Pre-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Philosophy of Neuroscience

Since academic year 2014-2015 the Department of Philosophy and Religion, with financial assistance of the Dean’s Office of the College of Arts and Sciences, has sponsored a pre-doctoral Fellowship (research associate) in philosophy of neuroscience. Directed by Professor John Bickle, Fellows work directly with Bickle on his various research projects, as well as on a project or projects of their own. Bickle is also a faculty member of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomical Sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, which gives Fellows the opportunity to collaborate with state-of-the-art research laboratories in neurobiology if they desire. The salary for the 9-month position during the regular academic year currently is $15,750 (the equivalent of a Ph.D. stipend in the behavioral and social sciences at MSU), and includes health and other staff benefits. Travel money for presentation of research at professional conferences is available. Additional money for optional summer continuation of the Fellowship (approximately $5200) is typically available, contingent on a satisfactory performance review. Fellows who hold M.A. degrees in Philosophy also have the opportunity to teach one section of an introductory PHI course each semester of the fellowship, typically for $3500 per section (contingent on funding).

Previous Fellows have been very successful in securing admission with full funding into major philosophy and neuroscience Ph.D. programs. These acceptances include Philosophy Ph.D. programs at University of Pittsburgh History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University History and Philosophy of Science, University of California, San Diego, University of Cincinnati, and CUNY Graduate Center; and Ph.D. programs in cognitive developmental neuroscience at the University of Iowa and psychology at Ohio State University. All three previous pre-doctoral fellows currently are pursuing Ph.D.s (see bios below).

Mississippi State University is the state’s leading research institution. In the latest National Science Foundation (NSF) survey (December 2017) MSU ranked 93rd overall among public and private institutions nationwide in total research and development expenditures, 64th overall among public institutions, and 60th among all institutions without a medical school. The Department of Philosophy and Religion is composed of eleven tenured or tenure-track faculty members (ten philosophers) and three full-time instructors (two philosophers). All faculty are actively engaged in research, with department strengths in philosophy of science (especially biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science), moral psychology, biomedical and research ethics, and aesthetics. The department has an active Visiting Speakers series (typically five speakers per semester) and a faculty manuscript works-in-progress workshop.

Current Fellow, 2017-2018

Portrait of Jonathan Kanzelmeyer Jonathan Kanzelmeyer, B.A., M.A.

Jonathan received his undergraduate degree in philosophy, with a minor in mathematics, from the University of Nevada, Reno. He stayed at UNR to complete a master's degree in philosophy (in 2016), under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Nickles. His master’s thesis concerned the methodological foundations of Daniel Dennett's philosophy of mind, which Jonathan defended against epistemological assumptions motivating both “new mysterianism” about conscious experience (Nagel, Chalmers), and a non-reductive physicalism within neuroscience itself (Hacker, Bennett).

Working with Bickle this academic year, Jonathan is researching ways that information theory, particularly algorithmic compressibility and control theory, can help adjudicate debates about the reducibility of distinct levels of description within neuroscience.


Portrait of Andrew Bollhagen 2016-2017

Andrew Bollhagen, B.A., M.A.

Andrew graduated with a B.A. in philosophy from the University of California, Irvine in 2009. After spending two-and-one-half years living and working in Asia and Central America, he returned to the U.S. to complete an M.A. in philosophy at California State University, Long Beach. In his M.A. thesis he addressed the claim, much discussed in the philosophy of mind and perception, that our perceptual phenomenology is transparent, by attempting to reformulate that claim in a way to make it more readily evaluable from the perspective of historical and contemporary empirical work in perceptual psychology.

Working with Bickle, Bollhagen continued his research on perception, adding some neurobiological detail to his account and challenging representationalist views. Beginning in Fall 2017 Andrew is pursuing a Ph.D in philosophy and cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego.

Portrait of Nedah Namati 2015-2016

Nedah Namati, B.A.,M.S.

Prior to completing the pre-doctoral fellowship, Nedah conducted a year of neurobiology laboratory research, investigating the circadian regulation of drug seeking behavior in rodents with Dr. Ian Webb in the Coolen-Lehman Lab at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. During her fellowship year she worked on the process of experimental research itself: do seemingly “irrelevant” conditions make knowledge about cognition possible? What are some limitations of the ways neurobiologists represent information and what alternative modes of representation are there? How does error guide experimental research practices and hypotheses?

Following her fellowship year Nedah relocated to Boston, and the Rogulja Lab at Harvard Medical School. There she continued research in neurobiology and genetics, but also familiarized herself with game theory, and fMRI fundamentals and study design, during a neuroimaging fellowship at the Martinos Center. Currently Nedah is in the PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh’s History and Philosophy of Science department.

Portrait of Sara Mosteller 2014-2015

Sara Mosteller, B.A., M.S.

As the inaugural pre-doctoral Fellow Sara was able to learn about different areas of philosophy, with a more specific focus on applications of some philosophical ideas to cognitive science and neuroscience. She came with an M.S. in experimental psychology from the University of Tennessee, involving behavioral studies with infants. Her fellowship research project examined how visual selective attention is researched at different levels of organization, from behavioral paradigms to neuroimaging and cellular neuroscience studies. She argued that selective attention can be explained at multiple scales, from neural networks that connect different regions of the brain down to very small populations of cells.

Currently a Ph.D. student in developmental cognitive neuroscience at East Anglia University in the U.K., Sara continues to pursue her interest in organization and explanation at multiple levels, by asking if individuals can function as part of an information-sharing network at a group level. Her thesis research examines how young children communicate and learn words and rules of a game from their parents. Sara is interested in how behavior and brain activity aren’t just coordinated within the individual child, but between child and parent as they share information and work together. She credits her pre-doctoral fellowship year at MSU with giving her a theoretical framework from which to frame problems to work on within a scientific context.

Fellow Publications and Presentations

Kanzelmeyer, J. (2017). "Review of Berthoz, The Vicarious Brain." Quarterly Review of Biology 92(4), 473.

Bollhagen, A. and Bickle, J.(2017). "Sounding the call for external validity in decision neuroscience." Science & Education 26(3-4):429-433.

Kanzelmeyer, Jonathan, "Demon-computabile universes and the unity of science." Talk presented at the 55th annual meeting of the Alabama Philosophical Society, Pensacola, FL, September 29-30, 2017.

Bollhagen, Andrew,"Adaptation, representationalism and thermometers." Talk presented at the 54th annual meeting of the Alabama Philosophical Society, Pensacola, FL, September 30-October 1, 2016.

Bollhagen, Andrew,"Adaptation, representationalism and thermometers." Talk presented at the 19th Annual Rocky Mountain Philosophy Conference, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, April 7-8, 2017.

Nemait, Nedah and Bickle, John, "Toward a new account of neurobiological experimentation: Re-examining the need for consistency in neurobiological research." Poster presented at the 25th Biennial Philosophy of Science Association Meeting, Atlanta, GA. November, 2016.