2016 Laureates of Emet Prize
In Category: Life Sciences
In Field: Brain research
Prof. Haim Sompolinsky was born in Copenhagen in 1949 and immigrated to Israel in 1951. He studied at the Ponevezh Yeshiva, and completed his academic studies with a Ph.D. in physics at Bar Ilan University. In 1979, after completing his army service in the Intelligence branch of the IDF, he worked as postdoctoral fellow in the physics department at Harvard University where he developed a dynamic theory of disordered magnets known as 'spin-glasses'. In 1982, he was appointed associate professor of physics at Bar-Ilan University until 1986, when he moved to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as professor of physics. He served as a visiting Research Associate at Bell Laboratories in the U.S until 2000, and since 2006 has been a Visiting Professor in the Center of Brain Science at Harvard University.
His research in the field of theoretical and computational brain science, central to the understanding of healthy and diseased brain function, is considered pioneering and groundbreaking. He began his study of the brain in the 1980s, when he developed, together with Hanoch Gutfreund and Daniel Amit, spin glass models to study the storage and retrieval of associative memory in neural networks. Since then, his work has focused on developing theories and mathematical models of neuronal systems, using tools from the field of physics and computer science and collaborating with experimentalists worldwide. This research has shed light on the ways in which information is represented, stored and processed by the brain, via the coordinated activity of a large number of neurons and synapses, and has contributed to the understanding of the dynamical processes and functional principles of neural circuits.
He is the William N. Skirball Professor of Neuroscience at the Hebrew University, and one of the founders of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC). He also heads the Swartz Program in Theoretical Neuroscience at Harvard University. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). His research has earned him the Landau Prize in Brain Research, the Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience of the U.S. Society for Neuroscience, and the Mathematical Neuroscience Prize from Israel Brain Technologies.