Sharp Shots and Hot Hands

  • Speakers
  • Eddy Albarran, Ph.D.Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Zuckerman Institute, Columbia University
  • Tim Chartier, Ph.D.Joseph R. Morton Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Davidson College
Date & Time

About Presents
Presents is a free events series exploring the connections between science, culture and society. Join our scientists and special guests as they discuss the intersections of their work, followed by an evening of conversation over drinks. It’s an opportunity to hear new perspectives that may challenge your assumptions and stoke your curiosity. Meet interesting people who share a passion for ideas and discovery. Come for the conversation, stay for the connections.

Have you ever wondered how professional basketball players can perform under such immense pressure? Screaming fans, cheerleaders with megaphones and blaring music are just a few elements that add to this particularly challenging environment. Not to mention, most arenas are strategically designed to play into this extreme excitement to create a home-court advantage for its players.

Some players and teams seem to possess a knack for overcoming distractions and even embodying what is referred to as the ‘hot hand phenomenon,’ a notion that suggests that after a string of successes, a player or team is more likely to have continued success.

Eddy Albarran is a neuroscientist who studies reinforcement learning, which occurs when neuronal activity generates bodily movements that are then refined via feedback from the environment. He is particularly interested in how dopamine-driven outcomes, such as effectively making a 3-pointer from half-court, for example, sculpt brain circuits during this process.

Tim Chartier is an applied mathematician and professor at Davidson College who uses advanced sports analytics and statistics to study the different playing styles of teams. This data-driven approach to the sport has led him and his students to work with coaches from top college teams across the nation and teams in the NBA to reveal underlying insights into how they operate.

As we draw nearer to one of basketball’s most thrilling times of the year, March Madness, we invite you to join them in sitting down with Elizabeth Simolke, program manager of Science, Society & Culture at the Simons Foundation, to discuss the intersections of neuroscience, statistics and one of the country’s most beloved sports.


Eddy Albarran is a postdoctoral research scientist in the lab of Rui Costa at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute. He earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University. In 2023, he became a Junior Fellow of the Simons Society of Fellows. His research uses a brain-machine interface model to probe how dopamine orchestrates the sculpting of neural circuits during reinforcement learning.

Tim Chartier is an applied mathematician with a focus in computer science. He frequently works in data analytics with a specialty in sports analytics. He’s worked with teams in the NBA, NFL and NASCAR and fielded questions from ESPN and The New York Times. He also directs and works with dozens of student researchers to provide analytics to Davidson College sports teams.

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