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Prof. Nitish Thakor on IEEE Life Sciences Grand Challenges Conference 2013

Dr. Nitish Thakor, Conference Chair of LSGCC 2013, discusses aspects of the Conference, including the unique NeuroNight session.

IEEE tv: Please introduce yourself and explain why we’re here in Singapore?

Thakor: I am Nitish Thakor, I am a professor here at National University of Singapore, directing an institute, SINAPSE. I am also a professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University in United States. But, here (Singapore) my main role is general conference chair for IEEE Life Sciences Grand Challenges conference. I also edit and contribute to IEEE Life Sciences newsletter.

IEEE tv: What are the goals of this Life Sciences Grand Challenges conference?

Thakor: Well, IEEE is, as you know, known worldwide as an engineering society, however, we found that there are many societies and members that are contributing, immensely, to Life Sciences. So, one of the primary goals is to present a tremendous awareness and branding for all of the engineers in Life Sciences and health and medicine. The second and just as important, goal is to identify Grand Challenges. Our national academy of engineering in the US identified 12 grand challenges: they have a very powerful, stimulating effect. For example, one of them is reverse-engineering the brain. Similarly, if IEEE takes the leadership in identifying what are major challenges, then I think we can influence and make an impact to society’s direct scientific research, as well as engage young people.

IEEE tv: Why was Singapore chosen as the site for this conference?

Thakor: That’s a very good question. The first meeting was in Washington DC, and it mostly drew leadership in the scientific funding communities in the United States. However, as you know, the world has shrunk, it’s a global world, so our goal was to influence, and, in fact, the rest of the world… starting with Asia. Singapore is one of those dynamic city/countries that has a tremendous economy, scientific commitment, industrial commitment, excellent growth potential… it’s a highly educated society, plus it is very nicely located within Asia. So the idea was to bring this conference, its leadership its innovation to Asia, and perhaps globally. In fact, if I might add, our speakers come from Asia, some local, others from New Zealand and Australia, and several from Europe. We have truly made an international meeting here.

IEEE tv: “Neuro Night” was an innovation in this conference, what was the inspiration for this unique event?

Thakor: Well, again, that’s a very good question. You know, we have really differentiated ourselves. Let me just give as a backdrop the fact that we might be living in the one of the great eras of scientific brain research. President Obama, just in the latest State of the Union address, mentioned human brain mapping as a major initiative, and committed hundreds of millions of dollars. The European Union has similarly taken a major initiative. So it seems brain is it. This is the time to think about brain, brain research, technology and its translation for clinical and society impact. So, our idea was to focus attention to that. Now we are, scientifically a little bit greedy and we had a packed program on many topics, so we added this Neuro Night. It was a 3-hour late night session with very die hard neuroscientists and engineers and audience. We had wonderful presentations that range from reverse engineering the brain, from cellular level, to brain/machine interface, to brain mapping and cognitive functions, and neuro technologies for implantable prosthetics and restoring sensory function. So, we covered, I believe, the topics of technology as well as mapping the human brain, if you like… and it highlights for us, why brain is, in a sense, the last frontier.

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January 2014 Contributors

Y. SunY. Sun (M'13) is a Research Fellow in the Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology (SINAPSE) at the National University of Singapore. Dr. Sun received his PhD degree in Electronics, Electricals, and System Engineering from Loughborough University, UK, in 2011 and the PhD degree in Biomedical Engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, in 2012 respectively. Read more

J. SunJ. Sun (M'10) is an assistant professor of School of Biomedical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. He received the PhD degree in Electronic and Information Engineering from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2009. His research interests include neuroimaging, brain network modeling, and their applications in stroke, mental disorders and Alzheimer's disease. Read more

Nitish V. ThakorNitish V. Thakor (F'97) is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA as well as the Director of the newly formed institute for Neurotechnology, SINAPSE, at the National University of Singapore. His research interests are neuroengineering, neuroprosthetics, brain machine interfaces, neurochips and devices, and clinical and translational applications. Read more

Anastasios (Tassos) BezerianosAnastasios (Tassos) Bezerianos (SM'08) is a Research Professor in the ECE, National University of Singapore and Senior Principal Research Fellow of Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology (SINAPSE) and Professor at the Medical School of Patras University, Greece. His research interests at large are in Neuroengineering and Systems Medicine and Bioinformatics. Read more

Haoyong YuHaoyong Yu is an Assistant Professor of Department of Biomedical Engineering at NUS. He received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 2002. His current research at NUS focuses on robotics for neurorehabilitation, assistive technologies, robotics in surgery, and bio-inspired robots. Read more

Chen GongChen Gong is currently working towards the Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering, NUS with his supervisor Dr. Yu Haoyong. His current research interests include rehabilitation robots system, compliant actuator and control theory. Read more

Guo ZhaoGuo Zhao is a Research Fellow in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, National University of Singapore. He received his Ph.D. degree in Mechatronics Engineering from the Institute of Robotics, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, in 2012. His research interests include neurorehabilitation exoskeleton, neuromuscular modeling, and neuromuscular-model based robotic control. Read more

Ngai-Man (Man) CheungNgai-Man (Man) Cheung is an Assistant Professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). He received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, CA. His research interests are image processing and image analysis with application to healthcare. Read more

Dawn Chin-Ing KohDawn Chin-Ing Koh is a biomedical scientist with specific interests in neuroscience and cancer research. She has extensive experience using both in vitro (cell lines) and in vivo (mouse models) studies in her research. Read more