Macalester’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science is host to the MSCS and Society Speaker Series, the purpose of which is to enhance classroom learning in mathematics or computer science through lectures by people prominent in these fields.

These talks are free and open to the public. Neighbors of the college, students at local colleges, and high school students are especially encouraged to attend.

The series was established in January 2001 and is made possible through the generous financial support of Macalester alumnus Kurt Winkelmann ’78.


MSCS and Society Lecture, 2023-24

Dan Keefe Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Monday, March 25, 2024, 4:40pm-6:00pm
John B. Davis Lecture Hall

Designing Mixed-Reality and Tangible Data Experiences with Artists and Indigenous Communities

As the ways we work with computers become increasingly tangible, blending the physical and digital worlds, the field of computing has an opportunity to learn from and partner with communities with deep expertise in traditional, physical ways of knowing our world. This talk will describe co-design processes, artifacts, and lessons learned from two projects that explore this potential. The first is a collaboration between technologists, visual artists, and climate scientists. The goal is to discover how skilled artists and designers working with physical art media (e.g., paint, clay, found objects) can “sculpt” accurate, data-driven climate science visualizations with an expanded visual vocabulary that has benefits for both scientific discovery and public discourse. The second is a collaboration with a community of climate and economic refugees from Micronesia who have settled in Milan, Minnesota. Now, in a landlocked region far from their home islands, our interdisciplinary team is partnering in efforts to maintain their culture, reviving knowledge of building and sailing canoes and of traditional celestial navigation systems. In both projects, designing for tangible computing, including both physical inputs and physical outputs, has been the key to creating experiences that are inviting, dignity-affirming, and useful. I look forward to discussing the themes of designing user experiences, data physicalization, immersive visualization, tangible and embodied user interfaces, and mixed-reality environments through the lens of these collaborative projects that challenge us to rethink the current goals and users of computing in society.

Dan Keefe is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and a Distinguished University Teaching Professor at the University of Minnesota. He is also an artist, designer, social justice advocate, woodworker, sailor, and prolific collaborator across disciplines. Keefe’s research on data visualization and interactive computer graphics has been supported with numerous grants and has won best paper and similar awards at top international computing conferences. His teaching and mentoring have also been recognized with multiple awards. In addition to his work in computer science, Keefe is also an accomplished artist and has published and exhibited digital and physical artwork locally in Minneapolis and in top international venues. Before joining the University of Minnesota, Keefe did postdoctoral work at Brown University with the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and the Department of Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. He received the Ph.D. in 2007 from Brown University’s Department of Computer Science and the B.S. in Computer Engineering summa cum laude from Tufts University in 1999.

past speakers

Year Speaker Affiliation Title
2022-23 Federico Ardila-Mantilla San Francisco State University

Geometry, Robots, and Society

2021-22 Michael Osterholm University of Minnesota

A Conversation on Data and the Pandemic

2019-20 Moon Duchin
Karen Saxe
Tufts University
American Mathematical Society

Mathematical Interventions in Fair Voting

2018-19 Brent Hecht Northwestern University

The Origins, Present, and Future of Algorithmic Bias

2017-18 Tim Chartier Davidson College Putting a Spring in Yoda’s Step
2016-17 Kristin Lauter Microsoft Research How to Keep Your Genome Secret
2015-16 George Hart Stony Brook University From Mathematics to Sculpture
2014-15 Peko Hosoi MIT From Razor Clams to Robots: The Mathematics Behind Biologically Inspired Design
2013-14 Louis J Gross University of Tennessee “Best” in a Biological Context: Optimization Across the Biological Hierarchy
2012-13 Bill Cook Georgia Tech The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Blueprint for Optimization
2011-12 David Kung St. Mary’s College of Maryland How Math Made Modern Music Mad Irrational
2010-11 Edward Belbruno NASA Research Associate &
Professor at Princeton University
Low Energy Pathways in Space, Chaos, and Origin of the Moon
2009-10 Jeff Weeks Geometry Games The Shape of Space
2008-09 Ann Watkins California State University,
Fallacies in Elementary Statistics
2007-08 Bart de Smit Leiden University
The Netherlands
M.C. Escher and the Droste Effect
2006-07 Peter Hamburger Western Kentucky University The Art of Venn Diagrams
2005-06 Doris Schattschneider Moravian College  
2004-05 Helmer Aslaksen National University of Singapore The Mathematics of the Chinese, Indian, Islamic and Gregorian Calendars
2003-04 Herb Wilf University of Pennsylvania  
2002-03 Gil Strang MIT
2001-02 Tom Banchoff Brown University  
2000-01 George Andrews Penn State