Stuart Firestein is the former Chair of Columbia University's Department of Biological Sciences where his laboratory studies the vertebrate olfactory system, possibly the best chemical detector on the face of the planet. Aside from its molecular detection capabilities, the olfactory system serves as a model for investigating general principles and mechanisms of signaling and perception in the brain. His laboratory seeks to answer that fundamental human question: How do I smell?
Dedicated to promoting the accessibility of science to a public audience, Firestein serves as an advisor for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s program for the Public Understanding of Science. Recently he was awarded the 2011 Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award for excellence in scholarship and teaching. He is a Fellow of the AAAS, an Alfred Sloan Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow. At Columbia, he is on the Advisory boards of the Center for Science and Society (CSS) and the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience –both centers for interdisciplinary work between the sciences and the humanities. His book on the workings of science for a general audience called Ignorance, How it Drives Science was released by Oxford University Press in 2012. His new book, Failure: Why Science is So Successful, appeared in October 2015. They have been translated into 10 languages.
Stuart Firestein is a member of the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience Advisory Committee and a former faculty mentor of Ann-Sophie Barwich (2015-18).