Aaron Russell Voelker

Ph.D Candidate
David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science
Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience
University of Waterloo, ON
Canada
arvoelke@uwaterloo.ca

Education

2013/09 – Present Ph.D, Computer Science, University of Waterloo, ON
Thesis: "Dynamical systems in large-scale networks of spiking neurons" – In Progress
Comprehensive I – Completed
Comprehensive II – Completed
Course Requirements – Completed
Seminars – 2 / 3
2008/09 – 2013/04 BMath Double Honours, Computer Science and Combinatorics & Optimization (Co-op Program), University of Waterloo, ON
Dean's Honours List with Distinction
2004/09 – 2008/06 Ontario Secondary School Diploma (Gifted Program), Bell High School, Nepean, ON
Award of Excellence

Work Experience

2012/05 – 2012/12 Software Engineer (Co-op), Google, Kitchener, ON
Developed software to analyze advertisement data using machine learning techniques.
2011/09 – 2011/12 Software Engineer (Co-op), ContextLogic Inc., San Francisco, CA
Developed software to match products with users using machine learning techniques.
2011/01 – 2011/04 Software Engineer (Co-op), ContextLogic Inc., San Francisco, CA
Developed software to serve advertisements using natural language processing.
2010/05 – 2010/08 Software Engineer (Co-op), Amazon.com, Seattle, WA
Developed software to analyze big data using MapReduce.

Research Experience

2013/09 – Present Computational Neuroscience Research Group, Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON

Research under the supervision of Chris Eliasmith: development work on in-house simulation software, Nengo & nengolib; and theoretical work on dynamical systems in neural networks.

Teaching Experience

2017/01 – 2017/04 Sessional Instructor, CS 116
26 lectures, office hours, assignment and exam creation
Students evaluated 4.72/5.0 for explanations and 4.3/5.0 overall
2015/09 – 2015/12 Instructional Assistant, CS 245E
Two lectures, tutorials, office hours, proofreading course content
2015/01 – 2015/04 Instructional Assistant, CS 116X
Labs, proofreading course content
2014/09 – 2014/12 Instructional Assistant, CS 115X
Labs, proofreading course content
2014/05 – 2014/08 Instructional Assistant, CS 115
Labs
2013/09 – 2014/04 Teaching Assistant, CS 115
Marking

Professional Experience

2015/09 – Present Teaching, CS 116, 245E
Sessional instructor for CS 116 (26 x 80 minute lectures). Guest lectures for the enriched version of CS 245E (2 x 80 minute lectures).
2013/09 – Present Talking, Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience
Given 12 publicly scheduled talks at the CTN on my research: superparamagnetic clustering, heteroassociative memory, temporal representation (part I), temporal representation (part II), gradient descent in neural networks, neural sum-product networks, delaying signals with recurrent networks, choosing encoders, touch classification seminar, locality sensitive hashing, dynamical systems in spiking neural networks, and geometric decoder optimization.
2014/09 – 2015/04 Mentoring, Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience
Helped co-supervise an undergraduate student, Amir-Hossein Karimi, from the University of Toronto. Provided guidance throughout his undergraduate thesis on benchmarking adaptive control algorithms through brainstorming, answering questions, and providing feedback.
2014/05 – 2014/05 Volunteering, Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing
Lived with high-school students for one week, while they competed in the Canadian Computing Olympiad. Responsible for moving them between scheduled sessions, answering their questions, and inspiring them to study at the University of Waterloo.

Publications and Presentations

Journal Publications

Rasmussen, D., Voelker, A. R., and Eliasmith, C. (2017, July 6) A neural model of hierarchical reinforcement learning. PLoS ONE 12(7): 1–39 (Ph.D).

Aubin, S., Voelker, A. R., and Eliasmith, C. (2016, December 26) Improving with practice: A neural model of mathematical development. Topics in Cognitive Science 9(1): 6–20 (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R., Friedl, K. E., Peer, A., and Eliasmith, C. (2016, January 12) Human-inspired neurorobotic system for classifying surface textures by touch. IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 1(1): 516–523 (Ph.D).

Bekolay, B., Bergstra, J., Hunsberger, E., DeWolf, T., Stewart, T. C., Rasmussen, D., Choo, X., Voelker, A. R., and Eliasmith, C. (2014, January 6) Nengo: a Python tool for building large-scale functional brain models. Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, 7(48): 1–13 (MMath).

Conference Publications

Gosmann, J., Voelker, A. R., and Eliasmith, C. (2017, July) A spiking independent accumulator model for winner-take-all computation. Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (International conference), 6 page paper & poster (Ph.D).

Sharma, S., Voelker, A. R., and Eliasmith, C. (2017, July) A spiking neural Bayesian model of life span inference. Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (International conference), 6 page paper & poster (Ph.D).

K.-Abrams, E., Gilbert, A., Voelker, A. R., Benjamin, B. V., Stewart, T. C., and Boahen, K. (2017, May 31) A population-level approach to temperature robustness in neuromorphic systems. In IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS) (International conference), 4 page paper & oral presentation (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R., Benjamin, B. V., Stewart, T. C., Boahen, K., and Eliasmith, C. (2017, May 30) Extending the Neural Engineering Framework for nonideal silicon synapses. In IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS) (International conference), 4 page paper & poster (Ph.D).

Aubin, S., Voelker, A. R., and Eliasmith, C. (2016, August) Improving with practice: A neural model of mathematical development. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (International conference), 6 page paper & oral presentation (Ph.D).
(*) Best Student Paper Award: Computational Modeling Prize in Applied Cognition

Knight, J., Voelker, A. R., Mundy, A., Eliasmith, C., and Furber, S. (2016, July) Efficient SpiNNaker simulation of a heteroassociative memory using the Neural Engineering Framework. The 2016 International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN) (International conference), 8 page paper & oral presentation (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R., Crawford. E., and Eliasmith, C. (2014, July 17) Learning large-scale heteroassociative memories in spiking neurons. Unconventional Computation and Natural Computation (International conference), abstract & poster presentation (MMath).

Workshop Presentations

Voelker, A. R., and Stewart, T. C. (2017, June 29) Dynamics and control in spiking neurons. Telluride Neuromorphic Cognition Engineering Workshop (International workshop), tutorial (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R. (2017, June 9) Representing time in spiking dynamical networks. 4th Annual Nengo Summer School (International workshop), tutorial (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R. (2016, June 10) Reservoir Computing with Nengo. 3rd Annual Nengo Summer School (International workshop), tutorial (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R. and Eliasmith, C. (2015, December 8) Computing with temporal representations using recurrently connected populations of spiking neurons. Connecting Network Architecture and Network Computation (International workshop), abstract & oral presentation (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R. (2015, June 16) Dynamics, delays, and temporal representation. 2nd Annual Nengo Summer School (International workshop), tutorial (Ph.D).

Crawford, E., and Voelker, A. R. (2014, June 17) Knowledge representation [in Nengo]. 1st Annual Nengo Summer School (International workshop), tutorial (MMath).

Bekolay, T., and Voelker, A. R. (2014, June 13) Learning [in Nengo]. 1st Annual Nengo Summer School (International workshop), tutorial (MMath).

Other Publications

Voelker, A. R., and Eliasmith, C. (2017, August 27) Methods for applying the Neural Engineering Framework to neuromorphic hardware. arXiv q-bio.NC 1708.08133, 11 pages (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R., Gosmann, J., and Stewart, T. C. (2017, January 4) Efficiently sampling vectors and coordinates from the n-sphere and n-ball. Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, technical report: 3 pages (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R., and Eliasmith, C. (2016, July) Methods and systems for implementing dynamic neural networks. Patent (pending) (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R. (2016, April 18) Advances in locality-sensitive hashing. CS 860 (Coursework), 11 page paper (PhD).

Voelker, A. R. (2015, October 1) A solution to the dynamics of the prescribed error sensitivity learning rule. Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, technical report: 7 pages (Ph.D).

Voelker, A. R. (2015, August 27) A biologically plausible Sum-Product Network for language modeling. CS 886 (Coursework), 18 page paper (PhD).

Voelker, A. R. (2015, April 1) Implementing hill climbing with a spiking neural network. CS 898 (Coursework), 4 page paper (PhD).

Voelker, A. R., and Eliasmith, C. (2014, April 24) Controlling the Semantic Pointer Architecture with deterministic automata and adaptive symbolic associations. SYDE 750 (Coursework), 22 page paper (MMath).

Voelker, A. R. (2013, December 14) Properties of Superparamagnetic Clustering. CS 886 (Coursework), 12 page paper (MMath).

Honours and Awards

2016/05 – 2018/04 NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral (CGS-D)
2016/05 – 2018/04 President's Graduate Scholarship
2016/01 – 2017/12 David R. Cheriton Graduate Scholarship
2014/09 – 2015/08 NSERC Graduate Scholarship – Master's (CGS-M)
2014/09 – 2015/08 GO-Bell Scholarship
2013/09 – 2015/08 David R. Cheriton Graduate Scholarship
2013/09 – 2015/08 President's Graduate Scholarship
2013/09 – 2014/08 Ontario Graduate Scholarship
2012/01 – 2012/01 President's International Experience Award
2008/09 – 2008/09 President's Scholarship of Distinction
2008/09 – 2008/09 René Descartes Scholarship
2008/08 – 2008/08 International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) – Bronze Medal
2008/05 – 2008/05 Canadian Computing Olympiad Champion – 1st Place Overall