Kathleen N. Esfahany

PhD student, Harvard Program in Neuroscience
Affiliate, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society
Researcher, metaLAB (at) Harvard

Hi, I'm Kathleen! I'm a PhD student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow at Harvard University. My interests include systems and computational neuroscience and AI policy. Previously, I graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Computation and Cognition. Check out some of my work below:

  1. Sleep and creativity: I am fascinated by the neuroscience behind sleep and dreams. My research in at the MIT Media Lab sought to understand how sleep and dreams affect waking cognition, with a focus on enhancing creativity by guiding dreams during sleep onset. Please check out my recent co-first author paper on hypnagogic dreams and creativity, published in Scientific Reports, here. The paper was also covered by journalists at Science, Scientific American, NIH Research Matters, and MIT News.
  2. Visual perception: How do we perceive the world around us? My research on visual perception has focused on understanding the functional organization of the brain's visual system using large-scale neural recordings. As a 2017 Simons Summer Research Fellow at Stony Brook University, I characterized the neural activity of six regions of the visual system (see my 2018 first-author paper in eNeuro here, and a video about the work here). My ongoing work as a research intern at the Allen Institute centers on understanding representational drift in the visual system. I recently presented this work at COSYNE in March 2023.
  3. Policy and communications: This summer, I am a research assistant at metaLAB (at) Harvard, working on projects at the intersection of AI, pedagogy, and policy. Some of my previous work in the intersection of science, technology, and society includes contributing to the World Economic Forum's "AI for Children Toolkit" as a member of their AI Youth Council, writing a storytelling series on milestones in tech history as a communications intern at the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and serving as a teaching assistant for the MIT Science and Technology Policy Bootcamp.

Please contact me via email with questions and opportunities! I am particularly interested in scientific collaborations, scientific advising and consulting, science communications, and intersections between science, technology, policy, and art. I'd love to hear from you if you think we could have something interesting to talk about or if you think I could be a good fit for your team!