Visitor of the Week: Heiko Schutt


Meet Heiko Schütt of the University of Tübingen (Germany). Heiko is currently finishing his PhD in Felix Wichmann’s lab within the Neural Information Processing Group. He is on campus attending his first CSHL course: Computational Neuroscience: Vision

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I model human visual behavior: what images humans can differentiate and where in the image they look. For my models, I use neural data for inspiration which I implement using image-processing methods.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research? 
I knew I wanted to study visual perception once I realized how well it can be understood and the number of fascinating problems still unresolved. For example, I am deuteranope which means I am missing the photoreceptor type needed to register medium wave length lights. Therefore, there are some colors which I cannot differentiate. As this process is well understood, we can calculate which colors I can identify and which ones I cannot. Displaying colors on a screen, which everyone -- but me -- could easily distinguish from each other made a very impressive illustration. Such exact predictions are a rarity in neuroscience and psychology, and gave me hope that exact solutions are possible in other parts of vision science. 

How did your scientific journey begin? 
My scientific journey began as a psychology student in Gießen, which has a large group of psychologists working on visual perception. I started as a research assistant and was immediately fascinated by the illusions in visual perception, its complexities, and how much we can understand in this field.

Was there something specific about the Computational Neuroscience: Vision course that drew you to apply?
I was mainly drawn to apply for this course by the great collection of speakers and alumni. This course really brings together a broad selection of world-leading scientists in this field.

What and/or how will you apply what you've learned from the course to your work? 
I learned a lot about the neural basis of my models. The retinal physiology discussed at the course will be a great source of inspiration for the front end of the early vision model I currently develop.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
The most important takeaway are the people I have met here. Of course, I increased my knowledge and beliefs about visual neuroscience, but getting to know the researchers behind the original studies and meeting a great set of peer scientists will be invaluable for my future in science.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
If you can attend, do it! This is one of the best visual neuroscience courses in the world. Once you are here, don’t take yourself too seriously and allow yourself to get to know the science and other scientists.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
From our evening discussions to our Nerf gun battles, ultimate Frisbee matches, and evenings on the beach - I enjoyed the relaxed attitude of this course.

Heiko received a scholarship from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to cover a portion of his course tuition. On behalf of Heiko, thank you to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network. 

Thank you to Heiko for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.