Scents and Sensibility

Come and learn how our brain both senses and makes sense of taste and smell - and also, how it’s fooled. 

The Vertebrate nose is arguably the best chemical detector on the face of the planet. With our noses we, and other animals, are able to detect and discriminate between an enormous number and variety of chemicals, which we call odors. We use that information to identify and taste food, elude dangers such as predators and fire, find and attract mates, avoid toxins and enjoy fine liquors. How our sense organs and our brains are able to accomplish these remarkable feats is now coming to light from research in genetics, molecular biology and physiology. And that information is leading to deeper insights into other brain functions and in particular into how drugs and other important chemicals (hormones, transmitters, etc.) interact with the cells in our brains and other organs. Come see, and smell, how our noses know, and get a scientific answer to that fundamental human question - How do I smell.


Stuart Firestein | BIO

Professor, Columbia University

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.  

Dedicated to promoting the accessibility of science to a public audience Firestein serves as an advisor for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s program for the Public Understanding of Science.  Recently he was awarded 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 book on the workings of science for a general audience called Ignorance, How it drives Science was released by Oxford University Press in 2012. His new book, Failure: Why Science is So Successful will be released in September.