Adding Brains to Intelligence: The Use of Neural Cells to Create Synthetic Intelligence Processors

Location: Prahran, VIC

Duration: 5 months

Please Note: This internship has an assigned Academic Mentor from Monash University. This internship is available to all PhD students at Australian Universities. Applicants will be required to re-locate to Melbourne if they are from interstate.

About the Industry Partner

Cortical Labs Pty Ltd is a world first company that brings together researchers and developers in machine learning, artificial intelligence, engineering, neuroscience, and stem cell culture. Our ultimate purpose is the development of post-silicon age biological artificial intelligence chips. To achieve this, we are currently working across a multidisciplinary space, developing new software (machine learning driven stimulation systems), hardware (split dialyser perfusion loop bioreactors), and neurological protocols. We create intellectual property for the production of patents and licences that can be leveraged through combinations of middle and vertical integrations.

More details will be provided to the successful applicant.

N.B. Website currently undergoing redevelopment due to recent rebranding. Will be launched shortly in line with current PR strategy.

What’s in it for You?

You will have the opportunity to be part of the team creating the first biological-silicon hybrid computing chip. This work will involve both animal primary cell cultures and induced pluripotent stem cell cultures. You will form part of a diverse multidisciplinary team with expertise across multiple sciences. You will gain industry experience from leaders in the entrepreneurial space that will expand past laboratory work into marketing and commercialisation of biomedical products.

Research to be Conducted

Many companies are now applying Deep Learning to image/speech recognition tasks, a space that is generally considered a solved problem. Companies such as Deep Mind and OpenAI are racing to develop “general” AI that can learn from small data, adapt and plan. Deep Learning requires more compute power than we can provide in order to generalise, exemplified by the breakdown of Moore’s law. Research from RIKEN (JP) have shown lab-grown neurons in petri-dishes to learn how to perform basic computation task. We plan to create the first hybrid computer chip by growing neurons extracted from brains on a bed of electrodes that can read and write electrically to the neurons. The breakthrough in this area is the adaption of the free energy principle proposed by Prof Karl Friston at UCL. This theory is being leveraged to program neurons by simulating a game world as a means of performing reinforcement learning.

You will be supervised by a selected academic expert in the neural stem cell field along with working closely with our internal team. The research will focus on generating and comparing the electrophysiological properties of primary cortical cells from rodents against cortical cells differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells. This will involve the generation of cell lines both in conventional dishes and on cutting edge microelectrode arrays. This work will require detailed quantitative and qualitative analysis using traditional imaging approaches and the use of more exploratory Bayesian statistics on electrophysiological data.

Skills Wish List

If you’re a PhD student and meet some or all the below we want to hear from you. We strongly encourage women, indigenous and disadvantaged candidates to apply:

  • Primary cell culture skills (neural cells, particularly cortical preferred).
  • Experience in using multielectrode arrays or other electrophysiology an advantage.
  • Basic PC2 laboratory skills (sterile techniques/pipetting/media preparation etc).
  • Data analysis (understanding of Bayesian statistics an advantage).

Research Outcomes

Please note: research outcomes are to be negotiated and agreed upon with the selected candidate during the project plan stage.

  1. The refinement of existing protocols for the establishment of primary cortical cultures from rodents onto multielectrode array.
  2. Peer reviewed publication describing these protocols and advantages over existing systems.
  3. Establish a protocol showcasing the ability to program these neural cultures to interact with a computerised interface.
  4. Media release showing progress into this area.

Additional Details

The intern will receive $3,000 per month of the internship, usually in the form of stipend payments.

It is expected that the intern will primarily undertake this research project during regular business hours, spending at least 80% of their time on-site with the industry partner.  The intern will be expected to maintain contact with their academic mentor throughout the internship either through face-to-face or phone meetings as appropriate.

The intern and their academic mentor will have the opportunity to negotiate the project’s scope, milestones and timeline during the project planning stage.

Applications Close

5 February 2020


APR – 1334