TEDxUTAustin 2020: Coming Soon!


About Us

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world and believe in the power of ideas to change lifes. Our mission is to build a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world's most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.

TEDxUTAustin is a student-led platform, founded on campus in 2017, for spreading new ideas and connecting a community within Austin eager to grow their impact on the world. As a world-class research university in one of the leading entrepreneurial cities, TEDxUTAustin draws upon the unique students, professors, and community members of Austin to host diverse, rich, and enlightening experiences.


Origins of Tomorrow

Ideas and initiatives that bridge the gap between where we are today and where we dream to be in the future. A better tomorrow starts here.

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Creative Sustainability

Resources are increasingly stressed in today’s economy and we are often oblivious to the damage we do to the ecosystems on Earth. To build a better tomorrow, we have to address the destructive challenges plaguing our planet - overconsumption, pollution, deforestation, overfishing, climate change.

While we have come extremely far in mitigating our wasteful habits, we still fall extremely short of our goals. We need to invent more productive methods to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Let’s go ahead and reimagine sustainability.

Transformative Thinking

When was the last time you questioned society? Why is it that we do what we do and how we do it? In our rapidly changing world, the traditional way is often not the best way. Our government and laws are outdated, our education is outdated, healthcare, work, infrastructure and more.

We call all leaders, philosophers, and visionaries to pave the course for new ideologies and solutions for how we can better live in the future. We need to redefine our cultures, how we perceive the world, and what to do about it. It’s about time we update and upgrade.

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Dauntless Pursuits

Failure. It’s embarrassing and frustrating that we do whatever to avoid it. But what if we couldn’t fail? What would you pursue?

Google X embraces failure and shoots for the moon with ventures like Project Loon which provides global connectivity with balloons. Likewise, SpaceX shot for Mars with their Falcon Heavy, the largest rocket to launch in history. After years of failure, their calculated risk-taking, while painful in the short-term, allowed them to fly further than we could ever imagine.




9:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Uprooting traditional structures in preparation for the changing physical landscape with a focus on infrastructural sustainability in both our immediate surroundings and outer space.



Davis Richardson

Davis Richardson is the Bartlett Cocke Scholar and M.Arch I Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, the Editor for Essays and Interviews for ISSUE, UTSOA's annual student publication of the best projects of the year, and a designer at THOUGHTBARN, an architecture studio in Austin.

His writing has been featured in PLAT, an independent architecture journal from Rice University's School of Architecture, on CritDay, an independent architecture-student feed, and more; he has spoken at various events on architecture, technology, affordable housing, and sustainability, including SXSW, Mensa, and the American Institute of Architecture Students, following the success of the tiny house on wheels he designed and built himself in 2016. He has worked previously for Bohlin Cywinksi Jackson in Seattle, Corgan in Dallas, and Caddis Architects in Boulder.

Larry Speck

Lawrence Speck is Senior Design Principal for Page Architecture, and has served as Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin from 1992 to 2001. In his years of teaching, he has worked with prominent schools worldwide including M.I.T. and the University of Western Australia.

Speck has helped lead six major master planning projects for his home city, Austin, and has also been lead architect for two major park projects in downtown Houston. Additionally, he directed the design for Austin Bergstrom International Airport Terminal, Austin Convention Center, and academic buildings on various university campuses.

Speck’s work has won him a multitude of design, teaching, and service awards in the last 25 years.

Lawrence Speck is Senior Design Principal for Page Architecture, and has served as Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin from 1992 to 2001. In his years of teaching, he has worked with prominent schools worldwide including M.I.T. and the University of Western Australia.  Speck has helped lead six major master planning projects for his home city, Austin, and has also been lead architect for two major park projects in downtown Houston. Additionally, he directed the design for Austin Bergstrom International Airport Terminal, Austin Convention Center, and academic buildings on various university campuses.  Overall, Speck’s work has won him a multitude of design, teaching, and service awards in the last 25 years.


Reynaldo Torres

Reynaldo Torres is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration at Texas Tech University where he also earned his Master of Arts in Economics.

At Texas Tech University, Reynaldo works as a research assistant at the Center for Sales and CRM and is the founding president for Tech Society of Sales. Prior to his graduate studies, Reynaldo acquired a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering and a Minor in Economics from the University of Texas at Austin.

Most recently, Rey has been working on bringing kheprenomics to life, an online teaching tool to exclusively tutor industrial organization economics. His discipline and eagerness to learn continues to shape his life and has granted him the Remnant Trust Student Scholar of 2019 award.



11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Inspiring leadership to prepare the future generation to take initiative with a focus on diversity and education.


Guneez Ibrahim

Guneez Ibrahim is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin studying Sociology and Design, with minors in Arabic and Journalism.

Her interest in women’s education reform began in June of 2017 when she created a 30-day fundraiser for Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn program. Guneez recently returned from Freedom House, a human rights organization in Washington D.C., and hopes to pursue a JD to continue this line of work. On campus, she is involved in Texas Orange Jackets, the university’s oldest women’s honorary service organization.  

Overall, Guneez has a strong passion for women’s reform. She continues this passion by teaching English to immigrant and refugee women in the Austin area. In her free time, Guneez enjoys reading, hiking, watching Bollywood movies, and refreshing her Twitter feed.



Joel Walsh

Joel Walsh is a former Los Angeles public school teacher and a third-year STEM Education PhD student. He is a graduate of both the UC Davis and the UCLA Teacher Education Program.

While working in the public school sector, Joel taught high school mathematics at the USC Hybrid High School. In addition to teaching, Joel is a basketball enthusiast who loves to cook and watch the Golden State Warriors anytime they play.

Overall, Joel’s experience as a teacher has provided a foundation to his current research. As he completes his PhD, Joel focuses on using machine learning techniques to both improve classroom learning outcomes and reform K-12 mathematics standards that change with the annual surges in technology.

Alejandrina Guzman

Alejandrina Guzman is from Azle, Texas and was elected 2017-2018 Student Body President (SBP), becoming the first Latina SBP at UT Austin and the first physically differently abled SBP in the Big XII Conference.

She ran on a campaign focused on diversity and inclusion, accessibility for disabled students, addressing sexual assault, affordability of college, service, spirit and tradition. During her term, she led the acquisition of a handicap-accessible van for UT’s SUREWalk program, an SG initiative to partner students with companions for their late night walks home.

She is currently a fellow in the Mexican American Legislative Caucus working for Representative Hernandez. She always aims to empower those around her and make a positive impact in the communities she is involved in.



Aashima Garg

Aashima Garg is a fourth-year undergraduate studying Electrical Engineering at UT Austin.

This August, Aashima will join the engineering team at Figma in San Francisco. Throughout college, Aashima has pursued endeavors to grow intellectually and give back to her community. She is currently the president of Student Engineering Council and a member of Texas Spirits. In the past, she has also taught iOS development classes through her Computer Science Club and Codepath University.

Aashima has strong passions for improving diversity and mental health awareness. She has worked towards her passions by founding Cockrell School Cares, the first college-based diversity and mental health awareness campaign. In her free time, Aashima enjoys running, exploring various local coffee shops, and crafting.




1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Harnessing new innovations to prepare for the changing technological landscape with a focus on artificial intelligence, blockchain in healthcare, and clean energy.


Scott Nguyen

Scott Nguyen is a Harvard-trained PhD physicist and a University of Texas at Austin alum.

Previously, he has helped spur Austin's first low-income solar program, sent robots to explore the oceans, and introduced renewable energy technology into Shell’s portfolio. He is currently the CEO and Co-founder of 17TeraWatts, a clean-energy software company ushering in the next wave of wide-scale solar adoption.

With over a decade of industry experience at venture-backed startups and major corporations, Scott looks forward to inventing disruptive technologies and business models to accelerate our transformation towards a cleaner, more efficient, energy economy.


Steve Papermaster

Steve Papermaster is CEO and chairman of Nano, a company dedicated to accelerating the development and delivery of cures for illnesses.

He has directly advised former U.S. President George W. Bush for two terms and co-chaired the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). There, he helped lead the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the Human Genome Project, and the White House Fellow, as well as co-founded and co-chaired Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE).

Steve is a recipient of the EY “Entrepreneur of the Year” award in the U.S. and has served as a U.S. Judges Chairman for the program. He co-founded the World Entrepreneur of the Year program and has served as judge, chairman or master coach for 15 years. He co-authored the book Smart Life, a guide to technology innovation that drives major social changes around the world.

Amir Husain

Amir Husain is the founder and CEO of SparkCognition, an award-winning AI company. He was a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018 Award, has been named Austin's Top Technology Entrepreneur of the Year, and received the Austin Under 40 Technology and Science Award.

Husain is a prolific inventor with 27 U.S. patents awarded and over 40 pending applications. He authored “The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence” and his work has been featured in outlets such as Foreign Policy, Fox Business News, and Proceedings from the U.S. Naval Institute. He authored “The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence”

Husain has served on Board of Advisors for IBM Watson and serves on the Board of Advisors for the UT Austin Department of Computer Science. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for a New American Security Task Force on AI and National Security.


Moriba Jah

Moriba Jah is the director for Computational Astronautical Sciences and Technologies at UT Austin.  Prior, he worked at the Air Force Research Laboratory and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he was a Spacecraft Navigator on a handful of Mars missions.

Moriba is a Fellow of TED, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Astronautical Society, International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety, Royal Astronomical Society, and the Air Force Research Laboratory. He has served on the US delegation to the United Nations Committee On Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, is an elected Academician of the International Academy of Astronautics, and has testified to congress on his work as related to Space. He’s an Associate Editor of the Elsevier Advances in Space Research journal, and serves on IAA Space Debris, AIAA Astrodynamics, IAF Astrodynamics, and IAF Space Security.



3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Looking inwards to navigate the social fabric of the real and virtual world with spotlights on behavioral success, cultural phenomena, and communication styles.


Mackenzie Finklea

Mackenzie Finklea is a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin, studying Anthropology with a special interest in archaeology. She also has a minor in Architecture and a certificate in Museum Studies through the Bridging Disciplines Program.

Throughout her college years, Mackenzie has spearheaded the first branch of the Creator Institute at UT Austin and is currently in the process of writing and publishing a book with the group.

Overall, Mackenzie is deeply fascinated by human culture, both past and present, and how it is put on display. She values the importance of interdisciplinary work and has made it a point to not only explore multiple disciplines, but also to develop meaningful connections with her peers.



Raj Raghunathan

Raj Raghunathan is Zale Centennial Professor of Business at the McCombs School at UT Austin. He is interested in exploring how people’s judgments and decisions impact their happiness and fulfillment. Raj’s work has appeared in numerous top journals and cited in several mass media outlets, including The Atlantic, NY Times, Fortune, Forbes, HBR, Inc, Fast Company, and LA Times.

Raj writes about happiness and leadership on his popular Psychology Today blog (with close to 2 million page views), Sapient Nature. His six-week long Coursera course, A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment, currently has 250,000 students from 196 countries, and was voted the Top MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) of 2015, 2016 & 2017, and one of the Top 50 MOOCs of all time. His book, If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy?, was launched in 2016 and has been translated into 13 languages. Raj has delivered several keynote lectures and his TED talk, which aired on STAR TV India, was viewed by over 17 million people worldwide.

Patrick Lyons

Born in Dallas, Patrick Lyons is a recent Mechanical Engineering Honors graduate who has accepted an offer to work full-time at Microsoft headquarters in Seattle.  

As a Longhorn, Patrick’s passion for fitness has allowed him to both transform people’s lives and simultaneously create a business to facilitate these intentions. Although he is mostly occupied with his clients’ fitness plans and needs, Patrick managed to create a successful YouTube channel where he generates prank-style videos to entertain his audience.

Overall, it is highly evident that fitness is an inherent part of Patrick’s life. He has worked out over 1,100 times in the past 4 years and continues to pursue his own fitness journey with rigorous training for American Ninja Warrior.


TEDxUTAustin is brought to you by…



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Advisory Board


Meet the Team

Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.
— Jack Canfield

Contact Us


Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply to be a speaker?

Any student enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin – undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students - are all welcome to apply! If you know any non-students who would make a good speaker, please nominate them on our website under the speaker section.

What criteria must my speech follow?

During the initial application portion, we are not looking for a particular format for the speech. We are just looking for well thought-out, novel ideas. Feel free to be creative, and use your TED talks as inspiration.

When will I know if I will be interviewed or auditioned?

You will be notified if you have been chosen to interview by the end of the day on November 14, 2018.

Interviews will be held on November 16 – 19. All those who interview will be notified about participating in a student wide audition during the week of November 20, 2018. Auditions will be held the weekend of December 1, 2018.

Where can I turn in my application?

Go to our website: https://www.tedxutaustin.com/ under the Speakers section and the button “Submit your Application” should link you to a google form where you can submit the application. Otherwise the link to the google form is also included on the TEDxUTAustin Student Speaker application.

Can I nominate myself as a speaker?

No, please only nominate speakers that are not UT students. If you think a UT student should apply, inform them of the student speaker application.

What if my talk does not align with the theme of “Origins of Tomorrow?”

The Origins of Tomorrow theme as well as our three sub themes are intended to be broad and all encompassing. The idea does not need to explicitly fall into the category, rather it just needs to more broadly fit in to the conference.

Do I need to memorize my speech for the interview?

No, during the interview we are only looking to know you better and understand more about your idea. During the audition, we expect that you have at least a short draft memorized and ready to present.

Do I have to make all the biweekly meetings leading up to the event if chosen?

Yes, this is one of the criteria that we have specified on the application. We will be flexible In terms of which day of the week, but we will need you to commit to biweekly meetings to improve your speech.

If I have uploaded the wrong pdf, could I resubmit?

No, since we have a large volume of applications, we will not be able to make any exceptions to an individual. Please be careful when submitting, and make sure you are uploading the correct file.

If I missed the deadline, can I still apply?

No, since we receive a large volume of student applications, we will not make any exceptions. Please work on the application in advance to the due date, so that you can submit it on time


Location: Mulva Auditorium, Engineering and Education Research Center

2501 Speedway, Austin, TX 78712

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