Over the past decade, Ben Shababo has worked on films with million dollar budgets and recorded from neurons no more than ten microns in diameter. He has created interactive warehouse art installations and built a system where a user can control a robotic hand simply by moving their eyebrows. While Ben’s trajectory has taken him through a diverse set of professional, academic, and life experiences, it has always been guided by one thing: curiosity. He says: “I’ve always been interested in how we perceive and interpret the world, whether that’s happening through a film or through the lens of science. Ultimately, that curiosity has lead me to study the thing that makes curiosity itself possible: the brain.” As a Hertz Fellow, Ben says, “The Hertz Fellowship will provide me with the freedom to coordinate projects that require ambitious, interdisciplinary collaboration”.
When Ben decided to devote his life to uncovering the mysteries of the nervous system, he designed a curriculum at Columbia University of equal parts neurobiology, computer science, statistics, and psychology. He completed several research projects including a first-author paper on a computational method for inferring monosynaptic connectivity in neural circuits, titled “Bayesian Inference and Online Experimental Design for Mapping Neural Microcircuits”. This paper earned Ben the Young Computational Neuroscientist Award. Now a graduate student at UC Berkeley, Ben will continue to his interdisciplinary approach to understanding the brain under the supervision of Dr. Hillel Adesnik and Dr. Liam Paninski (Columbia), where he is developing a high-throughput method which combines two-photon holographic optogenetics, electrophysiology, and machine learning to uncover the fine-scale physiological structure of neural circuits.