EECS graduate student Dylan Cable wins 2019 Hertz Fellowship

Dylan Cable prepares the Adaptive Upright Microscope, which will ultimately enable deeper imaging of animal brains. Photo: Hertz Foundation

Office of Graduate Education

Dylan Cable’s goal is to uncover the inner workings of vital biological processes. This aim may be a bit closer now, as he has just earned a prestigious fellowship from the nonprofit Fannie and John Hertz Foundation.

Cable, a first-year PhD student in EECS, is one of 11 scholars from nine U.S. research universities chosen from a pool of 840 applicants. The award, announced this week, provides recipients with up to $250,000 for up to five years. In addition to funding, the researchers are free from many of the constraints that other fellowships entail.

In making the announcement, David Galas, chairman of the Hertz Foundation’s board of directors, noted, “It is increasingly challenging to get funding for truly scientific research, but it is even more so for young researchers to pursue their own ideas.” The foundation supports “groundbreaking applied science with real-world benefits for all humanity.”

Cable grew up in Chicago, where he developed a deep passion for mathematics. This passion became his undergraduate major at Stanford University, where his exploration of neuroscience and biology convinced him that life science problems are the most important issues to solve.

Cable’s current work involves improving physical methods for biological data collection and creating mathematical methods for biological data analysis. He regards data collection and analysis as inseparable and believes they must be interwoven to achieve deep knowledge of biological problems.

To win the Hertz Fellowship, Cable’s application proceeded through a rigorous selection process in which a candidate must demonstrate a “background of leadership in research, achievement, and proven technical understanding of their field” in addition to academic excellence. During the unique interview process, the candidate must also demonstrate a capacity to think creatively and to “push the traditional boundaries of research.”

Cable co-authored a recent article in the Journal of Neuroscience that examines whether single neuron recordings can be recorded from humans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a question with major implications for studying the human brain.

As he pursues his academic path, Cable joins about 20 other MIT graduate students completing their tenure as Hertz Fellows. He also has access to unique learning experiences with alumni scholars, entrepreneurs, and scientific leaders in the broader Hertz community. Former fellows have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize, the National Medal of Science, the A.M. Turing Award, the Breakthrough Prize, and the MacArthur Fellowship (sometimes called a “genius grant”).

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