Stephen Allsop PhD ’16 is an MIT postdoc who studies social cognition at Tye Laboratory, an MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences facility that examines the emotional and motivational states that influence human behavior, in health and disease.
His specialty is observational fear learning, which describes the experience of learning from witnessing an event, rather than having the direct experience. Allsop is pursuing his MD and post-doctoral research in brain and cognitive sciences at both MIT and Harvard to fully understand this phenomenon.
Slice of MIT sat down with Allsop to discuss his research before he speaks to MIT alumni in New York City on Oct. 20, as part of an MIT Campaign for a Better World road show tour that highlights the research and innovation occurring at MIT.
Q: What made you interested in observational fear learning?
A: I’m interested in how the brain takes in social information because it’s one of the core behaviors of all social animals. If we have a better understanding of how the brain deals with stimulus and new information, we can have a better idea of how to solve social disorders like autism.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your research?
A: My goal is to have a clear understanding of how information is processed and see where it goes wrong. But it could lead us to a better understanding of how the brain allows humans to live in groups and societies.
Q: Why did you pursue a joint degree from Harvard and MIT?
A: I’m enabled to toe the line between research and medicine. It’s a powerful way to understand diseases and move medicine forward. Mental health made sense to me because I want to help bridge the gap between science and helping patients.
Q: How does it feel to be a speaker at the New York City Road Show event?
A: I’m honored, privileged, and humbled to contribute to a university that’s allowed me to pursue my goals. I want to give back and represent my community, and I can’t think of a better way than to showcase all the talent that’s at MIT.
Q: You’re an avid jazz pianist. Does that hobby have any influence on your research?
A: My music and science interact because I’ve played at a bunch of science events, but it hasn’t really influenced my research yet. But it’s something I think about. If I could seamlessly marry the two, I’d definitely do it.
Stephen Allsop will be speaking at the MIT Better World event in New York City on October 20, 2016. All alumni and friends are invited to this celebration of MIT and its mission to build a better world. Learn more about this New York event and register.