About

Biography

Professor of Physics, Racah Institute of Physics
William N. Skirball Professor of Neuroscience
The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Edmond J. Safra Campus
Jerusalem, 91904, Israel
(t) 972-2-658-4563; (f) 972-2-658-4440
haim@fiz.huji.ac.il

Personal Information
Born:  Copenhagen, Denmark, 1949
Israeli citizen: 1951
Married with five children

 

Education

Harvard University, Theoretical Physics, Postdoctoral research, 1980-1982 Bar-Ilan University, Physics, Ph.D., 1980
Bar-Ilan University, Physics, M.Sc., 1973
Bar-Ilan University, Physics and Mathematics, B.Sc., 1972

 

Positions

1986-Present 2006-Present 2001-2005 1983-2000 1982-1986 1980-1982 1972-1980

Professor of Physics, Hebrew University
Visiting Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University
Visiting Professor, Center for Neural Systems and Courant Institute, NYU
Visiting Research Associate, Bell Laboratories
Associate Professor of Physics, Bar-Ilan University
Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof. B. Halperin, Harvard University
Graduate Research Fellow with Profs. M. Luban and S. Havlin, Bar-Ilan University

Other Experience and Professional Memberships

2009-Present

2007-Present 2006-Present 1999-Present 1995-Present 1995-Present 1992-Present 1992-Present 1992-Present

2007-2009 2006

1996-2003 1992-1999

Honors

Member, Executive Board of Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, Hebrew University
Director, Swartz Theoretical Neuroscience Program, Harvard University Member, Steering Committee, Center for Brain Science, Harvard University Faculty, Methods in Computational Neuroscience Course, Woods Hole Member, USA Society for Neuroscience

Associate Editor, Neural Computation
Member, Israel Society for Neuroscience
Member, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies
Founding member of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation (ICNC), Hebrew University
Director, ICNC
Member, International Review Committee of the Department of Physics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich
Faculty, Advanced Course in Computational Neuroscience, IBRO/FENS Member, Executive Board of ICNC

2011 Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience of the US Society for Neuroscience

2008 Landau Prize for Brain Science
2008 Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 2007 William N. Skirball Chair in Neuroscience, Hebrew University
2005 Hebrew University Presidential Award for Outstanding Researcher
1980 Rothschild Fellowship for Postdoctoral Research
1979 Chaim Weizmann Post-Doctoral Fellowship
1977 Sir Isaac Wolfson Prize for Excellence in Doctoral Research, Bar-Ilan University 1974 Bar-Ilan University Fellowship for Excellence
1973 Landau Prize for Outstanding M.Sc. Research
1972 Spiers Prize for Best Undergraduate Student, Bar-Ilan University

Teaching Experience

  • Theory of Neural Networks

  • Computational Neuroscience

  • Statistical Physics of Learning and Memory

  • Advanced Topics in Neurophysics

  • Physics, Neuroscience and Free Will

  • Phase Transitions and Critical Phenomena

  • Classical Electromagnetism

  • Statistical Physics of Random Systems

  • Spin Glasses

  • Quantum Mechanics

Major Research Interests

Sompolinsky’s research goal is to uncover the fundamental principles of the organization, the dynamics and the function of the brain, viewing the brain through multiscale lenses, spanning the molecular, the cellular, and the circuit levels. To achieve this goal, Sompolinsky has developed new theoretical approaches to computational neuroscience based on the principles and methods of statistical physics, and physics of dynamical and stochastic systems. This new field, Neurophysics, builds in part on Sompolinsky's earlier work on critical phenomena, random systems, spin glasses, and chaos. His research areas cover theoretical and computational investigations of cortical dynamics, sensory processing, motor control, neuronal population coding, long and short-term memory, and neural learning. The highlights of his research include theories and models of local cortical circuits, visual cortex, associative memory, statistical mechanics of learning, chaos and excitation-inhibition balance in neuronal networks, principles of neural population codes, statistical mechanics of compressed sensing and sparse coding in neuronal systems, and the Tempotron model of spike time based neural learning. He also studies the neuronal mechanisms of volition and the impact of physics and neuroscience on the foundations of human freedom and agency .

Leadership and Public Activities

  • Led the establishment of Neurophysics, a new discipline that applies the principles of statistical physics to the study of the collective dynamics and distributed information processing in neuronal systems.
  • Co-founded Hebrew University's Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation (ICNC) and served as its Director. ICNC is a world-renowned center for research and education in computational neuroscience, comprising 25 laboratories and 70 graduate students. It was twice awarded the EU Center of Excellence grant.

  • Member of the founding team of the new Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University, and serves on its Executive Committee. ELSC is committed to expanding and modernizing neuroscience at the Hebrew University and strives to become one of the leading neuroscience institutes worldwide.

  • Member of the Steering Committee of Harvard's Center for Brain Science, leading computational neuroscience research and education at Harvard.

  • Director of Swartz Theoretical Neuroscience Program at Harvard.

  • Member of the Faculty of the EU Advanced Course in Computational Neuroscience, facilitating the training of new generations of interdisciplinary researchers in neuroscience in Europe and elsewhere.

  • Member of the Faculty of Methods for Computational Neuroscience Course at the MBL, Woods Hole, USA.

  • Public lecturer and TV guest on scientific perspectives on human choice, and on issues related to science and religion.

  • Organized international meetings and workshops in systems and computational neuroscience, most recently:
  • The 2009 Annual Meeting of the Sloan Swartz Computational Neuroscience Centers

  • The 2010 Meeting of Tri-Centers for Computational Neuroscience

  • The 2011 COSYNE Workshop on Compressed Sensing and the Brain

  • The 2012 Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology Spring Course on Random

  • Matrix Theory for Complex Systems

Support

Sompolinsky's research has been supported by generous grants from the Israeli Science Foundation, the USA-Israel Binational Science Foundation, NIH, NSF, McDonnell Foundation, Swartz Foundation, and the Gatsby Charity Foundation.

Invited Lectures (2011):

November 2011. Design principles for local cortical circuits. Presented at the 12th Otto Loewi Meeting on Neuron and Synaptic Complexity, Eilat, Israel.

November 2011. The quest for the emergent brain. Keynote address presented at the Dynamical Neuroscience Satellite Symposium XIX, Washington DC.

October 2011. The cortical column: the brain’s computational engine. Presented at the Gatsby Meeting on Advances in Neuroscience, London.

September 2011. Is random connectivity a design principle in cortex? Presented at the EMBO Conference on the Assembly and Function of Neuronal Circuits, Ascona, Switzerland.

September 2011. The curses and blessings of high dimensions. Presented at the Inaugural Champalimaud Neuroscience Symposium, Lisbon.

August 2011. Chaos in neuronal networks. Presented at the Methods in Computational Neuroscience Course, Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

July 2011. Feature selectivity in random cortical circuits. Presented at the Sloan Swartz Meeting on Theoretical Neuroscience, Janelia Farm, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Maryland.

June 2011. Computational neuroscience in the next ten years. Presented at the Neural Coding Meeting, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle.

May 2011. Learning temporal spiking patterns. Presented at the Annual Gatsby Meeting on Computational Neuroscience, Columbia University, New York.

May 2011. Sensory selectivity in random cortical networks. Presented at the Center for Brain Science (CBS) Annual Retreat, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

April 2011. Sensory processing in random cortical networks. Presented at the Workshop on Neuronal Response Variability and Cortical Computation, Banbury Center, Cold Spring Harbor, New York.

March 2011. Compressed sensing and its potential application in neuroscience. Presented at the COSYNE Workshop on Compressed Sensing and the Brain, Snowbird, Utah.