CMU-PITT UNDERGRADUATE TRAINING IN COMPUTATIONAL NEUROSCIENCE

The Program in Neural Computation (PNC) offers undergraduate training in computational neuroscience for students seeking training in the application of quantitative and computational approaches to the study of the brain. The Program is coordinated by the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC) a joint project of Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with the various departments and schools in the two universities.

Students will be mentored by faculty in mathematics, computer science, robotics, machine learning, statistics, neuroscience and psychology to apply computational and quantitative techniques to investigate neural mechanisms underlying perception, language, cognition, behavior at many different levels, from neural circuit modeling, to algorithms and computational principles. During the school year, CMU and Pitt students may be mentored by faculty from either university in the program. Summer training program is open to students from other universities in the United States.



PNC Undergraduate Training

PNC currently provides undergraduate training fellowships in computational neuroscience through a NIH training grant. The steering committee of the undergraduate training program include Drs. Rob Kass, Tai Sing Lee, Douglas Weber and Brent Doiron. Interested students and faculty should contact Dr. Tai Sing Lee at Carnegie Mellon or Dr. Douglas Weber at the University of Pittsburgh for information. There are two components to the fellowship program. The first is a full-year fellowship program, limited to CMU and Pitt students. The second is a summer training program which accepts applications from undergraduates from all over the U.S. Students can apply for the summer program directly using online application, but student admission to the full-year fellowship program is initiated by faculty nomination only. Therefore, applicants for the full-year fellowship program should contact and discuss research opportunities with any faculty in the Center for Neural Basis of Cognition working in the areas of neural computation and computational neuroscience (list of CNBC Faculty in Computational Neuroscience).

Information on the requirements and application for the Undergraduate Research Fellowships.

Students (from any U.S. undergraduate college) interested in the summer training program can apply directly online based on the following link.

Information on the application for the the Undergraduate Summer Research Experience Program.

UPNC summer fellows will engage in laboratory research for 10 weeks, and participate in a weekly lecture/journal club meeting on computational neuroscience.

Current activities and schedule for UPNC trainees can be found in Google UPNC (CNBC Undergraduate Computational Neuroscience Group) . Students are also encouraged to participate in many journal clubs and lectures in computational neuroscience or neuroscience offered by the two universities (see resources links below).


NEW: Minor in Neural Computation, Carnegie Mellon

We have now established an intercollege minor at Carnegie Mellon. The minor is jointly sponsored by the School of Computer Science, the Mellon College of Science, and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at CMU, and is coordinated by the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC). The minor is open to students in any major of any college at Carnegie Mellon.

Information about the Carnegie Mellon Intercollege Minor in Neural Computation.


CONGRATULATION! PNC undergraduate fellows in the News

uPNC student and graduating senior Matt Perich (Pitt Bioengineering, 2010) is in the news for winning the national Whitaker Scholarship for International Research and Study. See News.Pitt.edu

uPNC student Andrew Maas won the Carnegie Mellon SCS Alumni Award for Undergraduate Excellence. In addition, Andrew Maas and Matt Bonakdarpour (both CMU, CS 2009) won the The Yahoo! Undergraduate Research Award (2nd place) in 2009. These two uPNC students captured 3 out of the 7 top awards granted to the graduating seniors in the entire School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon in 2009.


Undergraduate research opportunities in computational neuroscience

Students interested in participating in computational neuroscience are encouraged to explore opportunities with CNBC faculty directly. If they need help in connecting to appropriate projects, they might also contact Dr. Tai Sing Lee at Carnegie Mellon or Dr. Douglas Weber at the University of Pittsburgh.


UPNC Student Community

We are establishing a community of all undergraduate students interested in neural computation and computational neuroscience in the Pittsburgh area. We will have an email list (cnbc-upnc) for announcing activities (lectures, symposiums, parties) relevant to computational neuroscience, and for fostering communication and fellowship among students. To enroll in the email list, please contact Dr. Tai Sing Lee.


2010 PNC Undergraduate Summer Research Fellows

Kevin Mickey Kevin Mickey is a rising senior, double majoring in cognitive science and philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He is originally from Columbus, Ohio. This summer he is working with Dr. David Plaut, a Carnegie Mellon professor of psychology and computer science, who uses computational models to study cognitive processes in language-related tasks. Kevin is building a connectionist model of lexical decision-making (how we decide whether a string of letters is a word or not).
Darren Seibert I am a junior and majoring in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Houston. My adviser is Dr. Michael Tarr. The project involves the neural decoding of visual stimuli. In previous studies, machine learning algorithms have been used to classify fMRI neural activation patterns when a subject is presented with several categories of nouns. We will attempt to extend these decoding techniques using image stimuli. Instead of training the classification algorithms off of semantic features (such as from a text corpus), the training will be done from the attributes of the image stimuli itself.
Maxwell Turner Max Turner is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in neurobiology and mathematics. His research interests at the University of Iowa include experimental neurobiology dealing with the zebrafish cerebral ventricles. He is working at the uPNC with Professor Bard Ermentrout on modeling a neural network in macaque inferotemporal cortex which seems to play a role in the discrimination between familiar and novel visual stimuli. Using a firing rate-based model and dynamical systems analysis, this modeling study aims to account for some intriguing experimental results from Dr. Carl Olson's primate neuroscience lab.
Daniel Fennelly Daniel is a senior psychology major with an allied field of mathematics and computation, at Reed College in Portland, OR. This summer he is working with Dr. Rob Kass and Dr. Valerie Ventura on point process models of neural spike trains and the aggregation of spike train data over multiple trials. Presently he is focused on understanding how we should reason about uncertainty and variability in neuroscience and psychology. Does the brain compute despite the presence of noise, or does that noise play an essential role in the development of a neuron or organism's response to stimuli? Before these questions can be answered, we need appropriate probabilistic models of individual and collective neural functioning.
Anastas Stoyanovsky Anastas Stoyanovsky, born in Bulgaria, is in his third year of study at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is majoring in mathematics, neuroscience, and computer science and minoring in chemistry and physics. His reserach project is carried out under the guidance of Dr. Jonathan Rubin of the University of Pittsburgh and focuses on creating a neuronal model of LTP/LTD and STDP that is based on the biochemistry behind those processes. The model will be used to create a computational model of complex neural networks, whose evolution, architecture, storage, and recall will be studied.
Surabhi Gupta Surabhi Gupta is a senior at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, a special major in neuroscience and artificial intelligence. The standard depth-first and breadth-first search algorithms are unrealistic depictions of a ratís strategy to reach the target from a starting point. She is working with her advisor Professor Dave S. Touretzky on formulating a route finding algorithm based on associative memory and holographic reduced representations (HRR). This model captures the notion of a cognitive map with multiple levels of granularity. An associative map at a given level may serve to orient the rat globally towards its goal or to find a specific path that would ultimately lead to its goal. In addition she is also studying mathematical models of phase precession in the hippocampus.
Grace Lindsay Grace Lindsay is a rising senior majoring in Neuroscience at Pitt. She is being co-advised by Dr. Tai Sing Lee and Dr. Brent Doiron and working on a project involving modeling probabilistic population codes and the mechanisms of perceptual filling-in.
Amber Polk
Margo Smith Margo Smith is a rising junior at Kenyon College where she is double majoring in Neuroscience and Mathematics. At her home institution she is research with Professor Hewlett McFarlane, attempting to establish an inbred strain of mice as a model system for studying autism. This summer she is working with Dr. Doug Weber at the University of Pittsburgh to investigate the organization of the sensory neurons in the dorsal root ganglion. The ultimate goal of this research is to create prosthetic limbs that can report sensory feedback to the user.
Ben Poole Mentor: Tai Sing Lee.
Leah Robsman Leah is a senior at Brandeis University pursuing a Neuroscience, Psychology, and Mathematics triple major. This summer she is working under Marlene Behrmann, investigating the hemispheric lateralization of faces and words through both behavioral experiments and EEG recordings. After graduating from Brandeis, Leah plans to attend graduate school for Cognitive Neuroscience. Outside of research and schoolwork, she enjoys reading, watching movies from the American Film Institute's Top 100 list, and spending time with her siblings, dog (a miniature Labradoodle named Willow), and friends. She also appreciates playing the piano and hiking (particularly in the rain).
Brian Gereke Mentor: Touretzky .
Evan Russek Evan Russek is a rising Junior at Vassar College, pursuing a B.A. in Cognitive Science. Over the summer, he is working with Dr. Tai Sing Lee, examining the potential of the new Brain-computer interface technology, Emotive Epoc, and using Epoc to carry out projects examining how various concepts may be represented in the brain and how a computer could discriminate between a subject's active thought of concepts.
Charles Frantz Charles Frantz is a rising senior at Grinnell College in Iowa, where he majors in Computer Science with a Neuroscience concentration. This summer he is working in Andy Schwartz's Motorlab, helping to develop visually informative ways to compare the performance of different algorithms for extracting robotic arm commands from firing rates of macaque motor cortex neurons.
Frederick Spencer Koerner Spencer Koerner is a rising senior at Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in statistics and economics, with a concentration in neural computation. Under the guidance of Dr. Robert Kass, he will initially be considering the effects of applying trial alignment to magnetoencephalography data. Under the assumption that the brain’s activity may progress differently between trials with identical external stimuli, relative to time, we define time warp functions to align the data. We hope to show via suitable statistical analysis that the transformed data will be more conducive to accurate source localization.
Rob Morhard Rob Morhard is a junior at Carnegie Mellon with a double major in Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Neural Computation. He is advised by Dr. Justin Crowley and is studying the circuitry of the visual system focusing on the creation of maps of orientation preference and visual space formed by projections from the retinae upon visual cortex. The main form of data acquisition used is optical imaging of intrinsic signals.



2009-2010 PNC Undergraduate Year-Long Research Fellows

Sruthi Reddy Chintakunta Sruthi Chintakunta, from India, is a junior at CMU majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her adviser is Dr. Justin C. Crowley. Her research project is about studying the physiological properties of neurons in primary visual cortex. Well studied neuronal properties such as direction tuning, orientation tuning and ocular dominance are used as dependent variables in studies of brain development and experimental manipulations. Additionally, they also studied the concept of visual masking and iconic memory in the visual cortex of ferrets. These response properties are explored using single unit electrophysiology and simple visual stimuli.
Carl Doersch Carl Doersch is a senior, double-majoring in computer science and cognitive science, with a minor in Neural Computation, at CMU. Carl researches computational models of visual cortex with his advisor, Professor Tai Sing Lee. In particular, he is interested in the way the brain can learn invariant representations of objects. Neurons in IT cortex are known to prefer specific objects, and will fire in response to their preferred object regardless of variations in pose and illumination. This fact is remarkable, since each object can project very different images onto the retina. Carl is investigating whether temporal continuity--the fact that the identity of a fixated object is likely to remain the same even as the image changes--might be used to train IT neurons to respond to different views of a preferred object. Carl will be entering the Ph.D. program in Machine Learning in the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon, in the fall of 2010.
Faye Han Faye Han is a junior at CMU, major in cognitive science, with a minor in computer science. There are two ways to learn a concept, first by assigning a new label to a preexisting concept in one's mind, and second by forming an entirely new idea. Her research aims to discover how inferences are made to form both new concepts and new labels. She works under Dr. Charles Kemp in the Department of Psychology.
Lukas Hoffmann Lukas Hoffmann is a Scientific Computing major and Neuroscience minor at the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests include neural plasticity, adult neurogenesis, computer modeling of brain networks, and brain-computer interfaces. Currently he is working on a computational project in Nathan Urban's lab to count immunofluorescent cells automatically using machine learning, trying methods such as linear regression, logistic regression, naive bayes model, and support vector machines. He will attend Emory University Neuroscience program for graduate school.
Kevin Kwan Kevin is currently a senior majoring in Business Administration (Finance Concentratoin) as well as an additional major in Statistics. He has served as a teaching assistant for the Department of Statistics. He is currently working with Professor Robert Kass on research focused on analyzing neural spike train data.
Grace Lindsay Grace Lindsay is a junior majoring in Neuroscience at Pitt. She is being co-advised by Dr. Tai Sing Lee and Dr. Brent Doiron and working on a project involving modeling probabilistic population codes and the mechanisms of perceptual filling-in.
Ian Lenz Ian Lenz is a Senior in Electrical and Computer Engineering, originally from Ithaca, New York. He's interested in neuroscience because he thinks it can solve many of the problems currently facing robotics. Next year, he will begin pursuing a PhD in Computer Science at Cornell. He has been working with Tai Sing Lee on obtaining statistical relationships from a coregistered 2D-3D image database and attempting to relate these relationships to connectivity patterns in the visual cortex.
Nick Thomas Nick Thomas, from Canton, OH, is a Junior studying Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Working under Dr. X. Tracy Cui and Dr. Douglas Weber, Nick works in the Neural Tissue Engineering (NTE) Lab, assisting with projects dealing with electrode surface modification, chronic immune response, and data analysis using data collected from electrodes in the rat barrel cortex. Nick is looking forward to working in the NTE lab for the next two years, and the possibility of medical school.
Vikram Raghu Vikram Raghu is a senior mathematics and neuroscience major at the University of Pittsburgh. He currently works with Dr. Jonathan Rubin studying the regulation of the milk synthesis process using mathematical modeling. His current work focuses on verifying the "Prolactin-Receptor Hypothesis" by fitting his novel model of milk synthesis to available data. He is simultaneously studying the neural control of prolactin and oxytocin, two hormones that play a key role in milk synthesis and ejection.



2008-2009 PNC Undergraduate Summer and Year-Long Research Fellows

Matt Bonakdarpour I am a rising senior at CMU double majoring in computer science and pure mathematics, with a minor in computational neuroscience. My advisor is Dr. David Touretzky My research project has to do with the neural representation of space. Specifically, we are analyzing data obtained from hippocampal place cells. Past experiments have shown that rats foraging for food, in the light, in identical environments (two similar boxes) create almost identical cognitive maps of the boxes. My project is to analyze data from rats foraging for food in the dark.
Craig Lehocky Craig Lehocky is a senior, pursuing a dual degree in Bioengineering and Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. Craig is from Freedom, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh. Craig researches in the lab of Dr. Aaron Batista, in the SensoriMotor Integration Laboratory and Engineering (SMILE Lab) Here, Craig and the SMILE group work to understand the neural mechanisms that control arm-reaching movements, with an emphasis towards developing neural prostheses. Specifically, Craig studies the communication between pre-motor neurons while macaque monkeys perform reaches. The title of his project, "Absence of fast-timescale correlations in macaque dorsal premotor cortex" indicates the nature of his preliminary findings: that correlations have been found to be very rare in this area of the brain so far.
Michael Rule I am a junior at CMU, majoring in computer science and minoring in biology. My adviser is Dr. Bard Ermentrout, my project involves simulation of strobe-light induced hallucinations. Simple geometric hallucinations can be induced by a variety of means and are remarkably consistent across cultures, suggesting that these patterns result from the organization of the visual system.
Ankit Khambhati Ankit Khambhati is a rising senior, pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a study in Pre-Medical Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. He is advised by Dr. Tai Sing Lee in the Active Perception Laboratory (APL) at the Center for Neural Basis of Cognition. Ankit is investigating the neural basis of the perception of solid luminance or color surface, building on earlier works on perceptual filling-in mechanisms. He attempts to connect the computational principle of efficient coding to the perceptual mechanisms of filling-in.
Andrew Maas Andrew Maas is a senior majoring in computer science and cognitive science at Carnegie Mellon. His primary research interests are learning with few examples and transfer learning in humans and machines. His advisors are Dr. Charles Kemp and Dr. Drew Bagnell. This summer, Andrew and Charles are working to build a hierarchical Bayesian model of human concept learning.
Geoffrey Dixon-Ernst Geoffrey Dixon-Ernst, a Pittsburgh native, is a senior at CMU with double majors in Electrical & Computer Engineering as well as Biomedical Engineering; he is also pursuing a minor in Music Performance. It is this eclectic blend of interests that initially got him interested in neurological research. He has been working this summer with Sameer Walawalkar as a part of Nathan Urban's lab. He has been analyzing magnetoencephalography (MEG) data for evidence of gamma-band synchrony during a visual attention task using various time-frequency representations. The experimental paradigm used differs from other approaches in that it de-emphasizes visual contrast and emphasizes non-foveal attention.
Matt Perich Matt Perich is a Junior studying Bioengeering at the University of Pittsburgh. He works under Dr. Doug Weber at the Rehab Neural Engineering Lab (RNEL) assisting with research to decode limb movement in feline subjects using neural feedback to the central nervous system. Ultimately, the work aspires to improve neural prosthetics and functional electrical stimulation systems. Matthew is investigating the use of a liquid state machine (LSM) as a model for the decoding of limb velocity based on sensory input from the DRG, particularly that of Ia afferents.
Ryan Sieberg Ryan Sieberg is a senior at Carnegie Mellon University majoring in Math and minoring in Statistics. His advisor is Professor Robert Kass. They are doing change-point analysis of neuronal firing rates using algorithms to determine when a neuron demonstrates the effect of a stimulus. They are currently testing a new model and performing comparative studies. He will continue doing research with Professor Kass through the summer of 2009.
Bart Bacak Bart Bacak, originally from Bethlehem PA, is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. He is studying bioengineering with a minor in chemistry. Currently, Bart is working with Rich Stoner in the Zeringue lab to create computational models mimicking the activity of currently used in vitro models. The goal of his research is to determine the correlation between a neuron's environment and its ability to produce alpha and gamma oscillations.



Various Related Journal Clubs

Undergraduates are welcome to participate or sit in on these journal clubs.


Graduate Training: Ph.D. Program in Neural Computation

The Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition offers a Ph.D. training program in Neural Computation (PNC).


Related Ph.D. Training Programs in the School of Computer Sciences of Carnegie Mellon

In collaboration with the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), the School of Computer Science offers three training tracks in computational neuroscience:

Students should apply directly to the Ph.D. programs at Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science, and select the CNBC track in the SCS online application process AND simultaneously apply to CNBC online. For more information about the CNBC Graduate Training Program, visit the program description page.



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Last modified: August 22, 2008. Maintained by Dr. Tai Sing Lee at /home/httpd/www/upnc .