Texas Science Festival

Event starts at this time Feb 21, 2023 – Mar 4, 2023

This festival offers opportunities for people anywhere to engage with science from The University of Texas at Austin.

Collage with images of sea turtles, atmospheric data, a 3-D rendering of a brain, a snake and an atom

A celebration of science from the heart of the Lone Star State. Free and open to the public.

Hear all about the discoveries and phenomena shaping our world from brilliant scientists, best-selling authors and award-winning innovators. Take a few minutes over lunch to hear experts sum up their research and its applications in quick, digestible bites. Join UT Austin for STEM fun (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) for people of all ages. Our banner events bring the community to campus for deep exploration of science and exciting demonstrations. Festival participants can attend events, live or virtually, at this festival, typically held over several days in odd-numbered years. Sessions delve into topics pertaining to technology and society, health and wellbeing, energy and the environment, space exploration, nature and more.

2023 Texas Science Festival Recap

Two Guys on Your Head: The Psychology, Science & Performance of Play

Understand the why and how of play in our every-day lives as esteemed public radio experts and podcasters Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke once again help explain how the brain works. Explore play in every-day life with special guests from across UT Austin, including Sarah Abraham, Ali Preston, Kirk Lynn and the 2 guys Bob Duke and Art Markman.

Listen to a recording

Coexisting with AI: Embedding Ethics in Education & Practice

Why is it important for artificial intelligence systems to prioritize ethics? AI technologies are becoming a part of nearly everything we do and interact with—from social media platforms and search engines to mortgage lending, job recruitment, and law enforcement systems to the cars we drive and devices we use in our homes. These technologies can help connect us, increase efficiency, and improve safety—but they also have the capacity to harm us in ways we may not often think about. How do we weigh the potential benefits and harms of AI technologies? How can we ensure these technologies are designed to benefit everyone and not just a select few?  This panel, which includes Good Systems researchers and partners Peter Stone, Kenneth Fleischmann, Sharon Strover and Will Griffin, consider the history and role of ethics in scientific education and practice to set the stage for how we, as a society, can embed ethics in AI today and in the future. 

Watch the session recording

The Stars are Big and Bright in West Texas: A Deep-Sky Tour

The McDonald Observatory offers views of several targets from the dark skies in West Texas, where the stars are big and bright. Hosts Judy Meyer and Joe Wheelock teach participants about several deep sky objects and share live views from a camera attached to a research-grade 16" telescope at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center.

Watch the session recording

Braiding Sweetgrass: Robin Wall Kimmerer in Conversation

Author and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer sat down with the executive director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for a conversation about Kimmerer's best-selling book, which explores botany and environmentalism through an indigenous lens. Delve deeper into the reciprocal relationship we have with our living world. This author event is part of the UT Austin College of Natural Sciences' New Equations series.

Plovers All Over: More than Just Shorebirds

David Newstead, director of the coastal bird program for the Texas-based Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, discusses the fascinating and sometimes skittish plover, enjoyed by birders and found in a wide range of diverse habitats in South Texas for part of their annual migration. Hear about what coastal bird experts are learning about iconic coastal species, including Piping, Snowy and Wilson’s Plovers, and find out the ways that, beyond the beaches, plovers interact with many of the spaces we think about as uniquely human.

Watch the session recording

Climate Change: Science to Solutions

Understanding how climate change will stress our human systems can lead to better decisions and better outcomes for people. Using computer representations that can capture the entire Earth system, geoscientist Geeta Persad conducts research that sheds more light on our climate future and solutions at hand. This session was organized through Hot Science – Cool Talks.

See slides and more from this session

What Machine Learning Can't Learn

We live in the age of the algorithm, where increasingly, decisions are being handed over to machine learning. And the results of these decisions affect both individuals and society, setting up the possibility of automated decisions that can increase unfairness and inequity in society if we are not careful with this technology. Computer science faculty member Angie Beasley gave this TED talk as part of TEDxUTAustin’s sixth annual conference. The student-organized TEDxUTAustin seeks to inspire attendees to ask “how?” and “why?” in order to create meaningful, long-lasting change in their communities.

Watch the session recording

STEM Girl Day at UT Austin

All genders are welcome at this annual event for K-8th grade students, families, and educators! Free, hands-on STEM fun on the UT Austin campus offers opportunities to explore STEM through grade-appropriate, hands-on activities. Meet scientists, engineers, astronomers, mathematicians and other STEM enthusiasts from campus and the community. 

View a photo gallery from this event

Glimpsing the Early Universe: A James Webb Space Telescope Journey through Space & Time

Texas astronomer Steven Finkelstein is leading one of the largest science programs using NASA's powerful new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). What has his team found about some of the earliest light in all of the universe? And what does that reveal about stars and galaxies, including some of the most distant ever detected? 

View the session recording

Human Threats to Native Plants: Tipping the Balance Back

Humans alter the environment in many ways  – these changes often favor invasive plants and animals, putting our native species at risk. The global expansion of human-altered landscapes leaves scientists with an important question: how do we tip the balance back to favor and preserve native species? Dr. Jennifer Lau, featured guest for UT Austin's annual Jean Andrews Lecture in Plant Biology at the Wildflower Center, shared how scientists and conservationists can harness the power of plant evolution and the adaptive power of soil microbes to restore native populations that are best suited to their rapidly changing environments. 

Learn more about this session

“Science-ing” Your Way to More Health & More Wealth

How can the latest insights from science, math and computing help guide our daily choices about personalized wealth management, eating, where to live and more? Three scientific experts from UT Austin joined Joe Hanson of PBS Be Smart to provide answers to key questions from their research.

Watch the session recording

The Texas Grid Under Pressure

As blackouts associated with 2021’s Winter Storm Uri proved, Texas and its grid face pressures unlike anywhere else in the country. Come learn about how the energy system in Texas works and explore how the climate crisis is changing (and may keep changing) power generation, transmission and consumption in our Texas homes, schools and offices. This event was a co-production with KUT News and its award-winning podcast “The Disconnect” and held in conjunction with the 2023 Planet Texas 2050 Symposium – Resilience Research in Action.

Watch the session recording

A Shot to Stop the Tripledemic: Promising RSV Vaccines on the Horizon

Along with COVID-19 and the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has spread at alarming rates in recent months. Though a problematic clinical trial more than 50 years ago derailed RSV vaccine development for decades, promising vaccine candidates for this common infection are on the horizon. These vaccines avoid problems caused by the experimental candidate tested decades ago by relying on a key advance made by Barney Graham, Jason McLellan and colleagues in 2013 (a pair who would use similar approaches to make key contributions to the COVID-19 vaccines. RSV vaccines were a feat Science Magazine named as a runner-up for the 2022 Breakthrough of the Year. Vaccine-development chronicler Gregory Zuckerman and Science's Meagan Phelan sit down with the scientists to discuss the latest life-saving vaccines and therapeutics.

Watch the session recording 

Deep in the Heart of Science: A Peek Into the Science of What We Love about the Lone Star State

For Texas Independence Day, we provide a look at the science behind some of your favorite uniquely Texan offerings—from bluebonnets and life in the Hill Country to cooking with Texas ingredients. 

Watch the session recording

Are We There Yet? Driving to Health Equity in the Treatment of Obesity

Studying strategies to treat obesity in adults can involve a variety of state-of-the-art approaches, ranging from surgery and medications to lifestyle therapy with remote monitoring. Dr. Jamy Ard, M.D., uses them all in his approach to treatment, which is highly informed by his research. With a special focus on treatment for adults who either suffer from obesity disparities or where obesity treatment is particularly challenging, Ard's work is relevant for all, including individuals from ethnic minority groups, older adults and those with severe obesity. Ard was the 2023 Jean Andrews Lecturer in Nutritional Sciences, at an event sponsored by UT Austin's Department of Nutritional Sciences.

Watch the session recording

An Immense World: In Conversation with Ed Yong about All that Lies Beyond our Human Sensory Bubble

What is the world as animals experience it? Ed Yong's recent book introduces humanity to new dimensions and discoveries about the ways that Earth overflows with sights, textures, sounds, vibrations, smells, tastes and more that lies outside of our own perceptions. Spend this session with leading evolutionary scientists and science writers in conversation to get beyond the human sensory bubble and our immense world as it's experienced by animals.

Watch the session recording

Eclipses in the Heart of Texas

The paths of two solar eclipses will cross Texas between October 2023 and April 2024. Learn all about eclipses, what they are, why they're special, where you need to be to see a total eclipse and how to safely observe them at this solar tour. Educators from McDonald Observatory are here to help you prepare to enjoy these eclipses and more.

Watch the session recording