UW Data Science Seminar: Sven Dorkenwald


4:30 pm – 5:20 pm


Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, Room 105
185 W Stevens Way NE, Seattle, WA, 98195

Please join us for a UW Data Science Seminar on Thursday, February 8th from 4:30 to 5:20 p.m. PST. The seminar will feature Sven Dorkenwald, a Shanahan Foundation Fellow with the Allen Institute and the University of Washington.

The seminar will be held in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Building (ECE), Room 105


“Reconstructing the synaptic wiring diagram of the fruit fly brain”

Abstract: Connections between neurons can be mapped by acquiring and analyzing electron microscopic (EM) brain images. In recent years, this approach has been applied to chunks of brains to reconstruct local connectivity maps that are highly informative, yet inadequate for understanding brain function more globally. We reconstructed the first neuronal wiring diagram of a whole adult brain, containing 5×107 chemical synapses between ~139,000 neurons reconstructed from a female Drosophila melanogaster. The resource also incorporates annotations of cell classes and types, nerves, hemilineages, and predictions of neurotransmitter identities. In this talk, I will discuss the technological progress in machine learning and computer systems that lead up to the creation of this resource. Further, I will demonstrate its impact by highlighting how the connectome can be used to study the global organization of the brain and facilitates the tracing synaptic pathways from the inputs (e.g., sensory neurons) to outputs (e.g. descending neurons).

Bio: Sven Dorkenwald joined the Allen Institute and the University of Washington as a Shanahan Fellow in September 2023. He received his undergraduate degree in Physics and a Masters degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. While in Heidelberg, he worked on automated image analysis in connectomics with Jörgen Kornfeld in the department of Winfried Denk at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research. Sven received his Ph.D. in Computer Science and Neuroscience from Princeton University, where he worked with Sebastian Seung and Mala Murthy. During his PhD, he developed approaches for the reconstruction and analysis of neuronal circuits from Electron Microscopy images and spearheaded the FlyWire consortium effort that produced a synapse-resolution connectome of an adult Drosophila brain. Concurrently, Sven devised a self-supervised approach for efficient annotation of cell reconstructions as a student researcher at Google Research. As a Shanahan Fellow, Sven is pursuing the integration neuroscience datasets from multiple modalities.

The UW Data Science Seminar is an annual lecture series at the University of Washington that hosts scholars working across applied areas of data science, such as the sciences, engineering, humanities and arts along with methodological areas in data science, such as computer science, applied math and statistics. Our presenters come from all domain fields and include occasional external speakers from regional partners, governmental agencies and industry.

The 2023-2024 seminars will be held in person, and are free and open to the public.