Competition: US & Canada
Olaf Sporns was born in Kiel, Germany, in 1963. After pursuing an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Tübingen, he received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Rockefeller University (New York) in 1990. Following his Ph.D., he conducted postdoctoral work at The Neurosciences Institute in New York and San Diego. Currently he is a Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he served as the Associate Chair from 2005 to 2011. Sporns is also a member of the Graduate Programs in Cognitive Science and Neuroscience, and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Informatics and Computing. After winning an Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in 2002, he received the Distinguished Faculty Award from Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2008. He was named a Provost Professor in 2011.
Sporns’ main research area is theoretical and computational neuroscience, with an emphasis on complex systems, brain connectivity, and neurorobotics. His work aims to uncover the network principles that underlie the architecture and function of the human brain. He is particularly interested in how anatomical connections shape and constrain functional brain dynamics, and how disruptions of anatomical connections may relate to neural and mental diseases. An essential step towards a better understanding of human brain networks is the creation of a complete connection map, which Sporns has called the “human connectome." A major international effort to map the human connectome is currently underway. Sporns is a co-investigator in several federally and privately funded research projects as well as a contributor to a number of training grants. He teaches a broad range of undergraduate and graduate courses and has participated in several national and international summer schools in the areas of computational neuroscience and complex systems. Over his career, Sporns has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications, including the recent book Networks of the Brain, published by MIT Press. The book received “honorable mention” at the 2010 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence in the category Biomedicine and Neuroscience. Sporns serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including as a Section Editor for PLoS ONE and a Deputy Editor at PLoS Computational Biology. He is also a member of the Faculty of 1000 (Theoretical Neuroscience) and a Big Think Delphi Fellow.