A Message from Department Head Jim DiCarlo

  • Message from the Head

A Message from Department Head Jim DiCarlo

In this issue, you will learn about the MIT Quest for Intelligence, an ambitious, Institute-wide effort to advance the science and engineering of human intelligence. MIT has long been a leader in the field of intelligence research through entities like the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines (CBMM), headquartered in building 46, and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). The Quest is a natural next step to bring together talent and ideas from across MIT to spark new collaborations and advance innovative moonshot research.  The BCS community is incredibly excited to be a key part of this quest, as understanding intelligence in engineering terms will profoundly change and improve the world.

You will also learn about the BCS Clinical Connection Training Module led by Dr. Thomas Byrne, Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Senior Lecturer in BCS. The week-long program enables BCS graduate and undergraduate students to participate in professionally guided clinical experiences and small meetings in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, and to connect these experiences with coursework on the neurobiology of disease. It touches on a range of clinical topics, and it aims to spark new potential collaborations with clinical researchers while graduate students are early in their training.  In my time as an early graduate student and a physician in training, my interactions with patients, families, and primary care givers still to this day remind me of why our department’s basic science research is so desperately needed, and how many lives it might potentially improve.  I hope that the department’s Clinical Connection Module will, at the very least, provide at least a glimpse of that same perspective for our students working here in the research trenches.

We are pleased to welcome Alexander “Sasha” Rakhlin, who joins us from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, as a tenured faculty member in BCS and a core member of MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society (IDSS).  Sasha will join BCS Prof. Emery Brown in adding to our department’s important faculty connection to IDSS. Sasha is a leader in the fields of learning theory, statistical analysis and machine learning, and his addition to BCS will help fulfill some of our long-standing teaching needs in computation, and will develop novel research collaborations with experimental BCS faculty members in the areas of data analysis and mechanisms of biological learning.  Please join me in welcoming Sasha!

In this issue, we also highlight the Margaret Bidwell Memorial Lecture.  It is one of the hallmarks of the spring MIT Colloquium series on the Brain and Cognition, which we host along with the McGovern Institute for Brain Research  and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. The Bidwell Lecture demonstrates the enormous impact that donations of any size can have on our community, and how a love of learning can create a lasting legacy to memorialize a loved one.

Lastly, you will notice that we have included a new regular feature, Research Bytes, to capture a snapshot of the amazing science done by BCS faculty and their research teams.  I am so very proud of everything that the BCS community has accomplished and what I know we still will accomplish.

James J. DiCarlo
Peter de Florez Professor of Neuroscience
Head, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences