Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bremen and the roads not taken

Now that I finished setting up this blog, and writing my intro stuff, then posting the three emails I sent earlier, then removing all the HTML codes therein, I can finally start focus on new content. After I returned to San Diego in late February, I had a job interview with CSU San Marcos. This went well and I liked them, but there were a few problems. That was only an initial offer, and who knows if the faculty would have offered me the position. I had to make a decision about Bremen by Feb. 28. I would not have had the infrastructure I needed to develop BCIs, at least not as well as at Bremen. And, San Marcos is not far from San Diego, whereas Bremen is new and exotic. So that was that.

I was almost sure that I would move to Bremen after my interview here. I intentionally left half my clothes with Bernhard Graimann since I figured I'd want to bring as much stuff as possible. I have not regretted my decision. Aside from geography, I am obsessed with BCIs, and this was the best opportunity to develop them. I'm a cognitive neuroscientist and I need engineers and programmers. They need me. This is the same model I tried to pursue when I worked for Melody Moore Jackson and Jon Wolpaw in Atlanta and New York. It paid off with our P300 robot arm paper. Can I build a robot arm? Or the software to interface it with a BCI? No, but I sure as hell can develop a good P300 interface, run subjects, analyze data, and write up the resulting article. Janki Vora provided the engineering skill and work, and without her I would have been able to make a BCI speller. That was the first paper showing that a P3 BCI can control an external device. But, you can only do so much in a lab with 2 grad students who both have lots of other work to do, no matter how smart and motivated they are. Bremen has far more engineering resources than the old Georgia State University BrainLab and even the Wolpaw lab. I did enjoy working there, and miss my old labmates and friends. We are all on great terms and I'm actively writing new papers with both groups. I am also trying to get some of them out to Bremen to give talks and discuss collaborations. (hint hint.)

Two days after I accepted the position at Bremen, I got an email from the University of Washington asking if I might be interested in being a postdoc there. To quote Ignatius J. Reilly, 'Fortuna, you vicious slut.' Had I received that email a few weeks earlier, I would have considered that offer seriously. In June 2006, Microsoft Research (MSR) most graciously invited me to give a talk there about BCIs. I gave a different talk the next day at UW. It was obvious to me that they were starting a major BCI research effort, funded largely by Microsoft. But, I will be working with Desney from MSR on some other stuff, and will see him next month at a conference in Salzburg.

That talk at MSR is recommended for anyone who is new to BCIs, or wants a nice overview of the field. It is not technical. I intended it for laypeople and included lots of cool videos. I tried to present different BCI groups and approaches. It wasn't my best talk, the first few minutes were a bit rocky, but c'est la vie.
(then, continuing the same URL)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Brendan!
How you been... good to read your blog.. ;)