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Post Doctoral


Keynote Address

Roberta B. Ness, M.D., M.P.H.

Title: “So you think you can innovate?”

Why isn’t science solving the biggest problems of the modern age? Why, according to the blue ribbon National Academies report The Gathering Storm is America losing its hegemony in science? Top pundits argue that America is not maintaining its competitive edge in the skill at which we have always excelled: innovation.

Surely if innovation is so critical to our nation’s scientific enterprise, we must place great emphasis on teaching it. Yet in a national scan of higher education curricula, we have been unable to identify almost any courses in the sciences that teach methods for how to think imaginatively.

Dr. Ness will convey the steps in a novel method she has developed for improving innovative thinking in the sciences. She will share point-by-point the process of frame shifting; increasing keenness of observation, using analogies; examining problems from new points of view; and working backwards from an anticipated outcome, among other tools. Each competency allows students, post-docs, and faculty to find new paths to discovery.

Innovative Thinking instruction involves “reversing the classroom” – didactics are taught outside and practice and experience are the focus inside. Dr Ness will explain the process of teaching and training around innovation within a program she directs at the University of Texas which involves a class and a training program for pre-doctoral and postdoctoral students.


Dr. Roberta B. Ness is an internationally recognized expert in medicine and public health. She is dean of The University of Texas School of Public Health, one of the largest such Schools in the nation. Dr. Ness holds the M. David Low Chair in Public Health and is a professor in the Division of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Science. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and at the University of Pittsburgh and adjunct professor in the Departments of Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Dr. Ness is a a fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas and the Texas Philosophical Society, and member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.

She has been at the forefront of women’s health research, being one of the first to propose the research paradigm now termed “gender based biology” in her book entitled, Health and Disease among Women (1999). In 325 peer-reviewed publications and over 20 federally funded grants, Dr. Ness has explored the epidemiology of ovarian cancer, preeclampsia, and pelvic inflammatory disease; adverse pregnancy and perinatal outcomes; links between reproductive history and cardiovascular disease; and bacterial sexually transmitted infections. Dr. Ness is also known for her work on teaching innovation. She recently authored Innovation Generation, an instructional program for innovative thinking (Oxford U Press) and Genius Unmasked, the story of genius scientists of the 20th century and how they thought. Dr. Ness has been an advisor to the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, NASA, and the Department of Defense.   

Check out "Innovation Generation" on Amazon

Check out "Genius Unmasked" on Amazon

More about Dr. Roberta Ness