Help Please: Future of Neural Engineering: From Job perspective

Dear Members,
I am a prospective graduate student interested in taking up Neural Engineering under EE or Biomedical Engg for research. But I have a lot of concerns and need help from a person who knows about the field well.
1. I have studied VLSI, DSP, Image Processing, Wireless Communication, Control Systems and Embedded Systems as graduate and undergraduate courses and have some research interest in Neural Networks and Machine Learning(That’s how I got interested in Neural Engg and Prosthetics). Which of these subjects will be of help in Neural Engg/Prosthetics research. Which will be of most relevance. Please list them in the order of relevance(high->low).
2. What are the applications of the research ?
3. What is the research and JOB scope for this field? Are there any companies who recruit people with this specialisation? How is the job scene in academia? How many univs are doing research in this field in US? Please let me know about the career progression in academia, like how much time does it take to get full time academic position after PhD?
4. Especially, what are the applications of this research in Robotics?
5. What are the current problems and research themes in universities?
6. What imaging technologies are used in this research?

Though my queries may seem a bit ameteuristic, it is very important for me to get clarity on these doubts.
Hope my queries will be answered.
Thanking all of you in advance,

Psychology Wiki

A New Psychology resource, community built by psychologists and trainees, to unify the body of psychology information in one place:

Check it out, and if it interests you, please contribute, or review it on your blog.

Tom Michael, Mostly Zen – site admin

Picower vs. McGovern

Interesting developments — although, hard to know precisely how serious any of this is. Any thoughts from students, postdocs, others in the trenches at MIT (and willing to give perspective to the outside world)?

Boston Globe, July 15

“The professors, in a letter to MIT’s president, Susan Hockfield , accuse professor Susumu Tonegawa of intimidating Alla Karpova , “a brilliant young scientist,” saying that he would not mentor, interact, or collaborate with her if she took the job and that members of his research group would not work with her.”

Boston Globe, July 19

“In a letter responding to professors who wanted MIT to investigate the senior professor’s treatment of the job recruit, Hockfield said there are “ongoing tensions among MIT’s neuroscience entities” and suggested that the current situation “threatens ongoing disruption of the collegiality of our academic enterprise.” The letter, dated Monday, was obtained by the Globe.”

Putting protocols online

Online methods share insider tricks : Nature

This is such a good idea. It is always about the voodoo:

Perhaps more importantly, it is the subtle variations — the deftness of touch, the type of mixing tube, and a dash of hocus-pocus — that distinguish a successful experiment from a flop. But such details often exist only as scrawled footnotes or collective laboratory wisdom. “The art of the science really is not present in many of these protocols,” says geneticist Garry Nolan of Stanford University, California, who has put his protocols online. “They don’t tell people what the voodoo is.”

The websites could help share the voodoo. They are loosely based on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, which lets users edit each other’s entries. Unlike the protocols already available online, the idea is to create a repository of experiments and the tricks needed to do them, and allow users to add their own.

33% of Americans think evolution is "definitely false"

PLoS Biology: Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology

On evolution:

One-third of Americans think evolution is “definitely false”; over half lean one way or another or aren’t sure. Only 14% expressed unequivocal support for evolution—a result Miller calls “shocking.”

On literacy:

“When I first started asking about DNA,” he says, “I used an open-ended question that asks, ‘If you saw the term DNA in a newspaper, would you have a clear understanding of what that means, a general sense of what it means, or not much idea?’” If respondents said they had a clear understanding, they would be asked to define DNA in their own words. “I got things like the ‘Dow Jones News Association,’” Miller says, laughing. “If you don’t know what DNA is, you can’t follow the stem-cell debate.”

And perhaps most important:

The era of nonpartisan science is gone, says Miller, who urges scientists and science educators to learn the rules of this new game and get behind moderate Republicans as well as Democrats to protect the practice and teaching of sound science. Given the partisan attack on evolution and stem-cell research, he thinks scientists need to learn more about how the political process works. They need to be willing to run for the school board, write $500 or even $5,000 checks to support moderate candidates, and defeat Christian right-wing candidates. “Scientists need to become involved in partisan politics and to oppose candidates who reject evolution or attack scientific research,” he says. “It takes time, money, and paying attention to the issues.”

Redwood Theoretical Neuroscience Videos Online

Last year, the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience moved from the Redwood Neuroscience Institute in Meno Park to the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at Berkeley. In October they held a symposium with several interesting speakers presenting on various topics within Theoretical Neuroscience.

The videos are now online for your perusal, or you can buy a DVD of the whole symposium for a paltry $5.

  • Horace Barlow, Cambridge University: The Roles of Theory, Commonsense, and Guesswork in Neuroscience
  • Dan Kersten, University of Minnesota: Human Object Perception: Theory, Psychophysics & Imaging
  • Sue Becker, McMaster University: The role of the hippocampus in memory, contextual gating, stress and depression
  • Florentin Worgotter, University of Goettingen: Learning in Neurons and Robots
  • Panel Discussion: The Role and Future Prospects for Math/Computational Theories in Neuroscience
  • David Heeger, New York University: What fMRI Can Tell Us about How Visual Cortex Works
  • Kevan Martin, ETH/UNI Zurich: Canonical Circuits for Neocortex
  • Terry Sejnowski, Salk Institute: Dendritic Darwinism
  • Jeff Hawkins, Numenta: Prospects and Problems of Cortical Theory

Major Journal Calls for Synthesis in Neuroscience

Nature Neuroscience’s editorial board posts a call for a change (doi:10.1038/nn0406-457) in the incentive structure of neuroscience in favor of funding initiatives that foster synthesis.

A quote from the article:

“To shift the emphasis toward quality rather than quantity of scientific results, funding agencies could support specific integrative initiatives, such as large-scale meta-analyses in unresolved areas or experiments to tackle particularly contentious conflicts in the existing literature.”

It goes on:

“Simply having more time to think and interact with colleagues could foster consolidation and conceptual breakthroughs. Unfortunately for many academic researchers, such ruminating might carry the stigma of inactivity or, worse, speculation. However, science is largely a creative process, and the minds of scientists are ultimately its greatest resource. Legitimizing time for creative synthetic thought through funding might be an inexpensive way to shift the current incentive structure.”

This could be the beginning of an important change in the culture of the field.

PLoS Biology: Men, Women, and Ghosts in Science

PLoS Biology: Men, Women, and Ghosts in Science [open access article]

I don’t agree with all of the conclusions of this article but it is the #1 article on PLoS biology right now. (For example, I’m not so sure that the genetic differences in “thinking style” predisposes physics to be a field with less than 50% women.) But there are several interesting thoughts here, including a bit on autism as an extreme form of the “maleness” in the brain.

The Most Dangerous Idea (Apparently)

So, Edge has a new question for 2006 for its All-Stars of Academia to answer: What is your dangerous idea? (Suggested to Edge by Steven Pinker, who perhaps got the idea from a colloquium series at his old haunting grounds.)

Offhand, one might expect a broad range of perceived dangerous ideas, varying by research interests and such. What’s surprising is that many of the luminaries think that the “most dangerous idea” is this particular, same idea: As neuroscience progresses, popular realization that the “astonishing hypothesis” — that mind is brain — will create a potentially cataclysmic upheaval of society as we know and have profound (negative) moral implications as people claim less responsibility for their actions.

Of course, this just isn’t true. But, would you believe that
Paul Bloom,
VS Ramachandran,
John Horgan,
Andy Clark,
Marc Hauser,
Clay Shirky,
Eric Kandel,
John Allen Paulos,
and, in a more genetic context, Jerry Coyne and Craig Venter
are all very worried about this issue? (And I didn’t even read 50% of the Edge dangerous ideas… there might be even more… ) Is this really the most dangerous idea out there to all of these talented thinkers?

I feel strongly that science and morality have always been separate domains and that any worry that, by “debunking” the mind, we automatically become immoral machines is just ridiculous. Through this scientific knowledge, we might gain some humility, maybe better see our close relatedness to nonhuman primates and place in nature, etc., but we’re not going to flip out and become crazed zombies. This just isn’t going to happen.

Does anybody else think that this just isn’t a truly dangerous idea (although certainly an “astonishing” one, in the Crick sense)? Or am I wrong here?

Samples of academic worrying after the jump.
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