The College of Sciences is pleased to announce the appointment of Tansu Celikel as the new chair of the School of Psychology, effective fall 2021.
“By all accounts, Dr. Celikel will be bringing an abundance of enthusiasm, creativity, and vision to his role as chair,” says Susan Lozier, dean of the College of Sciences and Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair. “I am looking forward to working with him to advance the teaching and research missions across the School of Psychology and the College.”
“I am overjoyed to join the College of Sciences,” Celikel says. “Serving the Georgia Tech family as the next chair of the School of Psychology is an immense privilege. With its embedding in the College in a world-class technical university, our School of Psychology is in a prime position to advance the institutional mission of improving the human condition.”
Meet Tansu Celikel
Celikel received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience at La Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) in Italy. After conducting postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Diego and the Max-Planck Institute for Medical Research, he set up his first laboratory at the University of Southern California in 2008.
Four years later, Celikel moved to the Netherlands to establish the Department of Neurophysiology at the Radboud University, where he has since served as professor and chair. Celikel is also the director of the Donders Institute, a preeminent interdisciplinary institute in Europe devoted to the advancement of brain, cognitive, and behavioral sciences to improve health, education, and technology.
“Modern psychology is a multidisciplinary science,” Celikel explains. “It investigates mental processes and behavior to address human challenges — whilst human-made intelligent technologies increasingly shape our experiences and behavior.”
“The rapid pace of development in robotics, computing, bioengineering, and neurotechnology is on the verge of ushering us into a new era,” he points out. “In our lifetimes, we will witness the emergence of augmented humans who will use embodied and wearable technologies to improve how we sense, perceive, infer, learn, decide, act, and interact — including in aging.”
Furthermore, Celikel says that “fundamental research on the mechanisms of cognition, principles of information processing, and organization of behavior will give rise to cognitive computing for the next-generation artificial intelligence” will guide that emergence. “The teamwork between the machine and humans will redefine the workplace, transforming humans’ creativity, interactions, adaptability, and resilience,” he adds.
“With competitive research programs in cognition and brain science, cognitive aging, engineering psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, and quantitative psychology, the School of Psychology is well-positioned to take on these and many other challenges as we partner with other great Schools at Georgia Tech and beyond,” he notes.
Celikel is already building a roadmap to tackle these challenges and will arrive at Tech this fall equipped with leadership experience in developing vision, kindling the interests of stakeholders, and creating common academic and scientific goals. Celikel conceived and led the establishment of the European University of Brain and Technology (NeurotechEU), funded by the European Union. He is also the chair of its Board of Governors.
“The European University Initiative by the European Commission aims to transform universities,” Celikel says. “By bringing together eight universities and more than 250 partners in public and private sectors, NeurotechEU creates joint education, research, and innovation programs on Brain and Technology,” he explains.
“By pooling the educational and training capacity of its partners, and via its digital university, NeurotechEU will offer new learning opportunities,” he shares. “It will increase accessibility and inclusivity of advanced education — NeurotechEU research excellence centers and the Neurotech Graduate School are designed to maximize the synergy among our partners. They are currently being established under the Neurotech Research and Innovation (NeurotechRI) program, funded in part by Horizon 2020.”
Celikel’s own research group studies cognitive architectures “as we observe, model and control the brain and its behavior,” he explains.
“Our earlier work exclusively focused on animals to shed a mechanistic light on how sensory information is translated into action — and how experience alters this transformation and behavior throughout the lifespan.”
Celikel and his colleagues have identified fundamental mechanisms through which “self-centered and world-centered representations of the world in the brain are formed, stored and modified in an experience-dependent manner.”
To extend this research, his group has worked to develop “new technologies and computational methods that allow precise quantification of sensory input to the brain and behavior in millisecond resolution.” Using some of these methods, he notes, “we have recently established quantitative behavioral, neural and computational read-outs of perceptual learning.”
“Our experiments have shown that, within 90 milliseconds in rodents, or 230 milliseconds in humans,” he shares, “the brain collects the sensory information from the periphery, creates a percept of the stimulus, builds a memory trace and the associated expectations, generates a motor plan, and executes it while keeping track of the ‘error’ in the computation given its previous experiences. We are now developing methods to control every step of perceptual learning in rodents and humans.”
The ultimate goal of Celikel’s research is to identify the cognitive architectures of behavior to develop efficient, modular, and adaptable control solutions. “To test our algorithms,” he explains, “we create computational and in silico networks, and simulate behavior.”
From cutting edge robotics research — to excellence in core curriculum
These algorithms are also used to control robotic devices, for example by the iNavigate consortium, which is also led by Celikel and funded by the European Commission. “iNavigate is a unique training and exchange grant that brings together 50 research groups across academia and industry, to learn how we navigate our environments, in order to develop control algorithms for autonomous devices,” he shares. “We believe it provides a roadmap to translate fundamental insights on the organization of behavior and cognitive computations into actionable control solutions, including for the emerging field of cognitive robotics.”
Beyond academic leadership and research, Celikel has also taught courses in biology, physics, engineering, social sciences, and medical school programs in the Netherlands and the US. He has served on and chaired several committees that have shaped educational programs at the bachelor’s and graduate levels, and he has led several European Union training grant initiatives.
“The School of Psychology has a tradition of excellence also in education and training,” Celikel adds. “I am looking forward to working with our students, staff, faculty, administration, and alumni to build on this excellence.”
About the School of Psychology at Georgia Tech
The School of Psychology at Georgia Tech places strong emphasis on scientific research and discovery. Faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students alike engage in an array of wide-ranging topics related to the field of psychology, with research organized into five program areas: cognition and brain science, cognitive aging, engineering psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, and quantitative psychology.
The School fosters and maintains strong research and educational interactions across the College of Sciences and with fellow scientific and technological disciplines on campus, such as the GVU, Human-Computer Interaction Program, Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI); as well as with collaborative partnerships with a number of institutions including Zoo Atlanta, Emory University and the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, and the Center for Research and Education for Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE) at Georgia Tech, Florida State, and the University of Miami.
About the College of Sciences at Georgia Tech
The College of Sciences cultivates curiosity, encourages exploration, and fosters innovation to develop scientific solutions for a better world. Our connected community of scientists and mathematicians collaborates across disciplines and challenges to achieve excellence in science, teaching, and research. Working across six internationally ranked schools with the brightest young minds in our fields, we mentor future leaders to identify and push the frontiers of human knowledge, imagination, and innovation.
We nurture scientifically curious students by offering diverse educational and research experiences. As an internationally recognized, preeminent institution in the sciences and mathematics, we help students build empowering foundations in the sciences and mathematics — educating and preparing the next generation of scientists who will create the technologies of the future.
Most of the disciplines within our six schools — Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology — are ranked in the top 10%. We organize ourselves in multidisciplinary research neighborhoods to promote broad exchange of ideas. We also offer exciting opportunities for students to engage in research, and train with top professors in chosen fields.
Our internationally recognized senior faculty and an extraordinarily talented group of junior faculty are genuinely concerned about undergraduate and graduate education, and they bring the excitement of new discoveries in the research laboratory to the classroom. The quality of the faculty and the curriculum, combined with new state-of-the-art facilities and a low student to faculty ratio, ensure the excellent educational opportunities available to our students.
About Georgia Tech
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.
The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning.
As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.