Director's Dialogues


Director’s Dialogues is a series of conversations with Whitehead Institute Director and President Ruth Lehmann and visionary leaders of science, healthcare, and biotechnology. These dialogues offer an inside perspective on the emerging opportunities, challenges, and trends in biomedicine, education, public health, and related fields. Our guests share their most meaningful experiences and observations; they tell us about the opportunities that most excite them, the challenges that most concern them – and the innovations that could dramatically enhance our collective ability to address those challenges.

Past events

On January 26, 2023, Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann and award-winning science writer Carl Zimmer discussed why broad science literacy is important, especially in the face of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poster for upcoming Director's Dialogue, headshot of Ruth Lehmann and Paula Johnson and
Women's health, women leaders: a conversation with Paula Johnson, President, Wellesley College

On November 15, 2022, Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann and Wellesley College President Paula Johnson discussed how to improve healthcare for women and increase opportunities for women as leaders in biomedicine and higher education.

On September 20, 2022, Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann spoke with scientist and inventor Robert Langer, MIT Institute Professor, on how chemical and biological engineering will impact human health.

On March 14, 2022, Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann spoke with Jennifer Doudna, University of California, Berkeley professor and Nobel Laureate, about her role in the development of CRISPR-Cas9. They discussed the potential applications of this world-changing genetic technology and the societal and ethical implications of gene editing, as well as current research projects, collaborations, and new advances in biology. 

On January 18, 2022, Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann and Jill Shah, President, Shah Family Foundation, discussed philanthropy as a catalyst for government innovation in the areas of nutrition, education, and economic support. 

How does fundamental science lead to treatments in the hospital? On November 16, 2021, Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann discussed this question with Kevin B. Churchwell, MD, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital and a member of the Whitehead Institute Board of Directors. 

Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann spoke virtually on October 19, 2021 with Linda Henry, CEO, Boston Globe Media Partners, and Rick Berke, Co-Founder & Executive Editor, STAT, on the importance of accurate science communication.

In this talk from May 27, 2021, Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann spoke with biomedical researcher, MIT professor, and biotech entrepreneur Sangeeta Bhatia. Bhatia leverages ‘tiny technologies’ of miniaturization to yield inventions such as human microlivers that model human drug metabolism and liver disease, as well as responsive nanoparticles and nanoporous materials that can be engineered to diagnose, study, and treat a variety of diseases, including cancer.

The challenges presented by climate change are wide-ranging — and so must be science's response. In this Director’s Dialogue, which took place on May 4, 2021, three Whitehead Institute scientists, Jing-Ke Weng, Mary Gehring and Jonathan Weissman, spoke with Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann about exciting opportunities for leveraging fundamental biological research to create biotechnologies that address some of climate change's vexing effects.

On March 22, 2021, Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann spoke with Noubar Afeyan, Moderna chairman and founder and CEO of life sciences venture capital company Flagship Pioneering, about the race to create a COVID-19 vaccine, the importance of immigrants in the US, and how to find and foster path-breaking ideas.

On February 25, 2021, Whitehead Institute Director Ruth Lehmann discussed the implications of this new age with MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield, in the first installment of our new series, Director's Dialogues. Hockfield, who was the first life scientist to lead MIT, is the author of the 2019 book, “The Age of Living Machines: How Biology Will Build the Next Technology Revolution.”