James L. Carmon Scholarship Award 2015
Ryan Toole, a master’s candidate in engineering, is developing an optical processing scheme that mimics neuron interactions within biological neural networks. These neural networks consist of billions of neurons constantly receiving and firing electronic pulses from one to another. His thesis explores the possibility of mimicking this biological process in a complex, large-scale photonics experiment in which photonics circuits act as ultrafast channels of communication. This neuromorphic computation scheme represents an exciting new design that could drastically change the nature of future computational devices, allowing for intelligent systems that can process extraordinary quantities of information much more rapidly than conventional technology. Moreover, these “brain like” processors could theoretically adapt to new challenges and learn much like their biological counterparts, as they would possess the intelligence of biological neurons, but with a processor that moves signals at the speed of light.