Phi Beta Kappa will honor the City of Los Angeles as an Arts & Sciences City of Distinction on October 17, 2017. This award showcases metropolitan areas with exceptional artistic vitality, cultural vibrancy and scientific engagement.  


Join us on October 17th for(En)Lightning Talks Los Angeles - a series of electrifying five-minute talks by local experts in the arts and sciences hosted  by Cara Santa Maria from the Talk Nerdy podcast.  
"The Marvel of Science: Comics Illuminate the Universe" 
Clifford Johnson is a scientist, writer, and science communicator. He is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southern California, where he develops theoretical tools for the description of the basic fabric of Nature. 

"Self and Others: Why Not Knowing May be a Good Thing" 
Nancy Mithlo is an associate professor of art history and visual arts at Occidental College. An acclaimed scholar of contemporary Indigenous arts, she explores the intersections of race and representation in visual arts and popular culture. 
(Photo credit: Julien McRoberts) 

"Mathematics for Human Flourishing" 
Francis Su is the Benediktsson-Karwa Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College and the past president of the Mathematical Association of America. He studies the application of combinatorics, geometry, and topology to problems in social science.

"The Terror of History: The Witch Craze in Early Modern Europe" 
Teofilo Ruiz is a scholar of the social and popular culture of late medieval and early modern Spain at UCLA. He is a National Humanities Medal recipient, and is a former Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar.  
(Photo credit: Scarlett Freund) 

"The Big Ones" 
Lucy Jones is one of the world’s most influential seismologists and founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society. Known for turning science into public action, she focuses on earthquake risk reduction through research and integrated disaster scenarios. 

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Phi Beta Kappa will also recognize the innovative efforts of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs , led by Danielle Brazell, and four exemplary local organizations that build creative exchanges with new and diverse audiences in the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences or mathematics. 

Formed in 1925, the Department of Cultural Affairs promotes arts and culture as a way to ignite powerful dialogue, engage residents and visitors, and ensure that LA’s varied cultures are recognized, acknowledged, and experienced. Its grants program, accessible public art and events, and extensive network of neighborhood cultural centers reflect DCA’s commitment to providing cultural opportunities for all.

WriteGirl is a Los Angeles-based creative writing and mentoring organization that spotlights the power of a girl and her pen. It promotes self-expression through creative writing among underserved teen girls to help them become positive change agents in their communities through monthly writing intensives, public readings, mentoring, and collegiate preparation and attainment. Serving over 500 girls annually, WriteGirl  generates impressive outcomes with 100% of participants attending college. 

The Citizen Science Program at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County engages local communities to better understand biodiversity in and around one of the world’s largest cities. From lizards to ladybugs, volunteers help survey and track the wildlife of the Los Angeles area. In the process NHMLA connects real scientists to teachers, students, and the general public through projects and programs that foster authentic experiences in nature. The data collected lead to a deeper understanding of L.A.’s ecosystems and ultimately creates a city that works better for humans and wildlife. 

The United States Veterans’ Artists Alliance provides opportunities for veterans to work and thrive in the arts and humanities. It highlights the power of the arts and humanities to help address critical issues that veterans face today including the transition to civilian life, education, employment, and the effects of wartime and service injuries. USVAA also raises awareness of the contributions of veterans who have distinguished themselves in the arts and humanities and enriched the American experience. 

The TOPS Science Outreach Program at Occidental College is a 20 year-long collaboration between Los Angeles area teachers and Occidental faculty that provides over 7,000 students each year with student-centered laboratory learning experiences that foster scientific inquiry and curiosity. The program has produced conclusive results showing substantial increases in student conceptual understanding and statistically significant increase in their interest in science classes and science in general.

 Learn more about the Cities of Distinction Award Series at


Love of learning is the guide of life.