North Carolina State University’s Park Scholarships Class of 2023 hosted the 2022 Gerald H. Elkan Distinguished Lecture in Science and Society from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30 in the Talley Student Union Mountains/Piedmont Ballroom. Nalini Nadkarni, an award-winning ecologist and science activist committed to increasing scientific literacy among incarcerated populations, gave a lecture entitled “Tapestry Thinking: Weaving Diverse Communities to Understand and Protect Nature.” This program was also supported by the University Honors and Scholars Programs and NC State University Libraries.
Nadkarni is a science activist whose career studying trees has cultivated a passion for educating others about the importance of nature. Her publications have focused on canopy and ecology, science in correctional facilities, and science and religion. Nadkarni is the co-creator of the Sustainability in Prisons Program in Washington state and creator of the Initiative to bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE). She holds a B.S. from Brown University and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington. She currently serves as a professor of biology at the University of Utah.
Nadkarni has received several national awards, including the Union of Concerned Scientists “Inspiring Scientist” Award in 2019. Her two TED talks, “Conserving the Canopy” and “Life Science in Prison” have more than a million combined views. Nadkarni’s effort to bring nature videos to justice-affected individuals in solitary confinement was recognized by TIME Magazine as “One of the Best Inventions of 2014.”
The Gerald H. Elkan Distinguished Lecture on Science and Society was established by its namesake’s former students, associates, and friends in honor of Dr. Elkan’s 40-year career as a microbiology professor in NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This lectureship supports an annual talk at NC State by a prominent thought leader.
Dr. Elkan has been deeply involved with the Park Scholarships program since its inception in 1997. He worked closely with the Park Scholars of the Class of 2023 to select Nadkarni as the fourth Gerald H. Elkan Distinguished Lecture in Science and Society speaker. Past recipients of the lectureship include water quality engineer Dr. Marc Edward, renowned health policy expert Dr. Nicole Lurie, and award-winning author Thomas Hager.