440 Huntington Avenue
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Boston, MA 02115
- MS, Technion Israel Institute of Technology – Israel
- BS, University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Hometown: Delmar, NY
- Field of Study: Cognitive Science
- PhD Advisor: Jan-Willem van be Meent
What are the specifics of your graduate education (thus far)?
I took a previous Master’s degree at the Technion, specializing in software engineering and programming languages. Upon coming across the fields of computational cognitive science and theoretical neuroscience, I was inspired to switch.
What are your research interests?
I work in the Probabilistic Modeling Lab at Northeastern University’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences, as well as the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory. We use the tools of machine learning, statistics, and computation to study the deep questions at the heart of neuroscience, cognition, and agency. Potential applications range from building machines that feel, value, and engage the world like people, to computational psychiatry, to philosophical issues.
What’s one problem you’d like to solve with your research/work?
How does the brain infer and quantify which sensory signals need to be controlled, and which should simply be modeled? Colloquially, how does it learn what matters, and what’s just happening?
What aspect of what you do is most interesting?
Neuroscience is coming to view the brain not as a passive organ of intellect, derailed by emotional spasms, but as a proactive organ of feeling, action, and causation. Your situation changes moment to moment, and ensuring your well-being across those changes requires predictive regulation. In every moment, your brain needs to infer, from nothing but experience and sensorimotor data: who am I, how do I feel, what’s going on, and what can I do about it?
To do so, the feeling brain implements some of the finest intellectual instruments of thought we have today: hierarchical probabilistic inference, causal learning, and active inference.
What are your research or career goals, going forward?
I aim to bring as much rigor as I can to the embodied predictive interoceptive coding view of emotion, and bring active inference to machine intelligence. I do not know how many postdocs or professorships this might take, but I look forward to finding out.
Where did you grow up or spend your most defining years?
My family moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey to upstate New York. As a result, if you ask me where I come from, I find it hard to give a definitive answer.
Where did you study for your undergraduate degree?
UMass Amherst seemed like more fun than RPI when I was visiting, so I chose there.