Alex Piet

CV (PDF) | Neuroscience | Science Policy | Links


Hello! My name is Alex Piet. I am currently a graduate student at Princeton University, studying computational neuroscience. You can read more about my research interests below. Outside of scientific research, I work on climate policy with Citizens' Climate Lobby to help enact carbon pricing legislation. I am also a Humanist. I like to do fun things outside like skiing and rock climbing.

My contact information is on my CV.

Neuroscience Research

Cognitive, and Neural Dynamics during Decision Making

Google Scholar page

I work in the Brody lab. Our lab is interested in how cognitive processes are implemented in the brain. To that end, we train rats to perform simple cognitive tasks that involve making decisions, and maintaining working memory. We fit quantitative models to the rat's behavior, which help us describe the rat's behavior, and what strategies they are using on the tasks. Experimentalists in the lab work on identifying brain regions necessary for the task, perturbing the neural activitying within those regions, and quantifying the neural signals within those regisions. My part is to complement these experimental projects with computational modeling to connect behavior, brain region perturbations, and spike trains. One project I have worked on is modelling the circuit mechanisms in a cortical brain region known as the Frontal Orienting Fields. We recently published a paper on this work in Neural Computation: link. The next step is to examine how spike trains recorded from the FOF can be used to understand how these low-dimensional dynamics are implemented within the FOF.

Another project I have worked on is developing a new behavioral task which requires the rats to integrate evidence signals that are changing over time. We derived the optimal behavior on this task, which requires accumulation of evidence, and also discounting older evidence that may no longer inform the changing environment. This task opens up possibilities to study neural dynamics underlying changes of mind, and provides a quantitative tool for modulating neural integrators time-constants. The first project I mentioned above about FOF modeling makes some very interesting predictions about neural dynamics in the FOF on this new task. Here is a poster I presented at COSYNE 2017: COSYNE 2017. The next step on this project is quantitative behavioral modeling, and modeling of spike trains in the FOF during changes of mind.

More broadly, my interests involve neural coding, and neural dynamics at the scales of single cells, cellular networks, and brain-area networks. I investigate these issues by blending quantitative, computational, and theoretical tools.

Science Policy

Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend

I volunteer with Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), an international organization dedicated to building political will for significant climate legislation. We aim for passage of a national policy known as a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend. If enacted, a steadily rising fee would be placed on carbon emissions, and the revenue collected would be returned on an equal basis to every American household. This would send a clear market signal that would drive investments in low carbon technology. A recent economic study found this proposal, by 2035, would reduce US carbon emissions by 50%, create 2.8 million jobs, grow the US GDP by $1.3 trillion, and save 16,000 US lives every year. See link below for citations

Here is some information on CCL's policy, and the source of the statistics cited above: Link. The largest climate advocacy group in the United States is the Citizens Climate Lobby. CCL is rapidly growing, please consider joining: Link. Watch this 2 minute video about CCL: Climate Solutions


Alex elsewhere on the internet:

Google Scholar page
LinkedIn Page
Goodreads page
Webpage (you're already here)

Climate Change:

Citizens' Climate Lobby   The largest climate action group in the US
Skeptical Science   Climate Science from climate scientists
Protect our Winters   Climate advocacy for the Winter Sports Community.
What can a Technologist do about Climate Change?

Idaho Environmental Organizations:

Idaho Conservation League
Friends of the Teton River
1% for the Tetons
Friends of the Clearwater

Politics and News:

Democracy Now!