Sloan-Swartz Centers for Theoretical Neurobiology
The Centers for Theoretical Neurobiology were established at five outstanding U.S. research institutions (Brandeis University, California Institute of Technology, New York University, Salk Institute, and University of California at San Francisco) in 1994 by the Sloan Foundation. The Swartz Foundation joined Sloan as co-sponsor of Sloan-Swartz Program in Theoretical Neurobiology in 2000.
The aim of the Program is to establish an integral role for theory and quantitative approaches in neuroscience research. Theory, a natural part of research programs in many sciences, was substantially absent from neuroscience. Recognizing the value of an integrated theoretical approach, this initiative places both experimentally- and theoretically-trained scientists from physics, mathematics and computer sciences into selected experimental brain research laboratories. In that environment, they become conversant with neuroscience questions and experimental approaches in neurobiology, enabling them to apply their unusual vantage and theoretical skills to cooperative lines of inquiry.
The Centers have attracted strong participants. One measure of this is that important new scientific results are emerging from their research. A short list of successful new research themes includes topics such as gain fields and gain control, neural coding and information theory, natural field analysis, and theoretical analysis of phenomena underlying short-term memory. Senior researchers hosting Fellows in the Sloan/Swartz program place a high value on the work initiated in their laboratories by this new breed of scientists. Graduating Fellows are finding positions in a long list of major university neuroscience departments. This assures the continuing integration of theory as a basic component of neuroscience research, which is a main goal of the program.
In addition to ongoing support for the Centers, the Foundations sponsors annual Summer Meetings of program participants. Each year, a different Center organizes a four-day meeting at its location. Each Center sends a contingent of researchers to present work-in-progress. The meeting schedule provides plenty of time for discussion and interaction. Since the Centers are spread across the country, the meeting provides a major opportunity for the kind of face-to-face scientific interchange that gives rise to new ideas and collaborations.
A popular feature of the Summer Meetings is lecture presentations by well-known "outside" scientists working in areas that resonate with the Program's research themes. The invited lecturers are available to discuss issues with the program participants, and they have the opportunity to get an up-close look at the program and its results.
In addition, the Summer Meeting serves the social function of generating esprit de corps among the Centers, and it gives the Directors of the Centers a chance to meet with each other and with representatives of the Foundations to analyze progress and make plans for the future.
Sloan-Swartz Centers for Theoretical Neurobiology: