Speech Researcher Nikki Mirghafori Attends Prestigious NAKFI Conference

Speech Researcher Nikki Mirghafori

November 20, 2012
Dr. Nikki Mirghafori, a senior research scientist in the Speech Group at ICSI, attended the prestigious National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) conference November 14-17 in Irvine, California. Participants in the conference, which is held once a year, are selected through a highly competitive process and come from a range of scientific backgrounds.

NAKFI is a program of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine with support from the W. M. Keck Foundation, which funds research in science, engineering, and medicine. NAKFI was launched in 2003.

Each year’s conference focuses on a different theme. It brings together around 100 participants, who are assigned to work in think tank-style interdisciplinary groups on challenges related to the theme. This year’s theme was the informed brain in a digital world. The goal was to explore the challenges and opportunities presented by digital connectivity through the discipline of neuroscience.

Mirghafori’s team focused on the brain-computer interface (BCI), which comprises a range of interface and signal processing techniques, such as direct recordings from neurons, EEG, and fMRI. Some applications of BCI include helping those who have lost physical function (e.g., locked-in syndrome) and sensory function (e.g., hearing and sight), diagnosing brain disorders, and understanding market preferences.  The team considered not only the myriad scientific and engineering challenges, but also concerns about ethics, privacy, security, and societal impacts at large.

Mirghafori’s expertise is in the areas of statistical pattern recognition and machine learning, particularly as pertaining to speech and speaker recognition. She is also interested in mental and cognitive processes, especially those of meditative states, as well as mindful applications of science and technology for the greater good.