Obama is coming to Pittsburgh: Here’s where he’ll be




By Alexa Bakalarski / Assistant News Editor

President Barack Obama will be in Pittsburgh on Thursday for the Frontiers Conference, a program jointly hosted by the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and the White House.

While details on his visit have been top secret for the last few weeks, the conference’s website has slowly released more information.

The conference will focus on science, technology and innovation. Wired — a magazine focused on trendy technology and its impact — will feature the conference’s topics in its November issue.

President Obama will guest-edit the issue, which will focus on the theme “Frontiers,” according to an article on the publication’s website.

The day-long event will focus on five frontiers: personal, local, national, global and interplanetary. Each frontier, along with the plenary session — during which Obama is speaking — will include industry talks and panel discussions that focus on a specific theme.

Here’s a breakdown of the week:

Frontiers Plenary

The plenary session will focus on the future of healthcare, particularly through breakthroughs from the Administrations’ BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives. With speakers from Obama to Tim O’Reilly, the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, and student guests, the session includes two panel discussions and two “lightning talks.”

This session will run from 1:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Jared L. Cohon University Center at CMU and will open with University welcome remarks from Carnegie Mellon University president, Subra Suresh, and Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher.

  • National Frontier Lightning Talk: Tim O’Reilly
  • Local Frontier Live Podcast: Creating a Smart Inclusive City of the Future: Roman Mars, host and creator of 99% Invisible, a radio show about architecture and design, and Raj Chetty, an economics professor from Stanford University
  • Global Frontier Lightning Talk: Charles Orgbon III, a student from the University of Georgia


  • Wired Panel on Interplanetary Frontiers: Anousheh Ansari, CEO and co-founder of Prodea Systems, a company that connects data and devices across one system; Dava Newman, deputy administrator for NASA; and Erika Wagner, business development manager for Blue Origin, an aerospace manufacturing and spaceflight services company; Robert Capps, head of editorial at Wired, will moderate the panel


  • Presidential Introduction: Dr. Alexis Chidi, a student in the medical scientist training program of Pitt and CMU
  • Presidential Panel on Brain Science and Medical Information: President Barack Obama; Kafui Dzirasa, neuroscientist at Duke University; Riccardo Sabatini, a research and data scientist at Human Longevity Inc., a company building a database on genotypes and phenotypes to address diseases related to biological decline during aging; and Zoe Keating, a cellist and composer acting as a patient advocate

Personal Frontiers

The personal frontiers track, which focuses on health innovations, and the global frontiers track, which focuses on climate, will be held on Pitt’s campus in Alumni Hall.

The personal and global frontiers session will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Both frontiers’ tracks will include two “lightning talks” and a panel discussion.


  • Lightning Talks on Patient Perspectives: Monica McLemore, an assistant professor in the Family Health Care Nursing Department at the University of California, San Francisco, and Steven Keating, a graduate research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Building Science Capacity for the Future of Health Panel Discussion: Margaret Anderson, executive director of FasterCures, a think tank focused on medical research; David Okonkwo, a neurosurgeon at Pitt; Dana Lewis, founder of OpenAPS, a movement to make artificial pancreas technology available sooner to more people with diabetes; Freda Lewis-Hall, chief medical officer of Pfizer, a global pharmaceutical company; and James Park, CEO of Fitbit, a company named after its product — wearable technology devices that track a person’s activity
  • The Future That Is Possible Lightning Talks: Kevin Esvelt, an assistant professor at the MIT Media Lab; Rafael Yuste, a biological sciences and neuroscience professor at Columbia University; and Nancy Davidson, director of Pitt’s Cancer Institute
  • Musical Performance: Zoe Keating, a cellist and patient advocate
  • Closing Keynote: Eric Dishman, director of the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program at the National Institutes of Health, which aims to build a research cohort of one million U.S. participants to study how to improve health and treat disease


Global Frontiers


  • Welcome Remarks: Michael Doyle, the Democratic representative for Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District
  • Framing the Climate Challenge: John Holdren, assistant to the President for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Keynote Address: Astro Teller, the captain of Moonshots, X, a corporate research lab
  • Mitigating Emissions Through Cutting-Edge Technology and Advancing Mission Innovation Lightning Talks: Etosha Cave, co-founder and chief science officer of Opus12, a startup company which can create other chemicals from carbon dioxide; Peidong Yang, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Berkeley; and Dawn Lippert, co-founder and director of Energy Excelerator, a non-profit organization which funds startups to create clean energy
  • Climate Information, Tools and Services for Enhancing Resilience Remarks and Lightning Talks: Dawn Wright, chief scientist at Esri, a geographic information system company; Jed Sundwall, lead engineer for the global open data practice at Amazon Web Services; Laur Hesse Fisher, Climate CoLab Project manager at MIT, a project aiming to use intelligence from thousands of people worldwide to tackle climate change; and Brooke Runnette, executive vice president of the Chief Project and Impact Office of the National Geographic Society
  • Educating for Climate-Smart Design Panel: Dawn Zimmer, mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey; Costa Samaras, director of CMU’s Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation; Jeffrey Carney, director of Louisiana State University’s Coastal Sustainability Studio, a trans-disciplinary program aimed at tackling issues around coastal restoration, settlement, flood protection and the economy; and Sean Benson, an undergraduate student at Prairie A&M University


Local Frontiers


The local frontiers track, which focuses on smart and inclusive communities, includes “lightning talks,” two panel discussions and a “call to action.” This session will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Jared L. Cohon University Center at CMU.


  • Opening Keynote: Bill Peduto, mayor of Pittsburgh
  • Armchair Conversation on the Urban Transportation Future: Jessi Hempel, head of editorial for Backchannel, a media site for technology writing; Anthony Foxx, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation; Edwin Lee, mayor of San Francisco; and Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar — a car-sharing service — and Veniam — a technology startup using vehicles to create city-wide WiFi mesh networks
  • Lightning Talks: Antwi Akom, CEO of Streetwyze, a neighborhood navigating app; Charlie Catlett, a senior computer scientist at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Lab; Joseph Okpaku, vice president of Government Relations for Lyft, a car-sharing company; Beth Babcock, CEO of Economic Mobility Pathways, a national organization aiming to create pathways for economic independence for low-income women and their families; and Justin Hall, president of BitSource, a game design, web design and mobile application company
  • The Future of Criminal Justice Systems: Disrupting the Cycle of Incarceration Panel: Rayid Ghani, chief data scientist of the University of Chicago’s Center for Data Science and Public Policy; David Rausch, chief of police for Knoxville, Tennessee; Monica Bharel, commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; and Grace Clark, a high school student who is active in Operation Spark, an organization which offers coding courses and technology training to youth in New Orleans
  • A Call to Action: Megan Smith, U.S. chief technology officer


National Frontiers


The national frontiers track focuses on artificial intelligence, robotics, automation and machine learning. The session runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Jared L. Cohon University Center at CMU.


  • Welcome and Introduction: Tom Wolf, governor of Pennsylvania
  • Ignite Talks: AI for Good: Tanya Berger-Wolf, a computer science professor at the  University of Illinois-Chicago; Stephen Smith, a research professor at CMU; and Suchi Saria, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University
  • Best Practices in AI Industry Panel Discussion: Issie Lapowsky, a staff writer for Wired; Jeannette M. Wing, corporate vice president for Microsoft Research; Francoise Beaufays, a research scientist at Google; Yann LeCun, director of Al research at Facebook; Guruduth Banavar, vice president of Cognitive Computing at IBM Research; and Raffi Krikorian, engineering lead for Uber Advanced Technologies Center
  • Ignite Talks: AI for Good: Robin Murphy, Raytheon professor of computer science and engineering at Texas A&M University; Stefano Ermon, an assistant professor of computer science at Stanford University; Michael Walker, program manager for the Information Innovation Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, which focuses on investing in technology related to national security; and Michael Boninger, a Pitt physical medicine and rehabilitation professor, senior medical director for post-acute care for UPMC Health Service Division Physician Research and a physician researcher for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
  • Challenges of AI Panel Discussion: Denis McDonough, White House chief of staff; Andrew Moore, dean of CMU’s School of Computer Science; Deirdre Mulligan, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley; Fei-Fei Li, a computer science professor at Stanford University; Ryan Calo, a law professor at University of Washington; and Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, a research team which explores how businesses and people work while the digital world rapidly changes


Interplanetary Frontiers


With a lightning talk, panel and a Q-and-A, the interplanetary frontiers track focuses on space exploration and the U.S. space industry. The session runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Jared L. Cohon University Center at CMU.


  • Welcoming Remarks: Rod Roddenberry, Jr., CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment and founder of the Roddenberry Foundation, a non-profit organization which supports innovative projects for change
  • Increasing Access to Space Lightning Talk: George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, a spaceflight company
  • Entrepreneurship Supporting Exploration Panel Discussion: Jason Crusan, director of Advanced Exploration Systems for NASA; Bob Richards, CEO of Moon Express, an early-stage company with the ultimate goal of mining the moon for natural resources; Mike Gold, vice president of Washington Operations and Business Development for Space Systems/Loral, a satellite manufacturer; Carissa Christensen, managing partner for Tauri Group, an analytic consulting firm; Jeffrey Manber, CEO of Nanoracks, a commercial space company; and Tim Hughes, senior vice president and general counsel for SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company
  • Space Science and STEM Education Lightning Talks: France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation; Amy Mainzer, the NEOWISE principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a project which uses an Earth-orbiting telescope to characterize comets and asteroids; Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium; Jedidah Isler, an astrophysicist at Vanderbilt University; and Wanda Diaz Merced, an astronomer at the International Astronomical Union Office of Astronomy for Development, a non-profit organization in South Africa
  • Small Satellites: Observing the Planet: Robbie Schingler, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Planet, a satellite company

“Not Just to Visit, But to Stay” Q-and-A: Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA; Jason Dunn, co-founder and chief technology officer of Made In Space, a company which manufactures engineers’ 3-D printers for use in microgravity; Red Whittaker, chairman and chief science officer of Astrobotic, an engineering consulting company; Heather Hava, a student at the University of Colorado Boulder and CEO of Stellar Synergetics, a geodesic dome structures and design company; and Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, a NASA astronaut

Leave a comment.