Author Archive for Caroline Surman

New Course Combines Art and Engineering

COMS W4995-008 Interactive Stories with AR/AI, taught by Amir Baradaran is open to undergraduate and graduate students across the university.

Students will experiment with the concept of art-based creative research where artists and engineers come together to create interactive stories using augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI).  This class is working towards a multi-layered and multi-purpose software that serves as a new platform for storytellers to streamline the process of writing a multidimensional script that automatically generates animations for interactive (AI-enabled) stories inside AR platforms. The software is in its beta version and is currently being used to create two of Amir Baradaran’s upcoming award-winning public art installations.

To learn more and enroll in the course, please visit Vergil.

Center for Science and Society 2017-2018 Newsletter

The Center for Science and Society is pleased to present its End of Year Newsletter which includes information and reviews about Center activities in the 2018-2019 academic year and offers a preview of upcoming events in Fall 2018.

The newsletter and our digital archive are available online. Please visit MailChimp to sign up for our newsletters.

Call for Proposals: Center for Science and Society Course Development Grants

Eligibility: Core Lecturers and tenured or tenure-track faculty at Columbia University (including Barnard College) in any discipline.

Amount: $3,000 research allowance to be used for the development and teaching of the course over the following two years.

Deadline: Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis but should be submitted no later than September 28, 2018.

For more information, see the Call for Proposals.

The Center for Science and Society at Columbia University invites proposals for the development of new undergraduate and graduate curricular offerings in the study of science and society. The aim is to introduce courses that can be offered within current departmental structures, or as part of already-existing majors and concentrations, that bring significant discussion of science and society into these offerings. This is the fifth round of grants, and information on the courses funded in the previous rounds can be found at

In order to apply, please complete the Call for Proposals form and submit it, along with a one-page proposal and a full CV for each instructor, to Melinda Miller, Associate Director, The Center for Science and Society,

Public Outreach Grants Awarded

The Center for Science and Society is pleased to award its first cycle of public outreach grants. These grants fund projects that have one or more of the following aims:

— Help boost public understanding of societal concerns surrounding science, technology, or medicine;

— Teach K-12 students about current issues in science and society; or

— Work with communities to respond to issues that affect or are affected by science.

Public outreach grants were open to all full-time employees and students at Columbia University, Teachers College, and Barnard College, including faculty, postdocs, researchers, and administrators. Out of the many qualified applications, the following four projects have been selected for funding:

Formerly Incarcerated Reintegration Science Training (FIRST) Program led by Christopher Medina-Kirchner (PhD Student in Psychology). The program trains formerly incarcerated students in conducting scientific research that addresses social justice issues. Read our feature article about Christopher’s project.

— Colorant Sustainability Workshop led by Naomi Rosenkranz (Project Manager, Making and Knowing Project) and Sumeyye Yar (Science Outreach Coordinator, Genspace). Workshops teach the public about the history and chemistry of natural dyes through hands-on experiments.

— For the Daughters of Harlem: Working in Sound led by Lucie Vagnerova (Core Lecturer in Music Humanities) and Ellie M. Hisama (Professor of Music). Geared towards young women, the workshop explores the social and cultural dimensions of science through digital music technology and audio production training.

— People Doing Interesting Stuff podcast led by Samuel Roberts (Associate Professor of History and Sociomedical Sciences). The podcast offers advanced public health and drug policy discussion in an accessible and jargon-free format.

Naomi Rosenkranz, Sumeyye Yar, Lucie Vagnerova, Ellie M. Hisama, Samuel Roberts, and Christopher Medina-Kirchner


Public Outreach Spotlight: Christopher Medina-Kirchner

2017-2018 has been a busy and successful academic year for the Center for Science and Society. This summer, we are producing a short newsletter series to celebrate and share all that we have accomplished! We hope you enjoyed our first issue on seed grants and our news article about Awardee Ben Mylius. Our second issue highlighted the Research Cluster for Science and Subjectivity (RCSS) and our news article featured RCCS undergraduate students Neci Whye and Ewoma Ogbaudu who created the course “Marginalization in Medicine.”

In this third issue, you learn about our first cycle of public outreach grants. CSS awarded four grants to Columbia and Barnard affiliates working on projects that help to increase public understanding and/or address societal concerns surrounding science, technology, or medicine. Hear more from Awardee Christopher Medina-Kirchner below and view our news article announcing the other public outreach projects.

Project Inspiration

Christopher Medina-Kirchner 

I am currently a PhD student in Columbia’s Psychology Department. However, my past would not necessarily lead you to think this achievement would be part of my journey. See, I have been in prison. I pursued an academic path upon release because my felony conviction prevented me from obtaining meaningful employment. School became the only viable option for a decent life. Unfortunately, my excitement after gaining acceptance into the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was cut short when I was denied campus housing due to my record. To make matters worse, when trying to make friends on campus, the chunky electronic ankle monitor seemed to make people suspicious of me. I felt like a social pariah bearing a life sentence that transcended the prison walls.

Campus life was distressing until my acceptance into the University of Wisconsin’s McNair Scholars program. This program prepares underrepresented students for doctoral studies through involvement in scientific research. Since the program provided a cost of living stipend, I no longer had to spend hours applying for jobs only to be rejected because of my record. This allowed me to spend my time studying with fellow McNair Scholars. I met and bonded with another formerly incarcerated student. I finally found a campus community and had the emotional support I needed to thrive academically.

McNair Scholars represent a variety of disciplines. Through our discussions, I explored multiple perspectives and discovered the value of interdisciplinary collaboration and thinking. It became clear to me that when a student’s point of view is rooted in only one discipline aspects of a topic may be overlooked. By combining viewpoints, topics can be discussed on multiple levels, leading to a deeper understanding than could be achieved with a narrower approach. Through my newfound sense of community, financial stability, and interdisciplinary research skills, I prospered in my undergraduate studies, eventually gaining acceptance to Columbia’s Psychology PhD program. If other formerly incarcerated students were afforded similar opportunities to the McNair Scholars program, they too would thrive academically. Filling this need, I designed a science research program similar to McNair, but uniquely dedicated to meeting the needs of formerly incarcerated students.

The Project

Members of the FIRST teaching and mentoring team.

The Formerly Incarcerated Reintegration Science Training (FIRST) program helps integrate formerly incarcerated students into graduate school. This is accomplished by providing a sense of community to program participants while they are trained to conduct scientific research and prepare for a career in academia. Although participants come from diverse fields, all research projects have a social justice focus.

While in the program, participants are provided with a multitude of resources and mechanisms to assist in their professional development. Formerly incarcerated mentors help students design their projects, develop career goals, build professional networks, while also providing advice and encouragement. Weekly workshops help participants improve their research and writing skills. As an incentive for completing the program, stipends are provided. Finally, participants will present their research at the FIRST Annual Program Symposium, gaining valuable experience in science dissemination.


I am incredibly grateful for the funding provided by the Center for Science and Society. Without this, the FIRST program would not be possible. I’m sure there are other formerly incarcerated students currently experiencing struggles similar to those I had. By providing community and a clear pathway to graduate school, we can drastically improve their lives.

Although this program was designed for the formerly incarcerated, it could be expanded to individuals currently in prison. Prisoners could start graduate school immediately upon release, creating a prison to graduate school pipeline. Furthermore, by increasing the representation and successes of formerly incarcerated individuals on campus, we can create a more inclusive university environment for the ones already there. I’m also excited at the possibility of research collaborations amongst the program participants. They come from various backgrounds including social work, communication, social psychology, and neuropsychopharmacology. Each project will be informed by perspectives from multiple disciplines.

If you would like provide support or have suggestions for the FIRST program, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

Christopher Medina-Kirchner

Christopher Medina-Kirchner is a doctoral student in the Neuropsychopharmacology Lab exploring how misinformation about the neurological effects of drug use contributes to mass incarceration.

Interested in supporting Christopher or our other fantastic public outreach grant awardees? Visit our donation page or feel free to contact us.

Call for Papers – Renaissance Society of America

The “Early Modern Technologies of Art Panel,” proposed at the Renaissance Society of America’s 2019 conference in Toronto is issuing a call for papers.

Can technologies of art enable us to reconsider the early modern interactions between “local” and the “global?” Seeking to answer this question, the proposed panel takes up art technology as a hermeneutic tool to analyze production of art in the early modern world. In this period, technologies of art involved specialized and often localized practices that required systematic application of techniques, materials, and tools that did not travel as readily as the objects they helped to generate. Although embedded in cultural objects, artworks and materials exchanged across the Silk Road and the Oceanic networks of trade, art technologies were seldom known to those who acquired these objects of cross-cultural exchange. In contrast to the mobility of inimitable artifacts and images technologies were often intangible and unknown, which heightened the foreignness and desirability of objects produced with their application. Attempting to recreate foreign objects using local technologies, practitioners across Europe, Near East, Asia, and the Americas made all kinds of hybrid things—things that were neither local nor foreign, but uniquely, early modern.

Papers can investigate any subject, artist/practitioner or cultural context that throws light on how art technologies can expand and enrich our understanding of the early modern world.

To apply, please send your 150-word abstracts, along with a title, keywords, and a CV (300 words maximum and not in prose) to Rajarshi Sengupta and Ivana Vranic by August 5, 2018. For additional information, please view the Call for Papers.

Job Opportunity: Postdoctoral Position, Bureau des Longitudes

A one year position studying scientific instruments the Bureau des Longitudes (1795-1932): social and material history is accepting applications.

Responsibilities include:

1) General study of scientific instruments designed, manufactured, distributed under the direction of the Bureau des Longitudes between 1795 and 1932. This study will be based on the exploitation of the minutes of the transcripts of that institution, as well as research in various Archives (Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris Observatory, Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service of the Navy, National Geographic Institute, and forestry, etc.).

2) Targeted study of one or two musicals representative of the Office of Longitudes. This will replenish the finest possible physical and social history of these instruments focusing particularly on their manufacturers, their uses and adaptations by actors and/or diverse communities, and their diffusion.

3) Develop recovery activities around the scientific instruments of the Bureau des Longitudes.

This post-doctorate will be part of the ANR project “The Bureau des Longitudes (1795-1932): the French Revolution to the Third Republic.”  The successful candidate will work closely with researchers of the project.


– Hold a doctorate in history of science and technology (mathematical and astronomical sciences 19th – 20th centuries);

– Have a good knowledge and taste of archival research;

– Master the digital tools (spreadsheets, databases, etc.);

– Have a good command of the French language.

Applications must include a letter of motivation, a CV, and 1-2 significant publication samples. Deadline for applications is 20 September 2018. After the selection of records, a personal interview will be held with the candidates (the interview will take place at a distance). The start date is 1 January 2019.

Application files must be sent to and

Books by Founding Director Pamela Smith Reissued

Pamela Smith’s The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution has just been reissued in paperback and electronic editions. Her The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire was also recently published in a second paperback and electronic edition with a new preface by the author.

Pamela Smith is the Founding Director of the Center for Science and Society as well as the Seth Low Professor of History.

Research Cluster Spotlight: Science and Subjectivity

2017-2018 has been a busy and successful academic year for the Center for Science and Society. This summer, we are producing a short newsletter series to celebrate and share all that we have accomplished! We hope you enjoyed our first issue on seed grants and our news article about Awardee Ben Mylius. Today, we are highlighting the work of the Research Cluster for Science and Subjectivity (RCSS), one of the research clusters that comprise the heart of the Center.  

Below, RCCS undergraduate students Neci Whye (Columbia College ’18) and Ewoma Ogbaudu (Columbia College ’18) share their experience creating a course entitled Marginalization in Medicine: A Practical Understanding of the Implications of Race on Health.

The Course

This semester we were blessed with the opportunity to expand the Sunday Dinner Series into much more. While this has been in the works for the past year and a half, this semester we finally saw the Marginalization in Medicine course and the conference of the same name come to fruition.

The course focuses on the health issues that underrepresented communities face and creates a space to facilitate and encourage discussion on how to address them. Topics include drug policy and substance abuse politics; LGBT health in communities of color; and mental health and social stigma. Over the past year, we have developed the syllabus, gone through revisions, conducted research, coordinated with Harlem community organizations, and found faculty advisors. Marginalization in Medicine: A Practical Understanding of the Implications of Race on Health is currently taught by Dr. Rishi Goyal in the Medicine, Literature, and Society major of at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Watching this course come to life has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had, and would not have been possible without the guidance and support of Dr. Pollack and the Center for Science and Society.

Community organization panel with participants from Harlem United, Harlem Arts Alliance, Gay Health Advocacy Project, and The Corner Project.

Our course is unique for several reasons. It follows in the footsteps of a previous course coming out of the Research Cluster for Science and Subjectivity: Life at the End of Life. We found it necessary that the course includes a service learning component, requiring students to go out into the community and volunteer so they can benefit from practical work while applying the concepts learned in class to benefit the Harlem community. This initiative has allowed us to partner with incredible community organizations such as the Harlem Family Institute, which aims to improve the mental health of black and brown kids; Hip-Hop Public Health, which teaches kids in Harlem about a number of health topics; and Holyrood Episcopal Church/Iglesia Santa Cruz which is a sanctuary church that provides support for those in immediate danger of deportation.

Our students are working to connect people of color in the Harlem community with health professionals and resources to improve their health in hopes of building the community’s trust in health professionals and in us as Columbia students. This aspect is particularly important to me considering the lack of trust communities of color have in the healthcare system. Black patients consistently receive insufficient and oftentimes negligent treatment in comparison to their white counterparts. Repeated histories of black exploitation and experimentation within the healthcare system are supported by common misconceptions that black people do not experience pain. While we discuss these issues in class, the volunteering component provides students the agency to practically engage with and address them within the greater Harlem community.

Additionally, this course is significant in that we as students were able to advocate for and fill a spot we thought was missing in our education. We started our work because we realized these conversations were not being had in the pre-medical and science curriculums. The feedback from other students has been overwhelmingly positive thus far and we look forward to finishing the semester strong!

The Conference

Conference attendees with the “Marginalization in Medicine” T-shirts after the networking mixer.

The Marginalization in Medicine Conference was an all-day conference that aimed to address the social determinants of health, facilitate engaging discussions as related to inequalities in the current healthcare system, and provide students with opportunities to establish relationships with medical school admission representatives. We also hoped to improve the opportunities for pre-medical students of color in fields where they are underrepresented. One of many ways to address these issues is through empowering students of color that are interested in becoming health professionals and increasing awareness on these topics. I believe that we were able to accomplish these goals through the conference.

We were fortunate to assemble an incredible group of people to speak for this event. Dr. Georges Benjamin, the Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, was our keynote speaker. Other guest speakers included Dr. Olajide Williams, the founder of Hip Hop Public Health, the Chief of Staff of Neurology, and the Director of Acute Services at Columbia University; Dr. Rishi Goyal, Assistant Professor of Medicine and head of the Medicine, Literature, and Society major at Columbia; Dr. Winfred Tovar, the founder of MIMSI International; and Dr. Tawandra Rowell-Cunsolo, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Science at Columbia. Additionally, we had an overdose training workshop, medical students panel, community organization panel, dean’s admissions panel, and a panel featuring the Susan Smith McKinney Steward Medical Society.

These sessions offered student attendees diverse perspectives from various medical fields. Overall, the conference successfully met its goals, indicated by the overwhelmingly positive reviews received. 80% of students who attended and filled out the post-conference survey said they had not previously attended a conference of this nature that addressed these topics. All participants who filled out the survey found the conference necessary. We have included some quotes from attendees below:

“I really enjoyed the Overdose Intervention Training, I thought it was nice that it was more interactive than a traditional panel but just as informative even beyond the technical details we learned.

“It was very useful and inspiring for me, being a woman and a minority. I was inspired to continue along my journey towards medicine and to look at the field from a public health perspective.”

“I took a lot away from it, I hope to work with marginalized communities and the conference showed me ways to do that. For example, with Dr. Williams I saw how he was able to blend two passions of his together to positively impact his community. Also, the conference allowed for moments of self- reflection and to learn how the institutions around us also contribute to these disparities in medicine.”

We would like to take this time to thank everyone who made these two incredible projects come to life. It would not have been possible without Dr. Pollack, Dr. Goyal, Dr. Aiken, the Research Cluster for Science and Subjectivity, and the Center for Science and Society. We are eternally grateful to you all for allowing us to realize our dreams.

Ewoma Ogbaudu is a graduating senior studying Columbia College studying biology. With Neci, he has addressed marginalization in medicine through creating a class, hosting a dinner series, and a student seminar. Ewoma plans to attend medical school and pursue a master’s in public health.




Neci Whye is a graduating senior in Columbia College studying biology and art history. She is passionate about addressing healthcare disparities especially those facing the black community. She aspires to work in marginalized communities as an emergency medicine physician.

Interested in supporting our research clusters? Visit our donation page or feel free to contact us.

PSSN Scholar Andrew Goldman Publishes Paper and Featured in Columbia News

Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience Andrew Goldman has been published in the Psychology of Music journal. Alongside co-authors Tyreek Jackson (St. John’s University) and Paul Sajda (Columbia University), Andrew published “Improvisation experience predicts how musicians categorize musical structures.” Dr. Sajda also serves as one of Andrew’s faculty mentors.

With the help of PSSN Scholar Lan Li, Andrew created a short video to help explain his research on the neuroscience behind musical improvisation.

Columbia News also profiled Andrew’s study in a July 2018 article.

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