Mikail Khona


About Me

Physics PhD candidate, MIT

Hi I am Mikail and welcome to my webpage! I am a PhD candidate in the department of Physics at MIT. I am primarily advised by Ila Fiete .

I started off wanting to reverse-engineer the Universe (aka do physics research), then decided to try reverse-engineering the brain (aka computational and theoretical neuroscience) and am now trying to reverse-engineer deep neural networks.

I received my undergraduate degree in engineering physics with a minor in pure mathematics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

My Google scholar page here is the most up-to-date.

email: mikail@mit.edu

Two quotes I live by:

What is physics?

To me—growing up with a father and mother both of whom were physicists—physics was not subject matter. The atom, the troposphere, the nucleus, a piece of glass, the washing machine, my bicycle, the phonograph, a magnet—these were all incidentally the subject matter. The central idea was that the world is understandable, that you should be able to take anything apart, understand the relationships between its constituents, do experiments, and on that basis be able to develop a quantitative understanding of its behavior. Physics was a point of view that the world around us is, with effort, ingenuity, and adequate resources, understandable in a predictive and reasonably quantitative fashion. Being a physicist is a dedication to a quest for this kind of understanding. - John J. Hopfield

On kindness:

“If you want to be successful in this world, you have to develop your own idiot detection system. The best way to spot an idiot — look for the person who is cruel. Let me explain. When we see someone who doesn’t look like us or sound like us, or act like us or love like us or live like us, the first thought that crosses almost everyone’s brain is rooted in either fear or judgement or both. That’s evolution. We survived as a species by being suspicious of things that we aren’t familiar with. In order to be kind we have to shut down that animal instinct and force our brain to travel a different pathway. Empathy and compassion are evolved states of being. They require the mental capacity to step past our most primal urges. This may be a surprising assessment because somewhere along the way, in the last few years, our society has come to believe that weaponized cruelty is part of some well thought out masterplan. Cruelty is seen by some as an adroit cudgel to gain power. Empathy and kindness are considered weak. Many important people look at the vulnerable only as rungs on a ladder to the top. I’m here to tell you that when someone’s path through this world is marked with acts of cruelty, they have failed the first test of an advanced society. They never forced their animal brain to evolve past its first instinct. They never forged new mental pathways to overcome their own instinctual fears and so their thinking and problem solving will lack the imagination and creativity that the kindest people have in spades. Over my many years in politics and business, I have found one thing to be universally true: The kindness person in the room is often the smartest.” — Governor J.B. Pritzker