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NIU Libraries and STEM Read explore the human brain through science and science fiction

August 17, 2020

Northern Illinois University STEM Read and the NIU Libraries are partnering to offer a series of fun, fast-paced webinars to explore bleeding-edge science and mind-bending views of the future.

The next webinar, on Aug. 19, brings together neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri, who is developing technology and methods to create a complete map of the human brain, with award-winning science fiction author M.T. Anderson. In a discussion titled, “This Is Your Brain on Sci-Fi,” the two will share their work and thoughts about the scientific and social impacts that might come from today’s bleeding-edge science.

Northern Illinois University College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Paul Kassel.

The webinar will start with an interview with Paul Kassel, dean of the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts and a full professor in the NIU School of Theatre and Dance. Kassel has long been interested in the connections between art and science. His current work, “The Actor’s Path: An Evolutionary Approach to the Art and Craft of Playing,” explores how acting can be informed by an understanding of biology, neuroscience and human evolution. Kassel is also an Alan Alda Science Communications Certified Instructor who uses improv theater techniques to help researchers communicate their work to nonscientists.

Gillian King-Cargile, STEM Read director and co-director of the Future Telling Planning Committee, is excited to bring these great thinkers together. “These people stand at the nexus of art and science. Their work focuses on understanding the brain, understanding both physiologically and philosophically what it is that makes us human. This has implications for the future of art and literature, human relations and even artificial intelligence. It should be a fascinating conversation!”  

Dr. Kasthuri

Dr. Kasthuri is a lifelong science fiction and fantasy geek, a neuroscience researcher at Argonne and an assistant professor (adjunct) in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Chicago. He has an M.D. from the Washington University School of Medicine and a D.Phil. from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes scholar. Dr. Kasthuri’s work has implications for the future of everything from treating mental illness to reverse-engineering aspects of human creativity and personality for artificial intelligence.

M.T. Anderson

M.T. Anderson writes mind-bending books for readers of all ages. His award-winning novel “Feed” features a near-future society where people have the internet beamed directly into their brains. His most recent sci-fi novel, “Landscape with Invisible Hand,” explores what would happen if Earth suddenly became a member of a galactic empire that dominated humanity with economic and technological superiority rather than hostile invasion. Anderson studied English literature at Harvard University and Cambridge University and went on to receive his MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University. He is known for challenging readers to look at the world in new ways. “We write because we can’t decipher things the first time around,” he says.

This free webinar will take place on Aug. 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Registration and more information are available at

NIU STEM Read is part of NIU STEAM in the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development. Learn more at

Learn more about the NIU University Libraries at