Dr. Sean Hill

Episode #10: Failing Faster

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Sean Hill, Ph.D., joins us to discuss the importance of organizing and sharing data, the role of neuroinformatics in mental health, how scientists need to learn how to fail faster, and so much more!


Dr. Sean Hill is the Director of the Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics, Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and Professor at the University of Toronto. Dr. Hill is a computational neuroscientist with experience in building large-scale computational models of brain circuitry. The Centre collaborates with clinicians and researchers, employing neuroinformatics, artificial intelligence, and multiscale modeling, to develop data-driven definitions of brain disorders, predict patient trajectories, and transform mental health care. Dr. Hill applies large-scale data integration, neuroinformatics, multiscale brain modeling and machine learning to improve our understanding and treatment of mental health disorders.The Centre’s mandate is to accelerate global collaborations in brain science using the power of big data and brain modelling to fundamentally change how mental illness is understood.



  • What exactly neuroinformatics and computational neuroscience entails

  • The importance of data organization and sharing in advancing the study of neuroscience and mental health

  • How existing structures discourage scientists from sharing data and what we can do to change them

  • What sparked Sean’s interest in the field

  • How data structures from the world wide web, like google, could be used as a model for better organizing and accessing data in neuroscience and mental health

  • Having an agreement for common standards, like a driver’s license, for the use of data

  • Using data to improve and expedite diagnosis and treatment in the field of mental health

  • The importance of being careful and critical in our evaluation and interpretation of data

  • Challenges with bias and equity in machine learning models: how well are we capturing the population that we’re trying to care for?

  • How data can help us understand, address and correct systemic issues in healthcare

  • The importance of understanding the processes that are producing data

  • Using data to put together a picture of the patient journey to create a knowledge graph to provide decision support for clinicians

  • The importance of failing fast and rapid iteration

  • Embracing failure as a process of learning and not over-investing in what you believe is the one true solution

  • Dr. Hill’s journey: lessons from undergrad to graduate school in Switzerland

  • Thinking pods and collaborative, interdisciplinary work environments

  • The amazing things you discover when you persist



  • Follow Dr. Hill on Twitter

  • Find out about the Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics

  • Learn more about the Blue Brain Project here

  • Check out Sean’s many publications on Google Scholar, featuring work he’s done developing large-scale brain models and simulations, including the first large-scale model of the visual thalamocortical system of the cat which accurately replicates multi-scale electrophysiological phenomena during wakefulness and sleep (!!!)


Full transcript of this episode to be posted.