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S&S Dinner Dialogues

Bringing Duke University students, researchers, and faculty together from across campus to engage in meaningful and ongoing conversation about the broader social implications of scientific and technological progress. Subscribe for Updates!Looking for Duke Conversations?

Program Details:

S&S Dinner Dialogues are informal opportunities for students, post-doctoral fellows, researchers, and faculty from all backgrounds, to come together over donuts, dinner, or dessert to participate in engaging, probing, and timely conversation about the ethical and societal implications of scientific and technological progress.

Most dialogues are hosted in the home of faculty sponsors who will lead a discussion on a topic or theme of their choice. Through these conversations, we hope to deepen the culture of responsible progress of science and technology at Duke and in the world.

In order to cultivate a rich experience, attendance is limited to no more than twenty attendees and care will be taken to select participants with diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, professional interests, and areas of study. In addition, priority will be given to participants who have not attended an S&S Dinner Dialogue before and who can explain their particular interest in the topic and faculty host. Those who show interest but are not immediately selected will be placed on a waiting list and notified of any changes as the event approaches. For more information on this process, select an option from the program details menu on the right.

Join us and help lead the way toward better integration of ethics and policy into scientific and technological progress in society through these upcoming dinner conversation!

Upcoming Dinner Dialogues

Some scheduled events are not yet available for attendance requests. Those that are will have an RSVP icon linking off to a page with more details. Check back often as we continue to update the series with over 60 dialogue opportunities!


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Faculty Host Topic Date
Dr. Nita Farahany Neuroscience and Behavioral Genetics in the Courts – Neuroscientists are generally opposed to the use of neuroscience in the criminal courtroom, but could it improve accuracy and decrease errors in the system? September 10th, 2018
8 p.m.
Dr. Kate Scholberg Chasing Neutrinos – Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
Join Dr. Scholberg for dinner and a discussion on this elusive particle, why the fundamental science is so important to our understanding of the universe, and how it might practically affect our lives.
to October 3rd
Dr. Sonke Johnsen The Internet’s Effect on Self-Worth & Personal Dreams
Join Dr. Sonke Johnsen to discuss how our sense of self-worth and our ability to pursue our personal dreams has been transformed by this ubiquitous technology.


September 26th, 2018
7 p.m.



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Faculty Host Topic Date
Dr. Anthony Galanos Patients & Their Families During End of Life Care


October 1st, 2018
7:00 p.m.
Dr. Lori Bennear Autonomous Vehicles: Good or Bad for the Planet? RESCHEDULED
New Date TBD
Dr. Kate Scholberg Chasing Neutrinos – Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
Join Dr. Scholberg for dinner and a discussion on this elusive particle, why the fundamental science is so important to our understanding of the universe, and how it might practically affect our lives.
October 3rd
7:00 p.m.
Dr. Alexander Rosenberg Neuroscience and narrative explanation, the theory of mind, interpretive social science and the humanities


October 10th, 2018
7:30 p.m.
Dr. Regis Kopper Real World Applications of Virtual Reality
In this science and society dialogue, we will discuss the potential impact VR can have in serious application areas, ranging from learning and education to the advancement of a wide range of fields, such as health care, public safety and the humanities.


October 15th, 2018
7 p.m.
Dean Stephen Nowicki What can birds really tell us about humans?

Stephen Nowicki, Duke’s Dean of Undergraduate Education, addressed the Class of 2020 during convocation.


October 16th, 2018
7 p.m.
Professor Kevin LaBar The feasibility and ethics of emotional mind reading

Video: Emotional Brain – Mysteries of the Brain


Dr. Kenneth Rogerson Do You Trust What You Like? – When Social Media & Politics Mix
In a world where more information flows than we can ever successfully navigate, is it even possible to sift through it to know what is true and relevant to the choices we must make as citizens?

Video: Dr. Rogerson from the Cyber Governance and Policy Center


October 22nd, 2018
7 p.m.
Professor David McAdams Big data and the future of privacy
In this Dinner Dialogue, we will explore the question of privacy through the lens of game theory–discussing not just the coming upheaval in the digital economy but the intertwined impact of changing social relationships, scientific innovation, and government action.



October 23rd, 2018
7 p.m.



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Faculty Host Topic Date
Professor Sallie Permar Giving All Infants a Healthy Start to Life
Dr. Permar is a physician scientist focusing on the prevention and treatment of neonatal viral infections. She leads a research laboratory investigating immune protection against vertical transmission of neonatal viral pathogens, namely HIV and cytomegalovirus (CMV).


November 5th, 2018
7:30 p.m.
Professor Brian Hare Can understanding animals make us better people?
We often assume that we are the most intelligent animals on earth. But this uni-dimensional view of intelligence has been outdated for decades. What can we learn from other animals, both in how they solve problems and their emotional intelligence, and how can this knowledge help us be better people?

Video & Readings:

November 6th, 2018
7 p.m.
Professor Bill Adair Truth and Trust in Politics
Can automated journalism help us battle falsehoods in American politics? And can anything help us heal the partisan divide?


November 7th, 2018
7 p.m.
Professor Walter Sinnott-Armstrong Moral Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to be used for many life-and-death decisions —such as autonomous cars and weapons as well as criminal punishment and distribution of kidneys for transplantation. Is it immoral to leave such decisions to machines? Will AI systems or robots act in immoral or destructive ways? Will computers make morally better decisions than humans do? Can AI improve human moral judgments? We will discuss these and related questions, and I will describe how our Bass Connections research group uses a hybrid method of programming morality into artificial intelligence systems.

Video & Readings:

November 8th, 2018
7 p.m.
Dr. Sharron Docherty Death and dying in a medically technological and curative focused world. RESCHEDULED, TBD
Professor Jeff Ward Machine Learning With Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs)
GANs are representative of the rapidly evolving capacities of artificial intelligence and may signal the legal, regulatory, and cultural challenges that remain on the horizon. We’ll explore how GANs are different in scope, potentially different in kind, and why this matters.


November 13th, 2018
7 p.m.
Dr. Miles Berger Making Sense of Confusion: Studying Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction, Neuroinflammation, and Alzheimer’s Disease
Why do so many older patients develop thinking and memory problems after anesthesia and surgery? What might be causing these problems? And how might we prevent them for future patients and loved ones?


November 15th, 2018
6:30 p.m.
Professor Hiroaki Matsunami Making Sense of Our Senses
We all know the sweet smell of cinnamon and the tangy aftertaste of lemon. But at the molecular level, what is really happening? Why are there some certain chemicals only some humans can sense? We still don’t fully know, but Dr. Matsunami and his lab are working on the answers!

Videos & Readings:

November 19th, 2018
7 p.m.
Professor Priscilla Wald Science and Science Fiction
The computer running your spaceship has turned homicidal; you have crash landed on a planet run by talking apes. Your little sister can read your mind; your future is revealed in the DNA sample taken moments after your birth. From space travel to time travel, from mind control to genetic manipulation, from aliens to sentient robots, no genre has more fully captured—and influenced–the relationship between important scientific discoveries and profound geopolitical and social transformations than science fiction. If you have a passion for science fiction, a curiosity about how it has sparked the scientific imagination, or just want to know more about it, let’s talk!


November 28th, 2018
7 p.m.



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Faculty Host Topic Date
Dr. Charles Gersbach Ethics and societal implications of genome editing
Genome editing has made it possible to alter the genome sequences of humans, animals, insects, and plants in almost any way. This technology is being developed to correct mutations that cause genetic disease, engineer animals whose organs can be transplanted to humans, eliminate insect species that carry diseases such as malaria and zika virus, and modify plants to address world hunger. The implications for science and society are manifold.

Breaking News!


December 5th, 2018
7 p.m.
Dr. Misha Angrist Blood on the Tracks: What Does the Theranos Story Tell us About Science and Startup Culture?
The dramatic rise and precipitous fall of Theranos is stuff of which movies are made (starring Jennifer Lawrence). But beyond the popcorn-worthy drama, what does Theranos teach us about innovation, science and the biotech economy?


December 6th, 2018
7 p.m.
Dr. Richard Bedlack Exploring the new ‘Right to Try’ law


December 13th, 2018
7 p.m.

2019 Dinner Dialogues



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Faculty Host Topic Date
Dr. Jeremy Kay Genes, Brain Development, and Disease
Genetic research holds promise for understanding and treating the biochemical basis of nervous system disorders. But the interactions between genes, development, and behavior are extremely complex — leading to confusion about what this promising field can offer. What can genes really tell us about brain development and disease?
January 16th, 2019
7:30 p.m.
Dr. Hayden Bosworth The role of social determinants and the unequal dissemination of scientific and technological progress in our society. January 17th, 2019
7 p.m.
Dr. Ornit Chiba-Falek Translating genetic data into precision medicine in age-related diseases
Deciphering the genetics factors underlying age-related neurodegenerative diseases in the Alzheimer’s-Parkinson’s spectrum has a translational potential to advance the development of highly informative and precise biomarkers.
January 23rd, 2019
7 p.m.
Dr. John Moses Medicine and the Vision of Documentary Photography
How photography can be used to explore various health topics. I will present some of my own documentary projects as well as examples of student work.
January 30th, 2019
7 p.m.



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Faculty Host Topic Date
Dr. William Parker Do we really need intestinal worms to be healthy?
Several underlying factors case disturbingly high levels of inflammatory-related disease in Western society. These diseases include allergies, autoimmune conditions, digestive disorders, and a range of neuropsychiatric disorders including migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, anxiety disorders and depression. In a twist on the “hygiene hypothesis”, emerging evidence strongly points toward the loss of intestinal worms as being one of the primary factors underlying these diseases.

Video & Readings:

February 6th, 2019
7 p.m.
Drs. Barak Richman &
Laura Richman
How policy can move the needle on health disparities February 7th, 2019
Time TBD
Dr. Dori Steinberg Mobile technologies for tracking behavior – helpful or harmful? February 11th, 2019
6:00 p.m.
Dr. Ron Grunwald Invasive Aliens, or Welcome Immigrants? Morality and Conservation Biology
Why do environmentalist, who tend to be progressive and fight against anti-immigrant policies in the political arena, suddenly embrace ‘anti-immigrant’ policies and vilify the ‘foreigner’ when it comes to animals and plants, so-called “invasive species”? Can you be a progressive and anti-racist, and at the same time be a genetic purist when it comes to the conservation of ‘natural’ populations?

Video & Readings:

February 12th, 2019
7 p.m.
Prof. Dan Ariely Predictably Irrational
In this session we will talk about how to use social science and behavioral economics to design products that take into account human decision-making to help people make better decisions.
February 18th, 2019
6:30 p.m.
Dr. Sara Haravifard A Journey to the Dark Side of Quantum Mechanics
In this session we will discuss the bizarre world of quantum mechanics and its applications, from theories of multi-universe to discoveries of exotic properties in materials and their technological applications.
February 27th, 2019
7 p.m.
Prof. Jonathan Wiener Which risk would you risk? February 28th, 2019
7:30 p.m.



Show / Hide List

Faculty Host Topic Date
Professor Greg Appelbaum Topic TBD

March 5th, 2019
7 p.m.
Dr. Kevin Weinfurt Topic TBD

March 13th, 2019
Time TBD
Dr. Brian Murray Topic TBD

March 19th, 2019
Time TBD
Dr. Gavin Yamey Topic TBD

March 21st, 2019
Time TBD.



Show / Hide List

Faculty Host Topic Date
Professor Karrie Stewart Topic TBD

April 11th, 2019
7 p.m.
Dr. Jessie Tenenbaum De-Identified Clinical Data in the Genomic Era
US law permits secondary use of de-identified clinical data for research purposes without a patient’s knowledge or consent. But biospecimens, and genomic sequence data derived from them, are increasingly linked to clinical data in the era of genomic and precision medicine. What are the risks involved, and where should the limits lie?

Video & Readings:

April 18th, 2019
Time TBD


All 2018-2019 Hosts

Professor Bill Adair
Dr. Misha Angrist
Professor Dan Ariely
Vice Provost Edward Balleisen
Dr. Jeffrey Baker
Dr. Raymond Barfield
Dr. Richard Bedlack
Professor David Bell
Dr. Lori Bennear
Dr. Miles Berger
Dr. Emily Bernhardt
Professor Donald Beskind
Dr. Hayden Bosworth
Dr. Ornit Chiba-Falek
Professor James Coleman, Jr.
Dr. Amy Corneli
Dr. Felipe De Brigard
Dr. Sharron Docherty
Professor Nita Farahany
Professor Michael Frakes
Dr. Anthony Galanos
Professor Bradi Granger
Dr. Ron Grunwald
Dr. Sara Haravifard
Professor Brian Hare
Horner Stacy Horner
Professor Sonke Johnsen
Sara H. Katsanis
Dr. Jeremy Kay
Professor Daniel Kiehart
Dr. Dennis Ko
Dr. Bradley Kolls
Professor Kevin LaBar
Dr. Jennifer Mah Lawson
Professor Hiroaki Matsunami
Professor David McAdams
Dr. Jeffrey Moe
Dr. John Moses
Dr. Brian Murray
Dr. Stephen Nowicki
Dr. William Parker
Professor Sallie Permar
Dr. Kenneth Poss
Professor Timothy Profeta
Professor Arti Rai
Professor Allison Rice
Dr. Barak Richman
Professor Laura Richman
Dr. Kenneth Rogerson
Dr. Alexander Rosenberg
Dr. Charmaine Royal
Dr. Jana Schaich Borg
Professor Kate Scholberg
Dr. Christian Simon
Dr. J.H. Pate Skene
Dr. Corinna Sorenson
Dr. Dori Steinberg
Professor Karrie Stewart
Dr. Beth Sullivan
Dr. Donald Taylor
Dr. Jessica Tenenbaum
Professor Michael Waitzkin
Professor Priscilla Wald
Professor Kevin Weinfurt
Dr. Jory Weintraub
Professor Jonathan Wiener
Dr. Marty Woldorff
Dr. Gavin Yamey

Participant Selection

The S&S Dinner Dialogues is committed to selecting a new audience for each dinner composed of participants with diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, professional interests, and years and areas of study. To accomplish this goal, the program staff will offer priority to participants who have not attended an S&S dinner before and who explain their interest in the topic and the faculty host. Students, post-doctoral fellows, researchers and faculty of all backgrounds, majors, degrees, etc. are welcome to sign up.

Participant Notification & Follow-up

Participants accepted to a dinner after they signed up through the S&S website will be notified by the Dinner liaison at least 3 days before (and often earlier) for the dinner for which they signed up. Along with their notification of acceptance or wait-listing, students may also receive reading materials recommended by the host. In such cases, students are encouraged to read the materials and to come prepared to engage in a lively conversation.


We expect that the number of interested participants will be higher than the number of seats open for each dinner. Therefore, will keep a waitlist. If seats become available after one or more accepted attendees cancel their participation, we will notify the waitlisted participants and assign the available spots in order.

Code of Conduct

The S&S Dinner Dialogues have been established by the Duke Initiative for Science & Society with support from the Office of the Provost with the goal of bring undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty together across campus to engage in meaningful and ongoing dialogues about the broader implications for society of scientific and technological progress. Students and faculty participating in this program are expected to listen to each other’s perspectives and act with respect, cross-cultural sensitivity and an open mind.


Location for pickupThe Science & Society Dinner Dialogues Program will offer transportation to participants. All attendees who are taking the group transportation must be in front of the North Building (located on 304 Research Drive) no later than 10 minutes before the designated pick-up time. You will be notified of the precise pick-up time, which will vary based on the distance of the host’s location. If you are late, you will be responsible for your own transportation. Participants will also be given the address of the dinner in advance, and can choose self-transporation to the event.

Cancellation Policy

If you unable to attend a dinner that you signed up and have been accepted to attend, you are required to give the Science & Society Dinner Dialogues Liaison member responsible for your dinner notice at least 24 hours in advance.

If your notification is not received on time you may be prohibited from attending Science & Society Dinner Dialogues for the remainder of the semester.


S&S Dinner Dialogues differs from Duke Conversations in that our discussions will always focus on the intersection of science, technology, and society. In addition, attendance at our events incorporates a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, researchers, and other faculty. This can make reserving a seat difficult for high-demand events. If you are an undergraduate student and you were not able to attend your preferred Dinner Dialogue or if you are looking for additional events with more broad topics, we highly encourage you to look for opportunity in the Duke Conversations program.

Visit the Duke Conversations website for more information.