William Bialek

Current Fellow

Fellow: Awarded 2021

Field of Study: Physics

Competition: US & Canada

I am fascinated by the beautiful phenomena of life, from the crucial decisions made by cells in a developing embryo to the pattens of electrical signals in the brain and the ordered yet fluid flight of birds in a flock. As a theoretical physicist I would like to understand these things in mathematical terms, hopefully showing that diverse phenomena can be described, precisely, by unifying principles. I have shared this intellectual adventure with many close collaborators, and we have had the good fortune to see glimpses of these deeper theoretical principles and their detailed connections to experiments.

My colleagues and I wrote Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code (MIT Press, 1997), which described what we had learned about how the brain represents sense data in sequences of identical electrical pulses—spikes. After many years of teaching, I tried to organize my thoughts into a textbook, Biophysics: Searching for Principles (Princeton University Press, 2012), aimed at PhD students in physics. I have enjoyed trying to describe our work for more general audiences, most recently in Brasil.

Photo Credit: Chris Fascenelli