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Anouk Goossens receives Shell Award for researching building blocks of the electronic brain

26 November 2018
Anouk Goossens

On Monday, November 26, UG researcher Anouk Goossens receives the Shell Award. This prize is awarded annually to three (former) physics students. Goossens receives the prize for her investigation into using the material Nb-doped SrTiO3 for imitating elements of our brain. She graduated with honors from the Master’s program in Nanoscience, and continues her research in a PhD program at the UG.

The nominees for the Shell Award are judged on the basis of academic achievements, graduation thesis, and a letter of nomination from the mention. “Anouk is a very responsible researcher,” explains supervisor Tamalika Banerjee. “In a responsible manner she developed a new line of research in the group. She is a careful and critical investigator and able to organize well, from the installation of new devices to the collection of data and the writing of a publication. The combination of involvement, responsibility, and thoroughness make her an outstanding scientist.” The professor is glad that Goossens will continue her work as PhD student.

Brain versus computers

Goossens’s research fits well with the work of the new research center of the UG, CogniGron. Scientists from multiple fields collaborate there in the development of substances that form nanoscale networks that are as efficient as our brains. “Computers are very good at calculations, just like our brains,” Goossens explains. “But in other areas they are less effective. Think about what happens when you enter a room. You take in your surroundings, your brain registers everything, but they only remember what is important. This allows you to ignore ambient noise, but when someone mentions your name, you suddenly notice it. A computer is not very good at recognizing and selecting different kinds of signals.”

Imitating the brain

Goossens’s studies Nb-doped SrTiO3. This substance appears to mimic our brain somewhat. “In computers we can turn signals on or off, by programming a 1 or a 0. Our brains are not so binary; they communicate signals at different levels. This material can do the same. We can send thousands of different signals. Moreover, this substance is also able to remember and forget.” In contemporary computers, the processor and the memory are two separate systems, but our brains seem to do both at the same time. Therefore, this substance might be a candidate for imitating our brains. “Naturally, much more research will be needed, and I am glad with the opportunity to do that research.”

Shell Award

The Shell Award is presented by the Koninklijke Hollandse Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (KHMW). This is the oldest “Learned Society” of the Netherlands, established to promote science in the broadest sense. One way to do this is the Shell Award, three Young Talent Graduation Prizes in Physics, based on their academical accomplishments, their graduation thesis, and a nomination letter from their supervisor.

More information

About Goossens’ research: Understanding the building blocks for an electronic brain

Last modified:26 November 2018 12.09 p.m.
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