By Isaac Kauvar, Denver JDS Alum (Class of 2008)
How does the brain underlie our thoughts and actions, and how can we improve our ability to treat mental illnesses? Isaac Kauvar, Herzl/RMHA alum of the class of 2008, has spent nearly the last decade searching for answers to these questions.
Recently, Isaac successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation that describes these investigations, and he will shortly receive his degree from Stanford University in Electrical Engineering. Driven by a curiosity to understand the mind and the brain, and seeking to honor the memory of Danny Cramer, Isaac has developed tools that enable researchers to probe the brain in new ways. In particular, he built a number of microscopes that allow neuroscientists to make videos of neural activity across the cortex -- the outer surface of the brain that is likely responsible for our ability as humans to make complicated plans, movements, and decisions. In these videos, you can literally see neurons turning on and off as they communicate with one another -- like morse code in a telegraph. Isaac uses these tools to study how neurons encode information about the world, and how different psychiatric drugs affect the neurons. For details about recently published results, see this news article, and for a broader snapshot of his research see www.ivk.io.
Isaac's experience at Herzl/RMHA was core to the development of the values that he tries to carry with him every day -- including a focus on curiosity, compassion, community, and creativity. He continues to be amazed at how strangely good Color War was as a simulation of graduate school (late nights, building things, debating, and teamwork). And he was so grateful that many of his friends from high school were actually able to attend the (virtual) Ph.D. defense presentation.