2011 Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows Announced

The Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows program marks its 20th year with the announcement of this year’s new class of Fellows. This year saw the second-most applicants ever, with 58 applying and these four chosen as the 2011 Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows: Kyle Mathewson, Meredith Silberstein, Joseph Toscano, and Thomas van Dijk.

The Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows program marks its 20th year with the announcement of this year’s new class of Fellows. Begun in 1991, the program has annually attracted top young scientists from around the world for the opportunity it offers to do independent, interdisciplinary research free of teaching or other duties. The 2011 Postdoctoral Fellows continue that tradition with outstanding credentials from the areas of neuroscience, materials science, and imaging. This year saw the second-most applicants ever, with 58 applying and these four chosen as the 2011 Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows: Kyle Mathewson, Meredith Silberstein, Joseph Toscano, and Thomas van Dijk.

The four will join a Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows program that provides an excellent opportunity for young scholars to initiate a post-Ph.D. career of independent research in a stimulating and supportive interdisciplinary environment. Fellows are appointed for up to three years and are selected based on evidence of professional promise, capacity for independent work, outstanding achievement, and interdisciplinary research interests that correspond to one or more of the Beckman Institute’s research themes.

The 2011 Postdoctoral Fellows, their backgrounds, and research interests are listed below:

Kyle Mathewson

Kyle is scheduled to earn a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Illinois. He has worked for more than three years in Beckman’s Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory with Institute researchers Monica Fabiani and Gabriele Gratton. During his time at Illinois and Beckman, Kyle’s research involved cognitive neuroscience, with a focus on attention and awareness in the human visual system. He plans to spend his time as a Beckman Fellow studying the prediction and control of brain states that influence subsequent perception, learning, brain activity, and even consciousness. He plans to take the research outside of traditional laboratory settings, monitoring brain activity during virtual reality situations, in order to predict performance in more ecologically valid environments. Techniques and technology will be developed to monitor and adaptively manipulate these predictive brain states in order to improve cognitive function.

Meredith Silberstein

Meredith is slated to complete a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this spring. Her research interests are in the area of alternative energy harvesting and conversion methods that can perform electrochemical functions while maintaining mechanical integrity. Her work is aimed at developing microstructurally-based models for electro- and/or chemo-mechanically coupled materials that will facilitate system level design and design of new multifunctional composite materials. At Beckman Meredith plans to focus on mechanochemical transduction in synthetic material design, specifically characterization and development of mechanophores.

Joseph Toscano

After completing his Ph.D. in Cognition and Perception at the University of Iowa, Joseph will join the Fellows program to continue his research looking at how the perceptual system uses context information during speech perception. At Beckman he plans to use computational modeling and neuroimaging methods to investigate continuous cue encoding and categorization during speech processing, apply his approaches to spoken word recognition, and examine effects of prosody and audiovisual speech.

Thomas van Dijk

Thomas van Dijk is expected to complete his Ph.D. in Physics at Vrije University in Amsterdam in April. His dissertation has a focus on theoretical and experimental studies in optical coherence theory, while his main areas of research include computed imaging, inverse problems, statistical optics and plasmonics. van Dijk is interested in exploring the theoretical frontiers in bio-optics, which uses light to study, manipulate, and treat biological samples, toward advancing the design of experimental methods and analysis of results. He plans to concentrate his work on problems in the imaging and diagnosis of disease in order to meet both clinical and research needs.