The Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineeringhas named Assistant Professor of Computer Science Zoran Tiganj and Associate Professor Intelligent Systems Engineering Maria Bondesson as Luddy Faculty Fellows.
The Luddy Faculty Fellows program, funded as part of a transformative, $60-million gift from Fred Luddy in 2019, is designed to support excellence in research that is -- or promises to be -- important, imaginative, or timely.
Bondesson’s research group is investigating how valproic acid – a common drug to treat epilepsy; it’s one of the most prescribed anti-seizure drugs -- can cause birth defects when given to pregnant women. It’s given when the benefits of preventing seizures outweigh the risk for birth defects. Bondesson’s research uses cutting-edge technology and computational techniques and training. It will produce preliminary data to drive competitive NIH proposals.
Bondesson earned her Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet. Much of her research centers on the study of zebrafish embryos through the Bondesson Lab, which identifies toxic chemicals among environmental pollutants and deciphers the mechanisms by which they act.
“I am very grateful for the award, which will enable my research group to do expensive single-cell RNA sequencing experiments together with bioinformatic analysis of the data,” Bondesson said. “Our project aims to understand on a single-cell level the teratogenic effect of valproic acid. Although VPA has been studied for years, it is still unknown how it causes birth defects.”
Tiganj’s research aims to improve artificial intelligence based on a deeper understanding of how humans and other mammals learn. It involves integrating cognitive models and deep neural networks to build more robust neural networks that can be trained with less data. The goal is to develop a novel neural network architecture that leads to faster and better learning. Evaluations will be based on giving a set of tasks similar to what’s used in animal learning experiments, such as interval timing, numerosity judgments and navigating in space.
Tiganj has a Ph.D. in computer science at INRIA, France’s National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology. His research interests center on artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and computational neuroscience to build artificial agents that can learn in unsupervised ways.
“I am deeply honored by this,” Tiganj said. “It is a wonderful encouragement for advancing my research, and to support our efforts to develop a novel neural network architecture that includes a cognitive model of human working memory. We hope this approach will help us better understand human cognition and to advance research in artificial intelligence.”
Research by Bondesson and Tiganj fits the vision of the Luddy School to integrate computational approaches and machine learning with domain expertise for multidisciplinary science.
“Zoran and Maria have built international reputations by pursuing innovative research that changes our understanding of what is possible,” saidJoanna Millunchick, dean of the Luddy School. “Our Luddy Faculty Fellows are uniquely positioned to be leaders of the next generation of technological improvements, and Zoran and Maria embody the kind of work that is the foundation of the program.”
To learn more about Luddy Faculty Fellows and their work, use this link: