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Special Lecture: Making Sense of the Universe

10 April 2019
Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden
Lorentz Zaal (Room A144)

Making Sense of the Universe is a special lecture by the NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld, author Maria Popova and astronomer Ewine van Dishoeck, during which they will discuss the latest developments, insights and cultural implications of the human endeavour of making sense of the Universe. The panel discussion will be moderated by Pedro Russo (Leiden Observatory & Dep. Science Communication & Society).

This is a special lecture in the framework of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Union.


  • 10:45-11:15: Coffee & Tea 
  • 11:15-11:25: Welcome by Leiden University's Rector Magnificus, Carel Stolker
  • 11:25-11:35: Lecture by Leiden professor and IAU President, Ewine van Dishoeck
  • 11:35-11:55: Lecture by NASA Astronaut John Grunsfeld
  • 11:55-12:10: Lecture by writer Maria Popova
  • 12:10-12:30: Panel discussion with Ewine van Dishoeck, John Grunsfeld and Maria Popova, moderated by Pedro Russo

John Grunsfeld is an astronaut and scientist who served as a NASA astronaut, Associate Administrator for Science, and Chief Scientist at NASA Headquarters. Grunsfeld’s scientific research focuses on exoplanet studies and the search for life beyond Earth. As an astronaut, John Grunsfeld took part in three servicing missions to NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, including the last mission in 2009. 

Maria Popova is a reader and a writer and writes about what she reads on the Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), which is included in the US Library of Congress' permanent digital archive of culturally valuable materials. She hosts The Universe in Verse – an annual celebration of science through poetry – at the interdisciplinary cultural centre Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, USA. She grew up in Bulgaria immersed in music and mathematics.

Ewine van Dishoeck is a Professor of Molecular Astrophysics at Leiden University. Her work innovatively unites the world of chemistry with that of physics and astronomy. In 2000, she received the Spinoza Prize and in August 2018, she was awarded the prestigious Kavli Prize. She has also been appointed by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) as an Academy Professor. As of 2018, Ewine has served as the president of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

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