These two I find really fascinating: the brain and human society. From molecules over neurons to brain areas, from individuals over organisations to nations, both are made up of countless moving parts, span orders of magnitude and constantly evolve. With a Physicist's mindset, I've squinted my eyes, blending out many details but trying to find simple principles that describe these otherwise hopelessly complex systems. The nature of stability and decentralised information processing are such principles that I've worked on.

Information processing in the brain

Currently, I'm a 3rd year PhD student at the Institute of Neuroinformatics in Zurich in Jean-Pascal Pfisters lab. The bigger picture of our research is understanding how the brain processes information. For survival, knowing what you don't know is arguably more important than what you know. So my part in this is the brain's handling of uncertainty. I've designed an experiment to test overall brain function but I've also borrowed ideas from machine learning to explain how synapses, the connections between neurons, handle uncertainty. One of the most amazing things in neuroscience is how well tuned everything works together without any of the bits and pieces understanding how anything they do fits into the grand scheme of things.

Stability and environmental science

During my Master's Adrian and I extended a method to compute stability for broad range of models that can be used in ecosystems but also for memories in brain or electrical power grids - as long as the system can be cast into a sufficiently abstract mathematical model. Previously researchers had only asked if a system could ever recover from a large schock - we asked (and answered) how to account for all the different pains the system might suffer while recovering. I've also contributed to the methods section of work done by Julian, trying to understand the role of photophore storage in soil. 

Constrained basin stability for studying transient phenomena in dynamical systems

Adrian van Kan*, Jannes Jegminat*, Jonathan F. Donges, and Jürgen Kurths

*(joint first authorship)

Phys. Rev. E  – 2016

Soil solution phosphorus turnover: derivation, interpretation, and insights from a global compilation of isotope exchange kinetic studies

Julian Helfenstein, Jannes Jegminat, Timothy I. McLaren and Emmanuel Frossard

Biogeosciences  – 2018