Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.

Research / Discovery

The Muse: BRAINstorming

March 5, 2014
By Alan Rudolph, Vice President for Research

We recently brought together a group of interested scientists in the Lory Student Center to talk about brain research at CSU.

The recent anointment of neuroscience as a new undergraduate degree and the increasing interest in federal agencies, industry, foundations in neuroscience (with the launch of a new BRAIN initiative at NIH, NSF, and DARPA) as well as its intersection with other disciplines was the inspiration for the meeting.

The mood in the room was quite energetic, enthusiastic and had an intellectual positive tension that harnessed and focused the discussion around the circle of chairs we had set up.  It looked and felt like a tribal council: engineers, chemists, biologists, sensor sciences, administrators, entrepreneurs, some mixed. 

One spark flew from discussions linking protein folding, prions and amyloid proteins, imaging tools and electrophysiology and sensor devices.  There are aspects of biomolecular assembly (active multimeric oligomers) that are pervasive in determining biological activity involved with brain health as well as acute (e.g. concussion) and chronic (e.g. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS)  brain disease. Interdisciplinary research in this area will also support opportunities to engineer diagnostic and therapeutic strategies from basic discoveries. 

Insights from analytics

Another tribal beat was around data management and analysis (a future predictive analytical core) and whether insights from predictive analytics in other applications such as climate and weather modeling and forecasting could be brought to the table.  An example was illuminated around topological data modeling (other strategies and people include companies like Ayasdi, a recent Khosla venture) and other dimensionality reduction tools when the community increases the number of neurons or other measurements made at the brain cellular and tissue levels. 

There was a lot of interest in exploring new ways to seed cross disciplinary efforts and one idea was to focus on post doctoral fellowships to support interdisciplinary collaborations.  Most of all there was an urgency to build the BRAINstorm tribe at CSU and our surrounding innovation community.  It is a great opportunity to build on some momentum in this area.  I am, of course, a big supporter of this area and hope I can bring an interest in exploiting discovery and translation into engineering broadly.