Grand Challenge Scholar Lunch Series Talk: Reverse Engineering the Brain

By Minh Anh Phan ’22

One of the greatest benefits of studying in a liberal arts college is the diverse, interdisciplinary perspective we get as we learn to perceive things from different lenses. The “Reverse Engineering the Brain” talk by Professor John Hunter from Film/ Media Studies department at Bucknell exemplifies that spirit. It was held on Tuesday, April 23rd as a part of Grand Challenge Scholars lunch talk series.

Grand Challenge Scholar is a program by National Academy of Engineering (NAE), a nonprofit organization with a dedication to advance the well-being of the nation. At Bucknell, the program has rolling admission, and does not have any restrictions for majors. Whether you study in College of Management, College of Engineering or College of Arts and Sciences, Grand Challenge Scholar is a great opportunity for students to start thinking about and developing solutions to the problems pertaining to the world. The NAE identifies 14 Grand Challenges to make progress for a more sustainable world. These are all interdisciplinary problems that are pressing issues in our society that needs to be addressed.

The talk started out with a brief discussion to the question of what a brain is, what a mind is, and how those two are related. He discussed the extended mind hypothesis and other studies that suggests that our minds/memories are not just functions of the brain, but interactive processes involving brain, body, environment, and prostheses such as written records and cell phones. He offered an interesting perspective on how the topic reverse engineering the brain can be approached from a more philosophical mindset to not make the same mistakes as engineering mindset sometimes might does. He talked about the difference between the brain and the mind and how often modern neuroscience/engineering tries to ignore it. The discussion between the audience and the professor was very lively as the approach he presented, the questions he proposed were highly thought-provoking. Overall, the talk was a great success in my opinion.

To find more information about the Grand Challenge Scholars at Bucknell, please follow this link:

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