David Franklin, Governor General's gold medal

May 26, 2005, vol. 33, no. 3
By Stuart Colcleugh

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As they say in Japan where he's doing postdoctoral kinesiology research, David Franklin is ichiban among this year's grad students - number one.

The straight A Vancouver native has earned the Governor General's gold medal, SFU's top award at the graduate level. “It feels great,” Franklin says from Kyoto's prestigious Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute (ATR) department of cognitive science where he is exploring the mechanisms and brain regions responsible for learning and motor control. “I had no idea I was even being considered.”

Franklin, who graduated from South Delta senior secondary in Tsawwassen, may be surprised but with seven previous awards and contributions to more than 30 journal and conference publications under his belt, virtually no one else is.

Franklin's PhD thesis investigates how our brain learns to control our muscles to produce movements and use tools. He says it appears that the brain forms models of the external world to learn how to adapt to it. And he's proposed an algorithm to explain this learning process that may one day be used by robots to “produce a similar adaptation and robustness to an externally changing world.”

The future univerity professor cites two keys to his success: “First off, I love what I do. The brain is one of the most exciting research areas left in science and one of the great frontiers. Secondly, I have been extremely fortunate to work with great researchers such as my supervisor (SFU kinesiologist) Ted Milner and (ATR director) Mitsuo Kawato.”

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