Neukom Prize for Outstanding Graduate Research
1st Prize: Cosmic Evolution of Supremassive Black Holes
Student: Mackenzie Jones
Mentors: Ryan Hickox, Physics & Astronomy
Mackenzie’s computational work as a graduate student has broken important new ground in our understanding of the cosmic evolution of supermassive black holes. The model she is building has the potential to be extraordinarily useful for understanding the massive data sets from the coming generation of astronomical surveys.
2nd Prize: Uncertainty at the Synaptic Level
Student: Shiva Farashahi
Mentor: Alireza Soltani, PBS
Shiva’s most recent work has been published in the prestigious journal Neuron. This work proposes a new computational model for learning under uncertainty at the synaptic level, and in doing so, bridges the gap between synaptic mechanisms and behavior. This model reveals that there’s not a single rate of learning for everything we do, as the brain can self-adjust its learning rates using a synaptic mechanism called metaplasticity. Her findings refute the theory that the brain always behaves optimally.