• Valerio Amoretti is a literary scholar who explores how reading and writing impact our minds and brains. He uses contemporary object-relations psychoanalysis to understand how literature and storytelling can lead to long-term psychic changes and creativity. From 2020 to 2023, Valerio conducted research at Columbia University as a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, investigating the brain's role in these processes. 

    Now, Valerio works as a Lecturer in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and will teach the "The Mind Between Literature and the Brain" seminar in Fall 2023. His educational background spans both science and the humanities. He began with chemistry and worked in a molecular neuroscience lab at University College London, later contributing to clinical research and outreach for the UK's National Health Service. He holds graduate degrees in psychoanalytic psychology from the Anna Freud Centre and in literary studies from the University of York. In 2019, he earned his PhD from Columbia University with a dissertation focusing on the psychic aspects of reading modernist fiction.

  • Raphaël Millière is a philosopher who studies the philosophy of artificial intelligence, the mind, and cognitive science. He earned his PhD in 2020 from the University of Oxford, where he focused on self-representation. As a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, he spent three years researching how people perceive themselves in virtual reality, exploring both theoretical and empirical aspects of spatial self-representation. Raphaël is also interested in understanding the strengths and limitations of deep artificial neural networks, especially in the context of creating convincing text and images. Today, he is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Philosophy at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

    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 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. Raphael completed the PSSN program in 2021 and joined Cohen Veterans Bioscience as a senior data analyst. 

  • Paul Linton is a neuroscientist and philosopher specializing in 3D vision. He received his PhD in 2021 from the Center for Applied Vision Research, City, University of London, where his research challenged our understanding of distance perception by showing the visual system is unable to triangulate distance using the two eyes. He was also part of the DeepFocus team at Meta Reality Labs. Paul is the author of The Perception and Cognition of Visual Space (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Before vision science, he was a stipendiary lecturer in law at St Hilda’s College, Oxford University, and a teaching fellow in philosophy at University College London. As a Presidential Scholar, Paul will develop his new two-stage theory of 3D vision using the latest techniques in machine learning and fMRI in the hope of explaining how we experience the 3D world. 

    Paul Linton is a 2022-23 Fellow of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University. 

  • 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. He investigates the organizing sociological principles, psychological processes, and neural mechanisms of the complex dynamics in social networks. 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 three-year PSSN program in 2020 and now works as a data science and product analytics manager at Gtmhub, a company developing measurable goal-setting software for organizations, teams, and individuals. 

  • Nedah Nemati researches the role of lived experience in neuroscientific experimentation and the influence of such experience in characterizing behavioral and cognitive concepts. Her doctoral work parlayed this interest into an examination of how behavioral neurobiologists have drawn from many kinds of experiences to develop and understand the concept of ‘sleep’. This scholarship is informed by Nedah’s prior laboratory research on the relationship between circadian rhythms and addiction in rodents at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), and on sleep deprivation and death in Drosophila melanogaster (common fruit fly) at Harvard Medical School. She received philosophical training at Millsaps College (BSc), earned her MSc in biological sciences at UMMC, and received a PhD in history and philosophy of science from the University of Pittsburgh.   

    As a Presidential Scholar, Nedah will draw from historical and phenomenological traditions to characterize an account of lived experience in neuroscience and to develop a philosophy and science of behavior in neuroscience - one that includes what should count as a behavior. Her investigations reflect a longstanding interest in the potential and limitations of using neuroscience to impart information about the mind. By characterizing the role of lived experience in scientific practices, Nedah’s project will aim to impart greater clarity in scientific uses of behavioral concepts and their clinical translation. Her interests also include the use of AI in neuroscience, intersections of neuroscience and medicine, interrogating the aims of science, and the metaphysics of science. Nedah is the 2022 Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience

  • Matthew Sachs is a neuroscientist whose research focuses on understanding the neural and behavioral mechanisms involved in emotions and feelings 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. He is the 2019 Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience. Matthew completed the PSSN program in 2022. His research project involved 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. He currently works for Spotify where he conducts research as a data scientist.

  • 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 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. She is an assistant professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

  • Julia Hyland Bruno is an ethologist with a keen interest in the behavioral development of social animals, focusing on species like songbirds and humans that learn to communicate. She earned her PhD in biopsychology and behavioral neuroscience from the City University of New York, where her research delved into the rhythmic patterns of vocal learning in zebra finches.

    Julia is a graduate of the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience program, having completed it in 2022. Her research project in this program investigated how communication patterns among individuals shape social organization. 

    Currently, Julia holds the position of Assistant Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Her work continues to explore the fascinating world of animal and human behavior, shedding light on how we learn to interact and communicate with each other.

  • Federica Coppola is a criminal lawyer who specializes in neurolaw. She conducted research as a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience from 2017 to 2020. Her project focused on using psychology and neuroscience to understand how emotions impact moral decision-making and social behavior. She aimed to use this scientific knowledge to improve criminal law, theories of punishment, and correctional methods. Her main goal was to shift the focus from punitive approaches to criminal violence and instead emphasize social rehabilitation in the criminal justice system.

    She has authored articles and chapters on topics like criminal culpability, excuse doctrines, and the use of neuroscience in law. Her book, "The Emotional Brain and the Guilty Mind," introduces new culpability concepts. She also co-edited "Social Rehabilitation and Criminal Justice."

    Federica holds a JD, LLM, and a PhD in law, focusing on a culpability theory informed by neuroscience. She previously worked as a criminal defense attorney and, in 2021, joined the Max Planck Institute for Crime, Security, and Law as a senior researcher. She is now an Assistant Professor of Law at IE Law School in Madrid, Spain, while maintaining her affiliation with the Max Planck Institute as a research affiliate.

    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 research associate at Platt Labs. He is also a 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. She is the 2018 Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience. Clare joined the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in 2022 as a research assistant professor. 

  • 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 assistant professor of music theory and cognitive science at Indiana University Bloomington.

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