Alyson Fletcher, assistant professor of electrical engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz, has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop new modeling and inference methods, with an emphasis on processing neural signals to reveal the structure and operation of the brain.
Fletcher's project, "Structured nonlinear estimation via message passing: Theory and applications," began in March 2013. It is focused on modern scientific and engineering challenges involving enormous numbers of intertwined quantities--both observed and hidden from view. It will develop a framework to study large networks of interconnected systems that may have random, dynamic, nonlinear interactions. Message passing methods have already revolutionized the decoding of signals transmitted on wireless channels and the way computers perform tasks in machine vision and artificial intelligence. Among many applications, Fletcher is demonstrating the potential of her new methods in understanding one of the most complex networks: the human brain. The mathematical techniques she has developed can reveal how large numbers of neurons are interconnected to one other, and ultimately how their interactions give rise to cognition.
The CAREER awards are the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research.
Fletcher has made key theoretical contributions in signal processing along with work in a range of application domains, including neuroscience. She earned her B.S. in mathematics at the University of Iowa before attending UC Berkeley, where she received an M.S. in electrical engineering, M.A. in mathematics, and Ph.D. in electrical engineering. She was a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellow at Berkeley prior to joining the UCSC faculty in 2012.