UC Berkeley’s Hayley Bounds named a 2024 Schmidt Science Fellow

April 29, 2024

Hayley Bounds, a graduate student in the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, has been awarded a prestigious 2024 Schmidt Science Fellowship. This fellowship, renowned within the scientific community, seeks out the “world’s best emerging scientists who have completed a Ph.D. in natural sciences, computing, engineering, or mathematics and places them in fellowships in a field different from their existing expertise.” The program not only provides funding for the scientists’ training and research endeavors, it also fosters a community of interdisciplinary leaders. Bounds is one of 32 early-career researchers from around the world selected for the 2024 cohort.

“I'm honored to have been picked as a Fellow and I am so excited by the opportunity that Schmidt provides to step outside my scientific comfort zone and contribute in a new field, as well as to build a larger scientific community,” said Bounds. “I've already had the chance to meet several of the Schmidt Fellows in the area and it's been a great opportunity to connect with other scientists and realize how similar many of the obstacles we face are, even if our scientific goals seem very different!”

Bounds’ research goals are aimed at understanding the fundamental language the brain uses to communicate information. During their tenure at Berkeley, Bounds worked with Dr. Hillel Adesnik in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, leveraging powerful new targeted stimulation approaches developed in his lab to understand the neural code for sensory detection. These efforts led to insights challenging conventional assumptions about how the brain represents information. “This inspired me to propose a project to create new models for how neurons represent information based on the insights from my and other experiments with this new technology,” said Bounds.

The Schmidt Science Fellowship embodies a commitment to encouraging researchers to transcend disciplinary boundaries, cultivating a community of interdisciplinary thinkers dedicated to addressing global challenges. Bounds resonates deeply with this mission, stating, “In my Ph.D. I realized that my research work requires a multidisciplinary approach, but different disciplines, like experimental and computational neuroscience, often speak different languages. I wanted to bridge this gap with the opportunity provided by the Schmidt Fellowship to do research in a different subfield so that I can one day run my own research group that merges experimental and computational approaches.”

Drawing from their experience working alongside experts from a range of scientific backgrounds, Bounds emphasized the importance of adaptability and ongoing learning. “I had to get comfortable with optical physics, for example, to be able to work with the new microscopes developed in the lab,” they explained. “These experiences have prepared me to work in a new field since I'm used to learning new disciplines, and given me an appreciation for how important it is to make these difficult leaps into new areas to become a well-rounded scientist.”

Schmidt Science Fellows is an initiative of Schmidt Sciences, delivered in partnership with the Rhodes Trust. The Schmidt Science Fellows Program helps scientists solve bigger problems faster by identifying, developing, and amplifying the next generation of science leaders, building a community of scientists and supporters of interdisciplinary science, and leveraging this network to drive sector-wide change.

More information about the Schmidt Science Fellows is available on their website.

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Hayley Bounds, 2024 Schmidt Science Fellow