Who Am I?

  • Born in the American Midwest (Kansas City), I grew up in Amsterdam/Holland, Bonn/Germany, Ottawa/Canada, and Rabat/Marocco where I graduated from the Lycée Descartes with a French Baccalaurèat (Section C) in 1974.
  • I studied Physics and Philosophy in Tübingen, Germany. I was awarded a Master of Physics in 1980 (writing my Master Thesis under Prof. Mario Del Cin) and my PhD from the Max-Planck-Institut for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen in 1982. The eye-catching thesis title was Nonlinear information processing in dendritic trees of arbitrary geometry. I had two Doctor-Fathers (thesis advisors), Prof. Valentin Braitenberg and Prof. Tomaso (Tommy) Poggio.
  • Subsequently, I followed Tommy to Boston, where I spent four years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department at MIT.
  • In the fall of 1986, I joined the California Institute of Technology‘s newly started Computation and Neural Systems PhD program as an Assistant Professor. Caltech, in beautiful Southern California, is an oasis, an ivory-tower dedicated to educating the best and brightest in the way of science and the pursuit of the truth.

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  • You can download my [[[curriculum vitae (resume)]]] and read up-to-date lab news and what people write about us. [[[You can reach me by sending email to my assistant Joanne Meraz (joannem at klab.caltech.edu) or by checking here.]]]
  • Check out this conversation with the historian Harry Kreisler at Berkeley on consciousness, the biology of the brain, Francis Crick, my upbringing and motivation, and related topics.
  • I enjoy the company of a fluctuating number of big, boisterous and friendly dogs: Bella, Trixie, and Nosy

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as well as Mr. Falko.

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  • Given the topic of my scientific research, discovering and characterizing the neuronal nature of consciousness, I am frequently asked about my religious background. I was raised as a Roman Catholic. In an unpublished essay, I describe my attitude toward science and religion and the relationship between these two means of understanding everything there is, sub- and supralunar.
  • I like academic ceremonies and traditions, in particular the annual rite of passage known as commencement. On that glorious day in early June, under a perfect blue sky, we send our undergraduate and graduate students – like our children – out into the world and celebrate their academic coming of age with families and friends. I took Winnie the Pooh along for the ceremony. As a simple-minded bear, he likes pomp and circumstance. He did remind me of a conversation he had with a friend,

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Rabbit’s clever, said Pooh thoughtfully.
Yes, said Piglet, Rabbit’s clever.
And he has Brain.
Yes, said Piglet, Rabbit has Brain.
There was a long silence.
I suppose, said Pooh, that’s why he never understands anything.

  • I find ecstasy in climbing mountains and walls.
  • And I love colors. Look at my laboratory, my clothes and this photo of Patricia, my hairstylist, and me.

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