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Villanova University to Host Mendel Symposium on “Care of Our Common Home: Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’”

Global thought leaders will explore how 19th century Augustinian Friar Gregor Mendel’s scientific contributions relate to today’s environmental concerns at March 31 event

Villanova University to Host Mendel Symposium on “Care of Our Common Home: Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’”

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University will host an academic symposium March 31 focused on the effect 19th century Augustinian Friar Gregor Mendel’s legacy is having on the environmental challenges confronting the world today. The event, titled “Care of Our Common Home: Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’,” will explore the scientific contributions Mendel, best known as the “Father of Modern Genetics,” also made  in the study of meteorology and apiology—and the close ties between his concern for the environment and Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the environment.  Free and open to the public, the symposium will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Driscoll Hall auditorium on the University’s main campus. Registration is not required.

Renowned global thought leaders presenting multidisciplinary perspectives on the Encyclical as it relates to climate change and sustainability will be featured at the Symposium. Speakers will discuss the science of climate change, its associated risks, potential mitigations and solutions, as well as consideration of the political and economic choices posed in the Encyclical.

”Mendel’s contributions to the study of meteorology and apiology bear a striking convergence with today’s concerns of global climate change, plant pollination and sustainability expressed in Pope Francis’s encyclical, “Care for Our Common Home,” said the Rev. Kail Ellis, OSA, PhD, Dean Emeritus, Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Associate Professor, Political Science; and Symposium Director. “The encyclical is a call to action and an important means for motivating all conscientious people to consider the ramifications their activities will have, not only on the kind of world they wish to leave for their children or great-grandchildren, but also on the people in poorer countries who today suffer the severest consequences.”

Founded by the Augustinian Order in 1842, Villanova University plays a key role in sustaining Mendel’s legacy and caring for the planet in the face of global challenges. The Mendel Symposium is held bi-annually. The University’s science center is named for Mendel, and, since 1929, prominent scientists, including several Nobel Prize recipients, have been honored with the Mendel Medal, given in recognition of outstanding scientific achievement accompanied by religious conviction.

See the schedule below for a full list of Symposium speakers and topics. For further information about the Mendel Symposium click here.


Welcome (9:30 a.m.)

Session I: Mendel as Polymath (9:30-11:30 a.m.)

  • “Beyond Peas - Gregor Mendel’s “Other” Sciences: Contributions to Astronomy and Meteorology” – Edward Guinan, PhD, (Professor, Department of Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences, Villanova University). Guinan is world-renowned for his research in stellar and solar astrophysics, variable stars, observational cosmology, astrobiology and exobiology, exoplanets, planetary habitability and searches for exo-life. In 1982, Dr. Guinan and Villanova University colleague, Frank Maloney, found evidence of rings around Neptune that were later confirmed by the 1989 Voyager Mission. Guinan is chair of the Astronomy for Universities and Research Program at the International Astronomical Union Office for Astronomy for Development.  
  • “Bees and Peas: How Apiology Shaped Mendel’s Thinking” – Gene Kritsky, PhD, (Dean, Behavioral and Natural Sciences; Professor, Department of Biology, Mount St. Joseph’s University). Kritsky is a dean, professor and researcher who, for the last 39 years has focused his teaching on entomology, evolution, zoology, general biology, paleobiology, and the history of science.  Several national television networks have featured Dr. Kritzky’s research on periodical cicadas.
  • “Mendel at the Smithsonian Museum” – Ondřej Dostál, PhD, (Director, Mendel Museum, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic). As Director of the Mendel Museum, Dostál has created and collaborated on exhibitions and delivered lectures about Mendel at the museum and around the Czech Republic, as well as in Taiwan, Slovenia, Singapore, Brazil, and the United States. He is also the author of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Mendel’s lectures this year, under the auspices of the Czech prime minister and The Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific academy.   

Session II: Pope Frances’s Encyclical: Laudato Si’ (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.)

  • An Explication of the Encyclical as it relates to Climate Change and Sustainability” – Daniel Castillo, PhD, (Assistant Professor, Department of Theology, Loyola University Maryland). A Bunting Peace and Justice Fellow at Loyola University Maryland, Castillo focuses his academic interests and expertise at the nexus of liberation theology and ecological theology. He has written extensively on Laudato Si’.

Q & A Period

Lunch (12:45-1:30 p.m.)

Session III: Laudato Si’: The Science and Social Sciences (1:30-3:45 p.m.)

  • “Climate Change: The Science. What it is; what’s at risk; what to do about it?” – Richard Alley, PhD, (Evan Pugh Professor, Department of Geosciences, Penn State University). Co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as part of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Alley’s research interests focus on glaciology, ice and climate, sea level change and abrupt climate change. He has provided advice to numerous U.S. government officials in multiple administrations including a vice president, the president's science advisor, and committees and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 
  • “Responding to Climate Change: Laudato Si' and the Strange Convergences of Sociology and Religion” – The Rev. Michael Agliardo, SJ, PhD, (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Loyola University Chicago). Fr. Agliardo is a Jesuit priest and sociologist whose expertise lies in environmental sociology, the sociology of religion and comparative sociology. Fr. Agliardo focuses his research on the Catholic Church and its engagement with environmental issues in contemporary society. He also serves as a project consultant for the Catholic Climate Covenant and chairs the board of the U.S. Catholic China Bureau.
  • Round Table Discussion with Speakers and Audience – Amanda Grannas, PhD, (Associate Vice Provost for Research, Professor Chemistry, Villanova University). Grannas has established a thriving research group focused on environmental and atmospheric chemistry. She has a diverse range of expertise, and her recent projects include the study of snow and ice photochemistry, the fate of pharmaceutical and personal care products in watersheds, and the development of advanced analytical techniques used to study ice cores.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit