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TEDxUF's 14th Annual Conference

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Illumination. To shed light. To create light from darkness. The act of exposure. Illumination bares all truths, it reveals every idea and thought that the world holds. It creates a space for vulnerability, allowing individuals to speak their truth. No matter the idea, the individual or the space, light illuminates every corner and spot of darkness, bringing the world out of the shadows. 

TEDxUF 2023 Annual Conference is devoted to uncovering truths and to highlight the distinctive voice that each speaker holds. From environmental sustainability to the ancient greeks, TEDxUF showcases the brilliance and complexity of our world from the eyes of our speakers. As the teeth of cogs meet harmoniously to generate power, the strength of the University of Florida and the Gainesville community generates far more light than any individual gear. TEDxUF is a space of collaboration and partnership, working together to illuminate the world one idea at a time.

TEDxUF Illumination Speakers

Dr. Constance Rich, Ph.D. 

Hijack your brain: the physiology of fear and failure


Constance Rich is a Biologist whose experience ranges from the bench to the classroom to the biotech industry. She received her BSc from Georgia Tech and went on to complete her PhD at the University of Cambridge in Physiology, Development, and Neurosicence. Following post-doctoral research positions, she began teaching Anatomy, Physiology, and Molecular Biology at the University of Florida. There she saw her former self in her students and realized an important link between what her students were experiencing and what she was teaching: how the body reacts to stress and how it can be harnessed in the face of failure.

Derek LaMontagne

Campus Graduate Housing: The Greatest Achievement of Mankind

Derek LaMontagne is a chemistry graduate student at the University of Florida. When he’s not in the lab experimenting with nanoparticles or advocating for the environment, he's rallying to save one of UF’s most precious yet overlooked resources: graduate housing. Three years ago, UF announced its plan to close and destroy Maguire Village and University Village South, two historic and beautiful graduate/family housing complexes on campus, by the summer of 2023. As a proud resident of Maguire Village, Derek has spearheaded the campaign to prevent his home and community from being demolished. He has organized protests, attended countless meetings, and gathered supporters from around Gainesville to bolster his cause. However, UF Housing has been recalcitrant and refused to consider reversing their short-sighted decision, but Derek is determined not to let this little piece of heaven disappear.

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Dr. Dustin York, Ed.D.

Childhood Curiosity Will Unlock Digital Transformation

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Dr. Dustin York is an Associate Professor with a focus on digital transformation. Prior to entering academia, Dr. York worked in public relations for the 2008 Obama Presidential campaign and clients like Pepsi Co., and Nike. Beyond his primary passion for teaching, Dr. York is a subject matter expert for CNN, Fast Company, and Forbes, a contributor for Harvard Business Review, and serves as a national keynote speaker and consultant. Dr. York was awarded the St. Louis Business Journal 30 Under 30 Award, President’s Award for Strategic Leadership and Transformation Innovation, American Marketing Association 4 Under 40, and an Apple Distinguished Educator. TALK PITCH Childhood curiosity can be the key to digital transformation, innovation and change management. How can unlocking our childhood curiosity about Pokemon Go, Apple, ChatGPT, and Fortnite inform us about the future of education, healthcare, business, diversity & inclusion, and more?

Dr. Eleni Bozia, Ph.D., Dr. phil.

How to predict the future with Classics and AI

Eleni Bozia studies linguistic and cultural diversity in Greco-Roman antiquity and its intersection with modern globalism. Founder of an international consortium for the digitization of historical artifacts, she promotes the collaboration between the humanities and the sciences. Bozia is also a pioneer in applying AI to the humanities. A professor at the University of Florida, Bozia holds two doctoral degrees: a Ph.D. in Classical Studies (University of Florida, 2009) and a Dr. Phil. in Digital Humanities (Universität Leipzig, 2018). Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and has been recognized with several awards, including the Young Researcher Scholarship from La Fondation Hardt in Geneva and the Mary A. Sollman Scholarship from the American Academy in Rome. In addition, Bozia has published widely and delivered talks on issues of identity, otherness, and belonging in literature and the digital preservation of world heritage. Eleni is also an avid reader, traveler, and art lover. Her talk is about visualizing a world driven by the wisdom of the past and the technological advancements of the present. A partnership between Classical Studies and AI can achieve precisely that. If we combine historical insights with Artificial Intelligence, we have a chance to build a better world and improve our global footprint.


Dr. Jamie Foster, Ph.D.

The Language of Microbes


Dr. Jamie Foster is Professor in the Microbiology and Cell Science department at the University of Florida. She works in the fields of astrobiology and space biology and has focused on how spaceflight impacts beneficial interactions between animals and microbes. Dr. Foster received her B.S. in Zoology from the University of Massachusetts- Amherst and her M.S. degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Southern California. She completed her Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Hawai’i and then conducted Postdoctoral Fellowships in Microbiology at the National Institutes of Health and NASA Ames Research Center. Dr. Foster has conducted several spaceflight experiments aboard the space shuttle and International Space Station. She has also served on the Florida Space Grant Consortium Board of Directors, President of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research and on the NASA Biological and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee.

Dr. Ron Chandler, Ph.D.

The Role of Human Dignity in Sustainability

Dr. Ron Chandler is currently an Assistant Instructional Professor for UF Department of Psychology and the department’s Undergraduate Coordinator. He has Bachelor of Science from Stephen F. Austin State University in Aquatic Biology and Wildlife Science, a Master of Science in Limnology and Aquatic Chemistry from Texas State University, and a PhD in Educational Psychology from Walden University. He teaches classes in the Psychology of Sustainability, Social Psychology, and Positive Psychology. His principal area of interest is “understanding and describing the role of human dignity in education, communication, and research for sustainability. It is his contention that to the extent that we resolve factors negatively affecting individual and societal experience of dignity it is to that extent that we can create and maintain a sustainable human ecology. He was inspired to choose psychology as his final career “…by the need to understand and “answer” the question “Why?” and to employ that answer to inform individuals in ways that encourage them to treat themselves, others, and Earth with greater respect. Ron is also cofounder and president of Conservation Initiative for the Asian Elephant (CIFAE) a 501 (c)3 (2000). CIFAE’s mission is to “identify issues of critical importance to the sustainability of the Asian elephant and the peoples sharing its habitat.”


Dr. Sarah Jayasekaran, Ph.D.

The Chocolate That Changed My Life


A Florida Gator herself, Dr. Jayasekaran has a Master's in Structural Engineering and PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida. As an Instructional Assistant Professor at UF, she not only brings knowledge, but compelling enthusiasm to the classroom. Dr J. is pursuing the implementation of smart concepts in her classes and focuses on increasing student retention in the field of Engineering. Born and raised in the coastal city of Chennai, India, Dr J. came to the United States to pursue her passion for teaching and hopes to inpire her students to take risks.

When she is not educating future engineers and planners, Dr J. enjoys pushing her limits at CrossFit. In her spare time, she loves reading books, listening to podcasts, cooking new recipes, and planning her future adventures. Dr J. is passionate about the importance of emotional well-being and how it can impact our lives. Dr J. has learned the importance of embracing life and the wonder it beholds. You will get to hear about this journey of self-realization in her TEDxUF talk, on April 1st.

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