Swartz Research Initiative in Theoretical Neuroscience at Princeton University
A new initiative in theoretical neuroscience has been established by The Swartz Foundation at Princeton University. William Bialek, the John Archibald Wheeler/Battelle Professor in Physics at Princeton University, is leading the initiative.
"Princeton has long been a great center for theoretical research, and as we enter a period of expansion in neuroscience more generally, it is wonderful to have the Swartz Foundation providing core support for young scientists interested in the grand theoretical challenges posed by brain function," explained Professor Bialek. In the past decade, Princeton has attracted many new faculty members with interests in quantitative and theoretical approaches to neural function at the system level, including both experimentalists such as Michael Berry, Jonathan Cohen, David Tank, and Sam Wang, and theorists such as Bialek, Philip Holmes, and John Hopfield. In a relatively short time, strong theory/experiment collaborations have grown up, and this style of research has been strengthened with the most recent addition of Carlos Brody.
The Swartz Research Initiative is intended to provide support for young postdoctoral fellows. While mature theory/experiment collaborations often can be supported by more conventional funding sources, the Swartz Initiative allows for much broader exploration. For young theorists working at the interface of neurobiology with more traditionally theoretical fields such as physics, computer science, or mathematics itself, problem choice is critical, and an important goal of this initiative is to give the fellows the freedom to choose their own problems. "I certainly didn't have a 'boss' when I was a postdoc," Bialek recalled, "and I hope that with the help of Swartz Foundation we can create a comparably free and stimulating environment for the next generation." Indeed, the first group of fellows supported by the Initiative are working on problems ranging from the dynamics of motor control in worms to Bayesian reasoning in human cognition.
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