Updated Pi Day in time for Brain Awareness Week, 2021 — Expanding the radius is a continuous work in progress

Image illustrated by author

“It’s hard for a computer to know what a cup is,” said my lab mate.

His friends laughed at the statement— how could something so trivial to us humans be so hard for computers to understand? A cup is so simple that humans can accurately identify them from infancy. Most adults hardly have to think to process what is and what is not a cup. Technology is coming closer and closer to being able to take over many cognitively-demanding tasks…


Systematic approaches to make your best choice.

Updated 03.03.2021

So many decisions, so little time

Even if people are dealt the same cards, this does not mean they will play them in the same way. While cannot control outcomes, we can control the efforts we apply and the strategies we use. The trajectories of our lives strongly depends on the decisions we make. We can choose to dwell on the negative events of our lives or to tell ourselves that we are bigger than our problems. Many decisions do not have much importance because whichever choice is made does not have a strong effect on the…


Big fish in a small pond? Small fish in a big pond? Or is something else even better?

Pond at the Zen Buddhist Temple, Ann Arbor. As a community, we created it with shovels, a roto-tiller, and dedication.

Stillness works for the satisfied person, but an ambitious person may find stillness turning to stagnation. Being a big fish in a small pond means that the pond will eventually limit the growth of the fish, such that the fish needs to find a new pond if they want to grow more. Being a small fish in a big pond means that the big pond may be overwhelming, and the small fish may go unnoticed and unappreciated until growing to a substantial…


Get the most out of lectures with meta-learning strategies

There is a light at the end of the finite for loop, but do not let it throw you for a loop! Image by author.

“We jumped from zero to a hundred, and I was lost.”

This is the common sentiment I noticed even among some of the brightest students taking their first programming course. They show up to class, but much of the material goes over their heads unless they came in with prior knowledge of programming. Staying lost means that the time they spend in lectures is not used as effectively as it could be. The students then lose excitement about learning to program.

What happened?

What strategies can help people get the most out of the time they spend in programming lectures?

There are many programming courses and tutorials out there… but can…


Stop banging your head against a textbook.

So much noise, so little time! This is true even in programming. Image by author.

Four chapters into “MATLAB for Neuroscientists”, my friend asked me for advice. Her knowledge of psychology and neuroscience helped her a lot as an experimentalist, but with little background in mathematics or programming, my friend found herself slogging through the textbook. Feeling stuck in learning programming was all too familiar to me — although I read some programming books, took some programming classes, and successfully taught myself to build functional robots, it was AFTER these experiences when I gained strong reasoning abilities for programming. In retrospect, I could have saved at least a…


Neural underpinnings of spatial navigation, with many illustrations and wordplays.

Summary: The brain contains mechanisms that allow its owner to keep track of their position and movement through spaces. One way of navigating is by counting the number of steps taken. Another way is by creating internal maps of the external world. There are various brain regions and cell types that support navigation.

Where are we?

How do we know it?

Where are we going?

When considering the kingdom of critters on the planet, it seems that if animals have both a healthy brain and the ability to move around…


What mindset would be helpful for a person adopt when they train as a scientist? What will help them find happiness and fulfillment in this process?

Image by author

“You’re going to become jaded over time. It happens to everyone.”

This is the gist of several conversations I had with graduate students before I started graduate school. In a world where loneliness abounds, where research funding can be hit-or-miss, where 90% of experiments fail, how can a trainee in science stay enchanted? What keeps them resilient through the ups and downs of the research process? I set out to inoculate myself against cynicism…

Sharena Rice

Tech Entrepreneuroscientist @ UMich + 3 startups. Finishing PhD, lived in Buddhist temple. Cybernetics, wordplays, sensorimotor systems. Looking for next role!

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