Lopata Hall, Room 101
Leslie Valiant, T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, Harvard University will present the annual Cox Distinguished Lecture "Where Computer Science Meets Neuroscience."
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"Where Computer Science Meets Neuroscience"
For some problems in science there are several plausible theories and it remains
to experimenters to resolve among them. There exist other problems for which, in
contrast, no known theory is widely accepted as plausible. Currently computational
neuroscience is a field full of opportunity that offers several fundamental problems
of the latter kind. We shall discuss one of these problems: Over a lifetime the
brain performs hundreds of thousands of individual cognitive acts, of a variety
of kinds, including the formation of new associations. Each such act depends on
past experience, and, in turn, can have long lasting effects on future behavior. It
is difficult to reconcile such large scale capabilities, including fast reaction times
on new inputs when using knowledge acquired at various earlier times, with the
known resource constraints on cortex, such as low connectivity and low average
synaptic strength. Here we shall describe an approach to this fundamental problem
that attempts to explain these phenomena in terms of concrete algorithms for a
model of computation that is faithful to the most basic quantitative resources.
Leslie Valiant was educated at King’s College,
Cambridge; Imperial College, London; and at
Warwick University where he received his Ph.D. in
computer science in 1974. He is currently T. Jefferson
Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied
Mathematics in the School of Engineering and
Applied Sciences at Harvard University, where he
has taught since 1982. Before coming to Harvard
he had taught at Carnegie Mellon University, Leeds
University, and the University of Edinburgh.
His work has ranged over several areas of theoretical computer science, particularly
complexity theory, learning, and parallel computation. He also has interests in
computational neuroscience, evolution and artificial intelligence and is the author
of two books, Circuits of the Mind, and Probably Approximately Correct.
He received the Nevanlinna Prize at the International Congress of Mathematicians
in 1986, the Knuth Award in 1997, the European Association for Theoretical
Computer Science EATCS Award in 2008, and the 2010 A. M. Turing Award. He is a
Fellow of the Royal Society (London) and a member of the National Academy of
About Jerome R. Cox, Jr.
Jerome Cox joined Washington University’s
faculty in 1955 and has since contributed
significantly to the areas of biomedical
computing, multimedia communications and
computer networking. The integrating theme of
his research has been the application of advanced
technology to practical biomedical problems.
His pioneering work in radiation
treatment planning paved the way for systems
in worldwide operation. His research team
developed computer methods for reconstructing images from CT and PET scanners
that aid in the diagnosis of cancers and cardiovascular disease. His innovations
were instrumental in developing early monitors for heart rhythm disturbances. He
also has worked on computer applications in mapping the human genome and in
In the 1970s, Cox became the founding chairman of the School of Engineering
& Applied Science’s Department of Computer Science and guided the department’s
development and growth for more than 15 years. Cox was instrumental in building
a department that has an international reputation for biomedical computing
applications and computer networking.
With two colleagues, he founded Growth Networks, a company acquired by
Cisco that produced an advanced networking chip set, and, in 2007, he started a
new company, Blendics (Blended Integrated Circuit Systems), that provides systemon-chip
design tools and services to companies that wish to develop complex,
proprietary, low-power integrated circuits.
Cox earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering
from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a member of the National Academy
of Science’s Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America
and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The Harold B. and Adelaide
G. Welge Professor of Computer Science at Washington University from 1989-1998,
he was awarded the honorary doctor of science in 2001.
His honors also include the 2011 Chancellor’s Award for Innovation and
Entrepreneurship, which he received along with Jonathan Turner, the inaugural
Barbara J. and Jerome R. Cox, Jr. Professor of Computer Science. That same year he
was recognized with the School of Engineering & Applied Science’s Dean’s Award.