Are we making uninformed choices about our future?
The elements represented on the periodic table are the building blocks of our world, and the 17 rare earth elements are key ingredients in the technologies we hold most dear. So why have most people never heard of them? Rare earth minerals are essential to our cell phones, our national defense, and our ambitions to convert to green energy. But these crucial metals come with some challenges: most of the mining happens in other countries, and the process of extracting them has serious health and environmental impacts.
Join us for a thought-provoking evening featuring leading researchers from around the world sharing their insights into these increasingly significant elements. This engaging dialogue will be moderated by noted science journalist Ira Flatow, the host of NPR’s Science Friday.
The Promise & Problems of Rare Earth Elements
Production and Reduction in Use of Rare Earth Elements
Moderator: Ira Flatow
Panelists: Gwen Bailey, Julie Michelle Klinger, Eric Schelter
Why Rare Earths and Materials Science Matter for Our Future
Light refreshments and drinks will be provided
Gwendolyn Bailey is a PhD candidate at KU Leuven University in Belgium, where she is part of a project exploring how electric cars can be redesigned to be fully recyclable. Her research investigates how materials engineering can make products containing rare earth elements more sustainable. She is also an experienced science communicator whose YouTube videos have won the Marie S. Curie Award for public outreach.
Ira Flatow is an award-winning science correspondent and TV journalist and the host of Science Friday, heard on public-radio stations across the country and distributed by WNYC Studios. Flatow is also founder and president of the Science Friday Initiative, a nonprofit company dedicated to creating radio, TV, and internet projects that make science “user friendly.” His most recent book is entitled Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature. Flatow holds a BS from the State University of New York, Buffalo.
Julie Michelle Klinger is an assistant professor of international relations at Boston University. Her award-winning book Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes draws on deep field research in Brazil and China to show how stories about the supposed “rarity” of these elements have justified dramatic exercises of power. Klinger earned her PhD in geography at the University of California, Berkeley.
Eric J. Schelter is an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. His research group explores how the rare earth metals can be extracted in more environmentally friendly ways, for example, by developing a less energy-intensive technique for recovering neodymium from e-waste. He earned his PhD at Texas A&M University and held a postdoctoral fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Adam J. Schwartz is director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory in Iowa. This national lab specializes in creating material and energy solutions to critical problems facing the United States and has long been central to U.S. research in rare earth elements. He helped develop the Critical Materials Institute, one of the federal government’s major scientific policy responses to the rare earth elements crisis of 2010. He holds a PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.
Presented in conjunction with the International Year of the Periodic Table, this event is part of the Rare Earth Elements Project, which is made possible by a generous grant from Roy Eddleman, founder of Spectrum LifeSciences and namesake of the Roy Eddleman Institute for Interpretation and Education at the Science History Institute.