Yasser Roudi, 34
Norwegian University of Science and Technology | Computational Neuroscience
Graduate school: SISSA in Trieste, Italy
Your senses are bombarded by constant information — sounds, colors, shapes and ever-changing motion — yet you don’t notice most of these things. The brain has figured out ways to pay attention to relevant information and ignore distractions.
How the brain does this is not fully understood, but physicist Yasser Roudi says one thing is clear: “It’s about information processing in a very chaotic environment that’s full of signals.”
Roudi is figuring out how to sort through and make sense of the vast number of inputs that bombard the brain and other complex systems.
Born in Tehran, Roudi knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue physics and mathematics. While studying physics at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, he met a teacher who introduced him to the brain and its networks of neurons. At posts in London and Stockholm, Roudi worked on applying math and physics to studies of the brain and other systems. In 2010, he moved to the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.
Today, Roudi draws on information theory and statistical mechanics to extract meaningful information from the data deluge. He’s finding ways to apply math to a messy living system, developing algorithms to draw inferences about the brain.
Roudi’s group is now developing automated ways to analyze even more data from complex systems and help scientists find “hidden” but important variables.
“Certainly a lot of breakthroughs in science have come through because somebody came across a cell that happened to respond to a certain thing, but not other things,” Roudi says. “The signal was there, and people had been recording it, but it just didn’t catch the attention that it should have.”