Introducing the Newly Launched Lindsay Lab: Q&A with CDS Assistant Professor Grace Lindsay

The research hub focuses on developing artificial neural networks for psychology, neuroscience, and climate change

This fall, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Data Science, and Neural Science, Grace W. Lindsay, launched the Lindsay Lab, a hub at the intersection of artificial and biological intelligent systems. The Lindsay Lab uses artificial neural networks to advance research on the brain and address climate change. In addition to CDS, the lab is affiliated with the NYU Department of Psychology and NYU’s Minds, Brains, and Machines.

Grace’s research expertise is in computational neuroscience, an area that applies mathematical models to understand how the brain functions. She recently wrote a book called “Models of the Mind: How Physics, Engineering and Mathematics Have Shaped Our Understanding of the Brain,” which explores how mathematics plays an integral role in understanding the biology and functions of the brain. For more information on Grace, read ​​our recent introduction “Meet the Faculty: Grace W. Lindsay” on the CDS Blog.

As the fall semester heads into November, CDS caught up with Grace about the lab’s upcoming projects, climate change, and how CDS and Psychology students can get involved.

This interview was lightly edited for clarity.

What inspired you to launch the Lindsay Lab?

I wanted to continue pursuing the basic research questions about the brain I worked on as a PhD student and postdoc, but I also wanted to expand into more applied research directions, especially around climate change. Through my joint affiliation with CDS and Psychology, I get to do both in my lab.

Can you tell us about some upcoming projects for the lab?

Most of the work I’m starting out on is focused on attention. I use artificial neural networks to model the computations performed by real neural networks in the brain. Much of my work is about modeling sensory systems, and I’m particularly interested in modeling how sensory systems are adapted by attention and learning to become better at challenging tasks.

How will the lab use artificial intelligence to address climate change and what got you interested in this research area?

The lab will focus on applying computer vision to climate problems. This is most useful in the field of remote sensing where satellite imagery can be analyzed to study forests, oceans, and even human activity. The benefit of focusing on computer vision is that it uses the same tools (artificial neural networks) that the lab uses to study visual processing in the brain. I felt compelled to shift my research towards climate change because I think it is something everyone needs to contribute to in order to prevent catastrophic outcomes.

What impact do you hope your lab will have on the future of data science research?

I hope to show the benefits of using artificial neural networks to study the brain, particularly to connect neural activity to behavior. I also hope to make a real-world impact by applying computer vision to climate change.

Grace will be looking for grad students through the CDS and Psychology PhD programs throughout the fall semester! If you are interested in getting involved with the lab, feel free to contact her directly. Currently, the lab does not have undergraduate research or research assistant positions available.

By Meryl Phair

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