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“We need touch in order to thrive in our social world,” said Daniel Cordaro a PhD candidate in Psychology during a recent panel discussion titled “Touch Me,” held at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.

The event – focused on understanding touch and its significance for a variety of disciplines within the sciences and arts — was sponsored by The Berkeley Science Review, a publication devoted to the promotion of science writing, produced by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Two of the four speakers were Berkeley Ph.D. candidates.

Cordaro started out as a graduate student in Berkeley’s Chemistry department in 2007. He finished a year later with an M.S. in Organic Chemistry. He later decided to switch fields and was accepted into the Ph.D. program in the Department of Psychology.  “I’m kind of an outgoing guy, so the chemistry lab just wasn’t for me,” he reflected.

Now with the Dacher Keltner Laboratory at Berkeley, Cordaro travels around the world to study emotion and the display of emotions through a variety of gestures including touch.  “No matter where I go, I am never alone because I can speak to the person next to me in some way shape or form,” he said. “I love what I do. I don’t feel like I work a day in my life.”

Lydia Thé, a Ph.D. candidate in Molecular and Cell Biology opened the event by discussing her research in the Diana Bautista Lab at Berkeley on the molecular basis of touch sensation.

Thé studies the star-nosed mole, the snout of which is the most touch-sensitive known of all animals, to uncover how touch is interpreted and detected in the nerves of human skin. Because many of the chemical and neural pathways for touch sensation are not well understood, said Thé, research conducted on the star-nosed mole may lead to a better understanding and ultimately treatment of various medical conditions such as chronic itch disorder.

For attendee Wendy Ingram, a Molecular and Cell Biology Ph.D. student, the “Touch Me” panel offered an illuminating sequence of interdisciplinary insights on a single subject. “It was the perfect integration of so many different fields and stimulating in every way,” she commented.