We aim to replicate traits of biological olfaction by combining neuromorphic electronic systems with synthetic biological components. Our research aim is to establish an integrated platform for chemical sensing, enabling the exploration and understanding of the enigmatic aspects of biological olfaction.Job Description
In the human brain, sensory neurons provide information about light, touch, sounds, taste, and smell. Using synthetic biology and neuromorphic computing, we want to equip artificial systems with an accurate, robust, and efficient sense of smell or olfaction.
Biological olfaction outperforms traditional chemical technologies in detection limit, specificity, response time, coding capacity, robustness, size, and power consumption. This outstanding performance is mainly due to the unique architecture of the olfactory pathway that has evolved over millions of years in all living species, from tiny insects to large mammals. These systems are based on membrane proteins with specialized channels that selectively recognize odor molecules thanks to a highly efficient and adaptable computing substrate based on spiking neural networks.
Thus, the main broad research questions are:
'What strategies can be developed to replicate the intricate architecture of the biological olfactory pathway in artificial systems, utilizing membrane proteins with specialized channels and novel spiking neural networks endowed with online learning for odor molecule recognition, resulting in an accurate, adaptable, and efficient artificial sense of smell?'
'How can synthetic biology and neuromorphic computing principles be effectively harnessed to replicate the exceptional olfactory capabilities of biological systems in artificial setups, considering factors such as detection limit, specificity, response time, coding capacity, robustness, size, and power consumption?
To answer these questions, we seek a highly motivated, self-driven Ph.D. candidate that will contribute to the SYNCH project 'Combining SYnthetic Biology & Neuromorphic Computing for CHemosensory perception'. SYNCH will be conducted in the Neuromorphic Edge Computing Systems Lab
, within the Electronic Systems Group (ES) at TU/e. SYNCH is a collaborative initiative involving three prominent institutions: CAU Kiel University in Germany, the University of Bern in Switzerland, and Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). The project's objective is to advance the field of olfactory sensing using synthetic biological assemblies. In this endeavor, CAU Kiel University will investigate these assemblies' creation, specifically for olfactory sensing purposes. Meanwhile, the University of Bern will contribute by focusing on computational modeling to enhance the understanding of the processes involved.
Crucially, within this larger project, the Ph.D. researcher at TU/e will focus on exploring and developing innovative neuromorphic microelectronic circuits and systems. These systems will facilitate connections between synthetic biological components and neuromorphic spike-based computing systems. To achieve this, various integrated components, FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array), and CMOS VLSI (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Very-Large-Scale Integration) design techniques will be employed.
The collective efforts of the entire consortium plan to delve into essential aspects related to the computational properties observed in biological neural systems. The ultimate goal SYNCH is to establish a unified platform for chemical sensing. This ambitious goal will be pursued by merging cutting-edge neuromorphic electronic systems with synthetic biological mediums. This amalgamation of technologies represents a pioneering endeavor at the intersection of synthetic biology and electronics. Through this interdisciplinary collaboration, the SYNCH project aims to make significant strides in olfactory sensing and pave the way for novel applications and advancements in synthetic biology and neuromorphic computing.