Prof. Naftali Tishby

Machine Learning and Computational Biophysics

Prof. Naftali Tishby is a professor of Computer Science and the director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation (ICNC). He is holding Ruth and Stan Flinkman Chair for Brain Research at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science (ELSC) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is one of the leaders of machine learning research and computational neuroscience in Israel and his numerous ex-students serve at key academic and industrial research positions all over the world. Prof. Tishby was the founding chair of the new computer-engineering program, and a director of the Leibnitz research center in computer science, at the Hebrew university.

He received his PhD in theoretical physics from the Hebrew university in 1985 and was a research staff member at MIT and Bell Labs from 1985 and 1991. Prof. Tishby was also a visiting professor at Princeton NECI, University of Pennsylvania, UCSB, and IBM research.

His current research is at the interface between computer science, statistical physics, and computational neuroscience. He pioneered various applications of statistical physics and information theory in computational learning theory. More recently, he has been working on the foundations of biological information processing and the connections between dynamics and information. He has introduced with his colleagues new theoretical frameworks for optimal adaptation and efficient information representation in biology, such as the Information Bottleneck method and the Minimum Information principle for neural coding.


The interface between computer science, physics, and biology provides some of the most challenging problems in today’s science and technology. We focus on organizing computational principles that govern information processing in biology, at all levels. To this end, we employ and develop methods that stem from statistical physics, information theory and computational learning theory, to analyze biological data and develop biologically inspired algorithms that can account for the observed performance of biological systems. We hope to find simple yet powerful computational mechanisms that may characterize evolved and adaptive systems, from the molecular level to the whole computational brain and interacting populations.  An example is the Information Bottleneck method that provides a general principle for extracting relevant structure in multivariate data, characterizes complex processes, and suggests a general approach for understanding optimal adaptive biological behavior.