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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board On Behavioral Cognitive and Sensory Sciences
Board On Behavioral Cognitive and Sensory Sciences
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

BBCSS Member Spotlight
From the Summer 2014 BBCSS Newsletter
Jeremy Wolfe
Jeremy M. Wolfe, Ph.D.
Professor, Ophtalmology and Radiology
Director, Visual Attention Lab
Director, Center for Advanced Medical Imaging
Harvard Medical School
In this issue we interview Jeremy Wolfe, a member of the BBCSS board since 2012.
What is your current position and area of research?
I am Professor of Radiology and Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School without benefit of training in either of those fields. I direct the Visual Attention Lab of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where I study visual search, how we find what we are looking for? That can be anything from finding your cat in the living room to finding “threats” in carry-on luggage or cancer in a mammogram.

What led you to this field/area of research?
Well, I got interested in vision research when my father, a solid-state physicist at Bell Labs in NJ, got his buddy in color vision to give me a summer job when I was still in High School. As a result, I majored in Psychology in college, worked in vision related labs and went to graduate school to get my PhD in Experimental Psychology.

Where do you see this field progressing over the next 10 years?
I think that there will be a lot of work on getting humans and their machines to share perceptual tasks. That might mean improving how we interact with “big data”. It might mean figuring out how to make machines better partners in difficult tasks like the cancer or threat detection examples mentioned above. Humans are swamped by too many images but they are still much better than their robots at understanding specific images. Machines, on the other hand, do not get tired, do suffer from lapses in their attention, and can go places we do not go.

What is the best part of being on the BBCSS board?
OK, it is trite but true to say that the people around the table constitute an interesting group of psychologists and I am glad to be able to spend time with that group. I suppose the real best part is that the advocacy work is important and the Board supports that work. 

If you could meet anyone from History who would it be and why?
Oh, I don’t know….. it might be a big disappointment as there is no guarantee that Moses or Mozart would actually want to spend time with me.

What was the last great book you read?
OK, I better give you a real answer to one of these. Let’s say the Bible and the works of Shakespeare because, for reasons I don’t really understand, these works support endless rereading, analysis, and interpretation in ways that many other very fine works do not.



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