metanexusinstitute: board

William Grassie
Founder and Executive Director

William Grassie has a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations from Middlebury College and a doctorate in religion from Temple University. He has taught in a variety of positions at Temple University, Swarthmore College, and the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to graduate school, he worked for 10 years in international relations and conflict resolution in Washington, D.C., Jerusalem, Berlin, and Philadelphia. He is the recipient of a number of academic awards and grants from the American Friends Service Committee, the Roothbert Fellowship, and the John Templeton Foundation. In 2007–2008, he served as a Senior Fulbright Fellow in the department of Buddhist studies at the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, Sri Lanka. He is the author of The New Sciences of Religion: Exploring Spirituality from the Outside In and Bottom Up (Palgrave Macmillian, 2010) and a collection of essays, Politics by Other Means: Science and Religion in the 21st Century (Metanexus, 2010). He has also edited two volumes: Advanced Methodologies in the Scientific Study of Religion and Spirituality (Metanexus, 2010) and H+/-Transhumanism and Its Critics (Metanexus, 2010) with Gregory Hansell. For more information, go to

David Christian

David Christian is by training a historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, but since the 1980s he has become interested in world history on very large scales. He has written on the social and material history of the 19th-century Russian peasantry, in particular on aspects of diet and the role of alcohol. In 1989, he began teaching courses on "Big History," surveying the past on the largest possible scales, including those of biology and astronomy. His book Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History has been called "the single-best introduction to science and history from the Big Bang to the 21st Century." He is a member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Over the next few years, he will also be working with the support of Bill Gates to create an online course in "Big History" for high school students.

Edward J. Devinney Jr.

Edward J. Devinney Jr. is a visiting professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Villanova University. He is widely known for the "Wilson/Devinney" computer code for binary star light-curve analysis used by scores of astronomers. He has a bachelor's degree in physics from LaSalle University, with a minor in both philosophy and religion, and a doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Pennsylvania. He spent 10 years working in the Florida university system, including two as a National Academy of Sciences Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA Goddard Space Center. He then spent nine years with Siemens U.S. research labs as head of the artificial intelligence department and chief scientist. He spun out a high-technology company from Siemens and served seven years as its CEO. His astronomical interests include instrumentation, observational aspects of solar eclipses, and binary stars, including black hole binaries, and he is also very interested in the philosophy of science.

Ursula Goodenough

One of America's leading cell biologists, Ursula Goodenough is a professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of a widely used textbook, Genetics, and has served in a variety of national biomedical capacities, including on National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation review panels. She also has served on the editorial boards of several professional journals, and in many positions in the American Society for Cell Biology, including the presidency. In addition, she is a past president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. In her acclaimed book, The Sacred Depths of Nature, she offers a unique blend of modern science and spiritual meanings.

Thomas Campbell Jackson

Thomas Campbell Jackson is the president of the Brandt Jackson Foundation, a private family foundation, based in New York City. He is also the president of Zeitblom Analytics, which consults on health policy issues. In addition, he serves on the board of overseers for Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the board of trustees for the Galen Institute, the board of directors for the Imagine Science Film Festival, the board of advisers for the Bellevue Literary Press, and the board of directors for Music for Life International. Previously, he served as the director of the Employee Health Benefits Program for the City of New York, managing a $1.75 billion benefits program for 1 million city employees, retirees, and dependents. He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Tufts University and a master's degree in public health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

Gerry Ohrstrom

Gerry Ohrstrom is a private investor in New York City. He is former vice chairman of G.L. Ohrstrom & Co., a private equity firm founded by his grandfather in the 1940s, and former chairman of the Ohrstrom Foundation, established by his grandfather in the 1950s. He is currently chairman of Vistan Corporation, a family holding company. He has served as chairman or director of numerous private companies and was a director of Carlisle Companies Inc. (NYSE) in the 1990s. In the 1980s, he worked in corporate finance at Bear Stearns & Co., and prior to that he worked at manufacturing companies in Michigan and Germany. In recent years, Ohrstrom has spent much of his time in the nonprofit sector, principally in scientific research, science education, and public policy. He serves or has served as a director of the Reason Foundation, the Property and Environment Research Center, Africa Fighting Malaria, the International Policy Network, the Gruter Institute, the American Council on Science and Health, the Museum of the Rockies, the Booker T. Washington Learning Center, and the Yellowstone Park Foundation. He is also a member of the Intelligence Squared U.S. Foundation board and the virtual advisory board of its debate series. From 2008-2010 he served as co-chairman of the President's Council at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Michele Demers

Michele Demers is the vice president of Foundation Source and she has pioneered the development of Foundation Source Access, a new online philanthropy network that brings nonprofits and private foundations together around major causes and interests in the philanthropic world. She has 20 years of experience as a strategist, writer, and philanthropy professional, and she was previously the director of communications for Humanity United, a humanitarian foundation created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam. She has also worked for the nonprofit organizations Human Rights Watch and Demos, and from 2002–2007, she ran her own firm, Tattersall Consulting, to develop strategic plans and communications strategies for more than a dozen philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. She is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and has a master’s degree in international relations and communications from Boston University.

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