Earlier this summer, President Shirley Ann Jackson co-chaired the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China, June 26-28. In her role as co-chair, President Jackson participated in a debate on the role of corporate-led research in advancing scientific progress, a televised session in which she discussed the key elements of an innovation ecosystem that translates research results into technological innovations and business opportunities. She also moderated a discussion among Rensselaer faculty of the role of big data in disrupting transmissible diseases.

ShirleyAnnJackson_headshot“The Annual Meeting of the New Champions provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the convergence of the digital, physical, and biological worlds,” President Jackson said. “This dialogue gave us the opportunity to assess this crossroads in conjunction with the great, global, human challenges we face today and work together with influential leaders from top organizations around the world toward a future that addresses these challenges—from a changing climate to the mitigation of disease.”

Joining her for a discussion of the ways the university is looking beyond the boundaries of academic disciplines and leveraging new computational and biological tools to address transmissible disease were Rensselaer faculty members Jonathan Dordick, vice president for research and Howard P. Isermann Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Heng Ji, Edward P. Hamilton Development Chair Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science.

“The rise of big data and the tools to analyze are bringing new sources of information into the challenge of transmissible disease,” said Dordick. “With new ways to engineer systems that help distill biological systems data, we can wholly upend the way we think about pandemic prevention with the ultimate goal of eliminating such medical vulnerabilities from our world.”

President Jackson also took part in a co-chair’s press conference and other key sessions, including “Betting on Moon Shots,” “Scientific China,” and “Pandemics and Big Data.”

Prior to her arrival in Tianjin, she traveled to Tokyo, where she participated in the Advancing Women Business Leaders luncheon and panel discussion, hosted by the wife of Japan’s Prime Minister, Akie Abe, and IBM. The discussion assessed gender imbalance in the workplace and its roots in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.