The Presidential Scholars are the heart of an experiment in working across disciplines to foster a new culture of interdisciplinary inquiry across the human, social, and natural sciences, and help to break down the barriers between the different schools, institutes and campuses within Columbia University.

Scholars are selected through a competitive application process. Ideal postdoctoral candidates will be original and creative scholars who have completed a doctoral-level degree within the previous five years. They will have a background either in neuroscience with a deep knowledge of another discipline in the arts, humanities, or social sciences, or they will have a background in the arts, humanities, or social sciences and a critical understanding of neuroscience. Integral to the assessment of candidates is an innovative proposal for an interdisciplinary research project that can be carried out in the three years of the scholarship.  Scholars will be supported by (at least) two mentors from the Columbia/Barnard faculty – each with expertise in an area of the Scholar’s research focus.

 Applications for the 2017 Presidential Scholars Program are closed.  Please check back for notifications about the 2018 call for applications, or sign up for updates.


2016 Scholars

Matteo_Farinella_presidential_scholars_pssnMatteo Farinella is a neuroscientist, cartoonist and illustrator. After completing a PhD in neuroscience at University College London in 2013, Matteo has been creating comics and illustrations to make science accessible to a wider audience. He is the author of Neurocomic (Nobrow 2013) a scientific graphic novel published with the support of the Wellcome Trust, and he has collaborated with universities and educational institutions to visualize academic research. As a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Matteo will investigate the role of ‘visual narratives’ in science communication. Working with science journalists, educators and cognitive neuroscientists, his project aims to understand how these tools may affect the public perception of science and increase scientific literacy.

Contact: | Twitter: @matteofarinella

Nori_Jacoby_presidential_scholars_PSSNNori Jacoby is a computational neuroscientist specializing in audition. His research examines auditory perception from a cross-cultural perspective using computational and experimental methods. Additional interests include studying rhythmic entrainment in ensemble synchronization and the application of machine-learning techniques to model aspects of musical syntax. He received his Ph.D. from the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was a postdoc at Josh McDermott’s Computational Audition Lab in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at MIT, and a visiting postdoctoral researcher at Tom Griffith’s Computational Cognitive Science Lab at UC Berkeley. Nori is also active as a composer/performer, and has written music for various ensembles including Mongolian overtone singers. In 2009, he released a CD with his band Tafillalt on John Zorn’s Radical Jewish Culture Label, Tzadik.

Contact: | Website:

Lan_Li_presidential_scholars_PSSNLan A. Li is a historian of the body and filmmaker.  She received her PhD in Science Technology and Society Studies from the HASTS program at MIT.  There, she explored a comparative history of body mapping among practitioners in China and Britain throughout the 20th century.  Lan is particularly interested in how representations of peripheral sensation through hand-drawn maps cohered and conflicted with different understandings of health and disease.  As a documentary filmmaker, Lan has also collaborated with integrative practitioners in India, Brazil, and China.  She seeks to expand these collaborations across disciplinary and geographic boundaries.  Lan is an alumna of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, and as a new Scholar in the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience program, will take on a comparative history of numbness.

Contact: | Website: | CV

2015 Scholars

david_barack_presidential_scholars_society_neuroscienceDavid Barack is a neuroscientist and philosopher. His neuroscientific investigations target the neural circuits of foraging decisions in humans and nonhuman primates. He is particularly interested in how primates search for information, how information is encoded in the brain independently of reward, and how information guides inferences about the world. His philosophical research regards the conceptual foundations of cognitive neuroscience, especially the underlying dynamical basis for cognition. He is also interested in how foraging models from biology might provide novel normative grounds for reasoning and whether foraging models can adequately describe how primates reason in complex environments. David completed his PhD in philosophy in 2014 while at Duke University and was a postdoctoral researcher in the departments of neuroscience and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.


pssn_presidential_scholars_society_neuroscience_Ann_Sophie_BarwichAnn-Sophie Barwich is a philosopher and historian of science with specialization in biology and chemistry. Her work is on current and past developments in olfactory research. She received her PhD at Exeter (Egenis/The Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences) under the supervision of John Dupré in 2013, before taking up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research. Her thesis examined classification and modeling strategies through which scientists have linked odors to a material basis (botanical, chemical, molecular-biological, neurophysiological), and her postdoctoral project concerned the role of methodology in measurement and wet-lab discovery. As a new Scholar in the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience program, she will focus on the role of ‘research routines’ in scientific training and practice.

Contact: | Twitter: @smellosopher | Website:


Andrew Goldman is a pianist, composer, and cognitive scientist from San Diego, CA.  Andrew completed his PhD in 2015 at the University of Cambridge with Prof. Ian Cross on the cognition of musical improvisation. He performs regularly as a classical pianist in solo and chamber music settings. His composition activities are currently focused on songwriting.  Andrew’s original one-act musical entitled “Science! The Musical” was premiered in Cambridge, UK in 2014. Andrew joins the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience program to conduct research that incorporates neuroscientific methods and theories into research on the cognition of musical improvisation.


Contact: | CV

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