Physics and Astronomy Colloquium - Dr. Saptarshi Das, Pennsylvania State University

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Date: March 11, 2021
Time: 3:45 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Location: Virtual event
Category: Lecture

Abstract: Many animals outsmart humans in sensory skills. In fact, animals can do much more than just see, smell, touch, taste, and hear. For example, octopuses possess polarized vision, bats use ultrasound to echolocate, hyper touch sensitive spiders can trace the origin of micro-vibrations and sharks can detect electric fields as weak as nanovolts per centimeter. The extraordinary sensing ability of these animals are mostly attributed to the evolutionary success of their respective and specialized sensory organs. However, less emphasis is laid on the connectivity, association, and organization of neurons inside the brainstem of these animals. What is even more humbling is the fact that the tiny brains of these animals allocate very limited neural resources in terms of area and energy for executing these high-level computations.

Drawing inspiration from natural intelligent sensor design, we have developed a number of solid-state biomimetic devices that provide unprecedented energy and area benefits for sensory computations. In particular, we have mimicked auditory information processing in barn owl (Nature Communications, 10, 3450, 2019), collision avoidance by locust (Nature Electronics, 2020), and subthreshold signal detection by paddlefish and cricket using stochastic resonance (Nature Communications, 2020). We have also mimicked probabilistic computing in animal brains using low-power Gaussian synapses (Nature Communications, 10, 4199, 2019) and realized a biomimetic device that can emulate neurotransmitter release in chemical synapses (ACS Nano, 11, 3, 2017). We use novel two-dimensional (2D) nano materials, nano devices, and in-memory computing architectures to demonstrate this new paradigm of sensing and computing. Our goal is to deploy theses low-power and smart biomimetic devices at remote, inaccessible, and resource constrained locations.

Biography: Dr. Das was appointed as an Assistant Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) and member of the Materials Research Institute (MRI) and the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Materials Science and Engineering at Penn State University in January 2016. He received his B.Eng. degree (2007) in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from Jadavpur University, India, and Ph.D. degree (2013) in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University. Before joining Penn State, he was a Postdoctoral Research Scholar (2013-2015) and Assistant Research Scientist (2015-2016) at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). Dr. Das was the recipient of Young Investigator Award from United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research in 2017 and National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award in 2021. Das Research Group at Penn State leads a new multidisciplinary area of science, namely biomimetic sensing and neuromorphic computing inspired by the neurobiological architecture and neural computational algorithms found inside various animal brains allowing evolutionary success of the species.

March 2021