Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

This year I am in charge of the UM Neuroscience program’s Spring Symposia, which is where students nominate and invite interesting scientists to come give a talk on their work. The students also get to have dinner and hang out with the speakers informally (read: bar). I’ve been mulling over names, and thought it would be interesting to see what the blogosphere thought!

So, if you could invite *anyone,* who would it be? (And, if you know them personally, shooting me an email would be REALLY appreciated!)


  1. #1 Coturnix
    September 27, 2007

    Sapolsky! Brilliant speaker and great person to chat with students. Prepare vegetarian meals.

  2. #2 Kurt
    September 27, 2007

    Jeff Hawkins might make an interesting speaker. He isn’t a neuroscientist himself, but as a computer scientist who has been working on developing models of brain functioning, he would be able to give an outsider’s view of the state of brain research.

  3. #3 Tom Barta
    September 27, 2007

    PIERO SCARUFFI, no question.


    If you get him, could you post an MP3 or YouTube?

  4. #4 Kevin
    September 27, 2007

    My best friend in college did is Ph.D. with Todd Sacktor at SUNY Downstate. They study memory and Alzheimer’s, but their work has even been talked about on This American Life. I’ve never heard him speak, but I bet he’s pretty good. Science has highlighted the work:

  5. #5 Warren
    September 27, 2007


  6. #6 Asutin
    September 27, 2007

    Martha Farah, without a doubt!
    and ditto to the above comment about recording and putting on YouTube

  7. #7 Tom Barta
    September 27, 2007


    He’s hard to book, right now. Unfortunately. But he would be on my list, as well.

  8. #8 Johan
    September 27, 2007

    I would kill to hear James Haxby. He’s involved in developing some very cutting-edge methods of analyzing neuroimaging data by using classifiers.

    If that’s interesting, report back to me what he’s like – I’m applying to his lab for a PhD next year.

  9. #9 darkman
    September 27, 2007

    Richard Feynman has been dead for almost 20 years. woulda been sweet to see him talk here though… shel – you’ve already made excellent headway to get the person i’d most like to see give a seminar, anyone else’d just be icing…

  10. #10 darkman
    September 27, 2007

    wish i’d read tom’s comment before posting… so it goes.

  11. #11 Glendon Mellow
    September 27, 2007

    Richard Fortey.

    Starting a book on trilobites off with a dark and stormy night and making it entertaining just rocks. Like to hear him read it.

  12. #12 JT
    September 27, 2007

    Chris Doe…absolutely amazing work in Drosophila neuroblasts.

  13. #13 Graeme Elliott
    September 27, 2007

    Stephen Jay Gould. If his talks were anything like his books that man would have been a brilliant speaker…

  14. #14 Ben
    September 27, 2007

    Graeme, Steven Jay Gould has been dead for a few years. It’s a shame, I would have loved to see him speak too.

    A few, off the top of my head:

    Eric Nestler
    Trevor Robbins
    Tom Carew
    Masakazu Konishi

    I’m actually a grad student at UM now, so I’ll be interested to find out who comes. Good luck with the organizing!

  15. #15 Shelley Batts
    September 28, 2007

    Thanks for all the great input, please keep ’em coming! Bora, Sapolsky actually came last year! 🙂

    I am trying to get Alexander Shulgin to come speak. Does anyone know him? I have his email address but a personal plea would be better.

  16. #16 Widgett Walls
    September 28, 2007

    If I could pick anyone? I think Sir Martin Rees would be fascinating, but if I had to go with just one, I would say Steven Weinberg.

  17. #17 Chiefley
    September 29, 2007

    I saw Sasha Shulgin speak to a small group of chemists at Syracuse University about 30 years ago. He is a very fascinating person. Well worth the effort to try to find him.

  18. #18 Rob
    September 30, 2007

    Richard Dawkins. It’s probably not too easy to book the man.

  19. #19 Graeme Elliott
    October 1, 2007

    I know Gould isn’t with us anymore, but I’d still have like to have heard him. Dawkins is a good speaker, but you do need a hefty budget to get him. How about Mary Schweitzer? Her work on spongy fossil bone is very interesting. Steve Hawking has a new book out, but I imagine he’s as expensive as Dawkins.

  20. #20 Drugmonkey
    October 1, 2007

    Saw Shulgin within the last year or so. As a word of warning, it is likely to be a rather unusual presentation for those from neuroscience and pharmacology backgrounds. This may fascinate or offend your audience depending on what they expect.

    the guy is chemist all the way and an old school one at that. it is unbelievably interesting for those of us who think “receptor interactions” and monoamine regulation to see how he thinks about related chemical structures, and that’s it.

    if you take it as the usual “geezer lecture” i think you will find it one of the most memorable you’ll ever attend. if looking for much in the way of up to date scientific content…not so much.

  21. #21 Shelley Batts
    October 2, 2007

    Very cool, did you see Shulgin at Burning Man or somewhere else?

  22. #22 Drugmonkey
    October 3, 2007

    elsewhere :-). an evening with arvid carlsson, les iversen and shulgin. it was a good one.

  23. #23 Shelley Batts
    October 3, 2007

    I’m jealous! I think I will probably get the brush off from him as its just a student-run event and the honorarium is a pittance. I’m thinking he needs a good excuse to get back into the fray.

  24. #24 Drugmonkey
    October 3, 2007

    “I think I will probably get the brush off from him as its just a student-run event and the honorarium is a pittance.”

    ahh, you know he’s been retired for ages right? although I suppose the mdma fans may keep him busy. i don’t know him personally but he definitely comes across as someone who would not just give you a brush off. they’re both old enough now that there may be some reluctance to travel so there might be a legit excuse but I doubt he’d front you over the honorarium!

    here’s a thought, ask him why he stopped blogging, could be your entry card.

    oh and you can assume your local burners are going to turn out in droves for this, schedule a big room if you get him 🙂

  25. #25 Chococat
    October 4, 2007

    Oliver Sachs.

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