May 15, 2009

Salk Scientist wins the 2009 McKnight Scholar Award

Salk News

Salk Scientist wins the 2009 McKnight Scholar Award

La Jolla, CA—Dr. Tatyana Sharpee, an assistant professor in the Laboratory for Computational Biology, has been named a 2009 McKnight Scholar. She will receive a grant of $225,000 over a three-year period to study “Discrete representation of visual shapes in the brain.”

Established in 1977, the McKnight Scholar Award Program supports young neuroscientists working on problems that, if solved at the basic level, would have immediate and significant impact on clinically relevant issues. A total of six of the awards are given each year.

Sharpee, who is interested in how the brain processes information, is an expert in applying information theory to parse the code neurobiological systems use to handle natural stimuli from our sensory environment.

Human vision is a remarkably resilient system allowing us to recognize objects despite the wide range of viewing conditions under which we encounter them. But the neural mechanisms that mediate shape perception largely have remained a mystery. Previous work has established that contour’s curvature plays an important role in shape perception. Sharpee will use this award to determine how measurements of curvature, taken at different spatial scales, can be combined to yield discrete, and thus computationally efficient representations of visual shapes.

About Tatyana Sharpee
Sharpee, the newest member of Salk’s distinguished faculty, came to the Institute from the Sloan-Swartz Center for Theoretical Neurobiology at the University of California in San Francisco. Born and raised in Russia, Sharpee received her master’s degree in theoretical physics from the Ukraine National University in Kiev. During her thesis research at Michigan State University, she studied the properties of electrons before she turned her attention to brain cells.

The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience
The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience is an independent charitable organization established by The McKnight Foundation to carry out the wishes of its founder, William L. McKnight (1887-1979).

Mr. McKnight, who led the 3M company for three decades, had a personal interest in memory and its diseases. He chose to set aside part of his legacy to bring hope to those suffering from brain injury or disease and cognitive impairment.

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world’s preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probes fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative, and creative environment. Focused on both discovery and mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines.

Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D., the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

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