Sonya Hanson, Ph.D.Research Scientist, CCB, Flatiron Institute
Peggy Brunache, Ph.D.Lecturer , University of Glasgow
Director, Beniba Centre for Slavery Studies
Once unknown to much of the world, chili peppers have become a familiar ingredient worldwide thanks to their ability to add a spicy punch to any dish. The secret to their heat is capsaicin, an active component that induces a burning sensation in the mouth that can be tear-inducingly intense.
Have you ever wondered how our bodies detect and draw alarm to dangerously hot foods? Or why do people seek out and even crave something evolutionarily designed to hurt them?
Sonya Hanson is a biophysicist who is fascinated by how we experience varying degrees of spiciness and studies the molecular mechanisms of our biological temperature sensors that make these sensations possible.
Peggy Brunache is a food historian and archaeologist who seeks to uncover the full story behind the movement of foods like chilis across continents throughout history and the roles these spicy delicacies have come to play in different cultural cuisines and traditions.
Join them as they sit down with Ivvet Abdullah-Modinou, vice president of Outreach, Education and Engagement at the Simons Foundation, to discuss the sensory science of spice, the historical and cultural context of how chili peppers became so widespread, and how we can use taste to embody understanding.
About the Speakers:
Brunache is a lecturer on the history of Atlantic slavery at the University of Glasgow and the director of the Beniba Centre for Slavery Studies. Born in Miami to Haitian parents, she trained and worked as a historical archaeologist with a focus on Atlantic slavery, the African diaspora and Black foodways at various sites in West Africa, the United States and the Caribbean. She also developed a free ongoing four-week online course on British slavery in the Caribbean with Futurelearn.com. Her media appearances in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe include the U.S. Discovery Channel, BBC Television, the U.K.’s Channel Four and Germany’s Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF).
Hanson joined the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Biology (CCB) in 2021. Her research focuses on structural and molecular biophysics, particularly the modeling and analysis of experimental data and simulations to understand the molecular mechanisms of key biological processes. She has a B.S. in biophysics from the University of Southern California and received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Oxford, studying the temperature-sensitive transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels. Prior to joining the CCB, Hanson was a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Columbia University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In her research, she combined experimental and computational methods to study temperature-sensitive bacterial sodium channels, extracted continuous conformational heterogeneity from cryo-EM datasets, and designed better-targeted therapies to kinases.
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5:30 p.m. Doors open
6:00 – 7:00 p.m. In Conversation
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Reception