The Geopolitics of the Rare and Not-So-Rare Elements

Primary tabs

A Frontiers in Science Lecture to celebrate 2019, the International Year of the Periodic Table

Chemical elements have played important roles in the geopolitics of modern times and will continue to do so.

From Einstein’s 1939 letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt highlighting the need to secure uranium ores, to an insurgency fought over phosphorus, to a Chinese embargo of rare-earth elements in retaliation for a maritime incident in the East China Sea, to “blood batteries” for electric vehicles dependent on cobalt mined by child laborers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to calls for new international agreements on asteroid mining, the role of elements in geopolitics is vast and significant.

What does this mean for the U.S., for the rest of the world, and for the future of technology?

About the Speaker
Margaret E. Kosal is an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. She directs the Sam Nunn Security Program and the Program on Emerging Technology and Security. She is also a member of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. Her research explores the relationships among technology, strategy, and governance.

She is the author of “Nanotechnology for Chemical and Biological Defense.” The book explores scenarios, benefits, and potential proliferation threats of nanotechnology and other emerging sciences. She is the editor of “Technology and the Intelligence Community: Challenges and Advances for the 21st Century.” The book examines the role of technology in gathering, assimilating and utilizing intelligence information through the ages. She is editor-in-chief of Politics and the Life Sciences. The journal publishes original scholarly research at the intersection of political science and the life sciences.

Kosal has served as a senior advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Army and as science and technology advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Trained as an experimental scientist, Kosal earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, working on biomimetic and nanostructured functional materials. She cofounded the company ChemSensing, where she led research and development of medical, biological, and chemical sensors.

About Frontiers in Science Lectures
Lectures in this series are intended to inform, engage, and inspire students, faculty, staff, and the public on developments, breakthroughs, and topics of general interest in the sciences and mathematics. Lecturers tailor their talks for nonexpert audiences.

About the Periodic Table Frontiers in Science Lecture Series
Throughout 2019, the College of Sciences will bring prominent researchers from Georgia Tech and beyond to expound on little-discussed aspects of chemical elements:

  • Feb. 6, James Sowell, How the Universe Made the Elements in the Periodic Table
  • March 5, Michael Filler, Celebrating Silicon: Its Success, Hidden History, and Next Act
  • April 2, John Baez, University of California, Riverside, Mathematical Mysteries of the Periodic Table 
  • April 18, Sam Kean, Author, The Periodic Table: A Treasure Trove of Passion, Adventure, Betrayal, and Obsession 
  • Sept. 12, Monica Halka, The Elusive End of the Periodic Table: Why Chase It
  • Oct. 15, David Clark, Plutonium Chemistry and the Battlefields of the Cold War
  • Oct. 31, Taka Ito, Turning Sour, Bloated, and Out of Breath: Ocean Chemistry under Global Warming 
  • Nov. 12, Margaret Kosal, The Geopolitics of Rare and Not-So-Rare Elements
Closest public parking for the Nov. 12 lecture is Visitors Area 4, Ferst Street and Atlantic Drive, http://pts.gatech.edu/visitors#l3  
Refreshments are served, and periodic table t-shirts are raffled, at every lecture.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: jpalacios9
  • Created: 11/07/2019
  • Modified By: jpalacios9
  • Modified: 11/07/2019