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Special Feature

October 12, 2017

Understanding the human mind

Scholars work together to understand the human mind

Indira Raman is a neuroscientist who loves language and Susie Phillips is a medievalist who started her college career as a math major.

They first connected formally when the Chicago Humanities Festival asked them to create and deliver a setup to the punchline: "a neuroscientist and a humanist walk into a bar…” Their presentation led them to develop an innovative class called “Thought Experiments: Ways of Knowing in Neuroscience and the Humanities.” Indira Raman is the Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Biological Sciences; Susie Phillips is the Alumnae of Northwestern Teaching Professor and an Associate Professor of English. Both are faculty in the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Their unlikely partnership sheds new light not only on how signals move in the brain, but also on knowledge, language, and the very nature of the mind.

The Collaboration

Personal Paths

A Northwestern Direction is always full of twists and turns. From math to Chaucer, and from language to Purkinje cells, the professors discuss their particular paths.

Research and Teaching

The professors discuss their current research projects and their passion for teaching as scholarship.

The Collaborators

Indira Raman

Indira Raman

Indira M. Raman is a Professor in the Department of Neurobiology, where she holds the Bill and Gayle Cook Chair in Biological Sciences and was a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence. Her research is in the areas of ion channel biophysics, synaptic transmission, and cerebellar physiology, and she is the recipient of a Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from NINDS. She has served on several NIH committees, including the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Advisory Council, and has held editorial roles for multiple scientific journals. Essays in which she has expressed her perspectives on scientific research and training have been published in Neuron and eLife.

Susan Phillips

Susan Phillips

English professor Susan Phillips is interested in the power of unofficial words — from the social and literary work of medieval gossip to mischievous early modern language lessons on murky, marketplace ethics and “talking shop." Exploring how texts — and ideas — were produced, circulated and read, she teaches courses on late medieval and early modern literature and culture; drama and poetry; Shakespeare and Chaucer. A recipient of two Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Fellowships and the Weinberg College of Arts and Science Award for Distinguished Teaching, Phillips recently held the Alumnae of Northwestern Teaching Professorship, the university’s highest award for distinguished teaching.

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