Study of the brain and nervous system offers stimulating intellectual challenges and at the same time can provide researchers with a chance to help alleviate serious health problems affecting individuals, families, and the general public. But the brain and nervous system are among the most complex organs, so understanding them requires the most sophisticated tools and instruments.
Computational neuroscience combines traditional neuroscience with computer science, physics, mathematics, and engineering. It requires researchers with the ability to exploit those tools to their fullest potential while incorporating findings from wet-lab neuroscience. In short, it is a field that requires broad thinkers with outstanding technical and quantitative skills.
Despite being a relatively new field--computational neuroscience has emerged over the past 15 years or so--career opportunities for researchers who can meet these requirements are expanding. "In the early 1990s," says Hirsh Cohen of the Swartz Foundation, which funds 10 computational neuroscience research centers across the United States, "our deep worry was there would not be jobs in this field. It is just the opposite situation now." As Cohen points out, the problem now is finding enough scientists with the skills to do this important work with these sophisticated tools. If you're seeking a field of science with room for new people and new skills, computational neuroscience is one to consider.
Special Online Collection: Modeling the Mind
Leading the Blue Brain Project
Elisabeth Pain talks with Felix Schürmann, a 29-year-old German postdoc who leads the Blue Brain Project, a collaboration between IBM and the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland.
Neural Computing at Waterloo
Andrew Fazekas outlines the computational neuroscience research group at the University of Waterloo, established in 2001, that is hiring new faculty and getting set to open up its own centre.
An Enterprising Approach to Brain Science
Mobile computing pioneer Jeff Hawkins has had a lifelong fascination with brains. Now he's trying to model the human cerebral cortex--and he’s created a software company based on his ideas. (Link to the full text provided courtesy of Science magazine.)
Vision’s Grand Theorist
Eero Simoncelli has an eye for mathematical truths that explain human vision--and he's adept at translating that knowledge into practical tools such as image-compression techniques. (Link to the full text provided courtesy of Science magazine.)
Financing Your Research in Computational Neuroscience
Science Careers surveys several American sources of funding for research and training in computational neuroscience, both from government agencies and private foundations.
Alan Kotok is managing editor of Science Careers.
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