Third year project and future insights

Hey, I’m finally back with some more details about my uni experience. I am writing this in the last week of the term, i.e. the busiest week perhaps, but what can I say, one can only write when inspiration hits.

Although the last few months were not  quite as intense as previous years, in terms of coursework, deadlines (and the stress of dealing with all of them!) I can say that I’ve still been working a lot and now possibly in a more convenient and productive way. Additionally, whilst doing this, I’ve also had the time to reflect on my future options and desires, and on my own personal development.

The most important part for me this past term has been my final year project which I am quite excited about because it gives me the chance to learn about many interesting things that are actually meaningful and appealing to me. At the same time, I love that I am the only one managing the project’s organization, intermediary deadlines, along with the path and extensions of the main topic – that again, I chose.

Before getting into details, I really need to mention how happy I am with my programme tutor, Dr. Eva Navarro-López, who is not only an excellent mind and researcher, but also a wonderful human being. She is the most inspiring, motivating and sincere academic I have met and I do believe that my success in my third year project and perhaps my whole life from now on, will be partly thanks to her.

The project is on modelling dynamical neural networks, its purpose being to give a better understanding of how the information signals are spread in our brains and what are the appropiate equations and parameters to represent these processes. My particular research topic is the interaction of neurons with a specific type of helping cells, called astrocytes, as the exchange of chemicals between these two structures seems to have important effects on which neurons spike together and when. The simulation involves implementing some proposed differential equations in Matlab, plotting graphs of the evolution of the relevant chemicals and energy over time and interpreting the results in a biological context.

The project is very deep into the subject of neuroscience which I have always been curious about, so I am glad I took this opportunity to discover it. The Mathematics behind it is quite challenging and the biology seems fascinating mostly because there is very little accurate knowledge of how neural networks work or how some little cells working together trigger complex reasonings, thoughts, sentiments, memories, etc.

So far, I have read (and watched YouTube videos) about several sub-topics like the human neuronal system, neuron and astrocyte mathematical models, complex networks, non-linear systems or computational modelling, which could be some nice readings as individuals, as well. What I was slightly surprised to discover is the fact that people also developed artificial neural networks containing astrocytes and in some cases they can prove to be more efficient than the usual neural nets. So maybe one of my projects applications will be creating better artificial neural networks in order to solve complex computer learning tasks and push further the limits of Artificial Intelligence.

So, as I might have previously mentioned before, one of my future plans was to do research, mostly in CS ad AI, but when I think about it now, I guess the possibilities are not limited to just that. I could also potentially study more neural processes and complex systems within our bodies, which may be useful for industries like medicine and pharmaceutics, psychology, but also satisfying personal curiosities that probably strive in all of us.

And to leave you with another motivating curiosity, I will say that I am currently working on my application for a very exciting programme that may prove to unravel the main purpose of my life. Just look for my soon-to-be be next post, as I feel like, if it deserves such a close place to my heart, it also deserves an individual blog entry!

Till then, I hope you all had a lovely and peaceful Christmas holiday, and took the time to reconnect with  loved ones and with yourselves and finally, be ready to come back with fresh energies, goals and study thirst for exams (for us students)!