Silas Busch, Advisor Christian R. Hansel in Neurobiology, has been named a 2021 winner of the Wayne C. Booth Prize for Excellence in Teaching, awarded annually to University of Chicago graduate students for outstanding instruction of undergraduates.
Before coming to UChicago, Silas Busch earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and philosophy from Bard College. Now a doctoral student in neurobiology, Busch works in Prof. Christian Hansel's lab investigating how individual neurons and whole neural circuits function to encode learning and memory in mice.
Passionate about the intersections of neuroscience and philosophy, Busch helped Prof. Peggy Mason develop and teach a new undergraduate course entitled, “Ethics Through a Neurobiological Lens.” The course took an experimental philosophy approach to ethical topics inspired by neuroscience research, such as how to define death and the ethics of neuroenhancement, the targeted improvement of cognitive abilities.
For Busch, teaching undergraduates has transformed the way he understands his research.
“The fearlessness of my students is inspiring,” Busch said. “They have been unafraid to take a stance on an issue, to challenge others respectfully, and—most impressively—to change their position.”
“Across subjects, memorizing material only goes so far. You have to be willing to express ideas, be wrong, and learn from others through conversation,” Busch added. “Learning is quite experimental in that way, and a creative blend of scientific and philosophical approaches can be applied to so many scholarly pursuits.”