UCL Division of Biosciences


Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit Celebrates 21st Anniversary

30 August 2019

This July saw the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit celebrate its 21st birthday with a 3-day symposium event attended by current members and alumni from across the globe.


Approximately 70 of the world’s leading experts in computational neuroscience and machine learning gathered to celebrate 21 years of pioneering research.

Kicking-off with a public symposium on the 11th of July 2019, the event was attended by over 300 guests, including Lord Sainsbury who generously funds the Gatsby Unit through the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.  The public symposium included some of the unit’s most renowned names, such as  former director Professor Peter Dayan who won The Brain Prize in 2017, and Demis Hassabis the co-founder of DeepMind, which today is one of the leading companies in the world driving AI technology.

The public symposium was followed by two days of members’ talks and lectures hosted at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre. A breadth of topics were covered during the two days. There were discussions on the role of AI and machine learning in healthcare lead by alumni Katherine Heller, Quaid Morris, Fernando Perez-Cruz, Maria Lomeli and Quentin Huys. Mate Lengyel and Szabolcs Kali spoke about probabilistic learning in neural circuits, and many others gave an excellent overview of the latest machine learning methods.

The time and occasion to celebrate in earnest the 21 years of research that have influenced understanding of computational neuroscience globally came in the evening of Friday 12th July with a party.  In 1998, the Gatsby Unit opened its doors for the first time with a unique approach by bringing machine learning and theoretical neuroscience under one roof.  And the party on the symposium’s final evening, led by the Rufus Temple Orchestra hit the right notes to signal the moment to reflect the true impact the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit has had - enabled by its talented current members and celebrated alumni.

Indeed, the research impact of the Gatsby Unit is evident in part through where former members have moved on to and the significant impact their areas of research have had.  Former Gatsby members have gone to work for large tech corporations such as DeepMind, Uber, Amazon and Alibaba – whilst the majority have retained academic positions in top universities throughout the UK, Europe, United States and Australia. This highlights the exceptional training quality of the unit.  We look forward to the next  21 years as leaders in the field!