Understanding the Visual System: A Conversation with Botond Roska

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Botond_RoskaWhen we see the world, there is a huge amount of processing that occurs in the neural circuits of the retina, thalamus, and cortex before we can even begin to comprehend our environment. And all of this computation happens very quickly! In this interview with Dr. Botond Roska, Senior Group Leader at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland, we discuss his research on the elements of the visual system that compute visual information as well as how this knowledge can be used to help blind patients. Dr. Roska was inspired by the work and scientific approach of David Hubel (more about this on Wednesday!), and continues to follow his example: “Listen to the experiment, and not your colleagues,” says Dr. Roska. But what would he be, if not a neuroscientist? Find out in my conversation with Dr. Roska, who also shares his story of transition from musician, to medicine, to mathematics and to neuroscience!

Be sure to catch his Presidential Lecture on Monday, November 17, 2014, 5:15pm – 6:25pm in WCC Hall D at #SfN14! His talk is titled “The First Steps in Vision: Computation and Repair.”

To read the full transcript of our conversation, download this PDF: A Conversation with Botond Roska


What we asked Dr. Botond Roska:

KF: Can you tell us, what are the main questions in your lab and how are you trying to answer them?

[0:42]: What techniques are you using to answer the first question?

[1:37]: How about for your Presidential Lecture that you’re giving at SfN on Monday, November 17th? What are you going to speak about?

[2:45]: OK. So, I’d like to ask you some questions about how you got to your current position. So, yeah, how did you get to where you are today?

[4:49]: It sounds like grad school was kind of a pivotal moment for you. Was there a favorite memory during that time in Berkeley?

[6:02]: How much of being a successful scientist do you think is luck and how much do you think is hard work?

[6:52]: Do you think that having a good mentor plays a big role in your success?

[7:11]: Is there a neuroscientist you admire today?

[8:27]: If you weren’t a neuroscientist, what would you be doing?

[9:14]: Lightening round!


Images made by Jooyeun Lee and from fens.org.

Kate Fehlhaber

Kate graduated from Scripps College in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Neuroscience, completing the cellular and molecular track with honors. As an undergraduate, she studied long-term plasticity in models of Parkinson’s disease in a neurobiology lab at University of California, Los Angeles. She continued this research as lab manager before entering the University of Southern California Neuroscience graduate program in 2011 and then transferring to UCLA in 2013. She completed her PhD in 2017, where her research focused on understanding the communication between neurons in the eye. Kate founded Knowing Neurons in 2011, and her passion for creative science communication has continued to grow.