Scholars

  • Valerio Amoretti is a literary scholar who studies how reading and writing affect our mind and brain. In particular, Valerio draws from contemporary object-relations psychoanalysis to understand the role that literature and narrative play in enabling long-term psychic change and creativity. As a Presidential Scholar, Valerio explores the neural basis for these processes.

    Valerio’s background includes training in both science and the humanities. After studying chemistry and training in a molecular neuroscience lab at UCL, Valerio worked for the UK’s National Health Service in clinical research and outreach. He holds graduate degrees in psychoanalytic psychology from the Anna Freud Centre and in literary studies from the University of York. Valerio received his PhD in 2019 from Columbia University's Department of English and Comparative Literature, with his dissertation focusing on the psychic work involved in reading modernist fiction.

  • Raphaël Millière is a philosopher interested in the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. Raphaël received his PhD in 2020 from the University of Oxford, where he developed a pluralist account of self-consciousness grounded in novel empirical evidence collected in collaboration with neuroscientists. As a Presidential Scholar, he investigates theoretical and empirical issues regarding spatial self-representation using virtual reality. He is also interested in the human-like capacities of artificial deep neural networks, with a particular focus on the semantic competence of neural language models. Raphaël is the 2020 Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience.

  • Raphael Gerraty is a neuroscientist interested in computational and philosophical models of representation in the brain. He received his PhD in psychology at Columbia in 2018, where he researched the role of large-scale brain network dynamics in reward learning. His current work explores whether and how our brains might make use of probability to represent uncertainty. He is developing artificial neural network models of our visual system that use probabilistic inference to solve object recognition tasks. In parallel, he is working towards an interdisciplinary framework for thinking about neural representation, with a particular focus on the representation of uncertainty. 

  • Nori Jacoby studies how different cultures use music and sound to make sense of the world around them. Through his research, Nori attempts to create new paradigms for scientific analysis that incorporate techniques from neuroscience, anthropology, and ethnomusicology, particularly in the study of rhythm perception. He earned a PhD in computational neuroscience from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and did postdoctoral research in computational audition at MIT. Dr. Jacoby currently leads the Research Group in Computational Auditory Perception at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany. 

  • Noam Zerubavel is a social and neural scientist interested in understanding human relationships and group interactions. Dr. Zerubavel investigates the organizing sociological principles, psychological processes, and neural mechanisms of the complex dynamics in social networks. His recent neuroimaging work on affective reciprocity postulates that brain activity might predict future friendships. He completed his PhD in psychology with Professor Kevin Ochsner and postdoctoral training in social network analysis with Professor Peter Bearman at Columbia University. Noam completed the PSSN program in June 2020 and is now a postdoctoral research scholar in the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) at Columbia University. 

  • Matthew Sachs is a neuroscientist whose research focuses on understanding the neural and behavioral mechanisms involved in emotions and feeling in response to music. He received his PhD from the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute, directed by Dr. Antonio Damasio, and his B.A. from Harvard University. Matthew’s projects involve applying data-driven, multivariate models to capture the patterns of neural activity that accompany uniquely human experiences with music, such as feelings of chills, pleasurable sadness, and nostalgia. Matthew is the 2019 Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience.

  • Matteo Farinella is a neuroscientist and cartoonist who studies the use of comics and other visual narratives in science communication. Working with science journalists, educators, and cognitive neuroscientists, he aims to understand how these tools may affect the public perception of science and increase scientific literacy. He received a PhD in neuroscience from University College London in 2013. 

    Matteo is the author of two graphic novels and a children's book: The Senses (Nobrow, 2017), Neurocomic(Nobrow, 2013), and Cervellopoli (Editoriale Scienza 2017). He has worked with universities and educational institutions around the world to make science more accessible. His illustrations won the NSF Science Visualization Challenge (2015), and have been featured in exhibitions such as the Society of Illustrators Comics and Cartoon Art Annual Exhibition (2015) and STEAM Within the Panels at the AAAS Art Gallery (2017).

    Matteo concluded his tenure as a Presidential Scholar in 2019. He is now the scientific multimedia producer at Columbia University's Zuckerman Institute, where he makes the latest neuroscience research more accessible to the wider public, with illustrations, animations, and other visuals.

    Please visit cartoonscience.org to find out more about Matteo's efforts to increase scientific literacy.

  • Lan Li is a historian of the body and filmmaker. Li received her PhD in History, Anthropology, and Science Technology and Society Studies from MIT in 2016. There, she explored a comparative history of body mapping among practitioners in China and Britain throughout the twentieth century. Lan is also a filmmaker, producing short films about medicine and health among immigrant communities in the United States. During her free time, Lan plays the guzheng, a 21-stringed Chinese zither. 

    As a Presidential Scholar, Lan focused on developing a comparative history of numbness. She was particularly interested in how representations of peripheral sensation through hand-drawn maps cohered and conflicted with different perceptions of health and disease. Her collaborations included projects on nerve damage, aging, and pain. Dr. Li is an assistant professor in the Department of History and the Medical Humanities Program at Rice University. 

  • Julia Hyland Bruno is an ethologist interested in behavioral development, with a particular focus on social animals, such as songbirds or humans, that learn how to communicate with one another. Julia received her PhD in biopsychology and behavioral neuroscience from the City University of New York, where she studied the rhythmic patterning of zebra finch vocal learning. As a Presidential Scholar, Julia explores how patterns of communication among individuals influence social organization.

  • Federica Coppola is a criminal lawyer specializing in neurolaw. Her work uses psychological and neuroscientific knowledge about the role of emotions in moral decision-making and social behavior to inform changes in criminal law doctrines, theories of punishment, and correctional interventions. Her main focus is to use this branch of scientific findings to reform restrictive and retributive approaches to criminal violence and redirect criminal justice towards social rehabilitation. She has published articles and book chapters on criminal culpability, excuse doctrines, punishment, as well as on the use of neuroscientific tools for forensic purposes. Her latest book, The Emotional Brain and the Guilty Mind: Novel Paradigms of Culpability and Punishment, is out now.

    Federica earned a JD from the University of Bologna Law School in 2010, an LLM in Comparative, European, and International Laws from the European University Institute in 2014, and 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 the Penn Center for Neuroscience and Society. She has taught at the University of Pavia’s School of Law and Neuroscience, University of Passau Law School, and Columbia Law School. Prior to joining academia, Federica worked as a criminal defense attorney on cases involving crimes against the person and crimes against public administration. In 2021, Federica joined the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security, and Law as a senior researcher in the Department of Criminal Law. 

    Federica is the 2017 Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience.

  • David Barack is a neuroscientist and philosopher. His neuroscientific investigations target the neural circuits of foraging decisions in humans and non-human 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 to learn about states of the world. David’s philosophical work explores the conceptual foundations of cognitive neuroscience, especially the underlying dynamical basis for cognition, and the foraging foundations of reasoning. David received his PhD in philosophy from Duke University, worked as a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania, and matriculated to Columbia as a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience. David is now a postdoc in neuroscience working under the tutelage of Dr. Daniel Salzman as well as a visiting scholar in philosophy at Penn. He is also an 2019 K99/R00 Awardee through the NIH BRAIN Initiative.

  • Clare McCormack is a researcher whose work focuses on women's psychological health in pregnancy and the peripartum, and how these experiences are affected by maternal stress and trauma. She received her PhD in public health in 2016 from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, where she studied alcohol use during pregnancy and infant cognitive development. Clare is the 2018 Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience.

  • Ann-Sophie Barwich is a philosopher and historian of science, with a specialization in biology and chemistry. Her research examines the current and past developments in olfactory research and the epistemic, empirical, and social factors that define ongoing science in laboratories studying olfaction. She is the author of Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind (Harvard University Press, 2020). Ann received her PhD from the Center for the Study of Life Sciences (Egenis) at the University of Exeter before taking on a postdoctoral fellowship at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research. She is an assistant professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she divides her time between the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine and the Cognitive Science Program.

  • Andrew Goldman studies the cognition and neuroscience of musical improvisation, drawing on his training as a concert pianist and composer. Andrew's experiments explore how degrees of improvisation experience in musicians and dancers affect sound perception and motor planning. His research helps define what improvisation is, how people learn to do it, and the role improvisation plays in daily life. Andrew received his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2015. After completing the PSSN program in 2017, he became a postdoctoral associate in the Music, Cognition, and the Brain Initiative at Western University, Canada (2018-20) and is visiting assistant professor of music in Music Theory at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

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