The Global Change Center’s Distinguished Public Lecture Series returns Oct. 3 with a renowned soil biogeochemist and national leader.

The current director of the Office of Science for the U.S. Department of Energy, Asmeret Asefaw Berhe will speak on Oct. 3 at 5 p.m. at the Moss Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Dr. Berhe’s professional stature join us in Blacksburg this year,” said William Hopkins, director of the Global Change Center and associate executive director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute. “She is a remarkably productive and impactful researcher, a leader in Washington, and her personal narrative is both fascinating and inspirational.” 

Berhe’s talk, “From the Ground up: A Soil Scientist Goes to Washington, D.C.,” will cover her career arc, starting from her earth science research as a soil biogeochemist to her current role leading the nation's largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences. 

Bringing the perspective of an earth system scientist into the world of science policy, Berhe also will discuss how the Office of Science works to drive the frontiers of science across disciplines, enable solutions to some of the grand challenges of our time, and expand the participation of people from all walks of life in science.

“Dr. Berhe’s lecture will be optimistic and solutions-oriented, providing the latest insights into how innovation is confronting the climate crisis as well as the importance of inclusion of diverse perspectives in solving this and other grand challenges,” Hopkins said.

The Distinguished Public Lecture Series, sponsored by the Global Change Center since 2015, brings leading scholars to Blacksburg to provide an accessible opportunity for community members to discuss critical environmental and societal issues in an open forum. As one of the four research centers of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, the Global Change Center seeks to elevate Virginia Tech’s collective strengths in socio-environmental research and education and raise awareness about climate change and other global problems that threaten the environment and society.

Berhe, who is currently on leave from the University of California, Merced, holds the Ted and Jan Falasco Chair in Earth Sciences and Geology. Berhe is a member of the National Academy of Engineering; a fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America; a member of the inaugural class of the U.S. National Academies' New Voices in Science, Engineering, and Medicine; and one of the Carnegie Corporation’s Great Immigrants, which honors naturalized citizens for their contributions to American society. 

A native of Eritrea, Berhe’s early interest in soil science and political ecology was influenced by her fascination with the ability of soils to shape earth system processes and shape human density and environmental degradation that was exacerbated by the country's 30-year war of independence from Ethiopia. Her current research focus lies at the intersection of soil science, global change science, and political ecology with an emphasis on how the soil system regulates the earth’s climate and the dynamic two-way relationship between the natural environment and human communities.

If you have any questions about the services at the Moss Arts Center or desire an accommodation, please email or call 540-231-5300 at least 10 business days prior to an event. Learn more about accessibility at the Moss Arts Center.

Bri Wills contributed to this article

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