TEDxUTAustin hosts 5th annual conference with talks from members of UT community

Abbie Bard, News Reporter

Students, faculty and notable alumni presented their “ideas worth spreading” Saturday at the fifth annual TEDxUTAustin conference.

Roughly 1,000 audience members attended the conference, which touched on environmental issues, teamwork and the importance of mental health. Nine speakers, all of whom are University students, professors, or alumni, presented at the conference. 

Aarti Aravapalli, TEDxUTAustin’s vice president of communications, said this was the conference’s biggest year to date in terms of the assortment of speakers.

“(The team) was trying to find a diverse lineup that truly matches what every single person attending could possibly want to see,” said Aravapalli, a Plan II and government sophomore.

UT alumni, such as Tiffany and Leon Chen of Tiff’s Treats and Nobel Prize winner Jim Allison, spoke about their life’s journey, their work and their paths to success. In their talk, the Chens told the audience how they met at the University and began their business as sophomores. Allison discussed his life in Austin when he attended UT in the ‘60s and how it launched his career as an epidemiologist. 

Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, gave his talk on the dual challenge of providing energy while helping protect the environment.

“As educators, it’s incumbent upon us to encourage our students to get beyond their comfort zones and really dive into the issues more than just the headlines or the soundbites,” said Tinker, a professor of geological sciences. 

Karen Willcox, director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, gave her talk on important advancements in computing using mathematical models. Willcox said she wanted to make her talk digestible for the audience while also showing how important the work is.

“(UT is) one of the world’s leading universities in computing, and we’re really well known in the world,” said Willcox, a professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics. “I think a lot of people who are here don’t realize that, so we need to get that message out.”

Sanika Bhave, a Plan II and business senior, discussed the issue of electronic waste and its impact on the environment.

“I really want the audience members to know that they don’t have to adopt a total world shift,” Bhave said regarding her talk. “They just have to introduce nuance to their day-to-day lives.”

Emily Yan, a dual-degree medical student, presented a talk about teamwork and her experience in healthcare to the audience. Yan said she’s always been an avid fan of TED Talks, even prior to presenting.

“TED videos are kind of a gift in that whatever person who’s talking has distilled down and reflected on a certain aspect of their life,” Yan said, “And not to be cheesy, but they have found that idea worth spreading.”