Symposium Point Reyes

In 1997, the Miller Institute broadened its charge with the addition of an Interdisciplinary Symposium. Our intention was to promote discussion of cutting-edge science among leading researchers through a weekend of scientific interaction and discussion. The Research Fellows were the catalyst behind this program and they helped to design it as a freewheeling discussion across all the sciences, including astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics and physics.

The Miller Institute's Annual Interdisciplinary Symposium takes place the first weekend of June annually and is held at the Marconi Conference Center on beautiful Tomales Bay in Marin County, California. Participation is by invitation only.

Gallery: Past Symposia

Sample Agenda


Symposium Speakers 2017 & Symposium Program

Mike Brown
Caltech
"Planet Nine from Outer Space"

Paul Corkum
University of Ottawa
"Probed Quantum Systems on the Attosecond Time Scale"

Gilbert Holder
University of Illinois
"Mapping Dark Matter Using Light from the Edge of the Universe"

Laura Kiessling
University of Wisconsin - Madison
"Checking Cellular IDs with Glycans"

Lauren Meyers
University of Texas - Austin
"Networks, Data, and the Race against Global Pandemics"

Michael Nachman
UC Berkeley
"Gene Regulation and the Genetic Basis of Speciation and Adaptation in House Mice, Mus Musculus"

Christos Papadimitriou
UC Berkeley
"A Computer Scientist Thinks About the Brain"


Symposium Speakers 2016

John Boothroyd
Stanford University
"Strength through diversity: How an intracellular infectious agent like Toxoplasma co-evolved with many hosts to maintain a generalist lifestyle in a very special niche"

Mark Cane
Columbia University
"Climate and Conflict"

Jordan Ellenberg
University of Wisconsin
"Randomness and Number Theory"

Eddie Farhi
MIT
"What is all the fuss about Quantum Computers?"

Pupa Gilbert
University of Wisconsin
"Biomineralization"

Heather Knutson
Caltech
"Cloudy or Clear? Weather Forecasting for Extrasolar Planets"

Percy Liang
Stanford University
"Machine Learning: Success Stories and Core Challenges"


Symposium Speakers 2015

Donna Blackmond
Scripps Research Institute
"Chemical and Physical Models for the Origin of Biological Homochirality"

Adam Cohen
Harvard University
"Bringing Bioelectricity to Light"

Maitreya Dunham
University of Washington
"Aneuploidy and Adaptation in Yeast"

Cynthia Kenyon
UCSF & CALICO
"How Can the Germline Be Immortal?"

Ruth Murray-Clay
UC Santa Barbara
"A Diversity of Worlds: Origin of Structure in Planetary Systems"

Lyman Page
Princeton University
"Observing the Birth of the Universe"

James Sethian
UC Berkeley
"The Mathematics of Moving Interfaces: From Industrial Printers to Semiconductors to Medical Imaging to Soap Bubbles"


Symposium Speakers 2014

Boris Baer
The University of Western Australia
"Sex, Sperm....and Society"

Ray Beausoleil
HP Laboratories
"The “Music” of Light: Optical Resonances for Fun and Profit"

Emily Brodsky
University of California Santa Cruz
"Friction on Faults"

Keith Devlin
Stanford University
"Breaking the Symbol Barrier – Designing a Better Interface to Learn Mathematics"

Sonke Johnsen
Duke University
"Hide and Seek in the Open Sea"

David Liu
Harvard University
"Integrating Chemistry and Evolution to Illuminate and Program Biology"

Alice Shapley
University of California Los Angeles
"Decoding the Contents of Distant Galaxies"

Howard Stone
Princeton University
"Some Surprises in Fluid Dynamics (even after hundreds of years)"


Symposium Speakers 2013

Edward Burger
Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics
Williams College / President Elect, Southwestern University
"Thinking Through the Natural Numbers: A Rational and Irrational Look at 1, 2, 3, 4, ..."

John Dabiri
Professor of Aeronautics & Bioengineering
California Institute of Technology
"So Swimming Animals Mix the Ocean?"

Kevin Laland
Professor of Biology
University of St. Andrews, UK
"Cause and Effect in Biology Revisited"

Seth Putterman
Professor of Physics
University of California, Los Angeles
"Spontaneous Energy Focusing Phenomena"

Scott Ransom
Astronomer
National Radio Astronomy Observatory &
The University of Virginia
"Millisecond Pulsars: Nature's Gifts that Keep on Giving"

Pamela Ronald
Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center
University of California, Davis
"Plant Genetics and the Future of Food"

Julie Theriot
Professor in the Departments of Biochemistry, Microbiology and
Immunology, Stanford University
"New Directions in Cell Motility: Dynamics and Mechanics of Cell Turning and Pathfinding"

George Whitesides
Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor
Harvard University
"'Simplicity' as a Component of Invention"


Symposium Speakers 2012

R. Tom Baker - University of Ottawa
“Carry that Weight: Enabling Catalysis Studies of
Amine-Borane Dehydrogenation towards Renewable Transportation Fuels”


Carl Bergstrom - University of Washington
“Dealing with Deception in Biology”

Steve Cowley - Culham Centre for Fusion Energy
“Fusion Power—the Scientific and Technological Challenge”

Peter Olson - Johns Hopkins University
“When Earth’s Magnetic Field Reverses Itself: How, Why and So What?”

Kristin Scott - University of California Berkeley
“Taste Recognition: Food for Thought”

Tom Seeley - Cornell University
“Swarm Intelligence in Honey Bees”

Jack Szostak - Harvard University
“The Origin of Life and the Emergence of Darwinian Evolution”


Symposium Speakers 2011

Ronald Breaker - Yale University
“The Expanding Diversity of Noncoding RNA in Bacteria"

Naomi Halas - Rice University
"Plasmonics: Nanoscale Manipulation of Light"

Greg Laughlin - UC Santa Cruz
"The Galactic Planetary Census”

Claire Max - UC Santa Cruz
"Black Holes in Colliding Galaxies seen with Adaptive Optics

Corrie Moreau - The Field Museum, Chicago
"Evolution and Diversification of the Ants”

James Nelson - Stanford University
"Evolution of a Polarized Epithelium: not just for Animals”

Taylor Ricketts - World Wildlife Fund Conservation Science Program
"Natural Capital: Quantifying the Economic Benefits Provided by Nature”


Sypmosium Speakers 2010

Michael Brenner - Harvard University
“Linear Algebra and Darwin's Finches”

Bruce Buffett - UCB
“The Origin of Earth’s Magnetic Field”

Scott Emr - Cornell University
“Using Cell Biology to Understand Diseases like Cancer, AIDS, and Neuro-degeneration”

Neil Gershenfeld - MIT
“Programming Bits and Atoms”

Debbie Jin - University of Colorado - Boulder
“Fun with Ultracold Atoms”

Lisa Kewley - University of Hawaii
“The Star Formation and Chemical History of Galaxies"

Gero Miesenböck - University of Oxford
“Lighting Up the Brain: Imaging and Control of Genetically Targeted Neural Circuits”

David Nelson - Harvard University
“Gene Surfing and Survival of the Luckiest"


Symposium Speakers 2009 

John Bush - MIT
“Surface Tension in Biology”

Alyssa Goodman - Harvard University
“Astronomy as I ‘See’ It”

Hopi Hoekstra - Harvard University
“What Darwin Didn’t Know: The Genetic Basis of Adaptation”

Paul McEuen - Cornell University
“Nano Carbon: From String Theory to Atomic Drums”

Jerry Mitrovica - University of Toronto
“Solving the Enigma of Global Sea Level Rise”

Paul Sherman - Cornell University
“Darwinian Medicine?”

Chris Somerville - UC Berkeley
“Development of Cellulosic Fuels”

Avi Wigderson - Institute for Advanced Studies
“The ‘P vs. NP’ Problem: Efficient Computation, Internet Security, and the Limits to Human Knowledge”


Symposium Speakers 2008

Michael Manga - UC Berkeley
"Why do volcanoes only sometimes erupt explosively?”

Avi Loeb - Harvard University
"The Past and Future of our Universe"

Susan Lindquist - MIT
"Extraordinary Surprises from Protein Folding in Biology"

Nima Arkani-Hamed - Institute for Advanced Study
"Fundamental Physics, Cosmology, and the Large Hadron Collider”

Joshua Jortner - Tel Aviv University
“Dynamics at Extremes”

David Chandler - UC Berkeley
“Dynamics on the way to forming glass, the past, present, and future”

Haynes Miller - MIT
“Knots & Numbers”

Terrie Williams - UC Santa Cruz
“The Carnivore Conundrum: How environmental perturbation is leading to a small, snarling, smelly world"


Symposium Speakers 2007

Bruce Ames - UC Berkeley
“Delaying (or Accelerating) the Degenerative Diseases of Aging”

Joe DeRisi - UCSF
“Bugs, Drugs, and Microarrays”

Phillip Geissler - UC Berkeley
“Emergence of Glassy Disorder in Biological Systems”

Christian Körner - University of Basel
“Change in cash flow or capital? Plants in a CO2-rich world”

Charlie Peskin - NYU Courant Institute
"Muscle and Blood and Valves, and Electricity, too: Fluid-Structure Interaction in the Heart”

Harry Swinney - University of Texas Austin
“Emergence of Order in Physical, Chemical, and Biological Systems”

Lonnie Thompson - Ohio State University
“Glaciological Evidence of Abrupt Tropical Climate Change: Past and Present”


Symposium Speakers 2006

Karen De Valois - University of California, Berkeley
"A New Understanding of Color Vision”

Chris Dobson - Cambridge University
"Protein Folding, Molecular Evolution and Human Disease”

L. Mahadevan - Harvard University
"Shape, Flow and Movement: the Science of Everyday Life”

Akkihebbal Ravishankara - University of Colorado/NOAA
"Chemistry and Its Role in Climate”

Paul Steinhardt - Princeton University
"A Tale of Two Universes”

Steven Strogatz - Cornell University
"Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order”

Irving Weissman - Stanford University
"Stem Cells”

Xiaowei Zhuang -Harvard University
"Tracking Individual Virus Particles in Live Cells”


Symposium Speakers 2005

Bonnie Bassler - Princeton University
"Tiny Conspiracies: Cell-to-Cell Communications in Bacteria”

Carolyn Bertozzi - UC Berkeley
"Chemistry in Living Systems: New Tools for Probing the Glycome”

Paul Chaikin - New York University
"Colloids and Candies”

Arup Chakraborty - UC Berkeley
"Intercellular Communication in the Adaptive Immune System”

Michael Malin - Malin Space Science Systems
"The 'New' Mars"

Lord Robert May - University of Oxford
"Hard Choices for Tomorrow's World”

David McLaughlin - New York University
"Modeling of Spatial Temporal States in Primary Visual Cortex”

Eliot Quataert - UC Berkeley
"The Big Black Hole in the Center of the Milky Way”


Symposium Speakers 2004

Charles Bennett - IBM Research
“Quantum Information Processing”

Jennifer Chayes - Microsoft Research
“Phase Transitions in Computer Science: How Do You Melt A Resource Allocation System”

George Lauder - Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology
"Fishes, Submarines, and Robots: Moving About in the Underwater World”

Chung-Pei Ma - University of California, Berkeley, Dept. of Astronomy
"What's the Matter with Dark Matter?”

Geoff Marcy - University of California, Berkeley, Dept. of Astronomy
"New Planets, Old Yellowstone, and Life in the Universe”

Sally Otto - University of British Columbia, Dept. of Zoology
"Why Have Sex? The Population Genetics of Sex and Recombination”

JoAnne Stubbe - Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Chemistry
"Ribonucleotide Reductases: Radical Enzymes with Suicidal Tendencies”

David Weitz - Harvard University, Dept. of Applied Physics
"What Makes Soft Materials Soft”


Symposium Speakers 2003

Sir Michael Berry - Bristol University, United Kingdom, H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory
"Making Light of Mathematics”

Louis Brus - Columbia University, Dept. of Chemistry
"Chemistry and Physics of Semiconductor Nanocrystals”

David Helfand - Columbia University, Dept. of Astronomy & Astrophysics
"Nuclear Physics at a Distance: Seeking Quarks at 10,000 Light Years”

Sidney Nagel - The University of Chicago, Dept. of Physics
"Shadows and Ephemera: A Post-Modern Photographic Exploration of Our Singular World”

Dianne Newman - California Institute of Technology, Geobiology & Environmental Science
"Microbe - Mineral Interactions”

Fred Nijhout - Duke University, Dept. of Biology
"The Control and Evolution of Polyphenic Development of Insects”

George Oster - University of California, Berkeley, Dept. of Molecular & Cell Biology, Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management
"The Mysterious Meanderings of Myxobacteria”

Steve Wofsy - Harvard University, Dept. of Chemistry
"Forests, The Global Carbon Cycle, and Climate Change”


Symposium Speakers 2002

Charles Alcock - Lawrence Livermore National Lab, 
Dept. of Astronomy Dark Matter

Walter Alvarez - University of California, Berkeley, 
Dept. of Earth & Planetary Science

Cretaceous -Tertiary Extinction Joe Felsenstein-
University of Washington, Dept. of Genetics Population Genetics

Robert Kirshner - Harvard University, 
Dept. of Astronomy Supernovae

James Randi - James Randi Educational Foundation
Science and Pseudoscience

Carla Shatz - University of California, Berkeley, 
Dept. of Molecular & Cell Biology (Neurobiology) Brain Wiring

Chuck Stevens - Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Dept. of Neurobiology
Coding in the Brain

Richard Zare - Stanford University, Dept. of Chemistry
“Is There Life on Mars”