future and had core meetings with the Central Bank of Egypt, Egyptian Stock Exchange Market, and the U.S. Commercial Attaché to Egypt. Additionally, site visits to the Pyramids of Giza, Saladin Citadel, National Museum for Egyptian Civilization, and the Nile River allowed the cohort to immerse themselves in local culture and history.

Renewable Energy and Biotechnology Innovation in Uruguay

Communications Coordinator Sejal Goud travels to Uruguay with a delegation from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. The group participated in several high-level meetings, including with President Luis Lacalle Pou and Vice President Beatriz Argimón, Ambassador Heidi Fulton of the U.S. to Uruguay, various ministers, the Uruguay Innovation Hub, and Uruguay XXI. Additionally, several site visits enabled the cohort to learn from the country’s accomplishments, such as its 98% green energy grid. Following their return to the U.S. the team will produce a policy brief.

Classical Musicians Professional Group in New York City

In a moderated conversation with the social-professional group’s CEO and Founder Nicholas King, Director Aaron Mertz presents his professional journey and Science & Society’s work at an After Arts salon in New York for classical musicians who are now pursuing other professions and where, in 2019, Aaron met a future collaborator with whom he co-founded the program’s youth initiative, Our Future Is Science.


Aspen Institute Colombia Established

At the Colombian Embassy in Washington, D.C., Director Aaron Mertz and Associate Director Jylana Sheats attend the announcement of the newest member of the Aspen Institute International Partner Network, Aspen Institute Colombia, led by Felipe Medina as Chair of their Board and Pablo Navas (pictured) as Executive Director. Prior to joining the Aspen Institute International Partners Network, the Science & Society Program collaborated with the then Aspen Institute Initiative in Colombia on the global assessment, In Favor of Pure Science, supported by the Kavli Foundation, which dissects the current state of basic science around the world.

Research!America Public Engagement Working Group

Associate Director Jylana Sheats joins the Research!America Public Engagement Working Group. The group, which is chaired by Alan Leshner and Keith Yamamoto and supported by the Rita Allen Foundation, has been meeting since late 2023 to develop an actionable strategy for the advancement of public engagement and civic science training in graduate STEMM education.

From Interview to STARTS Podcast

Director Aaron Mertz delivers an interview that forms the basis of a STARTS Podcast: Demystifying the Boundary Between STEM and the Arts, hosted by brothers Jaanak and Jaagat Prashar, outstanding aspiring scientists whom Aaron came to know while he was a Teaching Fellow for the World Science Scholars

Open Science and Innovation in Ukraine 2023 International Conference

Senior Manager of Global Science Nataliya Shulga welcomes participants of the II International Conference “Open Science and Innovation in Ukraine 2023” . The virtual conference, held during International Open Access Week, was hosted by the State Scientific and Technical Library of Ukraine under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, in partnership with TIB Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology and University Library.

Conversation with AMNH President Sean Decatur

President of the American Museum of Natural History Sean Decatur joins Science & Society Director Aaron Mertz for The Story of Us, a public discussion at Roosevelt House in NYC, as part of the Aspen Institute Conversations with Great Leaders Series in memory of Preston Robert Tisch. Throughout the discussion, Dr. Decatur and Dr. Mertz shared insights on a variety of topics at the science-society intersection, including leadership in lab settings, building public trust in science through education, and AMNH’s vision for the future.

Navigating the AI Landscape: State Legislature’s Role in Shaping Responsible and Equitable AI Development

In Nashville, Associate Director Jylana Sheats plans and moderates a panel at the Black Legislative Leaders Network Leadership Summit. Together with AI for the People Founder Mutale Nkonde and Hologic, Inc.‘s Mia Keeys, Jylana discussed the legislature’s role in shaping responsible and equitable artificial intelligence (AI) across use cases in the housing, labor, education, and healthcare sectors. Nkonde and Keeys emphasized the need to ensure that civil rights are not violated and that existing anti-discrimination laws are adhered to.

Global Science Diplomacy Roundtable

Senior Manager of Global Science Nataliya Shulga participates in the Fall 2023 Roundtable on Global Science Diplomacy in Washington, D.C. organized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The roundtable convened experts and practitioners from government, academia, and international organizations to utilize the neutral, informal channel to promote science diplomacy as a tool for addressing global challenges, informing global policy-making, and building societal relationships. The meeting addressed programs to support international scientific collaboration, U.S. scientific priorities for UNESCO, and generative AI. The new international research collaboration project IMPRESS-Ukraine was presented as a success story of government and private charity collaboration.

Developing New Approaches to Promote Equitable and Inclusive Implementation of Open Scholarship Policies

Associate Director Jylana Sheats is a featured speaker at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Roundtable on Aligning Incentives for Open Scholarship. The workshop, “Developing New Approaches to Promote Equitable and Inclusive Implementation of Open Scholarship Policies,” explored specific steps and new approaches that research institutions, governmental agencies, research funders and other organizations can take to promote equitable and inclusive implementation of policies and practices being developed in response to the August 2022 memorandum of the Office of Science and Technology Policy on Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research.

Princeton’s Service & Social Impact Internship Showcase

At Princeton’s Service & Social Impact Internship Showcase, 2023 Civic Service intern Rachel Edelstein presents about her summer experience at the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program.



Ensuring the Future of an Innovative Ukraine

Senior Manager of Global Science Nataliya Shulga contributes to two panels—“Collaborative Grants” and “Science for Policy”—as part of the HUMBOLDT4UKRAINE: Supporting Researchers online networking forum. 22 countries were represented at the event, including participants from Ukraine, Germany, Czechia, Poland, and France. 83% of the Ukrainian researchers indicated they are currently displaced, with some displaced within Ukraine while the majority are living in another European country.  Organizers of the event include the MSCA4UkraineMSCA4Ukraine consortium and Philipp Schwartz Initiative. A report will follow to advise the European Commission on the future developments in this area.

Implementing Open Science in Eastern Europe

Senior Manager for Global Science Nataliya Shulga travels to Poland, Croatia, and Ukraine, participating in several exchanges aimed at gathering knowledge about the faith of implementing open science in these countries at the level of well-known scientific institutions, research management, and country leadership. Key meetings attended by Dr. Shulga were hosted by the International Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Warsaw, Aspen Institute Kyiv, the National Research Foundation of Ukraine, various parliamentary leaders, and PUBMET 2023 (The 10th Conference on Scholarly Communication in the Context of Open Science).

Capacity Building for Civic Science Policy

Associate Director Jylana Sheats is featured on a Journal of Science Policy & Governance (JSPG) panel alongside other current and former Civic Science Fellows. During the panel, she shares about the pedagogical civic/citizen science activities she has integrated into the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program, her courses at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and in partnership with the Stanford University School of Medicine “Our Voice” team in the HARTS Lab.

One Step Closer to Becoming Science Engagement Breakthrough of the Year

Our initiative combining science and social justice for disadvantaged American youth, Our Future Is Science, is named a Falling Walls Engage Finalist from among 200+ applications from around the world, a step toward becoming the Falling Walls Science Breakthrough of the Year 2023 in the category Science Engagement.

Two Interns in Civic Service Start at Science & Society

Rachel Edelstein and Davina Thompson start work at the Science & Society Program supported by the Princeton University Internships in Civic Service to focus on communications efforts of our youth initiative Our Future Is Science and the program as a whole.

New Science & Social Justice Manager Hired

A mentor alumnus of our youth initiative Our Future Is Science, Hassan Farah, is hired to manage our Science & Social Justice initiatives as he completes his Ph.D. in translational biology at Virginia Tech.

Keynote Address at River Basin Symposium

Director Aaron Mertz presents the keynote address “Youth, Science, and Social Justice” at the York River and Small Coastal Basins Symposium in Gloucester Point, VA, hosted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science of the College of William & Mary. The address was a joint presentation with Coastal Training Program Coordinator Cirse Gonzalez, with whom Aaron was a Lucent Global Science Scholar in 2002, leading to their doing internships together at the renowned Lucent Technologies Bell Labs in New Jersey.

New Senior Manager for Global Science Hired

An accomplished molecular biologist with extensive experience in science and education policymaking, Nataliya Shulga, from Ukraine and now based in the U.S., is hired to manage our Global Science initiatives.

Celebrating Interdisciplinary Science

In Washington, DC, Director Aaron Mertz attends the Interdisciplinary Science Networking Dinner, hosted jointly by  Schmidt Science Fellows and CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research). Aaron first met the Schmidt Science Fellows Executive Director, neuroscientist and clinical psychologist Megan Kenna, when she served on the interview committee that selected Aaron, then a student in physics, for a Rhodes Scholarship in 2006.

Placing Science at Core of Public and Private Policies

In Rome, Director Aaron Mertz and Associate Director Jylana Sheats attend the conference “In Favor of Pure Science” at the Aspen Institute Italia, as part of the global effort to place science at the core of public and private policies and to raise awareness of political and economic decision-makers regarding the importance of investing in this field. Aaron Mertz introduces the session, “For an ecosystem of pure research: next steps” and discusses the topic with the Italian public broadcasting channel “Rai Cultura.”

New Associate Director Receives Public Health Award

Newly promoted Science & Society Associate Director Jylana Sheats receives the Tony A. Mobley International Distinguished Alumni Award, presented annually to a graduate of the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington for demonstrating outstanding personal and professional achievements that foster the broad missions of public health.

Reinventing Life Sciences Leadership

In Boston, Director Aaron Mertz co-chairs the Vanguard Network’s Life Sciences Leaders Forum, “Reinventing Life Sciences Leadership: What Does It Take?” and co-leads the session, “Reinventing ourselves as leaders: What leadership qualities do we need to drive high performance for the next five years?

LEAP’s Annual Meeting about Climate Data Science

Outside Manhattan, at the second Annual Meeting of Columbia University’s Learning the Earth with Artificial Intelligence and Physics (LEAP), Director Aaron Mertz and Garance Choko speak about the initiative, Our Future Is Science, they co-founded and ways they are partnering with Columbia researchers on the transfer of knowledge about climate data science to the initiative’s youth participants.


Berlin Science Debate

In Germany, Director Aaron Mertz and Civic Science Fellow Jylana Sheats are invited participants in the 17th Berlin Science Debate for high-level representatives from science, politics, and business. The debate is held in conjunction with the Falling Walls Science Summit that reunites the international science community and celebrates outstanding scientific breakthroughs. Jylana Sheats speaks on “Moving beyond the status quo: Centering inclusivity and equity in science communication.”

International Forum on Research Excellence (IFoRE)

High-school senior and Our Future Is Science mentee alumna and current Ambassador Sara Gonzalez, Director Aaron Mertz, and Civic Science Fellow Jylana Sheats speak on the panel “Dismantling Barriers to STEM: Innovative & Culturally Responsive Program Models for Student Preparedness & Success” at the International Forum on Research Excellence (IFoRE) conference in Alexandria, VA. Sara Gonzalez also makes a poster presentation, “Brain Fuel: The Development of a Student-Led Initiative to Increase Awareness of the Intersection between Nutrition, Youth Food Insecurity, and Academic Performance,” and Aaron Mertz also presents the Science & Society project, “In Favor of Pure Science.”

Expanding DEI in Science and Medicine

Director Aaron Mertz and Civic Science Fellow Jylana Sheats are invited stakeholders at the Pew Research Center’s discussion on current and future work that increases diversity, equity, and inclusion in science and medicine, particularly among Black and Hispanic Americans.

New Communications Coordinator

Princeton University undergraduate Sejal Goud is promoted to Communications Coordinator after a Science & Society Program summer internship supported by Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS). The Science & Society Program will host two new PICS interns in 2023.

Career Panels for Graduate Students and Postdocs

Director Aaron Mertz speaks on career panels for current biology graduate students and postdocs at the New York Skin Club conference at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and at the Gordon Research Seminar on Epithelial Differentiation and Keratinization.


Exeloop Dinner on the Future of Research

In Washington, DC, Director Aaron Mertz is an invited participant in the Karen Toffler Charitable Trust’s inaugural Exeloop Dinner, “The Future of Research: Powershifts and Implications.”

Science & Society Leaders Speak at EquiTech Futures

For the talent incubator and research lab EquiTech Futures, Civic Science Fellow Jylana Sheats presents on connecting science and society through digital citizen science, and Director Aaron Mertz teaches a class, “Building Public Trust in Science: Opportunities and Challenges.” In Chicago, Aaron Mertz speaks on the panel, “Moving Science, Technology, and Society Forward Together,” hosted by EquiTech Futures and the Rhodes Trust.

Building Better Global Governance of Science

At the U.S.–China dialogue, “How to Build Better Global Governance of Science,” sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Embassy in Beijing, Public Affairs Section, Director Aaron Mertz speaks about furthering collaborations between the U.S. and China through science.

Journal on the Co-Production of Knowledge

For a special issue of the journal Community Science on the co-production of knowledge, Civic Science Fellow Jylana Sheats is approved as guest editor.

Climate Change Impacts

Civic Science Fellow Jylana Sheats presents on climate change impacts to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

New Intern in Civic Science Joins Science & Society

Rising college sophomore Sejal Goud, a student in public policy and international affairs, starts work at the Science & Society Program, supported by Princeton University Internships in Civic Service (PICS).

Re-Imagining Science Communication and Driving Social Change

At the 5th National Academies Science Communication Colloquium, “Re-Imagining Science Communication in the COVID Era and Beyond,” Civic Science Fellow Jylana Sheats is a featured panelist. Jylana Sheats is also an opening speaker at the conference, frank 2022, exploring the role of lived experience in driving lasting social change.


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