We are an interdisciplinary team of scientists motivated to understand the function and mechanism of the world’s most perplexing and awesome object.

We encourage experimentalists, theoreticians, engineers (software, hardware, and genomic), and everything in between to apply. We invite inquiries from folks who have specific projects in mind as well as those who have more open-ended research interests and are interested in joining an existing lab initiative.

Please send inquiries to hellofocolab.org.

We are members of:
    •  Weill Institute of Neurosciences
    •  The Weill Neurohub
    •  Kavli Institute for Fundamental Neuroscience
    •  Center for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN)
    •  Graduate Program in Neuroscience (UCSF)
    •  Graduate Program in BioEngineering (UCSF/UCB)
    •  Departments of Neurology & Physiology

Graduate students from any University of California program are encouraged to inquire.

Lab members:

Jackson Borchardt

Grace Chiu

Ray Dunn

Muneki Ikeda

Saul Kato

Ana Lyons

Daniel Sprague


Lab alumni & summer researchers:

Steven Ban

Greg Bubnis

Venugopal Chillal

Matt DiFranco

Hannah Gemrich

Laura Jameson

Ethan Kato

Tim Krausz

Vaishnavi Madhavan

Sarah Nordquist

Mili Patel

Kara Presbrey

Gabor Fu Ptacek

Varun Rohatgi

Kurtis Swartz

John Webb

Brennan Wright

Head of Lab: Saul Kato / Alice and Alfred Werth Professor of Neuroscience


Saul founded the Foundations of Cognition Laboratory within the Weill Institute of Neurosciences to understand how holistic brain function emerges, via neural network dynamics, from the brain's biological architecture, and how this function breaks down in disease. He brings to this effort a background in neurobiology, physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering.

After studying many-body quantum mechanics with Bob Laughlin at Stanford, Saul spent a decade as an engineer and tech entrepreneur; he founded, built, and sold two technology companies, before returning to basic science.

In 1996 he founded Sven Technologies, which developed software applications and run-time libraries for 3D graphics rendering. Sven Tech's software was based on algorithms invented by Saul: adaptive texture mapping (ATM), multi-resolution geometry (MRG), and curved surface rendering (CSR). These technologies are in use today in modern 3D authoring pipelines and real-time game and VR rendering engines. Sven Tech was acquired by Spatial - Dassault Systemes, one of the largest computer-aided design (CAD) software companies.

In 2000, he co-founded WideRay Corp, which pioneered the idea of local ad-hoc wireless content delivery. WideRay created networking protocols, designed and manufactured new types of hardware devices -- intelligent access and mobile caching servers, and designed end-user software for many mobile operating systems. It built a network of several thousand local content delivery points in fifteen countries. WideRay was funded by Sequoia Capital and Enterprise Venture Partners. In 2006, WideRay became Qwikker and was acquired by Dimensional Associates.

After 10 years as a tech entrepreneur, Saul returned to academia to attack the grand problem of understanding brains. His PhD awarded in 2013 was an experimental and computational study of the signal processing properties of C. elegans neurons, jointly advised by Larry Abbott at the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at Columbia University and Cori Bargmann at Rockefeller University. Saul then did a postdoc from 2013-2016 as an EMBO Long-Term Fellow at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, Austria, breaking new ground on understanding how the dynamics of brain-wide activity produce behavior in C. elegans, before joining the neuroscience faculty of UCSF in 2016.

Saul is co-founder of Herophilus.