Dr. Xaq Pitkow, McNair Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine, has won the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation.
The award supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of both education and research. The award will support Pitkow’s research career over the next five years.
"This is my first grant dedicated purely to theoretical neuroscience. These days there is broad recognition that theoretical work is critical for understanding the brain, but with this award, that recognition translates into real, practical consequences for my lab's ability to do that work. It’s very exciting," said Pitkow, who also is an assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor and an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Rice University.
Pitkow’s work focuses on developing theories of the computational function of neural networks in the brain. This information will help to explain how humans use sensory information to construct coherent perceptions of the world.
His work concentrates on vision and how the brain transforms low-level visual features like oriented edges into higher-level representations of object properties. This work will have broader implication on other sensory systems, how neural representations are learned and transformed and whether those representations are efficient in a quantifiable sense.
The CAREER award winners go through a rigorous peer-review process where a panel awards those proposals that are most creative, original and hold potentially transformative concepts within each field of entry.