Science 2017 Highlights Art, Business, Technology and Science Speaking for Itself

A virtual reality experience that takes users through blood vessels and competitions among students to evaluate their innovation skills are just a sampling of events in Science 2017, Pitt’s annual celebration of science and technology.

Science 2017

When: Oct. 18-20
Where: University of Pittsburgh Alumni Hall and Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center

Register online by 8:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 13, or on-site during the conference.

Since its start in 2001, this free public conference has grown to become a premier opportunity for attendees to discover cutting-edge research, network with colleagues and discuss hot topics affecting the scientific community.

The three-day schedule includes 12 Spotlight Sessions on topics such as computational neuroscience and RNA processing as well as plenary lectures from Salk Institute for Biological Science and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors and an array of activities to appeal to scientists and curious nonscientists alike.

3-D approach to medical breakthroughs

Science as Art, an installation created to spotlight the beauty and artistic value of images created using science, will unveil its first virtual reality experience using enhanced images of viruses in the brain.

Alan Watson, a research assistant professor for Pitt’s Center for Biologic Imaging, said he worked with virtual reality company SyGlass to combine thousands of two-dimensional confocal microscope images into three dimensions to apply them to the program. He said the technology could lead to breakthroughs in treating glaucoma and other diseases because it helps researchers see sections of organs not visible using conventional means. 

Beyond medical applications, Watson said the virtual reality experience could encourage students to view the biological sciences in a completely different way.

“If people are willing to stand in line and take the time to enjoy this, even if they didn’t have an interest in bioscience before, they will appreciate this in a way that might draw them in,” said Watson.

Bringing innovation to the marketplace

On Oct. 18, the focus will be on emerging startups and inventions available for licensing from the University, and that is also expected to draw visitors from in and out of the sciences.

Pitt Innovation Institute’s Michael G. Wells Entrepreneurial Scholars Lecture will feature Kurt M. Rote, CEO of Pitt spinout Western Oncolytics, which is developing cancer immunotherapy treatments. Last year, Western Oncolytics entered a development partnership with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

The lecture is followed by an announcement of winners of the Michael G. Wells Student Healthcare Competition, a competition between Pitt students creating health care innovations. Meanwhile, the Kuzneski Innovation Cup, sponsored by Pittsburgh area entrepreneurs Andy and Laurie Kuzneski, will award funding to students creating products or services outside of the health care field.

The newest Pitt-generated innovations

Oct. 18 closes with the Innovation Showcase, a display of Pitt-generated innovations that are available for licensing or have already been spun out of the University as startups.

Beyond the prize money, which awards $35,000 to Wells winners and $27,500 to Kusneski winners, exposure to potential investors is an added bonus for student entrepreneurs. Since 2011, nine participants of the Wells Competition have spun out their innovations as startups, three more are currently working to spin out and one has been licensed by an existing company.