Socializing With Science

More than 150 alums gathered for Ben Talks in NYC

Friday, February 10, 2023

By Susan Ahlborn

Photography by Alex Schein

February began with fun, as more than 150 Penn Arts & Sciences alumni and friends got together at Slate NYC to learn about “The Science of Being Social” and do some socializing themselves. The event was the latest in the Ben Talks series, which gives the School’s faculty experts the opportunity to talk with alumni about their research. This edition included Erol Akçay, Associate Professor of Biology; Coren Apicella, Associate Professor of Psychology; Michael Platt, James S. Riepe University Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Marketing; and Rebecca Waller, Assistant Professor of Psychology. The event was moderated by Joseph Kable, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Mind Center for Outreach, Research, and Education (MindCORE). It was hosted by Dhan Pai, W'83, PAR'12, PAR'15, Penn Arts & Sciences Board of Advisors; and Heena Pai, PAR'12, PAR'15, with the Host Committee.


Joseph Kable, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Mind Center for Outreach, Research, and Education (MindCORE); Michael Platt, James S. Riepe University Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Marketing; Rebecca Waller, Assistant Professor of Psychology; Coren Apicella, Associate Professor of Psychology; and Erol Akçay, Associate Professor of Biology



Slate NYC features games like foosball, ping-pong and giant Jenga, along with plenty of places to relax and catch up. “I think there was no better way to have a topic like this discussed than in a setting like Slate,” said Pravin Manglani, W’01 ENG’01. “We’re here in New York City in a very social setting with games and food and drinks, getting together to learn a little bit about the theory about being social.”

The evening began with dinner, then the faculty gave short talks on their specialties, which range from the evolution of cooperative behavior to how we navigate our world to how children may become antisocial. Afterward, Kable led a discussion and Q&A with the panelists and audience.  



“The professors were so interesting, so eloquent,” said Manisha Manglani, C’01. “The topic was relevant for so many of us trying to navigate coming back to work full-time, socializing with friends after years, and also how we guide our children and families on coming back on the social circuit.”

Part of the discussion centered on the physical effects of being antisocial, which struck Ryan Weber, ENG’04, W’04. “So to make sure you have those strong social connections is super important for not just your mental health but your physical health as well. It's great to come back and learn and hear experts on the topic.”

“Between work and my family, I don’t have a lot of opportunities just to sit back and learn. And the four years at Penn was all sitting back, and learning, and working very hard in the process,” said Ken Bacow, C’04, W’04. ‘But tonight was an excuse to get brought back to part of what I liked about Penn, which is stretching my mind.”

A video about the program will be available shortly.