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Science AMA Series : I’m Barani Raman, a biomedical engineer at Washington University in St. Louis, I study insect olfactory systems and create “cyborg insects”, AMA!
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I’m Barani Raman, a biomedical engineer at Washington University in St. Louis. I started my career as a computer engineer trying to develop an “electronic nose,” (a non-invasive chemical sensing system). The current state-of-art systems that we fabricate are no match to the capabilities of the biological olfactory system. So, I have been studying the insect olfactory system for the past decade to understand their design and computing principles. Our current approach is two-pronged: (i) conduct basic neuroscience investigation to understand how a relatively simple insect olfactory system works, and from there take inspiration to design the next generation e-noses (ii) take advantage of recent advances in miniaturized, low-power, flexible electronics to create “cyborg insects” and use them as biorobotic sensing systems. Recently, my group has made several important findings regarding how locusts smell, what are some of the neural information processing principles, and what are the rules that govern how neural activity can get translated to behavioral outcomes. AMA! Thank you so much for the interest in understanding my work and all the terrific questions. This was fun and it is good to know what the tax payers care about as well.