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New group at the Institute for Ophthalmic Research: “Neural Data Science for Vision Research”

Starting July 1st, a new research group headed by Dr. Philipp Berens will augment the research profile of the Institute for Ophthalmic Research. The research group entitled “Neural Data Science for Vision Research” will add its expertise in machine learning, statistical modelling and visualisation to the institute’s research portfolio.

In 2015, Berens received the prestigious Bernstein Award for Computational Neuroscience awarded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The award comes with 1.25 Million Euro funding for establishing a research group at a German research institution of the awardee’s choice.

“It is a great pleasure and opportunity to have Philipp Berens here at the Institute for Ophthalmic Research”, says Prof. Marius Ueffing, the head of the Institute. “Introducing new approaches in the area of data science, Philipp can open new avenues towards understanding function and pathophysiology of the retina on a systems level.” Besides building a new module at the IOR, the group will be affiliated with the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience and the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience in Tübingen.

The research group will focus on computational methods to better understand cell-type specific computations in the retina and how they are affected by disease. In particular, it will study bipolar cells, aiming at providing links between the biophysical properties of individual cell types and the computations they perform. The group’s members use theoretical analysis and develop computational models for combining datasets acquired using large-scale functional imaging, high-resolution electron microscopy and single cell RNA-sequencing data. To this end, Berens’ group collaborates already closely with Prof. Thomas Euler at the Institute for Ophthalmic Research. Additionally, the group is ready to contribute statistical expertise to ongoing studies at the Institute on multimodal diagnosis of eye diseases.

Dr. Philipp Berens studied bioinformatics (diploma) and philosophy (BA) at the University of Tübingen. From 2008 to 2013, he pursued his PhD in the labs of Prof. Matthias Bethge at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen and Prof. Andreas Tolias at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (USA). From 2012 to 2016, he was a postdoctoral research associate in the Bethge group at the Bernstein Center Tübingen and a visiting scholar in the Tolias lab. In 2013, Berens won the Klaus Tschira Preis für verständliche Wissenschaft.