Friday, June 23, 2006

Applied mathematicians don't get no respect

Just got back from the neural prosthesis seminar I mentioned on Wednesday, and I was really blown away on a certain level. More on that later, hopefully I'll have time to blog about it this afternoon or this weekend.

For the moment, I just wanted to quick comment on a trend I've seen in neuro seminars.

As biological disciplines go, neuroscience is very math- & engineering-oriented. Although I admit I haven't taken high-level classes in other areas, but there's a lot of fundamental neuroscience that's dependent on decently complicated math. This is above and beyond the sorts of statistics that all experimental biological scientists would benefit from understanding.

And yet, many presentations seem to include the standard section where someone puts up some equations on their powerpoint and apologize for having to go into the math, while making it clear that they're glossing over the important stuff. It seems like it must be sort of irritating--especially in something like this, that's very engineering and prediction-dependent--to have to gloss over one of the key areas because even amongst specialists, it'll just fly over people's heads.

And of course, you never get the chance to present to mathematicians, who might have a better hope of at least understanding the concepts involved, even if they don't know the specific approaches and algorithms, because mathematicians don't generally attend neuroscience seminars (at least, not from my observations to date).

Not sure where I'm going with this. Just a thought.

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