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Adjunct professor of cancer biology Brian Keith lectuers at TEDxPenn on Friday.

Credit: Jong Hoon Kim , Jong Hoon Kim

On the heels of a successful first run last year, students hosted a second-annual TEDxPenn conference Friday.

TED — technology, entertainment and design — is a nonprofit group that promotes “ideas worth spreading.” TEDxPenn is a Penn-organized conference dedicated to the same theme, but on a University scale.

With a central theme of “imagining reality,” the organizers brought in Penn-affilated speakers who presented their futuristic ideas — ideas that used to be simply imagination, but are now reality. In doing so, TEDxPenn aimed to motivate students to innovatively solve modern society’s problem.

Lewis Chodosh, professor of Cancer Biology and Medicine in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, presented some grim facts about how the rate of cancer mortality in America has only gone down 5 percent over the past five decades, but his speech quickly rebounded on the brighter note of new progress in the area of targeted therapies in cancer research. He called young people today the “engines of change.”

Similarly, Vice Dean of the Graduate School of Education Doug Lynch stated that the current system of innovation in the field of education “is messed up,” and that it was up to young people to fix it.

The speakers were enthusiastic about presenting their ideas, and the audience seemed to reciprocate that energy. College sophomore Michael Lou found the conference “well-organized and interesting” but found the “theme not all that focused,” as the subjects did not seem to tie together.

However, the event’s timing — the Friday before fall break — may have hurt attendance.

“We got a lot of people who said they would come to the first session but would have to leave later on for fall break,” College senior Tahem Verma, one of the event’s organizers, explained. The event’s venue in the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, which seated roughly 100, dwindled from two-thirds capacity to about one-third capacity by the end of the conference.

Even so, Salil Gupta, a TEDxPenn organizer and a Wharton and Engineering junior, said that the conference drew “more people compared with last year.” As for next year, Tahem says that TedxPenn is planning to expand to reach out to more Penn students with even more speakers and “a lot of cutting-edge” research in different fields.

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