Ryan Pyle


1.  What interested you in the doctoral program in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics at Notre Dame?

I was particularly interested in the ACMS program at Notre Dame due to the wide variety of topics available to work on. The department has a great range due to including both applied math and statistics, and different faculty can be working on totally different projects. There is even frequent collaboration with other departments, so there are plenty of opportunities to find an interesting research direction.

2.  What was the best part of the program?

The professors and faculty here have been wonderful. They take a personal interest in your success, and are willing to collaborate with you in order to make sure that you succeed, whether in classes or research.

3.  Tell us about your doctoral thesis.

My doctoral thesis dealt with dynamics and computations in recurrent neural networks. Biological neural networks are inherently recurrent, and operate in a balanced regime where strong negative and positive signals roughly cancel. I explored how these dynamics could be simplified by using multiple sub-groups, and under what circumstances these systems would maintain balance. I next showed that spatial organization of realistic spiking neural networks is key to allowing for powerful and reliable learning of tasks. Finally, I developed a new biologically plausible, flexible, and powerful learning algorithm for training recurrent neural networks to perform tasks.

4.  What are you working on now?

I am currently working on extending my new learning algorithm to new varieties of tasks and situations, such as online control problems or generalization based tasks.

5.  How did the program prepare you for your career?

The ACMS program gave me the tools needed to succeed for my career, from my initial classes to my in depth research experience. Additionally, extra opportunities such as teaching seminars, TA opportunities, and the ND Graduate Career program helped ensure that I left Notre Dame with my career on track.

6.  What are your career plans for the near future?

I will be starting a Postdoc position at the University of Baylor medical center.

7.  What advice would you give to students considering the program?
There are a ton of opportunities to improve your research and career in the ACMS program. Make sure to take advantage of them!