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Damien Dechambre - 4/03/2015

Maciej Krupa: "I have discovered an environment that enables people to carry out fundamental and applied research.”

Portrait de Maciej Krupa ©Inria / Gilles Scagnelli Inria / Gilles Scagnelli

Of Polish origin, and having lived in Canada, the United States and the Netherlands, Maciej Krupa is a mathematician specialising in the field of mathematics applied to the neurosciences. He joined Inria in 2012, on one of the very first "Advanced Research Positions" contracts within the Mycenae team. Now member of the MathNeuro team-project, he looks back on his experience at the institute.

Can you tell us about your background?

I am of Polish origin, and studied mathematics at the University of Warsaw. In 1982 I went to Canada, then I completed a thesis in mathematics - specialising in dynamical systems - at the University of Houston, under the supervision of Professor M. Golubitsky. I then held several positions in the United States and Europe, essentially within the university sector. From the mid-2000s onwards I began to work in collaboration with mathematicians specialising in the neurosciences, as I was extremely interested in the applications of this research. And so, between 2008 and 2011, I worked at the Donders Institute, a specialised research institute in the Netherlands. In 2012 I joined the Mycenae team at the Inria Paris-Rocquencourt research centre.

Why did you choose to come to Inria?

I was looking for an intermediary structure - between a university and a very specialised institute in pure neurosciences, like the one where I worked in the Netherlands. Inria was the perfect solution for me. The environment here enables people to carry out fundamental and applied research. In addition, we work within multidisciplinary teams - and that is essential as one person can't possibly know everything. That way, by combining everybody's specialisations, we have the possibility of setting up much wider-reaching research projects. 

What are your areas of research at the institute?

I am working on the fine analysis of complex oscillations that arise in dynamical systems with multiple timescales. Examples of such complex oscillations are bursting  oscillations and mixed-mode oscillations. They are well suited to represent the electric, ionic and secretory dynamics of neurons, with possible applications in neuroscience and neuroendocrinology.

You were recruited on an "Advanced Research Positions" contract in order to bring your experience and knowledge to the institute. How did this work within the Mycenae team?

I have brought to Mycenae my longstanding expertise in mathematical analysis of nonlinear dynamical systems and in particular slow-fast dynamical systems with multiple timescales. While continuing to study questions in mathematical neuroscience, I have applied my expertise in the context of models developed in the field of mathematical neuroendocrinology, which is a multi-faceted discipline including the study of endocrine neurons (that control the main physiological functions through the release of neurohormones). In Mycenae, I have had the possibility to interact with people having different backgrounds than mine, for instance in numerics, biomathematics or stochastic dynamics. My most significant contributions during this period are new insights into bursting oscillations and the analysis of mixed-mode bursting oscillations (combination of the two types mentioned earlier).

Compared to everything else you have experienced throughout your long career, what have you discovered and particularly enjoyed through carrying out research in France?

France is not really that different from other European countries. However it has more public research institutes, and working with them feels like an easy and natural process. Elsewhere in Europe, research either takes place in universities or in the private sector, and there is a very applied side to it. There aren't really any intermediary bodies like there are here in France.

Keywords: Neuroendocrinology Mycenae Neurosciences