Cori Bargmann: The Scientist Collaborating with Mark Zuckerberg

March 20 - Sarah Ashlock


As I was driving around today, I noticed that the silver-colored sunshade on my car was gliding back and forth on my back dash. A crinkly whish to the right, a subtle slide to the left. It was just enough to drive me insane, and my annoyance only increased each time I noticed it (which, for the record, has been happening for weeks.) Yep, weeks. So, why in the world have I failed to move the dang thing? I’m sharing this and realizing that I still haven’t touched it. Sometimes, we do the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to do, even when we know what we’re supposed to do would be easy and helpful, or even when it’s something we actually want to do. Why do we like to rebel?


So apparently, this phenomenon I described is called “akrasia,” or the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment. Aristotle described it as a “weakness of will,” but that sounds a little rude for my liking. Today, we’re talking about a neurologist who could probably explain this phenomenon a heck of a lot better than I can. A female scientist is still an anomaly unto itself, as there are about twice as many jobs awarded to men with PhDs in biology and life sciences than to women.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Cori Bargmann, Neurobiologist & Head of Science at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

When you Google our Woman to Watch’s name, Cori Bargmann, you’ll see a list of who else people searched for. From Robert to Richard to Robert again, they’re all men. Cori sets herself apart, not just as a woman, but also as a groundbreaking person in her field and as the 2017 Scientist of the Year.

Cori’s parents grew up in Berlin before moving to the states. Her mother fancied the humanities while her father enjoyed the analytical side. Cori went to public school in Athens, Georgia when schools were still segregated. She says she’d hide in the chemistry lab during pep rallies, as she’s always preferred research to dudes chanting “hoorah!”

Cori studies the relationship between genes, behavior and neural circuits. Her love affair with science began as a teenager. For Cori, science wasn’t just a subject to learn, but also a subject to discover. She’s since also learned olfactory research, for example, how and why we can smell buttered popcorn from far away.

Now, she’s putting her expertise to good use as the head of science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The company was started by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. CZI’s mission is to use technology to build solutions for some of the world’s biggest crises, like hunger and disease.

As part of her commitment to the initiative, Cori emphasizes the need for collaboration and risk taking when it comes to science. It’s through these two elements that opportunities can develop and progress can commence. Through a handful of projects like an independent nonprofit medical research hub, there are lofty goals for company, which was founded in 2015

A big part of being a brainiac scientist includes the not-so-glamorous administrative tasks, like finding funding. It’s a big focus of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and is one of the reasons why Cori has been able to learn so much about human behavior. We hope that women like Cori continue to be such a driving force in using science for good.


Cori Bargmann said:

"The best thing about science is the companionship of other scientists and learning from them. Sometimes I feel like my own work is just the ticket to the party."

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