John Brooke

John Brooke 500

Degree: MSc Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience 

Now: PhD student

After a long career in high performance computing, John chose to study the MSc Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience course to pursue his interest in how the brains of animals and humans perform complex computational tasks using very small amounts of energy. John is now continuing the research he began during his MSc as a PhD student in the department.

"My situation was rather different from my fellow students because I funded the course myself after having worked for 25 years at the University of Manchester as an High Performance Computing consultant and researcher in Computer Science.

"I had been interested in how the brains of animals and humans perform complex computational tasks using very small amounts of energy compared to even our most advanced computers. A high performance computer with the computational processing ability of the human brain would need a battery of power stations to supply it. I chose the Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience course at Sheffield because it had a strong emphasis on studying the computational aspects of neuroscience, making it a rarity among the courses I considered and perhaps unique in the North of England.

"I really enjoyed the course. It was intellectually demanding but we were well supported by our lecturers and tutors and I expanded my knowledge greatly, particularly in aspects of neuroscience which were new to me. My MSc project involved developing computational models to investigate how the cortex in mammals can self organise to form structures that provide the basis for specialised processing. My project was supervised by Dr Stuart Wilson and I benefitted greatly from his advice and support and obtained some exciting results. I am now continuing this research as a PhD student supervised by Dr Wilson.

"My primary reason for enrolling on the course was intellectual curiosity, I was fortunate that my previous career left me in a position to pursue this and I was able to use the skills I learnt in computational methods and apply them to the new challenges of the course. Computational neuroscience is inherently interdisciplinary and will drive advances across a whole range of sciences that can help to solve some of the most intractable issues in human society. I am glad to have had the opportunity to understand and contribute in however small a way to this future."