Dr. Renée Hlozek is a Lyman Spitzer Jr. Postdoctoral Fellow in Theoretical Astrophysics at Princeton University and the Spitzer-Cotsen Fellow in the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. In 2011, she received her DPhil in Astrophysics from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from the class of South-Africa-at-Large and Christ Church, 2008. Her research focuses on theoretical cosmology. She was named one of the Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans for 2012, was a 2013 TED Fellow and is currently a 2014 TED Senior Fellow.
…I am reminded about how diverse the world is and how many interesting and wonderful things are created by these passionate and inspired individuals…
About TED 2014
I’ve just returned from a wonderful and crazy week at the TED 2014 conference, which was held in Vancouver (http://conferences.ted.com/TED2014/). TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged. 2014 marked TED’s 30th anniversary.
It is hard to put into words all the various ways that one is moved at TED. There are the main stage talks, certainly – and this year there were many incredible ones. From an interview with Edward Snowden (from an undisclosed location) and the response interview with Rick Ledgett from the NSA, to an incredible talk on parasites by science writer Ed Yong, with moving and powerful talks by Mellody Hobson on being color brave (as opposed to color blind) and about changing the conversation about race in corporate America.
Human connections and conversations
There are the human connections and conversations – much of TED is designed to make those conversations happen seamlessly, with spaces and environments designed for people to take a break and hang out together, sharing ideas and thoughts and interacting about the material they’ve just seen.
But for me (and perhaps I am biased!) one of the most powerful parts of the conference are the TED Fellows. At each TED and TED Global conference, around 20 TED Fellows are chosen from different fields and backgrounds. They come to the conference and present their work in short four minute talks, and these talks are incredible.
This year, we were treated to hearing from a wide range of fields:
- Eman Mohammed (http://www.emanmohammed.com/) – a female photojournalist working in Palestine and documenting the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from a uniquely female perspective.
- Andrew Bastawrous gave a demonstration on his amazing low-cost smartphone ophthalmic tool, which will enable the many people in the developing world who struggle with treatable blindness to receive diagnosis and care.
- Bora Yoon wowed the senses with her audiovisual soundscape – the kind of music only dreams contain.
It was wonderful to see these (and all the other incredible fellows this year), not only demonstrate their work but explain their rationale, what makes them tick and how they are passionate about their life’s work.
I was chosen as a 2013 TED Fellow and when my nerves calmed down enough to the point that I had stopped shaking, I was blown away by the Fellows in my year and the ones that had come before me. It has been five years since the start of the Fellows program and it has grown to include artists, scientists, journalists, doctors, comedians and even the occasional cosmologist like me! I am currently a 2014 TED Senior Fellow, which means I’ll continue to work with TED and attend the conferences for another two years, and will continue to work on my goals to improve science communication and bring more women into STEM fields through various initiatives.
Connected to the network of TED Fellows
As a TED Fellow, besides attending the talks, you are connected to the network of Fellows and the community who uplift, support and grow your work. We all have the opportunity to work with coaches, through the pro-bono SupporTED program, and this is something that has been of profound value to me. Working through ideas of how to best communicate at work, of what life (and work-life balance) we are trying to shape and how to bring the best practice to your students and those you mentor – these are but a few of the things I spend my sessions working on with my incredible coach.
Collaboration and sharing of ideas between wildly different fields
One of the main incredible things about the Fellows program, however, is that it encourages collaboration and the sharing of ideas between different fellows working in often wildly different fields. This year Erik Berlow gave a talk during the TED Fellows session on the connectedness and collaboration of the Fellows, and it was incredible to see just how many of us work and collaborate together. It is hard not to get excited and passionate by the other fellows when you spend time interacting with them!
Reminder of how diverse the world is
For me, being a TED Fellow (and now Senior Fellow) means that I get to talk about my research and my passion for science openly to people who I may not typically interact with. In addition, I meet people who will help me develop and foster some of my own “ideas worth spreading” when it comes to science communication and development. And through the other Fellows, I am reminded about how diverse the world is and how many interesting and wonderful things are created by these passionate and inspired individuals.
And I can’t help getting excited by that!