January 5, 2011
School of Biotechnology, Amritapuri
When might you find a computer scientist studying the brain?
“When large-scale mathematical simulations are required to understand its structure and functioning in all its complex details,” replied Dr. Shyam Diwakar who currently teaches at the Amrita School of Biotechnology.
Having graduated with a B.Tech. degree from Amrita, Dr. Shyam then headed to Italy to complete his graduate and doctoral studies from the University of Milan. Recently he was back at his European alma mater as an invited speaker.
Dr. Shyam’s talk was attended by professors, research scholars and doctoral students from the Universities of Milan and Pavia.
The talk titled Mathematics, virtualization and technical education – An Amrita case study into understanding neuroscience via virtual labs and mathematical models focused mainly on computational neurosciences.
Using a test case of building neuronal models, Dr. Shyam explained how the data is used to predict and understand neuronal functions and dysfunction.
“Mathematical modeling of neuronal networks entails heavy computational cost,” he emphasized.
“Disassociating data analysis from simulations has been successful as a virtualization technique,” he added. “Besides, such techniques help educate students in biotechnology where intensive training in laboratory procedures is required.”
Dr. Shyam highlighted the Virtual Labs project, a major initiative funded by the MHRD, currently ongoing at Amrita.
“Laboratory procedures require investments from universities in terms of equipment as well as experienced staff, which are often in short supply in many developing countries,” he stated. “As such, we see trends towards developing a new kind of virtual simulation based laboratory.”
“This new approach to science seeks to blend effective e-learning techniques with real research.”
Dr. Shyam also briefly spoke about another major MHRD-funded initiative at Amrita, the use of haptics in universalizing education.
“The real need of education is to understand how complex scenarios can be solved and better solutions developed,” he stated. “This can contribute to the betterment of society while enabling newer methodologies for learning and collaboration.”