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

  • Raphaël Millière 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. Raphaël 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

  • 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

  • Madi Whitman is a cultural anthropologist and science and technology studies researcher who studies how technologies, institutions, and subjectivities are made together. Madi is interested in questions of surveillance and marginality in changing regimes of data collection at universities in the United States. In her pedagogical work, Madi is committed to engaging students in ongoing challenges around science, technology, and society. Prior to coming to Columbia, she was involved in collaborations with the National Science Foundation Center for Science of Information in creating critical data modules for students.

    Madi earned a PhD in anthropology from Purdue University in 2020, where her dissertation research focused on the production of data and predictive analytics in higher education in the U.S. She was previously a Visiting Research Fellow in the Program on Science, Technology and Society at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

  • 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

  • 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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