Experience at NeuroMatch Academy 2020

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The best thing that the pandemic brought about to me education-wise was no doubt the NeuroMatch Academy. If this computational neuroscience workshop were not forced to move online (and thus open for all), I probably would not have been able to afford attending.

I have quite a few take aways from the workshop. Today I want to share two things that I found to be the most valuable.

First and foremost, I built intuitions about the what, why and hows of computational modeling. This is a great start to build confidence in understanding and using machine learning in my future work. I highly recommend the days of Model Fitting and Machine Learning to build these foundations and intuitions. My favorite content is Linear Dynamical Systems on Week 2 Day 2. The tutorials are so well-made, clear and fun! Since I’m a zealot for understanding behaviors, I think the modeling technique here can be used to understand human movement behavior as well!

Secondly, I now really appreciate the beauty and power of using Github for academic research. My day-to-day research work requires coding and collaboration with others, but I didn’t use Github that often. This is probably why none of my prior expereinces was as painless and efficient as working with pod-mates scattered across the west coast for the group project for Neuromatch. Specifically, I got to learn from an experienced software engineer from industry on how to use GitHub for project management, code cleaning, and many other best practices in collaboration. I would have saved many headaches had I knew these tricks sooner. Most student researchers like me are often overwhelmed by managing multiple projects, analyses and datasets. We would really benefit if we start to seek out these collaboration and management tools. There are also other things that we can learn from the industry. Code review, in my opinion, is another necessity.

Research is not that rewarding some of the times. But learning always is. In a collaborative project, there are always something to be learned from everybody. This is the beauty and joy of interdisciplinary research, which I got to experience in NeuroMatch Academy.