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Christopher Norman

Warwick 3MT 2021 Finalist: "How the Brain Talks to Itself"

Audio transcript of video.

AI in business

Is your AI solution giving you value for money?

My article with the Smith Institute discusses how businesses can leverage AI for a good return on investment.

"There are key questions you should be asking to interrogate your machine learning solution and ensure the rigour of your AI deployment"

I am an applied mathematician working at the interface of mathematical modelling, computer science, and neuroscience. I collaborate closely with experimental neuroscientists to design biologically constrained models of neuronal systems which allow hypotheses to be tested beyond the spatiotemporal resolution of current experimental equipment. The modern computational methods I implement are enabling simulations over increasingly larger and longer scales and provide the necessary frameworks to handle the growing size and dimensionality of neuroscientific data.

PhD: "Mechanistic Modelling of Presynaptic Dynamical Systems"

During my PhD I have focused on modelling dynamical systems in presynaptic terminals, from AP excitation to neurotransmitter secretion. This includes the activation of voltage-gated calcium channels, the subsequent diffusion and buffering of calcium ions within the terminal, and finally their interaction with vesicle-membrane machinery to drive vesicle fusion. Protein dynamics are captured by (semi-)Markov chain simulations, and the presynaptic terminal itself as a 3D environment using VCell. In each case the models are constrained, in collaboration with experimental neuroscientists, by recent experimental data and the natural restrictions of biochemical reactions.

Using a specialised implementation of the Gillespie algorithm to enable efficient stochastic simulation, the dynamics of protein complexes are predicted by a Monte Carlo approach up to timescales of minutes. This allows for analysis of long-lasting asynchronous release at mossy fiber boutons. Recent high-resolution crystal structures of the vesicle-membrane machinery enable a mechanistic `dual-clamp’ model of vesicle fusion, in particular suggesting a mechanism for the functional role of synaptotagmin-7. Additionally, the disruption of normal calcium channel function and the consequences for synaptic release induced by a familial hemiplegic migraine mutation are described by a data-constrained Markov chain model.

If this summary of my PhD research is of interest to you then please check my publications or get in touch if you have any comments or questions, particularly with respect to the currently unpublished topics.


Publications:

Chamberland S, Timofeeva Y, Evstatova A, Norman CA, Volynski K, Toth K. Slow-decaying presynaptic calcium dynamics gate long-lasting asynchronous release at the hippocampal mossy fiber to CA3 pyramidal cell synapse. Synapse. 2020; 74:e22178. https://doi.org/10.1002/syn.22178

Norman CA, Timofeeva Y, Krishnakumar S, Volynski K. Computational Modelling Framework to Study Ca2+ Activation of Synaptic Vesicle Fusion. 64th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society; 2020 Feb 15-19; San Diego, Ca. (Paper in writing)


Awards and Grants:

2021
2021
2020
2019
  • Studentship - EPSRC
    • Tuition + maintenance grant (£14,777) for the MathSys CDT MSc & PhD (4 years).
2016

Education & Training:

MSc (Distinction) - Mathematics of Real World Systems, University of Warwick, 2016 - 17

Graph theory & complexity science

Machine learning & data analysis

Dynamical systems and population dynamics

Mathematics in finance

BSc MMathPhys (1st) - Mathematics and Physics, University of Warwick, 2012 - 16

Theoretical neuroscience, mathematical biology & medicine

Analysis, game theory, & statistics

Electromagnetism, energy & scientific computing

Cosmology, quantum mechanics, & relativity

Independent Skills Development
  • Machine learning in data science events and competitions inc. Kaggle. Focus on deep learning with CNNs.
  • Collaborative coding projects in Python, MATLAB, and Julia using Linux (Bash) & HPC resources inc. AWS.
  • Design & execution of wet lab experiments involving C. elegans and, independently, the bacteria B. subtilis.

Teaching:

Mathematics for Computer Scientists 2 (2020): CS131 Webpage

First year module - Introducing the language and methods of mathematics as a foundation for computer science.

Quantitative Analysis for Management 1 (2019): IB121 Webpage

First year module - introducing applied statistics to Business and Management students.

Maths by Computer (2019): MA124 Webpage

First year module - teaching computational techniques in mathematics, using MATLAB.

Introduction to Computing (2018-19): Computing Resources

Masters level module - teaching Python with a focus on data analysis and manipulation.

Applied Dynamical Systems (2017-18): MA998 Webpage

Masters level module - teaching ODEs, stability analysis, bifurcations, and chaos.


Employment:

The Smith Institute, Oxford - Mathematical Intern (Mar. 2020 - Jul. 2020)
  • Technical consultant for high-profile clients involved in spectrum auctions, infrastructure and transport.
  • Collaborative coding projects; optimisation problems; decision-making under uncertainty; and AI in industry.
The University of Warwick Taekwondo Club, Coventry - Instructor (2016 - 2021)
  • Self-employed martial arts instructor teaching self defence along with traditional and competitive Taekwondo.
Smart Fibres Ltd., Bracknell - Mathematics Consultant (May 2018 - Jan. 2020)
  • Modelling the viscoelastic behaviour of high performance polymers.
  • Design of empirical models to assist the development of cutting edge pressure sensor technology.
Camp Tioga, Pennsylvania - Youth Councillor (Jun 2014 - Aug. 2014)
  • 24-hour responsibility for children aged 7-16 over nine weeks.
  • Organisation, quick-thinking, and team-building in an unfamiliar and loosely structured environment.
VPhase PLC, Chester - Data Analyst (Aug. 2012)
  • Analysing field data and building a central database to find energy savings of an eco-energy company.

Previous Research Projects:

Modelling Ecologies of Investors: Impact of Momentum Investment on Financial Stability - 2017

Robert MacKay (Warwick Maths Institute); Nicholas Beale & Richard Gunton (Sciteb, 23 Berkeley Square, London)

  • Design of a financial market model, including multiple assets and investment strategies
  • Highlighting the robust existence of a market-destabilising momentum investment threshold

Antibiotic Resistance and Group Motility in Bacterial Swarms - 2016
Marco Polin (Warwick Physics Dept.), Munehiro Asally (Warwick School of Life Sciences)

  • Multi-disciplinary collaboration to characterise the collective motion of swarming bacteria into antibiotic
  • Image analysis from wet-lab microscopy showed significance of bacterial ‘rafts’ in concentrated antibiotic

Behavioural Responses of C. elegans to Environmental Changes - 2015
Andre Brown (Imperial College London, Clinical Sciences Centre)

  • Novel tracking software identified new, environment-induced, behaviours in C. elegans
  • Creative environments, utilising light and heat, expanded the nematode’s measurable behaviour space

Taekwon-Do:

I have trained in ITF-style Taekwon-Do since 2002 an earned my 3rd degree black belt in 2020. I was the instructor at The University of Warwick Taekwondo Club from 2017 - 2021 under certification from our governing body the Professional Unification of Martial Arts (P.U.M.A.). Taekwon-Do is a versatile art renowned particularly for its dynamic kicking style, it involves practical self defence, traditional forms, and competitive sparring. If you'd like to talk about Taekwon-Do at Warwick, or more generally, then please get in touch!

University of Warwick Taekwondo logo P.U.M.A. logo

Personal Photo

 
Computational Neuroscience PhD Researcher

Python Linux
MATLAB HPC
Julia AWS

Supervisors:

Prof. Yulia Timofeeva: University of Warwick, Department of Computer Science

Prof. Kirill Volynski: UCL, Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Contact:

LinkedIn Profile

chris dot norman at warwick dot ac dot uk

Office D2.11: Centre for Complexity Science, Zeeman Building