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. 

  • 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 University College London, 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.

    Project Title: The Creative Self: Autofiction, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience

  • 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.

  • Raphael Gerraty graduated in 2018 with a PhD in psychology from Columbia. He plans to integrate probabilistic theories from the fields of neuroscience, philosophy, and AI to design new neural network models for how humans develop mental representations of their visual world.

    Project Title: Uncertainty in Brains, Minds, and Machines: Using Philosophy and Deep Neural Networks to Understand Probabilistic Perceptual Representation

  • 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.

    Project Title: The Self in Space: Spatial Content and Self-Representation in Philosophy and Neuroscience

  • 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

  • Matthew Sachs received his PhD from the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. Matthew's research focuses on understanding the neural and behavioral mechanisms involved in emotions and feeling in response to music. His 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.

    Project Title: Mapping the Rich Tapestry of Music-Evoked Emotions

  • 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

  • Clément Godbarge is a historian with a background in political science and Italian philology. His research focuses on the relations between science and statecraft in early-modern Europe. In his doctoral dissertation, which he defended in 2017 at New York University, he examines through the life and works of Filippo Cavriana (1536-1606), the last physician of Catherine de’ Medici, how doctors embedded at the courts of sixteenth-century France, Italy, and Spain promoted themselves as political experts of a new genre. His research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fulbright Commission and the Renaissance Society of America. Clement now works as a lecturer in the Department of History and as a postdoctoral scholar at the Making and Knowing Project. In his spare time, he also works on the digital humanities, trying to devise the best way to make historical archives accessible to all.

  • 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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