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 will explore 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 completed his doctorate in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia in 2019, with a dissertation on the psychic work involved in reading modernist fiction.

  • Raphael Milliere is a philosopher interested in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of cognitive science, with a particular focus on self-consciousness and self-representation. Raphael 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 will use virtual reality to investigate theoretical and empirical questions regarding spatial self-representation. Raphael 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 is focused on whether and how our brains might make use of probability to represent uncertainty. He is developing artificial neural network models of our visual system which 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.

  • 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, Dr. Hyland Bruno explores how patterns of communication among individuals influence social organization.

  • Federica Coppola is a criminal lawyer specializing in neurolaw. Federica investigates how findings from social and affective neuroscience might be used to reform criminal law and justice. She plans to utilize neuroscientific insights into emotions and prosocial behavior to inform changes in criminal law doctrines, theories of punishment and correctional interventions, with a special focus on perpetrators with histories of violence.

    Federica earned a JD summa cum laude from University of Bologna Law School in 2010 and an LLM in Comparative, European, and International Laws from the European University Institute in 2014 before pursuing her PhD. 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 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 about the world. David’s philosophical work explores the conceptual foundations of cognitive neuroscience, especially the underlying dynamical basis for cognition. David received his PhD in philosophy from Duke University and worked as a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Salzman Lab at Columbia.

  • Clare McCormack is a researcher whose work focuses on women's psychological health in pregnancy and the peri-partum, 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 from 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. He is currently a postdoctoral associate in the Music, Cognition, and the Brain Initiative at Western University, Canada.

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