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S P E A K E R  L I N E U P

TEDxPenn 2023 Conference



Anthony Russo has been one of the leading directors in the entertainment industry, and the artist and innovator behind some of the most successful and iconic blockbuster films. Anthony and his brother Joe, known as the Russo Brothers, have pioneered the artistry, scope, and box-office returns of blockbuster filmmaking. They directed record-breaking hits such as "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Captain America: Civil War," "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame." Avengers: Endgame grossed over $2.798 billion worldwide, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

Most recently, Anthony and his brother produced the critically acclaimed absurdist comedy-drama, Everything Everywhere All at Once. They also just wrapped production on The Electric State starring Millie Bobby Brown and Chris Pratt, which they are directing for Netflix. With a keen eye for storytelling and a talent for creating visually stunning cinematic moments, Anthony has become a household name in the world of filmmaking.



Steve Gross, M.S.W., is the Founder and Chief Playmaker of the Life is Good Playmaker Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to spread the power of optimism to help kids heal.  The Life is good Kids Foundation accomplishes this by partnering with leading childcare organizations to strengthen their capacity to build healing, life changing relationships with the children in their care. 


Steve’s teachings have been utilized across the country and throughout the world to help communities respond to the social and emotional needs of children whose lives have been deeply impacted by the trauma of poverty, violence, and illness. At the heart of his work, Steve helps others discover their own sense of optimism so that they can use it to help over come life’s most difficult challenges and bring their best human selves to their lives and to their work.

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Dr. Henry Daniell - W.D. Miller Professor, Vice Chair, Basic and Translational Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2007) and 14 th American member of the National Academy of Sciences, Italy in 250 years (Ben Franklin is the first American member of this oldest national academy). He is the Editor in Chief of the Plant Biotechnology Journal, Oxford, UK and the recipient of several awards including the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Bayer Hemophilia global award and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Award for outstanding contributions to lower the cost of biopharmaceuticals. He pioneered chloroplast genetic engineering technology to produce and deliver affordable biopharmaceuticals to treat major metabolic or genetic disorders, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, hypertension, hemophilia and retinopathy. Booster vaccines are developed in chloroplasts to prevent global infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, anthrax, plague, polio and more recently COVID-19. Studies with FDA and CDC funded by the Gates Foundation, NIH SMARTT program or major pharmaceutical companies facilitated advancement of these innovations to the clinic. More recently, viral trap proteins in chewing gum to reduce SARS-CoV-2 infection/transmission are advanced to Phase I/II clinical trials, after receiving FDA approval of IND. He has published 300 peer-reviewed articles and 100 patents.



Devin Carroll is an expert in robot design using found materials and is committed to making robotics more accessible to everyone.  He is currently working towards his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania where he explores techniques to build robots from natural materials like ice and tree branches.  His research has been published at high quality conferences and in international journals as well as featured on popular news sites such as IFLscience, IEEE Spectrum, and Digital Trends.  One of his robots, IceBot, has received a Guinness World Record for the first robot made from ice.  He believes that the future of robotics lies in making them more affordable for everyone and is excited to share his work and his passion for design with the TEDx community.

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Activist artist and filmmaker, Peikun Shi, uses his talent to raise mental health awareness and break through emotional barriers. As a science student, Peikun started off winning awards for math modeling and physics olympiad. Since then, he has co-founded a Fashion Show called Ashy Zone in honor of a friend who was dealing with depression and committed suicide. Through his short film "As If Lost In A Fog", co-directed and co-produced with a friend, Peikun shares his own experience with depression aggravated by the pandemic. Now, he uses his art to break the stigma surrounding mental illness in our society.



Christopher Tucker thinks and works at the intersection of technology, strategy, geography, and national security. From managing YaleHouse Ventures, a portfolio of entrepreneurship initiatives, to being Chairman of the American Geographical Society, Tucker’s work is revolutionary. He launched programs including, Geography2050, EthicalGEO Initiative, and the Locus Charter that focus on cultivating technology and geography.

In addition, Tucker has served in private sector, government, and non-profit boards including the Open Geospatial Consortium, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, National Geospatial Advisory Committee, the Defense Science Board Intelligence Task Force, the DNI’s Intelligence Community Strategic Studies Group (ICSSG), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Technical Advisory Group, served as an NGA Independent Advisor, and served on the National Academy of Science’s Committee on NGA’s GEOINT Research Priorities.

Previously, Tucker was the President and CEO of a high-technology firm in the area of geospatial intelligence that he took from startup to acquisition. Prior to his time in industry, Chris was the founding Chief Strategic Officer of In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture fund. And prior to that, Chris served as the Special Advisor to the Executive Vice Provost of Columbia University.

Tucker is the author of A Planet of 3 Billion (, and spends his abundant spare time working to bend the global population curve, to save our planet and our species from climate catastrophe and ecological annihilation, through empowering strategies focused on women and girls.



Shahd is a Sudanese-American digital storyteller born in Minneapolis who found initial and fortuitous success in 2015 through her YouTube channel— a platform Batal used as a video diary; a space to showcase her varying interests and overall love of sharing and connection. Her career has since evolved as she’s been a pioneer in the beauty and modest fashion industries, collaborated with top brands, and released her own style edit in 2020.

Shahd has spoken at universities such as Stanford and Columbia University on topics like authentic storytelling, intersectionality, and the importance of Black and Muslim voices in digital spaces. Batal’s other hats include: model, consultant, host, and writer. Shahd was part of the U.S. YouTube Black Voices Creator Class of 2021 and has been featured in numerous press articles such as Vogue, Glamour, Essence, Allure, and more.

Through it all, including new endeavors, Shahd understands her true weapon—her voice. She’s challenged industry norms and encourages consistent critique of ‘diversity and inclusion’ conversations while also pushing to create more safe spaces for minority girls and women and shift narratives surrounding American Muslims.



As a national leader in health equity and a trusted advocate for vulnerable populations, Dr. Stanford has been appointed by President Joseph Biden as the Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of the Mid-Atlantic. With over 20 years of experience as a practicing physician, Dr. Stanford is board certified in both pediatric and adult general surgery, and has gained international recognition for her work during the COVID-19 pandemic. She's the founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, which directly served over 100,000 people and countless others through their outreach efforts.

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Lyn Godley is a multi-media artist whose work has crossed the borders of fine arts, interiors, furniture, lighting, and jewelry. Her designs, done both individually and as partner of Godley-Schwan (1984-1998) have been exhibited internationally, and are in numerous international museum and private collections including the Museum of Modern Art NYC. Since 2000 her studio work has focused on merging light and art, exploring the relationship between art and technology, but more importantly it’s impact on the viewer. Her studio practice is linked to her research on how the integration of dynamic light in artwork can create a deeper engagement by affecting both the environment and ultimately the user.

In addition to her studio work, Godley is a full time Professor of Industrial Design at Thomas Jefferson University, where she is developing a Cross-Disciplinary concentration in Lighting Design with a focus on Light as Experience. She has spoken on the topics of Light and Health, Arts and Health, and Cross-Disciplinary Lighting Design Education at both National and International conferences. She is also the Director of the Jefferson Center of Immersive Arts for Health, an initiative to investigate the impact of dynamic and interactive art on health.



State Representative Jordan Harris has emerged as a rising star and leading progressive voice in the Pennsylvania legislature on issues that matter most to his constituents, including criminal justice reform and education reform. First chosen to represent the 186th Legislative District on Nov. 6, 2012, Harris was most recently selected by his colleagues to serve a third term as the Democratic Caucus Whip for the 2023-24 legislative session. The Whip is the second highest ranking position in leadership behind only the caucus leader, and Harris is only the second African American to hold the position of Whip for the Democratic Caucus. Harris previously served as chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

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