UCLA Computational Neuroscientist Receives Highest NSF Early-Career Award
Jonathan Kao, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER award, the agency’s highest honor for faculty members in the early part of their careers. The award includes a five-year, $575,000 grant to support his research and teaching.
The grant will fund Kao’s research using deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence, to understand how the brain functions. In particular, he will focus on mechanisms behind how the brain makes decisions and dictates the body’s movement. This includes designing computational models of the brain, using artificial neural networks, that could elucidate insights into how groups of neurons connect and cooperate, and ultimately lead to actions. Understanding how these circuits of neurons work could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of cognitive and motor disorders.
In addition to this more fundamental side of neuroscience research, Kao also develops brain-machine interfaces to connect with artificial prostheses for people who have been paralyzed.
Kao joined UCLA Samueli in 2017, where he directs the Neural Computation and Engineering Laboratory. He is also a faculty member of the UCLA Neuroscience Interdepartmental Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine.
Kao’s other recent honors include a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Grant and a Hellman Fellowship.