Mackenzie Mathis named Vallee Scholar

Mackenzie Mathis. Credit: EPFL

Mackenzie Mathis. Credit: EPFL

Professor Mackenzie Mathis, a neuroscientist at EPFL, has been awarded a grant from the Vallee Foundation's Scholar Program.

The Vallée Scholars program recognizes that “outstanding, young, independent investigators are the source for future advances in the biomedical sciences and of their need for flexible, unrestricted funding to conduct their research.” The Program provides four-year grants of $340,000 to junior faculty carrying out basic biomedical research.

This year, one of the Vallee scholarships has been awarded to Professor Mackenzie Mathis at EPFL’s School of Life Sciences, where she holds the Bertarelli Foundation Chair of Integrative Neuroscience.

“I’m very honored to be supported by the Vallee Foundation,” says Mathis. “It’s an exciting time in neuroscience, where new computer vision tools are opening new avenues into the understanding of behavior. This funding will allow us to develop new tools and use them to better dissect the umwelt of the lab mouse. It’s estimated that forty million mice are used annually in biomedical research, and yet we don’t fully understand their behavior. This aims to help change that.”

Proposal summary

Research animals are the workhorses of modern biology, medicine, and neuroscience. For example, nearly 25 million rodents are used in the USA annually. Yet, our actual understanding of the ethological "umwelt" of the laboratory mouse is lacking. While countless studies use them and analyze their behavior in short bouts (i.e., task settings such as open field assays, rotarod, or decision-making behaviors), a true understanding of the baseline "life of a lab mouse" remains unreported---arguably as analyzing behavior is hard and time consuming. Yet, understanding their ecological behavior is of great importance for the study of health and disease in preclinical medicine.

In this proposal, Professor Mathis aim to develop novel algorithms in order to aid in our quest to understanding natural behavior. “While the deep-learning tools I aim to develop are universal (no constraints on the type of animal used), here we will develop and deploy them on a large-scale dataset of mice in extended 3D home-cages,” she says.