Stuart Firestein

Dr. Stuart Firestein is the Chair of Columbia University’s Department of Biological Sciences where his colleagues and he study the vertebrate olfactory system, possibly the best chemical detector on the face of the planet. His laboratory seeks to answer the fundamental human question: How do I smell?

Dedicated to promoting the accessibility of science to a public audience, Dr. Firestein seeks to reach broader audiences through nonscientific writing, public appearances, and his support of science in the arts. Dr. Firestein also 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. Most notably, Dr. Firestein’s commitment to engaging the public in science can be seen in his TED Talk entitled “The pursuit of ignorance”, which has garnered 1.5 million views and counting.  For more information on Dr. Fierstein’s cultivation of public interest and participation in the scientific world, please click on the links in the “About” section.

His book on the workings of science for a general audience, Ignorance: How it Drives Science, was released by Oxford University Press in the spring of 2012. Dr. Firestein’s first book captures the hard work of science, the informed curiosity found among scientists, and the exhilaration of discovery. The book has received esteemed praise from the public and critics and has even become integrated into the curricula as required readings among several high schools and colleges. Currently, Dr. Firestein is working on his second book (again with a provocative title), called Failure: Why Science is So Successful. The book will be released September 1st, 2015.