Our faculty are awesome, knowledgeable, and have deep appreciation for learning and the exchange of ideas between cultures. The faculty listed here have participate in one or more of our programs.
Chris Impey is a University Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona and Deputy Head of the Astronomy Department. He works on quasars and distant galaxies has written 160 research papers and two astronomy textbooks. He has won ten University of Arizona teaching awards and was chosen as Arizona’s “Professor of the Year” by Carnegie’s Foundation for the Improvement of Teaching. He is a former Vice President of the American Astronomical Society, and in 2002 he was one of six faculty nationwide chosen as an NSF Distinguished Teaching Scholar. He has 20 years of continuous funding from NASA on a wide range of research education projects.
David Barker has worked at the Exploratorium since 1980, and is a Senior Designer and Art Director of Exploratorium Institutional Media. Having studied physics at the University of California at San Diego, David turned an interest in the relationship between science and perception into a studio art degree from UC Santa Barbara. At the Exploratorium, he has created exhibits exploring visual perception and illusions, including Angel Columns, Talking Face-to-Vase, and other “figure-ground” investigations. David’s exhibits are currently exhibited in many museums around the world. He also works with Exploratorium Exhibit Services to help other museums across the country and around the world with their exhibition conception and design and with the development of marketing materials. David has also helped conceive and develop a partnership with the San Francisco Giants baseball team, including in-stadium demonstrations, give-away materials, video, and exhibits. His work helping develop the Exploratorium Science of Baseball website has won awards for content and design.
David E. Presti, Senior Lecturer, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California, Berkeley
David E. Presti is a neuroscientist at the University of California in Berkeley, where he has taught in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology for nearly twenty years. For many years he also worked as a clinical psychologist in the treatment of addiction and of post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD) at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco, where he treated thousands of individuals for these conditions. His areas of expertise include the chemistry of the human nervous system, the effects of drugs on the brain and the mind, and the treatment of addiction. He has doctorates in molecular biology and biophysics from the California Institute of Technology and in clinical psychology from the University of Oregon. He teaches large undergraduate courses at UC Berkeley on the subjects of “Brain, Mind, and Behavior”, “Drugs and the Brain”, and “Molecular Neurobiology and Neurochemistry,” as well as small seminar classes on “Music and the Mind” (for freshmen) and “From Synaptic Pharmacology to Consciousness” (for molecular-biology and neuroscience graduate students), and has received multiple University awards for teaching. His primary research interest is the relation between mental phenomena (such as what is called consciousness) and brain physiology, the so-called mind-body problem.
Donald R. Gallehr teaches advanced nonfiction writing, the teaching of writing, and theories of composition, as well as freshman and advanced composition in the disciplines. His articles include: “Portfolio Assessment in the College Writing Classroom,” in Process and Portfolios in Writing Instruction, NCTE, 1993; “Wait and the Writing Will Come: Meditation and the Composing Process,” in Presence of Mind: Writing and the Domain Beyond the Cognitive, Boyton/Cook, Heinemann, 1994; and “What is the Sound of No Hand Clapping: Using Secularized Zen Koans in the Writing Classroom,” in Spiritual Empowerment and Pedagogy, Boynton/Cook, Heinemann, 1997. His research interests focus on learning beyond the cognitive and its application to the classroom, and he currently serves as a reviewer for NCTE’s Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning. In addition, he is Director of the Northern Virginia Writing Project, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Writing Project, and he just finished serving on the National Writing Project Board of Directors (1991-2009). He is the recipient the 2008 David J. King Award (Teacher of the Year) to honor significant contributions for educational excellence at George Mason University.
Eric H. Chudler is a research neuroscientist interested in how the brain processes information about pain and nociception. He is currently investigating why patients with Parkinson’s disease have pain problems and is looking for ways to treat this type of pain. Eric received his Ph.D. from the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1985. He has worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD (1986-1989) and in the Department of Neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA (1989-1991). He is currently a research associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering and director of education and outreach at University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials. He is also a faculty member in the Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine and the Graduate Program of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of Washington. In addition to performing basic neuroscience research, Eric works with other neuroscientists and classroom teachers to develop educational materials to help K-12 students learn about the brain. His web site, Neuroscience for Kids, is accessed millions of times each year by students and teachers from around the world.
Jess Parker is the head scientist in the Forest Ecology lab at SERC. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 1985 and has been a senior scientist at SERC since 1987. His current research projects include the development of a portable laser rangefinder system to measure forest structure and an exploration of how forest structure influences a range of canopy functions.
After receiving my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Brown University, I moved to California to enjoy the perfect weather and the fine food. To support this, I taught middle school math and science in East Palo Alto and then K-12 science at the Tech Museum in San Jose. Along the way, I met the great folks at the Exploratorium Teacher Institute, who helped me teach science the way I’d really learned it—by doing things and experimenting with my own hands. Teaching science reminded me of how much I liked learning science, so I decided to go back to school and learn biology to complement my training in the physical sciences. I enrolled in graduate school at UC, Berkeley and, after gaining intimate knowledge of viruses, stem cells, and how to win at foosball, I received a PhD in chemical engineering with a minor in molecular and cell biology. I joined the TI staff as a postdoc after being awarded a NSF Discovery Corps Fellowship and have managed to stay on as a staff scientist. In my spare time I still think about science, but usually in the kitchen, where I’m focused on my favorite synthesis of chemistry and biology – cooking and eating.
Dr. Karen Falkenberg is a faculty member with the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University, where she carries two appointments: first, as a Lecturer in the Division focusing on science education and special projects; secondly, as the Director of Undergraduate Education Programs for the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, a National Science Foundation funded Science and Technology Center in its eighth year.
In addition, she is the President of the Education Division of Concept Catalysts, Inc. Concept Catalysts consults internationally with businesses and education organizations. In education, the focus is on innovation and systemic reform in science, mathematics and engineering education where they provide services that include: the development of productive partnerships among parties interested in education reform; research based program conceptualization, planning, and execution; strategy development; and customized, standards based professional development for teachers, teacher leaders and administrators
Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich design programs at the Exploratorium in the Learning Studio, a workshop for collaborating artists, educators, museum staff, and visitors exploring new ideas, generating unusual exhibits, and participating in construction based activities that blur the lines between science, art, and technology. They direct the PIE (Playful and Inventive Explorations) Institute, a network to support museum educators, exhibit developers, and after-school educators to integrate playful approaches into science and art activities.
Linda Shore was born, raised, and educated in San Francisco. While taking an undergraduate astronomy course she discovered her interest in physics and astronomy. She earned a master’s degree in physics from San Francisco State University. While there, she discovered her love for teaching. She was the youngest person in the California State University system ever to teach lecture sections of pre-med physics. In 1986, she moved to Massachusetts to study science education at Boston University. While in Boston, she conducted educational research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, taught astronomy at Boston University, evaluated educational software, helped design a high school curriculum on fractals in nature, and earned a doctorate in Science Education. She returned to San Francisco and joined the Exploratorium in 1993, where she is now director of the Teacher Institute. Linda is a co-author of The Science Explorer, a series of Exploratorium activity books for children and their parents. When not at the museum, she teaches graduate courses in educational technology at the University of San Francisco and writes science fiction short stories.
Lori Lamberston studied biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, which led her to a career as a professional bicycle racer. She spent two years on the racing circuit, then returned to school to study painting, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of San Francisco.
After completing the teaching credential program at San Francisco State University, she continued her work in education, completing a Master of Arts in Education. Lori has taught both math and science at the middle school level. Her math mentor, Mary Laycock, taught Lori to be a better math teacher, and even more important, inspired her to become a “math enthusiast”. Lori’s educational passion is integrating math and science. Lori joined the Exploratorium’s Teacher Institute (TI) in 1991. In addition to coordinating the Teacher Institute’s New Science Teacher Program, Lori enjoys joining her fellow TI staff educators and scientists developing math and science activities to share with teachers participating in TI programs. Since 2007, Lori has been instrumental in developing more environment focused learning opportunities for the teachers served by TI. As a life long learner, she also enjoys studying hula, learning Spanish, painting, gardening, cooking, and surfing.
Luigi Anzivino develops educational programs and activities in the Learning Studio that are hands-on, and construction-based in nature. His particular interests lie in the role of facilitation in the context of an open-ended activity on a museum floor, and in developing strategies to apply an informal learning approach to acquiring factual and precise knowledge. He has a background in Behavioral Neuroscience, having earned a Ph.D. from the University of California in Los Angeles, following his BA in Psychology from the University of Bologna, Italy. His first foray into the museum world was at the Exploratorium as an explainer, or floor guide, and he still acts as a liaison between Learning Studio activities and the explainer program.
Luigi has developed a strong passion for sleight-of-hand magic, and its relationship to science education, perception, and attention.
Mark St. John, founder and president of Inverness Research Inc., has a broad background in science and mathematics education at all levels. For over 20 years he has been involved in the evaluation and study of public and private initiatives aimed at improving science and mathematics education. He also advises philanthropies about investments in educational improvement. He has a background in aeronautical engineering and a Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley.
Dr. St. John and his colleagues at Inverness Research Inc. have been involved in many evaluations of reform initiatives in education—from the study of large scale initiatives undertaken by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education to the evaluation of individual science museum exhibits. They have been involved in studying professional development and teacher leadership networks, curriculum design projects, informal science education efforts, multi-institutional partnerships and centers, and systemic reform initiatives at the state, district, and school levels.
Modesto Tamez has spent the last twenty five years in education; the first 18 years working in the classroom with levels K-12 in Spanish and English with an emphasis in teaching science . The last eight years he has been working with the Exloratorium in San Francisco and San Francisco State University, helping teachers integrate hands on science into their curriculum. Modesto was also director for an NSF supported program to help establish after school science programs through out the state of California.
He is currently coordinating a mentor program, placing experienced teachers in middle school and high school classrooms to help first and second year science teachers. For the last four years, he has been teaching an elementary science methods course in a non traditional intern program at John Muir Elementary School run by San Francisco State University.
I am a physicist, teacher, author, and rock climber with a Ph.D. in solid-state physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1974). As a tenured professor at Oakland University, I taught a wide range of science courses, including physics, astronomy, geology, electronics, computer programming, and meteorology. In 1986, I came to the Exploratorium Teacher Institute and began my exhibit-based explorations in science. As an author, I have written over two dozen articles for Exploring magazine, and have co-authored the Exploratorium Science Snackbook, the Klutz Book of Magnetic Magic, and the book, Traces of Time: The Beauty of Change in Nature. For musical entertainment, I play the whirly—a corrugated plastic tube. In pursuit of whirly excellence, I have won several competitions, including an award as “Best Science Demonstrator” at the World Congress of Museums in Helsinki in 1996. I recently had fun performing physics activities on Late Night with David Letterman. I am about to finish my second decade as a rock climber, and my second vertical marathon, 26 miles of rock climbing. In 1994, I led a successful ascent of my personal best climb: the East Buttress of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.
Richard Sterling is the Executive Director Emeritus of the National Writing Project (NWP) and currently Interim Associate Dean for Teacher Education at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Graduate School of Education. Since 2003, he has served as chair of the Advisory Panel to the College Board’s National Commission on Writing. Formerly he was the founder and director of the Institute for Literacy Studies at Lehman College, an Organized Research Unit at the City University of New York, and a member of the faculty at Lehman College. He was also founder and director of the New York City Writing Project and the New York City Mathematics Project, both of which are housed within the Institute for Literacy Studies. Richard Sterling has lectured and presented papers at conferences and universities across the country and abroad. He is a co-author of “The National Writing Project: Scaling up and Scaling Down,” in Expanding the Reach of Reform: Perspectives from Leaders in the Scale-Up of Educational Reform (RAND, 2004).
Trained in the arts, Scott Schmidt pursued his interests in working with materials as a designer and builder. For 25 years Scott owned and operated a business specializing in the design and fabrication of fine furniture, and prototype development services. He came to the Smithsonian to develop and fabricate some unique exhibit casework for the Our Peoples Hall at the National Museum of the American Indian. Finding alignment of his skills and interests with the diversity of museum work, he decided to stay.
Scott currently manages exhibits fabrication at the Smithsonian’s Office of Exhibits Central. This organization provides an array of exhibits services for the Smithsonian community and affiliates: Design and Editing, Project Administration, Graphics, Fabrication, Crating, Model work, Collections Management, and 3D scanning and digitization. Its Special Exhibits Division produces temporary and traveling exhibits.
Stephanie Norby is the Executive Director of the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, which provides leadership in education at the Smithsonian. She collaborates on education programs in art, history, culture and science with all Smithsonian museums and research; Direct training for educators and museum professionals in Washington DC and through international and regional workshops; produce central Smithsonian Web sites for museum studies, families, students, interns and educators; publish Smithsonian in Your Classroom, a journal showing how to teach using museum resources; chair council of educators representing all Smithsonian museums and research units; manage Smithsonian-wide internships and fellowships for museum studies; produce virtual conferences presenting Smithsonian research and collections.
For over ten years she served as the Director of Curriculum, Professional Development & Assessment for the Kansas City, Missouri School District where she managed a budget of over $10,000,000 including federal and state grants; supervised sixty professional and technical staff members; coordinated K-12 curriculum and assessments; supervised operation of school libraries including implementation of library automation plan; developed 300 professional development courses. She has served as a museum curator for Johnson County Museum System, Shawnee, Kansas and a school teacher in California. She recived her B.S. from UC Davis, a teaching credential from the California State University at Long Beach, and M.A. from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
Tory Brady was born in California, went to school at UC Berkeley, and finds herself still here in the blue state with the long coastline. She was a registered nurse before she became a teacher, a career change she has never regretted! At the Exploratorium Teacher Institute she works with teachers, helping to bring Exploratorium activities into the classroom, and facilitating the mentoring of new teachers by experienced ones. Tory spends lots of time up in the Sacramento River delta, exploring hidden waterways in a rubber boat. She and her husband have two grown children and two moody cats. Before coming to the Exploratorium, Tory was a classroom teacher in both elementary and middle school. She found hands-on science to be a great way to interest students, and lead them to experience the wonder and beauty of the natural world.
As a Program Manager at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC since 2000, Tracie Spinale works at the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access (SCLDA), collaborating with communities to create cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary learning experiences. She organizes professional develop opportunities for museum professionals, educators, students, and related audiences, focused on education and informal learning within museums. Tracie manages the Fellowships in Museum Practice program, providing research opportunities for mid- to senior level museum professionals to explore the intersections of theory and practice, and is content manager of museumstudies.si.edu. For ten years, Tracie was the director for internships at the Smithsonian, providing training to 1,300 college students yearly. Her most recent collaborations include the All Access Digital Arts Program—an informal education program for teens with cognitive disabilities, that creates in-person and digital learning opportunities and social inclusion experiences, based on Smithsonian museum content. She is a faculty member in the Sager Science Leadership Institute, supporting Tibetan monastic science leadership development by facilitating collaborative learning through the creation of community exhibitions—World of Your Senses (2010) and My Earth, My Responsibility (in progress). Tracie has a MA in Museum Studies from The George Washington University (1998), and a BA in Anthropology from Beloit College (1996).
Dr. Marcel O. Bonn-Miller is a Research Health Science Specialist at the Center of Excellence in Substance Abuse Treatment and Education at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center as well as the National Center for PTSD and Center for Innovation to Implementation at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. He also holds an academic appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Bonn-Miller’s work primarily centers on the co-occurrence between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use, including the identification of malleable mechanisms that both drive this comorbidity and can be targeted within prevention and intervention efforts. Dr. Bonn-Miller has published approximately 100 peer-reviewed papers related to PTSD and/or substance use. He also has a number of active and recently completed grants exploring the functional relation between these two disorders as well as interventions that can be used to reduce suffering among veterans and other populations plagued by this comorbidity. One area of focus within this line of work has been the identification of mindfulness- and compassion-based practices that could be used to improve psychosocial functioning and quality of life among individuals with co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders. This work recently culminated in grant for which Dr. Bonn-Miller is investigating the impact of Compassion Cultivation Training for veterans with PTSD, as well as some pilot investigations of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for veterans with cannabis use disorders. Indeed, Dr. Bonn-Miller is exploring both standalone and adjunct treatments that integrate mindfulness- and compassion-based techniques into existing treatment paradigms.
Barry Bruce, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology, is a leading expert in sustainable energy research; his work focuses on adapting the biological machinery in plants to produce electricity and biofuels. Dr. Bruce is a highly recognized researcher and educator. He was recently recognized as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2014. In 2007, Forbes recognized Dr. Bruce as one of “Ten Revolutionaries That May Change the World”. This was an international recognition that is based on his seminal work on applied photosynthesis. Dr. Bruce has developed a system that taps into photosynthetic processes to produce efficient and inexpensive energy. He collaborated with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Switzerland to develop a process that improves the efficiency of generating electric power using molecular structures extracted from plants. The biosolar breakthrough has the potential to make “green” electricity dramatically cheaper and easier. He has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, the Boston Globe, Discover, ABC news and many technical publications. He has published nearly 100 publications and has been invited to speak in over 15 different countries. UTK recently honored him with the Senior Faculty Research and Creative Achievement award, which is the highest award, offered to a scientist in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Bruce is also a co-founder and associate director of the Sustainable Energy and Education Research Center (SEERC) and a co-principal investigator in the Sustainable Technology through Advanced Interdisciplinary Research (STAIR) program, one of the two NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) programs at UT Knoxville. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Microbiology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Tammy is Teacher in Residence, Life Science in the Exploratorium’s Teacher Institute. Her primary role is in training and supporting coaches and mentors who work with novice science teachers in their first two years in the classroom and developing life science content for teachers. A science educator for 17 years, Tammy has taught middle school and elementary science and has mentored and coached novice science teachers through programs such as Peninsula Bridge, Breakthrough San Francisco, and the Exploratorium’s New Teacher Institute. She earned her Biology degree at University of California, Santa Cruz and her Masters in Science Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. A National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescent Science, she is passionate about crafting learning opportunities for all students that ignite a love of science, and is she dedicated to finding the best ways to support STEM teachers in creating classrooms that do just that.
Gaëlle Desbordes is a research fellow at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging within the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and a visiting scholar at Boston University. Trained as a neuroscientist (PhD, Boston University) and with previous postgraduate training in engineering and computer science, Dr. Desbordes’s current research focuses on the neuroscientific investigation of contemplative practices, using advanced methods in brain imaging (especially functional MRI) and physiological measurements of the autonomic nervous system. She is particularly interested in contemplative methods for cultivating loving-kindness and compassion (e.g., Tibetan lo-jong practices). For the past four years, Dr. Desbordes has worked in collaboration with Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi (Emory University) and Dr. Charles Raison (University of Arizona) on a scientific study that examines how Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), an 8-week secular training program based on lo-jong practices, affects emotional processing in the brains of participants and their physiological response to psychosocial stress. In addition, Dr. Desbordes is the recipient of a Francisco J. Varela Research Award from the Mind and Life Institute for an ongoing study of the neural and physiological correlates of visualization practices in experienced Vajrayana practitioners. She is also on the neuroscience faculty at the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative—an ongoing effort overseen by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives aimed at implementing a comprehensive and sustainable science curriculum for Tibetan monastics.
David M. Fresco is Professor of psychological sciences at Kent State University and Adjunct Associate Professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He directs the Psychopathology and Emotion Regulation Laboratory (PERL) and is a Co-Director of the Kent Electrophysiological Neuroimaging Laboratory (KENL). His program of research adopts an affective science perspective to the nature and treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. Specifically, he conducts survey, experimental, and treatment research to examine factors associated with major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) including metacognitive factors, peripheral psychophysiology, neuroimaging and electrophysiological techniques. Another focus of the PERL lab is the development of treatments informed by affective and contemplative neuroscience findings that incorporate mindfulness meditation and other practices derived from Buddhist mental training exercises. Much of Dr. Fresco’s NIH-funded treatment research has focused on the infusion of mindfulness into Western psychosocial treatments. He is Associate Editor for the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and is also a frequent reviewer for the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Bryce Johnson has 10-years of experience directing and implementing inquiry-based professional development institutes for the Science for Monks program in India, and is currently a Scientist in Residence at the Exploratorium. He received a B.S. in 1997 and M.S. in 1999 from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Mechanical Engineering. During this time he developed a personal interest in science and philosophy. Bryce lived in Dharamshala for two years from 1999-2001 where he helped start the Tibetan Libraries science education initiative. During this time he began a deep appreciation for Buddhist philosophy and sharing western science with Tibetan monastic scholars. In 2007, he completed a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Johnson has worked as a scientist for the California Environmental Protection Agency on water quality issues related to mercury contamination in Northern California. In 2008 he worked as an IC Postdoctoral Fellow at Texas A&M University at the Laboratory for Oceanographic and Environmental Research in Galveston, Texas. Bryce’s academic research focuses on issues related to water quality with an emphasis on the connection between humans and their impact on natural and engineered environments. At the Exploratorium, Dr. Johnson works with Exploratorium’s Teacher Institute on professional development for middle and high school teachers, and with the Outdoor Exploratorium developing exhibit ideas that connect visitors with the San Francisco Bay. His teaching interests focus on environmental sciences with an emphasis on the connection between humans and their impact on aquatic environments.
Eric began his career as a geologist, wandering remote dirt roads in the American Southwest. After a few years, he decided to get his hands dirty and became a credentialed teacher. He taught chemistry, physics, geology, math, and at-risk-youth programming in Bay Area public schools. After attending his first Summer Institute at the Exploratorium, he was hooked! He joined the Teacher Institute in 1995 as a science, math, and technology educator. Eric has created numerous hands-on activities and conducted professional development workshops from Alaska to Costa Rica, China, and Tobago. He has written articles for The Science Teacher, The Physics Teacher, several museum publications, and various websites. He is the author of While You’re Waiting for the Food to Come, a book of science activities that can be done at restaurants. He has also been a contributor to NPR and helped to create an internationally distributed poster of the Earth’s Anatomy. Eric earned a BS in Earth Science from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MA in Education from Columbia University. He was a fellow at Tufts University’s Wright Center for Innovation in Science Education. He has also worked as a whitewater rafting guide, done research on glaciers, worked in a high-energy physics lab, and taught courses at several universities.
Nishant Seth, Graduate Student Researcher, National Institute for Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science
Nishant Seth is a PhD Student in the Cognition Program at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. He completed his undergraduate studies in Biological Sciences and Electronic Engineering at BITS-Pilani, Rajastan. Nishant has been part of the Doctoral Program since 2012, during which he has taken short courses on the Philosophy of Language and Signs, Embodied Cognition, Non-Linear Dynamics, Complex Systems, and Interdisciplinarity, among others. His research involves philosophizing about, and experimenting with, perceptual extensions. These are artificial interfaces that change, or add to, our existing senses. During work hours, Nishant can be found toying with ideas and electronics to improve or test out a new perceptual extension. Over the past year he has built two such interfaces, one for echolocation, and another for neural-feedback.
As a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Kent State University, I have a broad interest in understanding the factors that predict adaptive responding to emotional challenges. In my research, I am particularly interested in the metacognitive process of “decentering,” or relating to internal experiences (e.g., thoughts and emotions) from a self-distanced, objective perspective, rather than identifying with them personally. My research aims to elucidate the therapeutic effects and mechanisms of decentering, and the relationship of decentering capacity to individual differences in mindfulness, meditation training experience, emotion regulation, and mental health. I am also broadly interested in the neural mechanisms of automatic, or “incidental,” emotion regulation. Currently, I am working to elucidate the relationship of individual differences in emotional functioning and meditation experience to the spontaneous recruitment of emotion regulatory brain regions during negative emotional provocation and decentering.
Emiliana Simon-Thomas earned her Ph.D. in Cognition Brain and Behavior at University of California, Berkeley. Her doctoral research investigated the interplay between emotion and cognition, and reported important, sometimes paradoxical influences that negative states can have on thinking cognitive processes. Using behavioral, EEG and fMRI methods, she showed that negative states facilitate some kinds of thinking (right hemisphere dominant), and hinder others (left hemisphere dominant). Transitioning towards a focus on how thought processes (appraisal, self-regulation) affect a broader range of emotions, and on the biological underpinnings of positive and pro-social states, Dr. Simon-Thomas studied love of humanity and compassion during her postdoc, mentored by Dr. Dacher Keltner at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. From emotion signaling, perception and self-report to peripheral autonomic and neural activation during induced emotion, Emiliana’s research with CCARE continues to examine the conceptual nature, experiential properties, biological correlates, and cultivation potential for pro-social states like compassion, as well as related acts of altruism.
Marieke van Vugt is an assistant professor at the Department of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering (ALICE) at the University of Groningen. She obtained her PhD in neuroscience focusing on the role of brain oscillations in recognition memory with Dr. Michael Kahana at the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. She then went on to do postdoctoral research on the neural correlates of decision making with Dr. Jonathan Cohen at Princeton University before starting her own group in Groningen in 2010. Her research focuses on dissecting the fundamental cognitive operations and neural processes involved in making decisions. For example, using computational modeling in combination with neuroscience, she showed how 4-9 Hz theta oscillations recorded with EEG are associated with the accumulation of evidence for making a decision. She also studies how our decisions are affected by meditation practice. She was the first to study meditation by using computational models of cognition. She is also a serious practitioner of meditation herself.
Vivian White is an astronomy educator with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. She uses her physics degree, telescopes, and love of humanity to inspire people to look up in wonder. Working mostly in informal science settings, she currently designs activities for amateur astronomers engaged in public outreach through the NASA Night Sky Network. She is also part of an NSF grant researching meaningful experiences for preschool children accessing astronomy in museums. Her past decade has included teaching classroom educators hands-on astronomy, middle schoolers practical math, and pre-med students dangerous physics; as well as showing off the splendors of the heavens through observatories, summer camps, and national parks. When not pondering our whirling path through the universe, she regularly spaces out at her pottery wheel.