USC Viterbi professor awarded research grant of over $11.2 million

The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded USC Viterbi professor Maryam Shanechi with an $11.25 million research grant to lead an interdisciplinary team developing brain-machine interfaces to enhance human decision making.

The Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant will award $11.25 million over a five-year period from the U.S. Department of Defense and the UK Ministry of Defense.

Shanechi’s team includes researchers from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Harvard University, New York University, UC Berkeley, Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Essex with expertise in neuroscience, machine learning, signal processing and distributed control. The research will focus on developing new methodologies for modeling multimodal neural, behavioral and physiological data from humans, and for understanding the brain’s decision making and multi-sensory processing. These methodologies will be used to build direct brain-computer interfaces that enhance human decision making under pressure.

“I am very excited about this MURI award because it brings together a diverse team of scholars across engineering, computer science and neuroscience. So far, brain-machine interface research has mainly focused on restoration of human function and treatment of neurological disorders. In this effort, we will aim to build the next-generation of brain-machine interfaces with the goal of enhancing human decision making,” said Shanechi in a USC press release.

The government-sponsored MURI grant specifically supports multi-disciplinary basic research working on key research challenges. The grants usually support teams of researchers working together from multiple academic institutions.

Shanechi is Assistant Professor and Viterbi Early Career Chair in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. She has received an National Science Foundation Career Award and was honored in the 2014 MIT Technology Review World’s Top 35 Innovators Under 35. Earlier this year she was recognized in the Popular Science Brilliant 10 for her work on brain-machine interfaces.

“The fact that the Department of Defense entrusted the leadership of this MURI to a junior faculty member such as Professor Shanechi is an emphatic endorsement of her remarkable talents in research, scholarship and leadership. We are looking forward to the results that will be obtained in this fascinating topic of brain-machine interaction–a field likely to be increasingly important as technology continues its exponential growth,” said USC Viterbi School of Engineering Dean Yannis C. Yortsos in a USC press release.

This MURI award is one of 23 MURI awards in 2016 (totaling $162 million in all) by the U.S. Department of Defense.

For more info, read the USC Viterbi News article.

–Compiled by USC Stevens staff, published April 22, 2016. Photo by USC Viterbi and used with permission.