Two Medical Center Scientists Win Sloan Fellowships

June 08, 2001

Two scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have been awarded Alfred P. Sloan research fellowships. Neuroscientist Edward Freedman, Ph.D., and computer scientist Kiriakos Kutulakos, Ph.D., are two of 104 scientists and economists nationwide who received the fellowships this year. Each will receive $40,000 for his research.

Freedman, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and a member of the Center for Visual Science, studies how the brain controls the coordination of our eyes, head and neck. "Just to move your head and eyes to glance at something requires the coordination of more than 40 muscles; the brain is doing some pretty sophisticated math to make that happen," says Freedman, who is exploring how the brain encodes and shuttles the billions of signals necessary to make such actions seem so simple. In one research project he is looking for ways to diagnose Parkinson's disease earlier; today the disease usually isn't caught by physicians until most brain cells in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra have already died.

Kutulakos, assistant professor in the departments of Dermatology and Computer Science, works on the basic knowledge underlying computer graphics, computer vision, and robotics. He focuses on the complex computational problems that arise when images are used to capture the geometry and appearance of the physical world - a process at the heart of technologies in medicine, special effects, and other areas. In one project he is working on ways to make 3-D photography a practical technology readily accessible to the public, perhaps requiring little more than snapping a few pictures or recording a videotape. Kutulakos also studies enhanced-reality visualization techniques and has developed a method to simplify the process of overlaying computerized data onto the view of a user; this might include special computerized glasses that give a surgeon in the operating room a view of a patient's internal organs during surgery, or that allow a mechanic to do more effective engine maintenance remotely.

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