Stuart Firestein is the chair of Columbia University’s department of biological sciences where, along with his colleagues, he studies the vertebrate olfactory system, possibly the best chemical detector on the face of the planet. Aside from its molecular detection capabilities, the olfactory system serves as a model for investigating general principles and mechanisms of signaling and perception in the brain. Dedicated to promoting the accessibility of science to a public audience, Firestein serves as an advisor for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s program for the public understanding of science. He received the Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award for excellence in scholarship and teaching. He is a fellow of the AAAS. Recently he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for science writing. His book on the workings of science for a general audience called Ignorance, How it Drives Science, was released in 2012. His second book, Failure, Why Science Is So Successful, was released in 2015.