Science at Balticon

Balticon takes the term “Science” in its title of being a science fiction and fantasy convention very seriously. Balticon runs a complete track of over 30 hours of science programming featuring world class scientists.

The Program Schedule is listed below followed by Speaker Biographies.

Science Program Schedule

Friday, May 25

4:00 PM Homeland Suite “When Leif Met Bigfoot: The Myth of the Norse Discovery of Sasquatch” Eve Siebert
5:00 PM Homeland Suite “True Blue: The Quest for Blue Pigments and Dyes from a Historical and Scientific Perspective” Iver P. Cooper
6:00 PM Homeland Suite “Saving our Fisheries” Dr. Al Place
7:00 PM Convention opening ceremonies
8:00 PM Homeland Suite “Tales from the Grid – Traces America’s electrification, including inventions, feuds, rivalries, and revenge from Edison to today, and from P. T. Barnum’s mighty elephant to California’s threatening duck, with over 50 slides and videos.” Jim Beall
9:30 PM –
11:30 PM
Presidential Suite (12th floor) Meet the Scientists Social

Saturday, May 26

9:00 AM Homeland Suite “Stopping Time: The Latest Insights in Human Aging“ Doug Dluzen
10:00 AM Homeland Suite “CSI: Jurassic Park and Cloning Dinosaurs” Ryan Haupt
11:00 AM Homeland Suite “Predicting the near term future technology” Catherine Asaro, Author GOH
12:00 PM Homeland Suite “The Dynamics of Traumatic Brain Injury” Professor Kaliat Ramesh
1:00 PM Homeland Suite “Coffee, guilty pleasure or part of a healthy diet? ” Neal Freedman, Ph.D.
2:00 PM Homeland Suite “Paleoanthropology and The Real Paleodiet: what did our ancestors actually eat?” Briana Pobiner
3:00 PM Homeland Suite “Practical Telepathy: the Science and Engineering of Mind-to-Mind communication” John Ashmead
4:00 PM Homeland Suite “Big Cats Rescue, Chetah Genome Research & Exotic Animal Conservation” Suzanne Buck
5:00 PM Watertable Room “The Interstellar Beacon – launching soon from a planet near you” Dr. Seti
6:00 PM Watertable Room “Fraud!: Harry Houdini and the Spiritualists” Marvin Pinkert, Jewish Museum of Baltimore

Sunday May 27

9:00 AM Homeland Suite “War games in the immune system” John Skyler (Leighland Feinman)
10:00 AM Homeland Suite “Space weather and its implications for space travel” Alex Young
11:00 AM Homeland Suite “The Science of Preserving the Nation’s Digital Treasures.” Leslie Johnston, Director of Digital Preservation, U. S. National Archives
NOON Homeland Suite ”The Role of the Microbiota and Nutrition in the Control of Immunity to Infection” Yasmine Belkaid
1:00 PM Homeland Suite “Pinball Wizards: Jackpots, Drains, and the Cult of the Silver Ball” Adam Ruben
2:00 PM Homeland Suite “EMPIRE Strikes Back – Exploring Venus on the human spaceflight path to Mars” Noam Izenberg
3:00 PM Homeland Suite “Got an Asteroid Problem? A Deflection Workshop” Dr. Robert Eli Terry
4:00 PM Maryland Ballroom
(Main Tent)
The Chromatics Science Concert The Chromatics
5:30 PM –
6:30 PM
Maryland Ballroom
(Main Tent)
“Dinosaurs, the Update” Balticon’s annual dinosaur extravqganza! Dr. Thomas Holtz
8:00 PM Mt. Washington Suite “To explore strange new worlds: NASA’s small steps and giant leaps in discovering planets beyond” Padi Boyd
9:00 PM Mt. Washington Suite “History of Grape Growing And Wine Making (In Maryland and Elsewhere)” Roy Albin, Royal Rabbit Vineyards

Monday, May 28

9:00 AM Homeland Suite “A Century of Missiles” Ann Pollack , JHU-APL
10:00 AM Homeland Suite “Liquid crystals: the molecules for and of life” Prof. Luz Martinez-Miranda
11:00 AM Homeland Suite “Why did T. rex have such small arms?” Dr. Thomas Holtz
NOON Homeland Suite “1I/Oumuamua: The Solar System’s First Detected Interstellar Visitor” Carey Lisse
1:00 PM Homeland Suite “A New Generation of Weather Satellites: From predicting the weather to controlling it” Valerie J. Mikles, NOAA
2:00 PM Homeland Suite “The Story about Gravity Waves, Kilonovas, and Neutron Stars” Inge Heyer
3:00 PM Homeland Suite “Geysers Galore — Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar System” Dr. Timothy A. Livengood


Speaker Biographies


Catherine Asaro, Ph.D., is our Guest of Honor at Balticon. Not only has she won two Nebula awards for her writing, she also earned her doctorate in chemical physics and master’s in physics, both at Harvard. She is a member of SIGMA, a think tank of speculative writers that advises the government as to future trends affecting national security. As a musician, she performs at various cons and jazz clubs. We are pleased that this multi-talented individual will be at Balticon for the entire weekend.

Yasmine Belkaid, Ph.D. is chief of the mucosal immunology section in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases. NIAID is one of the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Dr. Belkaid obtained her Ph.D. in 1996 from the Pasteur Institute in France on innate responses to Leishmania infection. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at NIAID on immune regulation to infection, she joined the Children’s Hospital Research Foundation in Cincinnati as an assistant professor in 2002. In 2005, she joined the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases as a tenure-track investigator and became a tenured investigator in 2008. Since 2007, she has worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work explores the role of the microbiota and nutrition in the control of immunity to infection.
She received one of four Sanofi–Institut Pasteur 2016 International Awards. Dr. Belkaid received the International Mid-Career Award for her contributions to the field of immunology.

Patrica (“Padi”) Boyd, Ph.D., is Chief of the Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). She is a member of The Chromatics.

Douglas Dluzen, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Morgan State University, Baltimore. He is a human geneticist, who studied the genetic contributors to human aging, cancer, and hypertension. Currently, his research focuses on the biology of health disparities in Baltimore City, including how socioeconomic factors influence onset and pathology of cardiovascular diseases. He also examines the human microbiome as it relates to health outcomes. He teaches evolutionary biology, genetics, and scientific thinking and occasionally blogs about his work and his science fiction writing on his website. He contributes to the Science News and Information blog for the speculative fiction magazine Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores. At Balticon 52, he will be presenting “Stopping Time: Insights into Human Aging.” You can find him on Twitter @ripplesintime24.

Neal Freedman, Ph.D., is a Senior Investigator in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute.

Inge Heyer, Ph.D., was born and raised in Berlin, Germany, where she completed her secondary education before accepting a scholarship to attend Tenri University (Japan) to study Japanese. She earned an undergraduate degree in Astronomy and Physics from Smith College, a Master’s degree in Astronomy from University of Hawai`i at Manoa, and a Ph.D. in Science Education from the University of Wyoming. Dr. Heyer was a senior data analyst at the Space Telescope Science Institute and served as the public information officer at the Joint Astronomy Centre, where she led the education and public outreach efforts. She served as deputy press officer for the American Astronomical Society and currently teaches astronomy and physics at Loyola U. Md.
She has earned Shodan in both Judo and Karate, and serves as guest science blogger for And if you have ever wondered how those beautiful Hubble images got into science fiction series like Babylon-5 and Star Trek, Inge is the trouble-maker who instigated this. Visit her at

Tom Holtz, Ph.D., presents the ever-popular annual dinosaur update covering the major discoveries in the field of paleontology over the past year. He is a Principal Lecturer at the University of Maryland Department of Geology where he is the Faculty Director of the Science and Global Change Program.

Luz J. Martínez-Miranda, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park. She received her BS and MS in Physics from the Universidad de Puerto Rico in Río Piedras and her PhD from MIT. She received her BMus in music performance from the Conservatorio de Música of Puerto Rico. Prof. Martínez-Miranda’s research involves the study of the interaction, both local and long- range, of ordered (smectic) liquid crystals with different nanoparticles. She has been a visiting professor at the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State University, at the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal, CNRS, in Bordeaux, France and at the University of Chile in Santiago, Chile. She is a fellow of the AAAS and the APS, and the winner of the 2014 Edward A. Bouchet Prize of the APS for her research in liquid crystals.

Al Place, Ph.D., Baltimore Harbor Watchman, University of Maryland.

Briana Pobiner, Ph.D., is a paleoanthropologist whose research centers on the evolution of human diet (with a focus on meat-eating), but has included topics as diverse as cannibalism in the Cook Islands and chimpanzee carnivory. Briana is also an Associate Research Professor of Anthropology at the George Washington University. She has done fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Indonesia and has been supported by numerous agencies. Since joining the Smithsonian in 2005 to help put together the Hall of Human Origins, in addition to continuing her active field, laboratory, and experimental research programs, she leads the Human Origins Program’s education and outreach efforts and manages the Human Origins Program’s public programs.

K.T. Ramesh, Ph.D., is the Alonzo G. Decker Jr. Professor of Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University as well as the Director of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI); Website: His current research projects investigate high strain rate behavior and dynamic failure of materials, nanostructured materials, injury biomechanics (including traumatic brain injury, which will be the topic of his talk) and planetary scale impact problems. He has published one book, Nanomaterials: Mechanics and Mechanisms
(Springer) and threatens to write another.

Adam Ruben is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and molecular biologist. For over a decade, he has performed at clubs, colleges, and private venues across the country, including at some of the best-known storytelling shows and comedy clubs. He is the author of Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School (Random House, 2010) and Pinball Wizards: Jackpots, Drains, and the Cult of the Silver Ball (Chicago Review Press, 2017).
For more than a decade, Adam has taught an undergraduate stand-up comedy class at Johns Hopkins University, and he currently teaches storytelling with Story District, and is one of the Lead Producers for the DC and Baltimore chapters of Mortified. He writes the humor column “Experimental Error” in the otherwise respectable journal Science. He has also been seen and heard on the Food Network’s Food Detectives, the Science Channel’s Head Rush, the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Kremlin, Discovery International’s Superhuman Science, the Weather Channel’s Weather Gone Viral, the Science Channel’s How Do They Do It?, Netflix’s The Mortified Guide, and NPR’s All Things Considered and The Moth Radio Hour. He co-hosts the Science Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science, currently filming its eighth season.
His day job is as Associate Director of Vaccine Stabilization & Logistics, developing a malaria vaccine at Sanaria Inc. Adam lives with his wife, Marina Koestler Ruben, and their two children, Maya and Benjamin, in Washington, DC.

Robert E. Terry received a B.S. degree in physics from MIT and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from JHU. He is currently an independent research scientist. He was a senior research physicist affiliated with Enig Associates of Bethesda, MD (2007 – 2014) as Principal Investigator on a DARPA-sponsored research effort in high altitude heat rejection; with Radiation Hydrodynamics Branch of the Plasma Physics Division, Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) on plasma radiation source (PRS) dynamics, power flow, plasma flow and reflex triode switches, magnetic interlayer pinches, gyrokinetic flows and microturbulence, RF discharge theory, plasma chemistry, and specialized wire z-pinch models; and with the theoretical physics division of Jaycor, Inc in Alexandria, VA.
His current research interests include novel fluid particle models, climate physics, polywell fusion schemes, in-situ fuel production for Mars, Mars sample return missions, EDL at Mars, as well as novel schemes for electric propulsion. A founding lifetime member of the Mars Society, he works as the Director of Aerospace Education for the Maryland Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. He is also an experienced STEAM presenter on many topics over a wide variety of audiences.

Alex Young, Ph.D., is the Associate Director for Science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. In this role he is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the Education and Public Outreach team for the division. He works with the EPO teams as a liaison with the NASA offices of Education and Communication. He joined the NASA/ESA SOHO mission after graduate school as a Solar Astrophysicist with the Extreme-Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope. Working in this area grew his interest in image processing, which he combined with his love of statistics and data analysis. It was this with the help of some of his colleagues that led to his establishment of the Solar Image Processing Workshops or SIPWork.