Nancy J. Nersessian is a professor of cognitive science at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on human creativity in science and engineering. A major theme of this research is the model-based reasoning practices through which scientists create novel understandings of nature. She has investigated these practices in historical cases of conceptual change in physics and in ethnographic studies of problem solving in interdisciplinary bioengineering laboratories.
While at the Radcliffe Institute, Nersessian will continue to develop a challenge to the classic culture versus cognition divide in science studies. In particular, she will focus on developing an integrative account of how cognition and culture are mutually implicated in the modeling practices scientists and engineers create and use in reasoning in two interrelated projects. Her first project is to finish a book, “Creating Scientific Concepts: Model-Based Reasoning in Conceptual Change,” that synthesizes her research on the role of analogical, visual, and simulative modeling in conceptual change. The second project will be developing an integrative analysis of the complex cognitive and cultural systems that give rise to the physical and computational models constructed by researchers in bioengineering research laboratories to perform in vitro simulations.
Nersessian has an AB in physics and philosophy from Boston University and MA and PhD degrees in philosophy from Case Western Reserve University. She has held a variety of research positions, including appointments as a Fulbright Research Scholar at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and as a fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study.