McGowan MG102
McGowan Building
411 Pacific St
Monterey, CA 93940
View in Campus Map

Open to the Public

Dr. Maria D'Orsogna Physicist
Dr. Maria Rita D’Orsogna, Professor of Mathematics, California State University, Northridge and Associate Director, Institute for Pure and Applied Math, University of California, Los Angeles.

Oil companies planned to drill onshore and at sea in Abruzzo, Italy, uprooting century-old wineries to build wells, refineries and pipelines, effectively turning scenic Abruzzo into an oil district. Dr. Maria D’Orsogna fought back.

Trained as a physicist, Dr. Maria D’Orsogna is a hands-on activist fighting to protect the Italian countryside and seas from Big Oil. Maria first learned of proposed oil activities during a trip to her home region of Abruzzo, Italy.  Although based in California - 6,000 miles away - Maria took it upon herself to raise awareness and educate the public at large. She blended her scientific training, her experience as a professor, and her strong desire for social justice into an environmental movement that rapidly spread across the country. She traveled from town to town in Italy, educating citizens about environmental and health effects, debating Big Oil, exposing political corruption, putting pressure on decision makers to act for the common good. In California, she used social networks and blogging to coordinate letter writings, to keep raising awareness and spur action. Thanks to public uproar, spearheaded by Maria’s unwavering efforts, the city of Abruzzo banned oil drilling and for the first time ever, the Italian parliament imposed a no-drill zone of 12 miles encompassing all of Italy’s 5,000-mile coastline. Overall, she helped stop at least 40 oil leases, earning the nickname “Erin Brockovich of Italy.” Maria’s story is a testament of how, by engaging with the community, scientists and educators can truly make a difference.

About the Speaker

Maria Rita D’Orsogna received her PhD in Theoretical Physics from UCLA in 2003. She is currently a professor of Mathematics at the California State University, Northridge and the Associate Director at the Institute for Pure and Applied Math at UCLA. Her scientific interests cover a wide range of topics within biology and sociology, and she has worked on creating mathematical modeling of virology, cell biology, multi-particle swarming, migration, crime patterns and recidivism. Maria is also a passionate environmentalist and has led a victorious grassroots movement in Italy to stop oil drilling at sea and in sensitive areas.

Lecture Location:  McGowan 102

The McGowan Building is located at 411 Pacific Street, Monterey, CA, 93940, on the campus of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Attendees should enter through the glass doors from Pacific Street, and room 102 is located inside to the right. View the campus map.


Parking is available in any Middlebury Institute campus lot after 5 p.m., or on the street (time limits on surrounding streets end at 6 p.m.)


Contact Rachel Christopherson at the Center for the Blue Economy at or (831) 647-6615.