Annual TEDxFIU allows alumni and faculty to share ideas

Photo courtesy of Florida International University via Creative Commons’ flickr

Marisol Medina/Staff Writer

The second annual TEDxFIU is less than month away with 11 speakers ready to take the stage and make the audience “reimagine possible” – this year’s theme – on Nov. 7.

The speakers were selected from over 100 applicants, who each submitted a brief summary of their talk and a video explaining how their idea was worth spreading.

Eduardo Merille, director of Marketing and New Media, is one of the organizers of the event and one of the people responsible for bringing TEDx to the University, along with Deborah O’Neil, an organizer.

“We did a lot of brand research in 2011 and it showed that we needed to do more work telling the FIU story and the story of its people, because we’re big and we have a lot of stories to tell,” said Merille.

TEDxFIU became the channel by which FIU would gain more attention outside of South Florida by allowing students, alumni and faculty to tell their stories. After the event, the videos of the talks are uploaded to the TEDxTalks YouTube channel, which has more than 700,000 subscribers.

TEDxFIU began last year with eight speakers, selected from over 65 applicants. Professors, students and alumni talked to an audience of 500 people with the theme “Beyond the world you know.” The event was deemed “a success” by the Division of External Relations, selling out of tickets in about three minutes.

“TEDxFIU is great because it allows for people to pick up new ideas and they leave excited about the prospect and what could be done about it,” said Merille.

Merille said TEDx also fosters interaction between the speakers and the audience after the talk is over – often that interaction can spark new ideas.

Eric Von Wettberg, assistant professor of biology, is one of the speakers this year. Von Wettberg’s talk will feature his work in attempting to combat food insecurity by making crops more resilient to climate change in the developing world.

“Having enough food is one of the fundamental problems in society and I believe, that along with my collaborators, we have an approach that will work in any crop. We have the tools to address the problem but we need the support to go out and do it,” said Von Wettberg.

Von Wettberg said he plans to make the audience reimagine how agriculture works by explaining that it is possible to have more variety to what we eat with better flavor and more nutritional value.

“I’m still working on my punch line,” said Von Wettberg, who added that he was very surprised by how impressive the group of undergrad speakers are this year.

“FIU is a young, vibrant university that people outside of South Florida have probably not heard of and this is a great opportunity to showcase how vibrant, diverse and ‘world’s ahead’ we really are,” said Von Wettberg.

Pete Markowitz is a professor of physics at FIU and a fellow of the Honors College.

His talk, in partnership with Xavier Cortada, an artist, will showcase Markowitz’s collaborative efforts to find the Higgs boson particle, also known as the God particle, and how he collaborated with Cortada to use art to explain the significance of the discovery.

“Xavier would ask questions, like ‘what does this do’ and ‘how do you organize and experiment,’ and it was in the course of those conversations that he started to get ideas about how he could get art to talk about the science,” said Markowitz.

Markowitz and Cortada collaborated to create a five panel art installation located at Point Five of The Large Hadron Collider, the highest energy particle collider ever made, located in Cessy, France. Each of the panels represents a different piece of evidence the physicist had during the discovery of the particle.

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