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Department of

History and Philosophy of Science   

Graduate Students

Marcus Adams


I am a second year student. My research interests are in the history of philosophy (esp. the 17th century), epistemology, and applied ethics. I am currently working on two projects in the history of philosophy: an account of the foundation of Hobbesian science that makes reference to his optical work and an account of Baconian scientific method that argues for its indebtedness to legal theorizing in the common law tradition.

Keith Bemer

I am a third year student participating in the Classics, Philosophy and Ancient Science program. My primary interests are in Aristotle's natural philosophy, but I have broad interests in ancient philosophy and the history of science (especially ancient medicine and the history of astronomy). I'm currently working on a paper on the "mixed" or "subalternate" sciences in Aristotle, focusing on discussions of optical phenomena in the Meteorology. I'm also interested in learning more about the relationship between the theoretical science of nature and the practical science of medicine in ancient thought. At some point I hope to do more research into Kepler's derivation of elliptical orbits in the New Astronomy, as well as his treatment of optical lens systems in the Dioptrice. In the area of philosophy of science, I'm currently working on a paper on Hacking's "entity realism" and its consequences for astronomy. Prior to coming to Pitt, I did my undergraduate work at St. John's College (MD).

Julia Bursten


I am a second-year student with primary research interests in philosophy of quantum mechanics, and additional research interests in early Modern philosophy, philosophy and history of chemistry, thermodynamics, and problems of causation in science. This fall, I am TAing the Introduction to Philosophy of Science Course, taught by Dr. Michela Massimi.

Jason Byron


I work primarily on the philosophy of evolutionary biology, particularly speciation, systematics, and ecology. I am especially interested in explanation, pluralism, and the rhetoric of unification in those fields. I am also working on two historical projects: one on the history of 20th century philosophy of science in the United States and its engagements with biology, the other on the development of sexology during the interwar period in Germany and Britain.

Thomas Cunningham


I work on the topic of medical decision-making. This topic can be found at the intersection of clinical medicine, bioethics, philosophy of science, and philosophy of medicine. The question I seek to answer is: How should we make medical decisions? To answer it, I endeavor to articulate the sense in which medical decisions are social decisions, which motivates me to think about bioethical and clinical models of medical decision-making as well as group psychology, distributed cognition, philosophy of social science, and ethical theory.

I have also worked on topics in general philosophy of science, history of biology and medicine, philosophy of biology, and bioethics. For more information, see my homepage or cv.


Peter Distelzweig


My research interests center on the history of late scholastic, renaissance and early modern natural philosophy. I am also interested in Aristotle, especially his natural philosophy and philosophy of mathematics.

Greg Gandenberger


I am a first-year student from Washington University in St. Louis, where I worked with Carl Craver on a case study of the introduction of the cathode-ray oscillograph into electrophysiology. My primary interests are in methodology and in philosophy of physics. Within methodology, I am interested in measurement techniques, statistics, and causal inference. I am also interested in how science informs personal conduct and public policy and in how it might do so more effectively. Within philosophy of physics, I am currently interested in inconsistencies within and among physical theories and the ramifications of such inconsistencies for both physics and metaphysics.

Benjamin Goldberg


I work on the history of philosophy and science in the early modern period (roughly Bacon to Kant). I am especially interested in the intersection between early modern medicine and philosophy, and especially the influence of Aristotle in this period. I am currently at work on my dissertation, which analyzes the role and status of teleological explanation, and teleology more generally, within the work of William Harvey. I am also interested in generally philosophy of science (causation, explanation), issues in the history and philosophy of biology and medicine (especially the epistemology of biological experiments, e.g., the development of the fluctuation method by Luria and Delbrück in the 1940s), feminist philosophy of science (especially Helen Longino's work) and in historiography and historical methodology. I also like fluffy animals.

Joseph Goode

I am a first-year student with a BA in Biology and Fine Arts from the University of Michigan and BSN/MSN from the University of Pittsburgh. I am also a practicing Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. My interests are in the history and philosophy of biology and medicine, with a particular interest in the history of anesthesia and perceptions of pain. I am also interested in man-machine interactions and the interaction of art and the 'collective iconography' on social movements and technologic change. My own research projects are related to the cardiopulmonary effects of mechanical ventilation (especially the role of High Frequency Jet Ventilation) and the application of Hierarchical Task Analysis to evaluation of the efficacy of Human Simulation Education methods.

Balázs Gyenis


I maintain a broad interest in general philosophy of science and in philosophy of mathematized sciences, in particular in philosophy of physics. I hold graduate degrees in physics, in theoretical economics, and in philosophy, and I have graduate-level familiarity with models of mathematical population genetics. My dissertation research focuses on the relationship between indeterminism and essential idealization with a special emphasis on well- and ill-posed problems. I struggle with Russian mathematics, Greek symbols, Polish notation, and a Hungarian accent.

Eric Hatleback

This is my fifth year at the University of Pittsburgh. I received Bachelor's degrees in both mathematics and philosophy from the University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh and a Master's degree in philosophy from Western Michigan University. I am currently interested in experimental history of science, probability (especially the Sleeping Beauty problem), and cosmology. In particular, my current work is focused on multiverse cosmology and its philosophical implications.

Yoichi Ishida


I’m a third year student. My current research interests include history and philosophy of biology (especially ecology and evolutionary biology) and general philosophy of science.

Emi Iwatani

I am a first year student with an M.A. in Philosophy from Boston University, an M. A. Ed. in Science Education from Wake Forest University, an Sc. B. in Biology from Brown University and am a former faculty member (biology and conceptual physics) of Boston Arts Academy. I am interested in the natures of science, art and philosophy as well as the nature of cognition and the nature of life. My favorite philosophers (so far) are Aristotle and Leibniz. Every so often I try to get out of my head by doing kendo and yoga.

Taku Iwatsuki

I am a first year student from Japan. My main research interest lies in methodological problems in the social sciences. I have a master's degree in philosophy from Nagoya University, where I studied the foundations of validation in psychometrics. I am also interested in philosophy of experimentation and philosophy of statistics.


William Lebing

I am a second year student primarily interested in Philosophy of Physics and History of Mathematics and mathematical sciences. My research has recently been centered on early ways of dealing with the infinite, specifically in Nicholas Cusanus, Huygens, Pascal, and Leibniz. I also like to rock climb and write music.

Lisa Lederer

I am a first-year student with a B.A. in psychology. At the moment, I'm interested in the history/philosophy of the cognitive and social sciences, especially of the interface between the two. More practically, I'm interested in the application of such philosophy to neurological rehabilitation. Besides psychology and philosophy, I enjoy dance, yoga, swimming, and making sock monkeys.

Bihui Li


My interests include the foundations and philosophy of physics and the methodology and epistemology of computer simulations. I also have a soft spot for Wittgenstein. I studied physics and philosophy at the University of Chicago and have previously worked in experimental particle physics and computer vision.

Jonathan Livengood


I like to think of myself as a methodologist. My main research interests are in causation, especially causal inference. I am also interested in scientific instrumentation, and I am proud to say that my thinking in this area has been informed by my study of the early history of chromatography. I have done some experimental philosophy (experimental psychology with a philosophical agenda), and I am very interested in debates about the role of intuitions in philosophy and elsewhere. I also enjoy reading and discussing the classical pragmatists, especially Peirce. In my spare time, I like to watch old episodes of Doctor Who, and my wife tells me that I am married to a brilliant woman of unappreciated genius, which is a plus.

Joseph B. McCaffrey

I am a first year in HPS. I received a BA in biology from Colorado College with a minor in philosophy in 2007. I have strong interests in philosophy, cognitive science--especially neuroscience--and evolutionary biology. At Pitt, I currently plan on studying both the philosophy of neuroscience and how evidence from contemporary neuroscience contributes to traditionally philosophical problems (neurophilosophy). I am also drawn to the issues of complexity, levels, and emergence more generally in the biological sciences.

Elizabeth O'Neill

I am a second-year student, and I obtained my BA in History and Biology from Brown University. I'm interested in the history and philosophy of biology, especially evolution and its influence on behavior and morality.

Thomas Pashby

I'm a first year student coming with an MSci in Physics and Philosophy from the University of Bristol, where I became interested in relational interpretations of quantum mechanics and structuralism about science. I intend to continue working on interpretative questions in physics, while getting acquainted with the history of science, particularly the origins of quantum mechanics. I also hope to expand my interests somewhat!

Dennis Pozega

I am a fifth year student interested in scientific realism, in particular in agent-centered defenses of it, and modeling and simulation as tools of scientific knowledge production. I come from the University of Waterloo in Ontario where I completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Systems Design Engineering. There I picked up familiarity with, and enduring interest in, systems theory, both traditional and "complex," and the methods of cognitive psychology and cognitive science more generally.

Aleta Quinn

I'm a third year HPS student primarily focused on the history and philosophy of biology and environmental ethics. Specifically, I'm interested in philosophically examining conservation biology. I have a B.A. in philosophy and a B.S. in biology from the University of Maryland. I enjoy dancing, playing chess, and describing myself in short declarative sentences.

Bryan Roberts


This is my fourth year in the department, and I'm now writing a dissertation on the philosophical foundations of the Unruh effect. In general, I'm interested in everything to do with the history and philosophy of physics. Recently, I have written about time-reversal, supertasks, group theory in quantum mechanics, classical indeterminism, and early theories of freefall and thermodynamics. I also have general interests in logic and metaphysics. You can speak to me in English, Spanish or French.

Jonah N. Schupbach


I am in my fourth year as a graduate student in the department. Most, but not all, of my current research focuses on my dissertation topic: the epistemology and psychology of explanatory inference. More broadly speaking, I have strong research interests in the general philosophy of science (particularly on issues pertaining to explanation, confirmation, and scientific method), mainstream epistemology (especially pertaining to the internalism / externalism debate and to the architecture of propositional knowledge), and formal epistemology (particularly Bayesianism and formal accounts of epistemic coherence). The common theme of interest running through all of these is the philosophy of human reasoning. Relevant to these primary areas of interest, I have also recently pursued some research within the experimental psychology of human reasoning. For more information, please visit my homepage at

Elay Shech

I'm a third year graduate student from Israel interested mainly in the history and philosophy of physics, especially foundations of statistical mechanics. I received a BA degree in Philosophy (2003) and one in Physics (2003) from Boston University. My current research includes the study and replication of Coulomb’s electric torsion balance and Galileo’s inclined plane at the most excellent HPS lab, as well as, various issues in foundations of statistical mechanics like the ‘Past Hypothesis’ and justification of the second law. I also play in a rock band.

Catherine Stinson


I am a fifth year graduate student. My dissertation deals with explanation in Cognitive Neuroscience. I examine some of its common methods including fMRI localization studies and computational modeling, and evaluate what I take to be its attempt to sidestep the mind-body problem. Some of the themes visited along the way are mechanisms, levels, reduction/emergence, and the status of psychological theories. In a past life I did an MSc in Computer Science at the University of Toronto. My main mode of productive procrastination is constructing miniature cities out of felt.

Justin Sytsma



Justin is a graduate student in HPS. He holds degrees in Neuroscience (BS, 2000) and Computer Science (BS, 2003; with a dual-major in Philosophy) from the University of Minnesota, as well as an MA in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. Justin’s interests center on issues in philosophy of science, philosophy of psychology, and philosophy of mind.

Justin’s dissertation is an examination and assessment of recent calls for a new science of consciousness. He aims to clearly articulate the central explanandum of the science (phenomenal consciousness), to investigate the arguments and evidence proffered for the existence of this phenomenon, and to critically asses its empirical prospects. Finally, he draws some implications from this for the related debates in philosophy of mind.

Justin currently holds a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship and is the first person to win the William James Prize at the Society for Philosophy and Psychology annual conference two years in a row (2008, 2009). He has published a number of articles, including "Folk Psychology and Phenomenal Consciousness" (forthcoming, Philosophy Compass), “A New Perspective Concerning Experiments on Semantic Intuitions” (with Jonathan Livengood, forthcoming, Australasian Journal of Philosophy), “Two Conceptions of Subjective Experience” (with Edouard Machery, forthcoming, Philosophical Studies), “Dennett's Theory of the Folk Theory of Consciousness” (forthcoming, Journal of Consciousness Studies), and “Phenomenological Obviousness and the New Science of Consciousness” (2009, Philosophy of Science).

Among other projects, Justin is currently working on a book on experimental philosophy for Broadview Press.

More information can be found at Justin’s Website:

Kathryn Tabb

I am a second-year working on the history/philosophy of clinical psychology and psychiatry as well as evolutionary theory, especially Darwiniana. My past work has focused on the role of teleological argument in evolutionary theory from the early 19th century through to the contemporary Intelligent Design Movement. I am currently exploring Darwin's theories of mind during his "notebook period," and investigating methods of nosology practiced by medical psychologists medical psychologists from Darwin's day to the present. Other interests include American pragmatism, medical ethics, and Wikipedia. I have a BA from the University of Chicago and a MPhil from the University of Cambridge, both in HPS, and am a graduate fellow of the National Science Foundation.

Samuel Thomsen

I am a third-year graduate student with a B.S. in physics from Caltech. My main interests are in emergence, complexity, and the special sciences. Currently, I am investigating the possibility of characterizing emergence in terms of computational complexity.


Karen Zwier


I am a fourth-year graduate student from Chicago, Illinois. I have a B.S. in Computer Engineering and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My main work is in philosophy of causation, in which I am attempting to develop on an algorithmic and philosophical treatment of systems involving both causal relationships over defined finite time intervals and what I call "constraint relationships", which are quasi-simultaneous relative to those time intervals. Another area of my research has included several small projects that attempt to advance our understanding of Aristotle's science and logic. My work in this area has included investigations into Aristotle's theory of spontaneous generation, the relationship between his practical syllogism and his theory of animal motion, and his hypothetical syllogism. Finally, I am interested in the history of chemistry and have done some detailed archival work on John Dalton and the development of his chemical atomic theory.