Sina Fazelpour

fullsizerender-1I’m a PhD candidate at the Philosophy Department of the University of British Columbia as well as a researcher at The W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics. My main research interests lie in the philosophy of science, philosophy of cognitive science, and ethics of science and technology. Currently, I am particularly interested in epistemic and ethical implications of decisions made in the context of constructing formal tools and models. I examine this topic through a series of case studies pertaining to models of human counterfactual reasoning, models of epistemic benefits of diversity and measures of algorithmic fairness.

Prior to philosophy, I did a bachelor degree in electrical and biomedical engineering at McMaster University, and a masters in medical biophysics at the University of Toronto, during which I also worked as a researcher at the department of diagnostic imaging at the SickKids hospital in Toronto. Aside from academic work, I enjoy football (or soccer if you prefer) and literature. Some of my translations and poems have appeared in The Antigonish Review, Frogpond, and Haiku 21: an anthology of contemporary English-language haiku.

News: Starting from October 2019, I will be a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University working with David Danks on characterizing and mitigating the potential harms of algorithmic-based decision making.


You can find brief descriptions of my publications, and research experience here.


Steel, D., Fazelpour, S., Crew, B. & Gillette, K. (forthcoming) Information Elaboration and Epistemic Effects of Diversity. Synthese.
Abstract: We suggest that philosophical accounts of epistemic effects of diversity have given insufficient attention to the relationship between demographic diversity and information elaboration (IE), the process whereby knowledge dispersed in a group is elicited and examined. We propose an analysis of IE that clarifies hypotheses proposed in the empirical literature and their relationship to philosophical accounts of diversity effects. Philosophical accounts have largely overlooked the possibility that demographic diversity may improve group performance by enhancing IE, and sometimes fail to explore the relationship between diversity and IE altogether. We claim these omissions are significant from both a practical and theoretical perspective. Moreover, we explain how the overlooked explanations suggest that epistemic benefits of diversity can depend on epistemically unjust social dynamics.

Steel, D., Fazelpour, S., Gillette, K. Crew, B. & Burgess, M. (2018). Multiple diversity concepts and their ethical-epistemic implications. European Journal for Philosophy of Science.
Abstract: A concept of diversity is an understanding of what makes a group diverse that may be applicable in a variety of contexts. We distinguish three diversity concepts, show that each can be found in discussions of diversity in science, and explain how they tend to be associated with distinct epistemic and ethical rationales. Yet philosophical literature on diversity among scientists has given little attention to distinct concepts of diversity. This is significant because the unappreciated existence of multiple diversity concepts can generate unclarity about the meaning of “diversity,” lead to problematic inferences from empirical research, and obscure complex ethical-epistemic questions about how to define diversity in specific cases. We illustrate some ethical-epistemic implications of our proposal by reference to an example of deliberative mini-publics on human tissue biobanking. Link.

Ransom, M., Fazelpour, S., & Mole, C. (2016). Attention in the predictive mind. Consciousness and Cognition.
Abstract: It has recently become popular to suggest that cognition can be explained as a process of Bayesian prediction error minimization. Some advocates of this view propose that attention should be understood as the optimization of expected precisions in the prediction-error signal (Clark, 2013, 2016; Feldman & Friston, 2010; Hohwy, 2012, 2013). This proposal successfully accounts for several attention-related phenomena. We claim that it cannot account for all of them, since there are certain forms of voluntaryattention that it cannot accommodate. We therefore suggest that, although the theory of Bayesian prediction error minimization introduces some powerful tools for the explanation of mental phenomena, its advocates have been wrong to claim that Bayesian prediction error minimization is ‘all the brain ever does’. Link

Fazelpour, S., & Thompson, E. (2015). The Kantian brain: brain dynamics from a neurophenomenological perspective. Current Opinion in Neurobiology.
Abstract: Current research on spontaneous, self-generated brain rhythms and dynamic neural network coordination cast new light on Immanuel Kant’s idea of the ‘spontaneity’ of cognition, that is, the mind’s capacity to organize and synthesize sensory stimuli in novel, unprecedented ways. Nevertheless, determining the precise nature of the brain-cognition mapping remains an outstanding challenge. Neurophenomenology, which uses phenomenological information about the variability of subjective experience in order to illuminate the variability of brain dynamics, offers a promising method for addressing this challenge. Link

Hojjat, S. P., Fazelpour, S., & Shirani, S. (2007). Multiple description coding of video using phase scrambling. In IEEE Pacific Rim Conference on Communications, Computers and Signal Processing.
Abstract: In this paper, we proposed a method to decrease the effects of data loss in communication of a video sequence using phase scrambling. Phase scrambling is used to spread the data of each pixel of a video sequence over all pixels of the scrambled video. In our experiments we studied the effects of different loss patterns. The results obtained by employing this method shows great improvements compared to cases of data loss without exploiting phase scrambling. This technique can be readily used in transmission of video segments over unreliable networks. Link

Research Experience:

Co-applicant and co-investigator with Dr. Rebecca Todd (PI): modelling affect-biased attention within the predictive coding framework. With a research grant from Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy at Duke University, the project is carried out in Dr. Rebecca Todd’s lab, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. August 2016 -Present.

Assistant to Dr. Daniel Steel: Distinct concepts of diversity and their application to explanations of the cognitive benefits of diversity for deliberative mini-publics. The W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, University of British Columbia, Canada. August 2017-2018.

Assistant to Dr. Andrea Kassner: modeling and quantifying absolute regional cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen consumption in a fast and robust manner utilizing MRI measurements of local oxygen saturation and cerebral blood flow. Diagnostic Imaging, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada. May 2012 to September 2012.

Assistant to Dr. Christopher Macgowan: modeling blood flow dynamics in pulmonary arteries, and assessment of pulmonary circulation in patients with pulmonary hypertension using MRI Diagnostic Imaging, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada. June 2007 to June 2010.

Assistant to Dr. Shirani: development a new recovery technique using Phase Scrambling for Video segments over unreliable networks. Signal Processing Lab, ECE Department, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada. April to November 2005.


In 2017-2018, I was awarded the The Don Brown Graduate Teaching Awards.

Current Teaching

Fall 2018 – University of British Columbia

COGS 300: Understanding and Designing Cognitive Systems (Syllabus)

Past Teaching

Winter 2018 – University of British Columbia

COGS 300: Understanding and Designing Cognitive Systems

Winter 2017 – University of British Columbia

PHIL 125: Introduction to Scientific Reasoning

I have also been the teaching assistant in the following courses

PHIL 101 Introduction to Philosophy
PHIL 102 Introduction to Philosophy II
PHIL 220 Symbolic Logic I
PHIL 338 Philosophy of Law
PHIL 451 Philosophy of Mind

Starting from September 2016, I was a part of a year and a half long Certificate Program in Advanced Teaching and Learning at UBC, during which I got to learn about new teaching techniques as well as to conduct a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) study.



University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; PhD candidate in philosophy
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; B.A. Specialist in Philosophy (with distinction), June 2013
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; M.Sc in Medical Biophysics with an open offer for PhD continuation, November 2010; Supervisor: Dr. Christopher Macgowan
McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada; B.Eng in Electrical and Biomedical Engineering (with distinction), June 2007
National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents, Rasht, Iran; High school diploma, June 2001

Awards and Scholarships 

  • Public Scholars Initiative Fellowship, University of British Columbia, 2018-2019
  • Don Brown Graduate Teaching Award, 2017-2018
  • W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics Fellowship, 2018-2019
  • UBC Ambassador for Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, 2018-2019
  • Public Scholars Initiative Fellowship, University of British Columbia, 2017-2018
  • Research award from Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy at Duke University, 2016
  • Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program—Doctoral Scholarships, 2014-2017
  • University of British Columbia Four-Year Fellowship, 2013-2017
  • The Sanford Gold Medal for highest overall standing in the Specialist Program in Philosophy, Victoria College, Toronto, 2013
  • Dean’s list, University of Toronto, 2011-2013
  • Victoria College, The Regents In-Course Scholarship, 2012
  • The Walter and Mary Tuohy Award, 2012
  • PEM Research in Progress Seminar Award, The Hospital for Sick Children, 2009
  • Research Training Competition Award, The Hospital for Sick Children, 2008-2010
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship, 2008-2010 (Declined)
  • Dean’s list, McMaster University, 2004-2007
  • The Dr. Harry Lyman Hooker Scholarship Award for Academic Excellence, 2006
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Award for Undergraduate Summer Research, 2005
  • The Dr. Harry Lyman Hooker Scholarship Award for Academic Excellence, 2005


Mailing Address
Sina Fazelpour
University of British Columbia
Department of Philosophy
1866 Main Mall, E370
Vancouver BC  V6T 1Z1

Room 228,
The W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, Located in Leonard S. Klinck Building
6356 Agricultural Road
Vancouver BC V6T 1Z2

Email Address