Save the dates: A spring lectures preview

Topics covered in this spring's lectures series run the gamut, from black holes, to crisis management, to zombies. Several comedians also will take the stage in Ames, including David Koechner, best known as Champ Kind in the Anchorman films and Todd Packer on NBC's The Office. To learn about these and other upcoming lectures, check out the online lectures schedule. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Here's a look at some of this spring's lecture highlights.

"Understanding Black Holes and Active Galaxies," Meg Urry, Feb. 10 (8 p.m., 127 Curtiss, Dolezal Auditorium)

Meg Urry is chair of the physics department at Yale University and director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics. She investigates the formation and evolution of the massive black holes that astrophysicists believe anchor each galaxy. Urry previously was a senior scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which runs the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA.

"10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack," Max Brooks, March 7 (9 p.m., MU Great Hall)

Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide and an Emmy Award-winning writer for Saturday Night Live, is the son of comedian Mel Brooks and actress Anne Bancroft. His other books include The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks and World War Z, which recently was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt.

"Leading in a Crisis: Real Stories Behind Scandal," Judy Smith, March 10 (8 p.m., MU Great Hall), rescheduled from Oct. 21 and Dec. 9, 2013

Judy Smith, a crisis manager and former White House deputy press secretary for President George H.W. Bush, is the real-life inspiration for Olivia Pope, the lead character on ABC's Scandal, a drama about the life and work of a professional fixer. Smith's public relations and strategic communications career includes service as special counsel to the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia and corporate communications executive at NBC. She has counseled international heads of state, executives of major corporations and Hollywood celebrities. Smith will hold a book signing for her latest book, Good Self, Bad Self: How to Bounce Back from a Personal Crisis, following the lecture.

Comedian David Koechner, April 12 (10 p.m., Stephens Auditorium)

David Koechner is best known as Champ Kind in the Anchorman films and Todd Packer on NBC's The Office. He has performed with the casts of Second City Theater and Saturday Night Live. His other film credits include Waiting, Out Cold, Talladega Nights, Get Smart, Extract and Thank You for Smoking.

"That Horse has Stripes! How Zoos and Veterinarians are Helping to Save Wildlife," Joe Flanagan, April 21 (7 p.m., MU Great Hall)

ISU alum Joe Flanagan is chief veterinarian at the Houston Zoo, which is dedicated to conserving endangered species. At the zoo, he is responsible for the health of 6,000 animals, from invertebrates to great apes. His other conservation activities include providing medical care to sea turtles at the National Marine Fisheries Service, advising staff at the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, and extensive work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.