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.

The application portal for the 2018 Presidential Scholars Program is now open. Please visit the 2018 Scholars Application information page for additional details.

Jump to:
2015 Scholars
2016 Scholars
2017 Scholars



Federica Coppola is a criminal lawyer specializing in neurolaw. As a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, she will investigate how findings from social and affective neuroscience about the role of emotions in prosocial behavior might be used to inform criminal justice approaches and correctional interventions, with special focus on offenders with socioaffective impairments.  Federica received a PhD in Law from the European University Institute in 2017. In her doctoral dissertation, she developed a general theory of culpability informed by neuroscientific insights into emotions, moral decision-making and antisocial behavior. In 2016, she was a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and at the Penn Center for Neuroscience and Society. She has been a lecturer at the School of Law and Neuroscience at the University of Pavia, as well as a guest lecturer in criminology at the University of Passau Law School. Federica is the first Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience.


Noam Zerubavel is a social and neural scientist. He is broadly interested in understanding the building blocks of human relationships and group life. As a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Noam will investigate the organizing sociological principles, psychological processes, and neural mechanisms that engender social ties and shape their network structure. This line of research integrates theories and methods from sociology, social psychology, and cognitive neuroscience to investigate questions that keep him up at night. For example, How do our brains track group members’ status? Why is dyadic liking typically—but not always—reciprocated?  How can we leverage neuroimaging techniques to better predict individuals’ unique patterns of interpersonal attraction?  Noam completed his PhD in psychology with Kevin Ochsner and postdoctoral training in social network analysis with Peter Bearman at Columbia University.



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 | Website:

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 PhD 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


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 GoldmanAndrew 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

Comments are closed