Keynote Speech: Dr. Kang Shen Director, The WuTsai Neuroscience Institute

Keynote Speech

Inherited Intelligence: Genetic Contributions to IQ

Dr. Kang Shen began his keynote speech by discussing the widely debated topic of whether IQ is inherited or shaped by the environment. Drawing from genetic studies, he explained that approximately half of an individual’s IQ score can be attributed to genetics, while the other half is influenced by non-genetic factors. He emphasized the interplay between genetic information as the hardware and environmental experiences as the software in shaping our cognitive abilities.

Neural Mechanisms of Spatial Navigation: Unveiling the Cognitive Map

Dr. Shen highlighted the work of Professor Lisa Giocomo, whose research explores the neural components responsible for spatial navigation. Using electrodes implanted in the medial entorhinal cortex of mice, Giocomo’s lab discovered a network of neurons called grid cells. These grid cells exhibit remarkable firing patterns that form a grid-like representation of space in the brain. The density of grid cells changes across different regions, providing animals with rich information to navigate their environment.

Digital Twin Brain: Adapting Maps Based on Reward

Building upon the understanding of grid cells, Dr. Shen described Giocomo’s experiment where mice were exposed to two different environments—one with a food reward and one without. The study revealed that when animals received a reward in a specific location, the allocation of grid cells to that location increased. This suggests that the brain’s representation of space is flexible and can be modified based on rewarding experiences, enabling animals to optimize their behaviors in response to environmental stimuli.

Artificial Retina: Advancements in Restoring Vision

Dr. Shen touched upon ongoing research in Stanford’s Neuroscience Institute regarding artificial retinas. While not discussing his own research, he mentioned the work of colleagues who are exploring innovative approaches to restore vision using retinal prosthetics. By leveraging advancements in neural engineering, these efforts aim to develop technologies that can interface with the visual system, potentially offering solutions for individuals with visual impairments.

Challenges in Neuroscience: Complexity and Unanswered Questions

Throughout the speech, Dr. Shen emphasized the immense challenges faced in the field of neuroscience. He underscored that the brain remains the last frontier of biology due to its unique nature and complexity. Understanding fundamental questions such as the generation of consciousness, the mechanisms of learning and memory, and the storage of memories still elude researchers. Dr. Shen acknowledged that despite significant progress, many aspects of brain science remain elusive.


Dr. Kang Shen’s keynote speech shed light on the frontiers and challenges of neuroscience. He highlighted the role of genetics in shaping intelligence while emphasizing the intricate neural mechanisms underlying spatial navigation. The concept of a digital twin brain and the adaptability of neural maps based on rewarding experiences showcased the brain’s remarkable plasticity. Furthermore, Dr. Shen briefly mentioned ongoing research on artificial retinas, providing a glimpse into potential breakthroughs in vision restoration. Overall, his speech invited reflection on the complex nature of the brain and the ongoing pursuit of understanding its mysteries.

Sharif Zadeh - President, Silicon Valley Engineering Council

Opening Speech: Sharif Zadeh – President, Silicon Valley Engineering Council

Opening Speech

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Opening and Acknowledgments

This year’s event marked a significant milestone as it was the first in-person event since the 2020 banquet. President Sharif Zadeh expressed his gratitude to everyone in attendance and acknowledged the support received for the event. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the SVEC managed to organize the program within a tight schedule, starting in October 2022. Zadeh thanked the sponsors, volunteers, and committee members for their contributions to making the event a success.

Impact of the Pandemic and Engineering Initiatives

President Zadeh highlighted the impact of the pandemic on the SVEC’s events, which were moved online. However, this also presented an opportunity to bring together various engineering events and initiatives in one place on the SVEC website, reaching a wider audience of engineers. The SVEC’s goal is to expand its outreach to the over half a million engineers in the San Francisco Bay area and reach 100,000+ engineers in Silicon Valley. The organization sponsors several programs, including the Hall of Fame, Engineers Week, and Discover-E, with the aim of encouraging younger generations to pursue engineering careers.

Theme and Keynote Speakers

The theme of the program for the evening was “Artificial Intelligence: From Science to Engineering.” The keynote speaker was from the Stanford Neuroscience Institute, Dr. Kang Shen, who would provide insights into the scientific aspects of artificial intelligence. Additionally, Dr. Bill Dally, Chief Scientist of NVIDIA, and former professor and chair of Computer Science department at Stanford University, a leader in artificial intelligence hardware, was honored as the 2023 Hall of Fame inductee.

Recognition of Past Hall of Famers

Mr. Zadeh acknowledged the presence of past Hall of Famers in attendance and recognized their contributions. Dr. Fred Barez, the Chair of the Hall of Fame Committee, and Dr. Bernard Widrow, a 1999 SVEC Hall of Famer, were specifically mentioned for their involvement in the review process of this year’s Hall of Fame nominations. Dr. TJ Rogers, and Mr. Pasquale were also recognized as past Hall of Famers and SVEC sponsors.

Recognition of Distinguished Guests

The presence of distinguished guests was acknowledged, including the founders of NVIDIA, Jensen Huang and Chris Makowski, as well as faculty and professors from Stanford and MIT, including alumni of Dr. Bill Dally’s research groups from Stanford, MIT, and NVIDIA.

Future Directions and Programs

Mr. Zadeh discussed the future directions of the SVEC and proposed new programs that require support and sponsorship. One such initiative is the establishment of a Silicon Valley Hall of Fame Club, aimed at fostering engagement and connection with past Hall of Famers. He discussed the plans for purchasing a building for the Hall of Fame Club, which would require significant funding. Additionally, the organization plans to introduce an Annual Corporate Membership program to secure funding for future events and mitigate the challenges faced due to short event planning periods. Zadeh emphasized the importance of sponsorships and support from corporations and Hall of Fame members for the successful implementation of these initiatives.

President Sharif Zadeh expressed his gratitude to all sponsors, distinguished guests, and members of the SVEC for their support. He highlighted the importance of collaboration and continued support in achieving the SVEC’s goals and future endeavors.

Meet our Sponsors 2023

Meet our Sponsors 2023







Blue Ribbon

Helen Arrington Keeper of the Flame Award

SVEC Awards Presentation Video

Awards Description

Scholarship Awards

The Silicon Valley Engineering Council Engineering Education awards recognize young engineering and technology students for their dedication, focus, and commitment to engineering. Engineering and Technology students graduating from high school are eligible to apply. Students may receive an SVEC Education award only once.
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Keeper of the Flame Award

During the 1990s, the content of K-12 mathematics and science courses came under attack by the education establishment. These “new math,” “integrated math,” “discovery math,” etc. courses sought to protect students from difficulties in learning traditional mathematical skills. But it failed to provide students with the proper mathematical skills. Science education also suffered due to an “anti-science movement.” This includes attacks on what scientists do, how they affect society and the scientific method of reaching objective truth.  

However, there are many teachers who still recognize that their job is to teach mathematics and science skills, and not to fall to the whims of administrators. These teachers display great integrity in defying the education establishment to ensure that their students actually learn mathematics and science.

The SVEC Keeper of the Flame award recognizes and honors those heroes of middle and high school education who have distinguished themselves as Keepers of the Flame of knowledge by maintaining high standards of content in mathematics and science instruction in the face of significant challenges. This award is not intended just to recognize outstanding teaching ability.
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Discover “E” (E for engineering) is a nationwide student outreach program to expose elementary, junior and senior high school students to engineering and cultivate their interest in math, science, and engineering. This outreach program takes place annually in Silicon Valley from the beginning of National Engineers Week until the end of March. The Discover “E” program was initiated in 1990. Thousands of engineers throughout the United States participate in the program every year. The Discover “E” outreach effort in the South Bay area has been coordinated by the Silicon Valley Engineering Council since 1992.
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