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On the Shoulders of Giants Science Symposium

2012 Program

Eric Kandel, MD, presented at the Child Mind Institute’s 2012 On the Shoulders of Giants Scientific Symposium.

The 2012 On the Shoulders of Giants Scientific Symposium honoring Eric Kandel, MD, took place on October 22, 2012 at The Roosevelt House at Hunter College. After the four research presentations, Dr. Kandel was interviewed by ABC Nightline anchor Cynthia McFadden.

About the Presentations

The Age of Insight:  The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present
Eric Kandel, MD
The central challenge of science in the twenty-first century is to understand the human mind in biological terms. The possibility of meeting that challenge opened up in the late twentieth century, when cognitive psychology, the science of mind, merged with neuroscience, the science of the brain. This new biological science of mind is important not only because it provides a deeper understanding of what makes us who we are, but also because it makes possible a meaningful series of dialogues between brain science and other areas of knowledge. Dr. Kandel takes up this scientific challenge by focusing on how the new biological science of mind has begun to engage with figurative art. In his life as a scientist, Dr. Kandel has often benefitted from taking a reductionist approach.  He will explore a large problem that interests him — the problem of memory storage — by initially focusing on its simplest example, and trying to explore it deeply. Dr. Kandel will use that same approach to limit his discussion to one particular art form — portraiture — in one particular cultural period-modernism in Vienna, 1900.

The Culture of Science
Sonia Epstein
Sonia Epstein will discuss how her work with Dr. Kandel opened her up to the intersection of science and culture and how that has inspired her current work at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as Program Associate for Science and the Arts.

A role for piRNAs in long-term memory
Priya Rajasethupathy
Dr. Rajasethupathy will discuss her characterization of the neuronal piRNAs in Aplysia, and, more specifically, explore the potential role of these molecules of genetic material in the epigenetic control of long-term memory. She will discuss how Dr. Kandel played a critical role by guiding her toward these scientific contributions and fostering an appreciation of art and the intersection of art and science. 

From Brains to Brushstrokes: The Influence of Neuroscience on an Artist
Chris Willcox
Chris Willcox will tell the story of how Dr. Kandel influenced his thinking, and in turn his art, and then discuss a number of recent paintings that demonstrate principles of neural science.

About the Presenters

Sonia Epstein is the Program Associate for Science and the Arts at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, Sonia worked as research associate to Dr. Eric R. Kandel on The Age of Insight and as production consultant for the Charlie Rose Brain Series. Sonia graduated magna cum laude from Middlebury College with a BA in psychology, history of art & architecture, and French.

Priya Rajasethupathy, PhD, is an MD/PhD student at Columbia University, who received her BA in biological sciences and graduated summa cum laude from Cornell University in 2004. She then spent one year as a research student at the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India. Upon returning, she joined the MD/PhD program at Columbia University, where she completed her PhD training under the guidance of Dr. Eric Kandel.

Chris Willcox is an artist who lives and works in New York City. Chris attended the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland and Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied fine art, philosophy, neuroscience and psychology. Beyond his studio practice, Chris works in the neuroscience lab of Nobel laureate Eric Kandel, investigating the link between visual art, the mind and the brain. He is currently a production consultant and graphic designer for the Charlie Rose Brain Series.

Cynthia McFadden is the co-anchor of the celebrated news broadcast, Nightline, on ABC, where she has worked for 16 years. She has focused much of her investigative work on human rights abuses; a graduate of the Columbia University School of Law, she is also known for her incisive reporting on a wide range of legal topics. She has interviewed a variety of world leaders including the presidents of the United States, Pakistan, Rwanda and Chile, and has reported from hot spots around the world including Sierra Leone, Bosnia, El Salvador, India and China. From 1984 until 1991 she was the executive producer of Fred Friendly’s Media and Society, which produced thirty primetime programs for PBS including series on ethics, terrorism, the military and the news media, health care and the presidency. A native of Maine, McFadden graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Bowdoin College.