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Stuart Firestein, PhD

Neuroscientist / Professor

Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University

Failure as a path into the unimaginable

Dr. Stuart Firestein is the former Chair of Columbia University's Department of Biological Sciences where his laboratory studies the vertebrate olfactory system, possibly the best chemical detector on the face of the planet.   Aside from its molecular detection capabilities, the olfactory system serves as a model for investigating general principles and mechanisms of signaling and perception in the brain. His laboratory seeks to answer that fundamental human question: How do I smell?


Feinstein received the 2011 Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award for excellence in scholarship and teaching.  He is a Fellow of the AAAS, an Alfred Sloan Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow. His two books book on the workings of science for a general audience have been published by Oxford University Press and have found not only a wide general readership but have been adopted by numerous High School and University science courses.  Ignorance, How it drives Science was released in 2012 and has been translated into 9 languages. His second book, Failure: Why Science is So Successful, was released in 2016.  A 2013 TED talk on the subject has over 1.9 million views.