Paul Grobstein

Eleanor A. Bliss Professor of Biology, Bryn Mawr College

Director, Bryn Mawr College Center for Science in Society

Serendip co-founder

AcademiaPublicationsCoursesWeb ActivityContact Info

I'm a neurobiologist, educator, and parent with a life-long interest in understanding why people behave the way they do, and how they can continually expand their capabilities.

I've done laboratory research on the organization and development of the nervous systems of crayfish, rabbits, leeches, and, most extensively, frogs, where the work focused on the nature of spatial representations. and the origins, organization, regulation, and significance of unpredictability in neuronal function and behavior. This research is also related to several broader questions, including the distinction between conscious and unconscious processing, and the nature of individual choice and free will.

I'm also a biologist and philosopher, with an array of more general interests in the underpinnings of human behavior, the nature of biological, cultural, and intellectual change, complex systems and general information processing principles, and the character of human understanding and the relationships among its different forms. In recent years, I've been devoting increased time to thinking about the implications of current and anticipated understandings of the brain for a variety of practical and philosophical issues, including mental health, child-rearing, political decision-making, and education Associated with this is a strong commitment to improving the educational environment at all levels and for all people.

I am, in addition, an active explorer of the opportunities being made available by the development of computing technology, and of the internet and the web. With a number of colleagues, I co-founded and continue to develop the Serendip website as a venue for explorations of new directions for the development of human culture that are being opened up by the world wide web.

Common to all these activities is a strong belief in the capabilities of the human brain to explore and create, both individually and collectively, in ways that achieve improved understandings of the human condition and open new avenues for its further development. And a belief that modern information technology, including the web, is a distinctive and valuable tool for the extension of human understanding.


B.A, Harvard University, 1969
M.A., Ph.D., Stanford University, 1970, 1973
Postdoctoral Fellowships at Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University
Assistant and Associate Professor, University of Chicago, 1974-1985
Professor of Biology, Bryn Mawr College, 1986-present
1986-1993, Chair of Department
1988-present, Eleanor A. Bliss Professorship
2000-present, Director, Center for Science in Society

Selected Print Publications
(see to right for web publications)

Grobstein, Paul (2005) Revisiting Science in Culture: Science as Story Telling and Story Revising, Journal of Research Practice, Volume 1.1, Article M1.

Grobstein, P. (2005) Making the Unconscious Conscious, and Vice Versa: A Bi-directional Bridge Between Neuroscience/Cognitive Science and Psychotherapy?, Cortex 41: 663-668.

Blank, D., Cassidy, K., Dalke, A., and Grobstein, P. (2004) Emergent Pedagogy: Learning to Enjoy the Uncontrollable and Make it Productive, submitted

Grobstein, P. (2003) Getting it less wrong, the brain's way: science, pragmatism, and multiplism, IN Interpretation and Its Objects: Studies in the Philosophy of Michael Krausz (A. Ritivoi, ed.), Rodopi, pp 153-166

Dalke A., McCormack, E, and Grobstein, P. (2003) Theorizing Interdisciplinarity: The Evolution of New Academic and Intellectual Communities, submitted

Dalke A. and Grobstein, P. (2003) Story-Telling in (At Least) Three Dimensions: An Exploration of Teaching Reading, Writing, and Beyond, submitted

Grobstein, P. (2002) Who's afraid of Emily Dickinson, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the brain, Newsletter of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia

Patton, P. and Grobstein, P (1998) The effects of telencephalic lesions on visually mediated prey orienting behavior in the frog (Rana pipiens). I. The effects of complete removal of one telencephalic lobe, with a comparison to the effects of unilateral tectal lobe lesions. Brain, Behavior, and Evolution 51: 123-143.

Patton, P. and Grobstein, P (1998) The effects of telencephalic lesions on visually mediated prey orienting behavior in the frog (Rana pipiens). II. The effect of limited lesions to the telencephalon. Brain, Behavior, and Evolution 51: 144-161.

Grobstein, P. et al. (1994-present) Serendip, a WWW resource -
Includes (see right column for more):

Grobstein, P. (1994) Variability in behavior and the nervous system. In: Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, Volume 4 (V.S. Ramachandran, ed.), Academic Press, 447-458.

Grobstein, P. (1992) Directed movement in the frog: motor choice, spatial representation, free will? In: Neurobiology of Motor Programme Selection: New Approaches to Mechanisms of Behavioral Choice. (Kien, J., McCrohan, C., Winlow, B., eds.), Pergamon Press, pp 251-279.

Grobstein, P. (1990) Strategies for analyzing complex organization in the nervous system. I. Lesion experiments, the old rediscovered. In: Computational Neuroscience. (Schwartz, E., ed.), MIT Press, pp 19-37.

Grobstein, P. (1988) From the head to the heart: some thoughts on similarities between brain function and morphogenesis, and on their significance for research methodology and biological theory. Experientia 44: 961-971.

Bryn Mawr College courses

Additional teaching activities

Contact Information


(Click for earlier)

New Serendip exhibits

Thinking broadly: notes of a public intellectual
(recent essays available on Serendip)

Recent web-based talks/presentations Selected earlier materials