The World Science Festival’s annual salon series offers in-depth conversations with leading scientists, extending the discussion of the Festival’s premiere public programs to graduate students, postdocs, faculty and well-informed members of the general public. This salon looks at new and controversial ways to understand the human capacity to cope with stress and rebound from traumatic events. Is resilience a combination of innate traits born of thousands of years of evolution? Is it a complex psychological process that varies across cultures and environments? Can resilience be reliably defined and objectively measured? Can it then be taught and reproduced?
Award-winning science writer Carl Zimmer explores the frontiers of biology in his writing. His work appears regularly in The New York Times and many magazines, and he is the author of twelve books, including A Planet of Viruses.
Zimmer is a contributing editor and columnist for Discover, and his blog, The Loom, appears on the magazine’s web site. He has won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science Journalism Award twice, in 2004 and 2009.
George Bonanno is a pioneering researcher in the science of bereavement and loss. He is a professor of clinical psychology at the Teacher’s College of Columbia University, and under his direction, the Loss, Trauma and Emotion Lab is investigating how human beings cope with extreme adversity. He is particularly interested in resilience—the psychological quality that helps people rebound after disasters, personal loss, traumatic injury, terrorist attacks or other overwhelmingly stressful events. Bonanno has documented resilience among survivors of the civil war in Bosnia, the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong and the September 11 World Trade Center attacks. He is currently focused on identifying the psychological traits and other factors that predict resilience across a range of different kinds of adversity.
Bonanno received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1991 and has been a visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong and at Cattolica Università in Milano, Italy. He co-edited the book Emotion: Current Issues and Future Directions, and his popular account of his research, The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Can Tell Us about Life after Loss, came out in 2009.
Sandro Galea is a physician and an epidemiologist. He is the Anna Cheskis Gelman and Murray Charles Gelman Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. During his tenure as Chair, the Department of Epidemiology has launched several new educational initiatives and has substantially increased its focus on five core areas: chronic, infectious, life course, psychiatric/neurological, and social epidemiology. Galea’s primary research has been on the causes of mental disorders, particularly common mood-anxiety disorders and substance abuse, and on the role of traumatic events in shaping population health. His research program seeks to uncover how determinants at multiple levels of influence—including policies, features of the social environment, molecular, and genetic factors—jointly produce the health of urban populations. Galea has conducted large population-based studies in several countries worldwide including the US, Spain, Israel, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Liberia, primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health. Galea’s interest in the complex etiology of health and disease has led him to work that explores innovative methodological approaches to population health questions primarily funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Investigator Award. Galea has published more than 350 scientific journal articles, 50 chapters and commentaries, and 7 books. Galea did his graduate training at the University of Toronto Medical School, at the Harvard University School of Public Health, and at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Prior to his arrival at Columbia Galea was on faculty at the University of Michigan. Several media outlets including The New York Times, NPR, and NBC have featured Galea’s work. He was named one of TIME magazine’s epidemiology innovators in 2006. Galea is President-Elect of the Society for Epidemiologic Research.
Glenn Saxe is the Arnold Simon Professor and Chair, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and director of the NYU Child Study Center. Saxe is a physician scientist with a focus on the psychiatric consequences of traumatic events on children.
Saxe joined the NYU Child Study Center in October 2010 from Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School where he was the director of the Center for Refugee Trauma and Resilience and the director of the Mental Health Informatics Laboratory and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Previously, he was chairman of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Boston University Medical Center. Saxe and his team have developed Trauma Systems Therapy (TST), a community-based intervention for traumatized children. The manual of TST was published in book form by Guilford Press in 2006. TST is now used in programs related to medical trauma, refugee trauma, child welfare, substance abuse, and residential care across the United States.
Saxe studied medicine at McMaster University Medical School in Hamilton, Ontario. He completed a residency in adult psychiatry at Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts Mental Health Center and two post-residency fellowships; a PTSD Fellowship at Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts General Hospital and a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at Harvard Medical School/The Cambridge Hospital.
Rachel Yehuda, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, is the Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Mental Health Patient Care Center Director at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She received her PhD in psychology and neurochemistry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and completed her postdoctoral training in Biological Psychiatry in the Psychiatry Department at Yale Medical School.
Yehuda has authored more than 300 published papers, chapters, and books in the field of traumatic stress and the neurobiology of PTSD and has received numerous federal grants. Her current interests include the study of risk and resilience factors, psychological and biological predictors of treatment response in PTSD, genetic and epigenetic studies of PTSD and the intergenerational transmission of trauma and PTSD. She has received many awards in recognition of her work including the Curt Richter Prize in psychoneuroendocrinology, and the Laufer award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress and has received guest professorships from the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry (Munich, Germany) 2004 and Leiden University (Leiden, 2010) to recognize outstanding contributions in neuroscience and endocrinology, respectively.