Pitt’s annual Science symposium going on hiatus this year

Science, Pitt’s annual celebration of science and technology, is taking a break this year in response to the pandemic.

The event, which features presentations on the latest research by Pitt faculty and students as well as talks by scientists from across the U.S., has been held in the fall at Pitt for the past 20 years.

In announcing that Science 2020 would not take place, the University said: “At a time when science plays an increasingly important and visible role in all of our lives, we face new challenges but also new opportunities. While we all look forward to when we can convene again, even apart, scientific progress and discovery persist. So, in the meantime, let’s keep learning, safely conducting research, and letting science lead the way forward.”

The symposium also has hosted a lecture each year by the winner of the Dickson Prize in Medicine — the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s highest honor, which is awarded annually to an American biomedical researcher who has made significant, progressive contributions to medicine. Winners receive a medal and a $50,000 honorarium.

This year’s winner is James J. Collins, a professor of Medical Engineering and Science and professor of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also is affiliated faculty with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the Wyss Institute at Harvard. Details are still being worked out about whether Collins will present a virtual lecture or will attend in person next year.

Collins is a pioneer in synthetic biology whose ideas have contributed to novel diagnostics and treatments targeting infections and complex diseases. Using engineering principles to design and construct synthetic gene networks, he was one of the first to harness the biochemical and biophysical properties of nucleic acids and proteins to create biological circuits.

Some other events usually held during the Science symposium may still take place virtually this fall, including the Pitt Ventures Student Challenge competitions, sponsored by the Innovation Institute.

— Susan Jones