Jean-Paul Noel ’12 Receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Posted on June 17th, 2015 by

Jean-Paul Noel '12

Jean-Paul Noel ’12

Gustavus Adolphus College alumnus Jean-Paul Noel ’12 is the recipient of a 2015 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF). Noel was one of 2,000 individuals awarded a fellowship this year out of more than 16,500 applicants. The fellowship will support Noel’s research through the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Vanderbilt University.

Since 1952, the NSF has provided fellowships to individuals early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is a critical program in the NSF’s overall strategy to develop the globally-engaged workforce necessary to ensure the nation’s leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation.

As a fellowship recipient, Noel will receive three years of financial support including a $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to his graduate institution for graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in science or engineering. Noel will also be supported by another grant he received from the Autism Science Foundation.

“Obviously I am honored to receive the fellowship as it’s a great opportunity for me and my career. But mostly I am happy that in some ways I am able to support my own research. Having this support by external agencies means my lab can dedicate other resources to other projects and people, which is great,” Noel said. “In addition, I feel very thankful for all the mentors I have had over the years; Lauren Hecht, Tim Robinson, Jan Wotton, and Mike Ferragamo at Gustavus, Andrea Serino, Olaf Blanke, Bruno Herbelin and Roy Salomon at the Swiss National Institute of Technology, and Mark Wallace at Vanderbilt.”

After graduating from Gustavus in 2012, Noel spent two years at the Swiss National Institute of Technology thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship. While there, he focused his work on the intersection between robotics and neuroscience and was interested in how to get amputees wearing prosthetic limbs to not only use those limbs, but to actually feel as if they belonged to them.

“I did a lot of work on the concept of peripersonal space—that is, the space immediately adjacent and surrounding your body. This space is processed in a specialized network in your brain, and neurons in this network code for tactile stimuli on your body, but also for auditory and visual stimuli close to your body,” Noel said. “A lot of this work is at its base, multisensory in nature. That is why I decided to come to Vanderbilt for my Ph.D. to work with Mark Wallace, one of the founding fathers of the field of multisensory integration.”

At Vanderbilt, Noel’s research deals with multisensory spatio-temporal binding windows in depth. The description of his research project states: “My project aims at bridging the literature focusing on temporal binding windows and that of the representation of peripersonal space. I aim at drawing temporal, spatial, and spatio-temporal binding windows across space (with an emphasis on the depth dimension). Lastly, I also have an interest in exploring how these spatio-temporal perceptual filters are altered (or not) by conscious awareness.”

Noel says that it is obvious to him that he would not be where he is today without his four undergraduate years at Gustavus.

“This is true academically, but I think it’s most true at a personal level,” Noel said. “Gustavus is a place to feel safe, and take a leap of faith in yourself. The faculty at Gustavus are amazing at making that happen. Gustavus prepared me in the classroom for sure, but mostly did so outside the classroom. Thanks to the support of the people there, I was able to realize that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to.”

 

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