Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Wolfram Summer School


Monica Linden

Educational Innovation

Class of 2017


Monica Linden is a senior lecturer in the neuroscience department at Brown University. She completed her PhD in neuroscience and her SB degrees in mathematics with computer science and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT. In addition to teaching a variety of courses in neuroscience, Monica’s research area is the scholarship of teaching and learning, with a focus in metacognition and automated assessment feedback. Monica is also interested in politics and is currently running for school committee member in Franklin, Massachusetts. Last year, Monica won a blue ribbon for a crocheted sweater at the Big E.

Computational Essay

Creating Neural Tuning Curves »

Project: Computation for Neuroscience

Goal of the project:

The goal of the Computation for Neuroscience project is to create a book in the style of An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language to teach computational thinking skills for neuroscience. This book can serve as the main text for a course of the same name and can also provide supplementary activities for preexisting neuroscience courses that include computational material.

Summary of work:

Because so much of neuroscience is inherently computational, it is challenging to determine how to best organize a book on this broad topic. Approaching the book as the main text for a course of the same name allows for the book creation to revolve around the goals and structure of the course. Therefore, I created a draft syllabus for Computation for Neuroscience, modeled on a draft syllabus for Introduction to Computational Thinking, which I also created. Computation for Neuroscience (the course) will use Wolfram Notebooks in four ways: in class lectures, in class activities, in short student “explorations” and in more in-depth student “projects.” Students in a Computation for Neuroscience class can create their own books by compiling the notebooks used by the instructors and created by the students themselves in the course. Computation for Neuroscience (the book) will provide the notebooks necessary to facilitate course instruction. Subsets of the book can also be incorporated into preexisting courses to help students explore computational topics.

Results and future work:

During the Wolfram Summer School, I produced two draft course syllabi—one for Introduction to Computational Thinking and one adapted from the syllabus for the Computation for Neuroscience course. I created three student activities. The first demonstrates the effects of bin size on histograms. The second shows the effects of logarithmic axes when plotting exponential functions, and relates this idea to plots of sensory receptor adaptation. The final activity allows students to relate plots in different coordinate systems. I created one student exploration entitled “Where do tuning curves come from?” and sketched out a student project called “How do we know where to look?” that builds on some of the activities and the exploration I created. All of these activities, the exploration and the project were selected because they can be incorporated into a workbook to accompany my preexisting course Neural Systems at Brown University, in addition to serving as content for the Computation for Neuroscience book. Moving forward, I will continue to work on the syllabus for the class, extend the outline for the book and develop content for both the class and the book itself.