Nikhil Bhattasali is interested in understanding biological intelligence to build better artificial intelligence. Inspired by animal nervous systems, he assembles computational models that can control embodied agents and robots.
Despite the many successes of AI in recent years, robotics has lagged: Artificial systems still can’t interact with the physical world at the same level as humans and animals. To address this, Bhattasali examines how neural circuitry gives rise to innate and learned behavior in nature, and he uses these insights to design better AI models. Currently a NeuroAI Scholar at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Bhattasali conducts highly interdisciplinary research combining machine learning, systems neuroscience and computer science. In one recent project, he translated neural circuits from a worm into an embodied agent that swims. He’s now working on quadruped circuits for walking.
Bhattasali’s interests in both AI and robotics were sparked early on. At Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, he worked in the Automation and Robotics Lab to design a high-temperature solar grill that would be simple and cost-effective enough to adopt in developing countries. Bhattasali received both his bachelor’s degree in symbolic systems and his master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University. He will be joining the PhD program in computer science at New York University in fall 2022.
In his free time, Bhattasali enjoys reading, social dance, watching Formula One and having long conversations over wine and cheese.