In response to the explosion of interest in the university-wide Mind, Brain, and Behavior (MBB) Initiative, HSMBB was officially formed in the fall of 2002. Since then, HSMBB has pursued its mission of promoting multidisciplinary dialogue about, awareness of, and interest in topics related to mind, brain, and behavior, while working to provide a sense of community among students interested in these diverse topics.
We pursue this mission in ways that range from organizing social events like pizza and movie nights to providing and promoting lectures on cutting-edge research in MBB fields. Students involved in HSMBB are sometimes pursuing the MBB track within their concentration (participating concentrations currently include Computer Science, History and Science, Human Evolutionary Biology, Linguistics, Neurobiology, Philosophy, and Psychology), but are just as often not formally pursuing an MBB track or MBB-related concentration. Anyone is welcome!
The people of HSMBB
At the organizational core of HSMBB is the HSMBB Board, which is comprised of 6 – 10 undergraduates. The board conceives of ideas for, plans, organizes, and publicizes events, which happen roughly once per week during the academic term, and, to this end, meets weekly. About once a year, the board adds new members by way of an application process; if you’re interested in joining the board, the best way to find out about this is to join our mailing list!
At the heart and soul of HSMBB, however, is: you! All students on the Harvard campus are welcome – and encouraged! – to attend any HSMBB event. There are no attendance or prerequisite requirements for attending events; you can come to every event or only those that fall within a particular interest of yours! To hear about our events, you can sign up for our mailing list or like us on Facebook.
We are generously supported by the Mind, Brain and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, and work closely with them to provide the best possible programming.
Academic events are lecture-style talks by MBB faculty (who often but not always hail from Harvard), and generally run about an hour, including Q&A at the end. Recent academic event topics and speakers have included: the molecular basis of aggression in fruit flies with neurobiologist Edward Kravitz (the discoverer of the neurotransmitter GABA); operant learning with molecular and cellular biologist Florian Engert; personality disorders in everyday life with Ian Reed; the psychology of morality with psychologist (and HSMBB founder!) Liane Young; music cognition with Peter Cariani; psychology and economics with David Laibson; and many more!
Our “CommuniTea” events are small, intimate, free-form conversations with MBB faculty, in which students can freely ask questions of and engage in dialogue with the faculty guests. (An important part of fostering this relaxed atmosphere is food, which we provide!) Recent CommuniTea guests and conversation topics have included: linguist Noam Chomsky on his universal grammar and political views; neurobiologist Jeff Lichtman on life and career advice for students; philosopher Ned Hall on quantum mechanics and the mind; happiness and money with Michael Norton; neuroscience and zombies with Steven Schlozman; Van Gogh and neuroscientist with Shah Khoshbin; and many more!
Social events are opportunities for undergraduates who share a love of mind, brain, and behavior but whose studies are distributed across a wide range of concentrations to meet, engage, and have fun! Recent social events have included multiple movie nights (complete with pizza!) and a Myers-Briggs Personality Test themed pizza social.
Once a semester, we hold a large event – a symposium – featuring several speakers who present varying perspectives on a topic in mind, brain, and behavior. This is generally our largest event of the semester, and so we pull out all the stops – i.e. they have catchy titles and often provide tasty food! Recent symposia have included: “Robots ‘R Us,” a symposium on Artificial Intelligence, featuring Fox Harrell and Barbara Grosz ; “Trauma in the Endzone,” a symposium on brain injuries in sports, featuring Ann McKee, Stephanie Morain, and Chris Nowinski; “Blindspot,” a symposium on hidden biases, with Mahzarin Banaji; and “A Battle of Wills,” a debate on free will, featuring Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, and Joshua Greene.
To Sum Up
Basically, we’re all about making connections : students with students, students with faculty, neurobiologists with philosophers, historians with computer scientists, you get the idea. If this sounds like fun to you, feel free to send us an email to ask us how you can get more involved!
We pride ourselves on being open to new ideas – or revisions of existing ones. If you have a suggestion about an addition to our programming, a topic you’d like to see, a new service we could provide, or any way in which we could better pursue our mission, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!