A Message from Department Head Jim DiCarlo

  • Message from the Head

A Message from Department Head Jim DiCarlo

In this Department, we are champions of science. For some members of our community, you are Champions in a literal sense — please see the story about how some of our closest friends support our research by enabling our graduate students to pursue their scientific dreams. Our community is driven by arguably the biggest science question of all time: how does the brain create the mind? 

While the impacts of our science are far-reaching, in this issue you will learn about when a pursuit of basic science directly intersects with service to improve people’s lives. BCS Prof. Pawan Sinha founded Project Prakash more than a decade ago to tackle the pervasive issue of childhood blindness in India. In addressing this humanitarian need, Pawan also saw an unprecedented opportunity to facilitate our scientific understanding of visual development in the brain. I encourage you to read the full story and to view the corresponding video to see for yourself the incredible impact that our science and our scientists have on society.

Next, you may have noticed some familiar faces joining me on this page. As the Associate Department Head for Education, Michale Fee develops and maintains the undergraduate and graduate curricula, and is leading the next upgrades in our educational programs. I am also thrilled to have Rebecca Saxe join us as an Associate Department Head to further our progress as we advance our core research and educational missions. Though her role will evolve over time, she will initially focus on identifying new ways to help our graduate students, our mentoring programs, and our 360 reviews to help faculty. I am very excited to collaborate with Rebecca in this new capacity.

In this issue, I am also thrilled to introduce Ila Fiete, our newest associate professor who joined the BCS faculty this semester. Ila is a world-leading computational neuroscientist, and her research aims to understand how neural circuits support algorithms that underlie behavior and cognition. Her recent work advances our understanding of neural ‘grid’ codes in the medial entorhinal cortex of rodents during spatial navigation — sometimes referred to as the “brain’s GPS.” Computation is a key area of expansion for our department and our field and a skill area of high demand in industry. We are fortunate to have such a rising superstar in this area join our faculty ranks. Please join me in welcoming Ila!

As I read the latest issue of our newsletter, I am struck, as always, by the accomplishments of our BCS community — our faculty, postdoc and scientist colleagues spanning BCS, the McGovern Institute for Brain Research (MIBR) and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory (PILM) and our affiliated labs and centers, our talented graduate and undergraduate students, our generous friends and alumni, and the incredible administrative staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the proverbial trains run on time all day, every day — I am so proud, grateful, and humbled by the opportunity to work with all of you.