Caveat lector: This blog is where I try out new ideas. I will often be wrong, but that's the point.

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SfN 2014

This will be my first year attending SfN as an actual professor (I was hired but hadn't started by SfN 2013).

This means I'm on the lookout for potential PhD students and post-docs. Nothing certain yet, as grants haven't come back, but if you're looking for a place to do you PhD, or thinking about a post-doc in the next year or two, hit me up.

It turns out, San Diego's a pretty nice city, and has pretty good cognitive science and neuroscience programs (FALSE HUMILITY PRECEDING).

You can find me in the following ways:

  • Via my email address on my faculty webpage
  • At the UCSD booth at the 4th Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (ENDURE) meeting on Saturday, Nov 15 from 9:30-11:00am at the Marriott Marquis, Independence Ballroom EFGH
  • At our book signing at the Princeton University Press booth from 11:00-12:00 on Monday, Nov 17
  • At BANTER on Monday night (probably)
  • At my collaborator's poster session Tuesday, Nov 18, 13:00-17:00, off and on (abstract below)
Presentation Title:Automated “spectral fingerprinting” of electrophysiological oscillations
Location:WCC Hall A-C
Presentation time:Tuesday, Nov 18, 2014, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Presenter at Poster:Tue, Nov. 18, 2014, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Topic:++G.04.e. Electrophysiology: Electrode arrays
Authors:M. HALLER1, P. VARMA1,2, T. NOTO4, R. T. KNIGHT1,3, A. SHESTYUK1,3, *B. VOYTEK4,5,6;
1Helen Wills Neurosci. Inst., 2Electrical Engin. and Computer Sci., 3Psychology, Univ. of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA; 4Cognitive Sci., 5Neurosciences Grad. Program, 6Inst. for Neural Computation, UCSD, La Jolla, CA
Abstract:Neuronal oscillations play an important role in neural communication and network coordination. Low frequency oscillations are comodulated with local neuronal firing rates and correlate with a physiological, perceptual, and cognitive processes. Changes in the population firing rate are reflected by a broadband shift in the power spectral density of the local field potential. On top of this broadband, 1/f^α field, there may exist concurrent, low frequency oscillations. The spectral peak and bandwidth of low frequency oscillations differ among people, brain regions, and cognitive states. Despite this widely-acknowledged variability, the vast majority of research uses a priori bands of interest (e.g., 1-4 Hz delta, 4-8 Hz theta, 8-12 Hz alpha, 12-30 Hz beta). Here we present a novel method for identifying the oscillatory components of the physiological power spectrum on an individual basis, which captures 95-99% of the variance in the power spectral density of the signal with a minimal number of parameters. This algorithm isolates the center frequency and bandwidth of each oscillation, providing a blind method for identifying individual spectral differences. We demonstrate how automated identification of individual oscillatory components can improve neurobehavioral correlations and identify population differences in spectral and oscillatory parameters.


The tenure-track: The first months

Apparently people read this blog and have noticed I’ve not updated in a few months. People are all like, “hey man, what happened to your bloviating?”

Here’s the (shocking!) gist: moving to a new city, starting a faculty job, writing a book, having a second child, and creating a new class from scratch has been somewhat time consuming.

My burgeoning lab has just been renovated.

Voytek lab: pre-renovation (L) and post-renovation (R)
I’ve got one post-doc (Erik Peterson) working with me, two PhD students with two more rotating, and one more post-doc joining in early 2015. I’m the diversity chair for Cognitive Science and a diversity committee member for neuroscience (positions I take very seriously and is a topic near and dear to my heart). I’m constantly busy playing catch up, trying to finish up my post-doctoral research while also trying to establish my scientific independence and build my own lab.

Where does that leave me now that I’m a few months in?

Mentorship is difficult, and I’m trying to do well by my trainees. As a mentor there’s a balance between giving guidance and providing freedom, and I’m still learning that.

I (very amicably and somewhat sadly!) resigned my position as data scientist at Uber, mostly because I was too busy and, between my family, my lab, and Uber, something had to give and it wasn’t going to be my family or my lab. So my nearly four-year-long side career in helping build out a multi-billion dollar multi-national company has come to an end (and I could write a whole book about that, probably).

That decision lead me to reassess life and career choices yet again.

I recently gave a talk at TEDxSanDiego about failure, the “passion trap”, and the narratives we tell ourselves. We love a good narrative, and for the past 10 years my personal narrative has been one of a failed student reformed as a neuroscientist. That’s mostly the narrative I’ve shared here on this blog. But I want to make sure I’m not getting caught up in my own narrative and that I don’t pigeonhole myself into a particular way of thinking.

The Uber thing was partially an attempt at pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and away from my neuroscience narrative. Same with writing the zombie book (Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? now available for sale on Amazon or as an audiobook on Audible BUY IT NOW). In fact, when I’m presented with a new opportunity, one of the major factors in my decision making is, “how weird/novel is this opportunity?”

So I’ve made several deviations in my career but I keep coming back to neuroscience research. I’m just a few months into the tenure-track, and while it’s been a hell of a thing, I have little doubt that I’ve made the right choice. While I’m working a lot, I’m still able to hold evenings and weekends as protected family time, with most weekends spent with my kids at musea, the beach, the zoo, and so on.

Anyway, this is all just a bunch of words to put down on here to excuse my absence so I can get back to writing other stuff.