- 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.
- Twenty years later, I am still at Caltech, now as the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology. I am the head of K-Lab and am a faculty member of the Division of Biology and the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. I was a visting Professor at the Institute for Neuroinformatics at the ETH and the University of Zürich, Switzerland, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Engineering at Korea University in Seoul, Korea.
- Starting in April 2011, I’m on a partial leave-of-absence from Caltech, i to be the Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Thus, I will be spending three out of every four weeks in Seattle, helping to conceive and launch a large effort dedicated to understand information processing and coding in the rodent neocortex. This includes the construction of brain observatories and large-scale modeling. The rest of the time, I will be doing research at Caltech.
- 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
as well as Mr. Falko.
- 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,
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.