Postdoctoral Scholars

Postdoctoral Scholars

Below are the current postdoctoral scholars with the Center for Science and Society and the Presidental Scholars in Society and Neuroscience program. 

  • Tillmann Taape spent many hours experimenting during his undergraduate studies in molecular biology. But not even his Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge exposed him to the curious experiments and concoctions that fill the Making and Knowing Project’s laboratory. Tillmann first joined the Project as a paleographer, helping to transcribe and translate the manuscript from early modern French into contemporary French and English. Now a full-time team member, Tillmann unpacks the interwoven components of art and science by scrutinizing the materials, processes, and techniques used by 16th-century craftsmen and artisans and recovering their worldview. Outside his hours spent happily tinkering in the Project’s laboratory, Tillmann likes to moonlight as a classical singer.

  • Tianna Uchacz knew she wanted to be an art historian from the age of 16, but it wasn't love at first sight. An early encounter with an unimaginative art history component in high school nearly fizzled her interest, but an extraordinary teacher shattered her worldview and Tianna went on to earn a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Toronto in 2016. Pamela Smith and the Making and Knowing Project transformed her studies again, giving her the chance to consider art as not only as an end product but the result of the materials and processes wrapped up in its creation. Today she helps Making and Knowing students explore the uses and roles of plants, minerals, and animals in historical craft and art. She hopes the Project will provide a lasting model for connecting students, scholars, and practitioners from different disciplines as they work towards a common goal - one they might not have imagined they shared. Tianna hails from Woodstock, Canada - a city best known for its 10-foot statue of the Springbank Snow Countess, a cow who produced a record-breaking 9,080 pounds of butterfat during her lifetime.

  • Sophie Pitman first joined the Making and Knowing Project not as an employee, but as a student. While researching early modern clothing in London (c.1560-1660) for her Ph.D. (which she earned from the University of Cambridge in 2017), Sophie realized that before she could train her eyes, she would need to train her hands in the crafts of making and starching ruff collars, tailoring a man’s suit, and felting beaver hats. Inspired to work with other scholars who use reconstruction as a research methodology, Sophie came to Columbia as a Visiting Student with the Project in 2016, delving into the world of dyes and textiles. Now a Postdoctoral Scholar on the Making and Knowing Project, she guides current students through their own reconstructions. Outside the laboratory, Sophie spends her days in archives and museums, performing object-based research. She is currently turning her doctoral thesis into a book, while embarking upon new research projects about tailoring during and immediately after the English Civil War (1640s-1660s), and colors and dyes in the early modern period.

  • 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. Nori accepted the position of a group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany, in November 2018.

    Project Title: The Cultural Foundations of Auditory Processing
  • Noam Zerubavel is a social and neural scientist interested in understanding human relationships and group interactions. Noam 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. Noam completed his PhD in psychology with Professor Kevin Ochsner and postdoctoral training in social network analysis with Professor Peter Bearman at Columbia University.

    Project Title: How Do We Connect? The Neural Foundations of Social Relations
  • 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).

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

    Project Title: Visual Narratives for Science Communication
  • Lan Li is a historian of the body and filmmaker. She received her PhD in Science, Technology, and Society Studies at MIT in 2016. There, she explored a comparative history of body mapping among practitioners in China and Britain throughout the twentieth century. 

    As a presidential scholar, Lan focuses on developing a comparative history of numbness. She is particularly interested in how representations of peripheral sensation through hand-drawn maps cohered and conflicted with different perceptions of health and disease. Her collaborations include projects on nerve damage, aging, and pain.

    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. 

    Project Title: Comparative Histories of Touch and Numbness
  • Julia Hyland Bruno is an ethologist interested in behavioral development, in particular, that of social animals -- such as songbirds, or humans -- that learn how to communicate with one another. In 2017, she 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. Her present and planned research is focused on the social dynamics of this developmental process. How is a learned communication system transmitted across generations? How do competitive or accommodating social interactions affect the vocal culture of a group? As a presidential scholar in society and neuroscience, Julia explores how patterns of communication among individuals influence social organization.

    Project Title: Learning to Improvise? Using Social Songbirds to Study Vocal Culture in the Lab
  • 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 first Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience.

    Project Title: Reinventing Criminal Justice with Social and Affective Neuroscience: A Study on the Implications of an Emotion-Oriented Theory of Culpability for Adjudication and Punishment
  • 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 second Robert A. Burt Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience.

    Project Title: Becoming a Mother in the Context of Trauma: Neuroplasticity and the Lived Experience of Women
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