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Dr. Robert Liu trained as a condensed matter experimentalist working on quantum transport and noise in mesoscopic semiconductors, but always believed that the true value of a physics doctorate was in learning how to think through and solve problems. As a graduate student at Stanford, he became fascinated with questions about the brain and memory, and decided to apply his quantitative training from physics to the study of neuroscience. He moved to the University of California at San Francisco’s Sloan-Swartz Center for Theoretical Neurobiology to begin postdoctoral work on studying the neural code used in sensory systems. What is the brain signaling about the outside world? How are stimuli that are behaviorally relevant to us represented in neural activity? How do we evaluate this code quantitatively? Is it efficient? These are some of the questions that initially drew his curiosity, and he pursued a principled approach to addressing them grounded in studying how natural stimuli are processed in the brain. At UCSF, he collaborated with others to develop a mouse electrophysiology preparation to study these in the context of auditory processing of natural communication sounds. He expanded this work from an anesthetized mouse preparation to recordings in awake mice.
He will discuss both his own scientific trajectory and some selected results at the intersection of interests from both neuroscience and physics perspectives.