Neuroscience Program Welcomes Philip Rubin, Ph.D., to Discuss ‘Obama’s BRAIN’

President’s Former Senior Science Adviser Presents Lecture at Trinity College

​Hartford, Connecticut, October 13, 2016 – The Neuroscience Program at Trinity College recently hosted a lecture by Philip Rubin, Ph.D., a former senior science adviser to President Barack Obama, titled “Obama’s BRAIN: A View of Science Policy from Inside the White House.” Rubin spoke on Thursday, September 29, in the Washington Room to a crowd of students, faculty, and the public about the BRAIN (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative.

Philip Rubin, Ph.D., former senior science adviser to President Barack Obama
​Philip Rubin, Ph.D., former senior science adviser to President Barack Obama.
The BRAIN Initiative, Rubin said, is the Obama administration’s research initiative launched in 2014 to revolutionize the understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and perhaps even cure brain diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, Rubin said, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, will show how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. Rubin explained that the impact of this initiative could be significant, since neurological disorders affect more than 50 million Americans every year and cost more than $760 billion to treat.

When asked why he chose to help coordinate this important initiative, Rubin noted that he was attracted to the opportunities that living in Washington, D.C., offered and he liked the chaotic aspects of working in the White House. Rubin explained that the BRAIN Initiative, like any proposal, faced some challenges. For one, Rubin said that the Office of Science and Technology Policy ranks science as a relatively low priority, just behind technology and innovation. Even when the administration did gain interest, Rubin said, “Whenever something gets attention, it’s a problem because everyone is going to fight about what to do. The second you bring up money, it complicates things because people only focus on the money. There has to be a vision.”

However, Rubin said, things are looking bright for the future of the BRAIN Initiative. The Obama administration proposed more than $300 million in funding and an “all hands on deck” mentality toward reaching the White House Neuroscience Initiatives goals. Funding is predicted to grow even more rapidly, and the budget for 2017 is expected to be even larger, Rubin added.

Rubin is now retired from his work as senior science adviser to the president. He is currently the senior adviser to the president of Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut, where from 2003 through 2011 he was the chief executive officer and a senior scientist. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Surgery, Otolaryngology at the Yale University School of Medicine, a research affiliate in the Department of Psychology at Yale University, and a fellow at Yale’s Trumbull College.

For more information about the lecture, read the Hartford Courant article, “Obama's Ex-science Adviser Describes White House Work.”

Written by Catie Currie ’17