Jason Trageser, the newest faculty addition to Hopkins’ prestigious Neuroscience Program, has a lot on his plate. As a prolific researcher, neuroscience lab co-instructor, and Hopkins’ one and only neuroeconomics professor, Trageser has a lot to say about Hopkins, neuroeconomics, and his passion for research.
Trageser completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where he double-majored in Biology and Philosophy. While he was interested in learning more about consciousness, he was initially uncertain about his career. That all changed when he took a neuroscience class at UMBC.
“When I took neuroscience, I thought, this is what you study if you want to know the biological mechanisms of consciousness,” Trageser said. “I wanted to do the hardcore experiments. I wanted to get my hands wet. I wanted to do science, not just read papers about it.”
After graduating from college, Trageser attended the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he completed his thesis on sensory processing in the thalamus. “I decided not to attack consciousness head-on, but I developed a sense of where sensory information is encoded,” Trageser said.
Having gathered several years of research experience at the National Institute of Health and University of Maryland School of Medicine, Trageser made his way to Hopkins where he is currently instructing several classes and starting his own research lab.
This semester, Trageser is teaching neuroscience lab and a course on neuroeconomics. He also plans to create a new class on the neural control of movement. While tapping the plastic container of two fidgeting roaches — the future experimental subjects of his summer class — he emphasized the importance of hands-on learning. “I like to stress experimental design and experimental data rather than just regurgitating facts,” Trageser said.
Trageser applies the same philosophy to his lecture courses as well. In neuroeconomics, the rationale of the methodology used is emphasized along with the experimental results, as opposed to strict memorization of facts and numbers.
Neuroeconomics is the study of decision making using economic approaches. When asked about the future of this field, Trageser replied, “it’s an evolving field. Neuroeconomics can help us narrow our focus and address some questions in a more constrained way.”
As to whether neuroeconomics will lead to any significant breakthroughs, Trageser was hesitant to make any promises. “Whether or not it’s having a positive impact is another thing. The jury is still out on whether or not neuroeconomics is going to have some paradigm shift in decision making in humans,” he said.
With such a huge emphasis on the importance of understanding experimental design, Trageser’s enthusiasm to further develop his own research is not all that surprising. Trageser believes that it’s important to strike a balance between teaching and research. While he loves running experiments, he also finds teaching to be fun and challenging. Here at Hopkins, he has the resources and support to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Trageser is not all work and no play. Outside of the classroom, he is a big sports fan who enjoys some occasional downtime at local baseball and football games. Recently he has been focusing on launching his new career and taking care of two young kids.
With the two roaches running around their case and tens of documents pulled up on his computer monitor, it was evident that the busy professor had to get back to his work. Here, we leave you with a glimpse of Jason Trageser.