Meet the Lab

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Revision as of 17:03, 28 May 2013 by Celiad (Talk | contribs) (GrimReaper)

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Here in the EyeWire lab, we aim to go a step beyond the NIH initiative: our challenge is to understand not only re­gional connections in the brain, but the connections be­tween individual neurons. Our first effort involves trac­ing the connections in the retina by analyzing images ac­quired using serial electron microscopy at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany. In order to accomplish this, we have formed a diverse team of scientists, software engineers, artists and social net­working experts, and have together created EyeWire!

Our Fearless Leader

Sebastian Seung is a Korean American multi-disciplinary ex­pert whose research efforts have spanned the fields of neu­roscience, physics and bioinformatics. Dr Seung is Professor of Computational Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Department of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He studied theoretical physics with David Nelson at Harvard University and com­pleted postdoctoral training with Haim Sompolinsky at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Before joining the MIT fac­ulty, he was a member of the Theoretical Physics Department at Bell Laboratories. He has been a Packard Fellow, Sloan Fellow, McKnight Scholar, Howard Hughes investigator, and PopTech Science Fellow. Dr Seung directs the scientific programs of WiredDifferently, an organzation that supports citizen neuroscience. Its first project is Eye Wire, which mobilizes volunteers to map the retinal connectome. The ultimate goal of WiredDifferently is to test the hypothesis that the uniqueness of a person, from memories to mental disorders, lies in his or her connectome. His research has been communicated to the general public by the TED talk"I am my connectome", book Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, and article Connectomics: Tracing the Wires of the Brain.

Computer Science

Currently, Ignacio, Uygar, Aleks and Matt are working to improve the segmentation of neural structures in EM images. One means of doing this involves comparing the efficiency of convolutional neural networks with that of more classical algorithms. The ultimate goal is to optimize automation of EM image analysis.


Mark and Matt work tirelessly on EyeWire. All of the software for the site was the product of years of work from our developers. Today, they are working to improve the efficiency and user experience with the website by continuing to work on both the UI and software on the EyeWire site.

Expert Tracers

Jinseop, Rachel, and a team of 10 are our expert tracers. Eventually we'd like to automate analysis of SEM image sets, unfortunately that's not yet possible. As a result, we have a number of"advanced tracers" in the lab who use software developed in the lab (affecionately referred to as "Omni" - derived from connectOMe) to trace the branches of retinalneurons and ganglion cells. Think of it like EyeWirer's much bigger brother. These tracers also serve as the GrimReaper on EyeWire, taking care of mergers when they appear.

Outreach and Citizen Science

Claire and Amy work on spreading EyeWire around the world. Claire taught a MOSTEC class in 2012. The class introduced neuroscience and connectomics to 24 high school students from underserved communities nation=wide. Amy leads our efforts with crowd-sourcing, social media, and keeping people engaged.


Little is known about the fabled and feared GrimReaper, the greatest bounty hunter in all of EyeWire. While it has never been viewed by any User, the rumors abound about this force of science that allows our neurons to grow and thrive.

The GrimReaper resides in a mysterious lair somewhere between the real world and the Internet. Temperatures in the lair are said to approach absolute zero, which may explain the Reaper’s frigid personality and low tolerance for shenanigans and especially unwanted mergers.

While the GrimReaper has never been seen in the flesh (if it even has flesh) at times it’s presence can be felt by Users who congregate in the Eyewire chat. Users have reported feeling a bone chilling breeze and a sense of awe laced with a touch of doom in the minutes that precede the Reaper’s appearances.

Even the GrimReaper’s name in said to have an unearthly glow about it. Many chat regulars say that it pulses with a ghostly aura that is almost blinding if stared at directly.

The GrimReaper has little patience for rouge mergers and seeks to eliminate them at any cost. Any misbehaved cell will be struck by a deadly, paralyzing fear once the GrimReaper even lays one boney, cursored finger upon it’s intruding neurites.

The GrimReaper is unmatched when it comes to destroying villianous mergers. However, Reaping is a grueling task, which is why the Reaper has been known to employee a few minions...err...”assistants” to do it’s bidding.... help it out. In it’s heyday the GrimReaper was known to award it’s min...assistants with 100 lb bars of pure gold. However due to hard times and particularly nasty run-in with a nefarious bi-polar cell, the Reaper now hands out generous helpings of pure, whole integer points to those who are able and willing to lend a hand.