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New faculty members

With Peter Dayan and Li Zhaoping SMARTSTART welcomes two new high profile researchers in the faculty. Their expertise in artificial intelligence, sensory systems and decision making will be a great asset to the project.

Left: Li Zhaoping, Source: Cora Kürner / Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany Right: Peter Dayan, Source: Private

Left: Li Zhaoping, Source: Cora Kürner / Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany

Right: Peter Dayan, Source: Private

SMARTSTART activities in December

  • Tianlin Liu and Lucas Rudelt attended the Cognitive Computing Conference on 18th - 20th Dec 2018 in the Herrenhausen Castle/Hannover. The conference brought together researchers from neuroscience, mathematics, machine learning, and material sciences in a single-track. The overall goal was to foster communication and collaboration between disciplines to boost the development of alternative computing theories and physical, neuromorphic computing devices.
  • Tianlin Liu co-authored a publication that has recently been accepted by NER. You can access the publication here. In this work, the researchers have sought to transfer the dynamic properties of a well-performing recurrent neural network (optimized using a digital computer) onto neuromorphic hardware that has built-in integrate-and-fire neurons.

By Tianlin Liu

Picture: Tianlin Liu

New faculty members

In 2018, these researches joint the SMARTSTART program as associated faculty members:

Welcome on board!


Kickoff for the cohort 2018/2019

The kick-off meeting on Monday, September 24, marked the beginning of the new SMARTSTART year 2018/ 2019. The one-year program offers the 22 young scientists individual training opportunities and supports them with personal travel grants to facilitate the start of their careers in computational neuroscience. The kick-off meeting was the first opportunity for the new students to get to know each other and to network with the alumni and the faculty.

In addition to a workshop on scientific writing, the meeting offered introductions to computational neuroscience. The keynote lecture "Optimal state for computations in the brain" was given by Dr. Anna Levina (Tübingen). Another highlight was the lecture "Experience-Dependent Plasticity and Cortical Network Remodeling" by Professor Stefan Rotter, head of the Bernstein Center Freiburg. Both lecturers are committed members of the SMARTSTART faculty. As the meeting took place in Berlin, most students also took the opportunity to participate in the subsequent Bernstein Conference.

We wish all students a great year!

Kick-Off Meeting 2018 in Berlin with new students and the coordinator


SMARTSTART students’ success at Interdisciplinary College 2018

SMARTSTART students participated successfully at the Spring School IC 18 "Me, myself, and I". For the past 20 years, the internationally well-established one-week spring school focuses on artificial intelligence. It attracts young scientists, who are working in cross-disciplinary fields. SMARTSTART students‘ participation rose up to a record 40 % of the current year.

Three SMARTSTART students, Steffen Schneider, Jan Kirchner and Nicolas Berberich presented posters of their research. Nicolas Berberich won the Best Poster Award with his poster on „VirtuousAI: An apprenticeship learning approach for building moral machines” (

In addition, Kirchner and Schneider offered so-called "/ik/hacks", program points in their own right, which are offered aside of the summer school’s program. Their topics were

  • Exponential First Passage Time Approximations of Neuron Model with Conductance-Based Dynamics (Jan Kirchner)
  • Introduction to Unsupervised Machine Learning (Steffen Schneider)

The SMARTSTART Faculty also participated actively. Julijana Gjorgjieva (Max-Planck Institute for Brain Science, Frankfurt und Technical University Munich TUM) gave a course „Computation in Neural Circuits” and Jutta Kretzberg (University of Oldenburg) offered another ik/hack on careers in science. Both are active mentors of the program and their courses were met with great enthusiasm and well attended by SMARTSTART  students,  naturally.

Jan Kirchner and Dominic Gonschorek were so-called “sunshines” of the spring school, i.e. they were active volunteers, who assisted lecturers by preparing the room and technical equipment.