About

About

Forge the Future

We empower visionary, high-leverage science and technology projects with the capacity to create transformative progress for human civilization.

We target areas of latent potential and support programs in Artificial General Intelligence, Science, and Climate without a natural home in the existing innovation ecosystem.

Jed McCaleb founded the Astera Institute as a non-profit dedicated to developing high leverage technologies that can lead to massive returns for humanity. Astera’s unusually high impact derives from housing moonshots and novel scientific research that have no other natural home in today’s research and development landscape.

Our Team

Jed McCaleb
Jed McCaleb
Founder

Jed McCaleb is the Founder of the Astera Institute. His focus is on accelerating progress, expanding potential, and increasing net happiness.

He is also co-founder and Chief Architect of the Stellar Development Foundation, the organization that maintains the open-source Stellar Network.

He has donated to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, OpenAI, and many other causes.

Alan Zheng
Intern

Alan Zheng is an intern at the Obelisk lab working primarily on building biologically-inspired deep learning architectures and algorithms about memory and navigation (with a focus on cognitive map).

He is currently a PhD student in Psychology at the University of California, Davis in Randall O’Reilly’s Computational Cognitive Neuroscience lab and Charan Ranganath’s Dynamic Memory Lab.

Andrew Cantino
Climate Program Director

Andrew focuses on under-explored areas of climate change adaptation and response. He also co-authors The Orbital Index, a weekly newsletter about the space industry, and is co-founding a stealth aerospace startup. He previously worked at Vast Space, Kubos, Mavenlink, and Pivotal Labs, and has advised a variety of Bay Area startups.

Gary Miguel
Vice President, Engineering

Gary leads engineering for Obelisk. Previously at Microsoft he led teams working on the Open Neural Network Exchange ecosystem. Prior to that, he worked at Google where he led teams working on engineering productivity for the Fuchsia operating system and Google’s search infrastructure.

Hayley Winn
Hayley Winn
Office Operations Lead

Hayley supports the behind-the-scenes operations at Astera.

Previously, she has worked as an office manager and recruiter within the tech and legal industries. She received her BS in Child Development and Psychology from Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo.

Kevin McKee
Kevin McKee
Research Scientist

Kevin focuses on designing machine learning algorithms inspired by neuroscience and human cognition on the Obelisk team. Previously, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher for Randy O’Reilly at UC Davis and as a statistician for health sciences at Virginia Tech.

Michael Garber-Barron
Michael Garber-Barron
Research Engineer

Michael works on integrating ideas from cognitive science into novel machine learning designs for the Obelisk team. He has previously worked on developing conversational characters with agent-based reasoning at Disney Research, developing algorithms pertaining to multi-agent coordination at the ARL, and applying reinforcement learning techniques for procedural animation as an \Art fellow.

Michael Nielsen
Michael Nielsen
Research Fellow

Michael develops tools and processes to speed up scientific discovery. He was an early pioneer of both quantum computing and the open science movement. He co-wrote “Quantum Computation and Quantum Information,” one of the most cited physics texts of all time, and his book “Reinventing Discovery” helped make open science a global issue in the scientific community. His earlier positions include being Foundation Professor of Quantum Information Science at the University of Queensland.

Michael is a pioneer in quantum computing and the open science movement. He co-wrote Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, one of the most cited physics texts of all time. His book Reinventing Discovery helped make open science a global issue in the scientific community.

Previously he was the Foundation Professor of Quantum Information Science at the University of Queensland where he co-founded and directed the Quantum Information Science Initiative. He has been a Research Fellow at the Recurse Center and Y Combinator Research, where he developed novel tools to augment human cognition, such as Quantum Country, an interactive medium to help people better understand complex material.

Prachee Avasthi
Prachee Avasthi
Open Science Lead

Prachee is a Science Advisor at Astera. She is also a scientist, and Co-Founder and CSO of Arcadia Science. She comes from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth where she is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Prachee is an open science advocate and the President of ASAPbio, a non-profit promoting innovation in life science communication. Her PhD is in Neuroscience from the University of Utah.

Randall O'Reilly
Research Scientist

Randy is internationally recognized as a founder of the field of Computational Cognitive Neuroscience, publishing a widely-cited textbook (O’Reilly & Munakata, 2000; 2014) and a number of influential papers in this field. He develops large-scale systems-neuroscience computational models of learning, memory, and motivated cognitive control, to learn how neurons give rise to human cognitive function and to inform our understanding of brain-based disorders such as schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.

Seemay Chou
Seemay Chou
Chief of Strategy

Seemay leads overarching strategy at Astera. She is also a scientist, Pew Scholar, and co-founder and CEO at Arcadia Science. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF, and she received a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from UC Berkeley. She was born and raised in Texas.

Steven Byrnes
Research Fellow

Steven is doing research at the intersection of neuroscience and Artificial General Intelligence Safety and Alignment. To read his public writing on this topic, click here.

Before working on AGI Safety, he was a physicist in academia and industry. He has a Physics PhD from UC Berkeley.

Thomas Hazy
Research Fellow

Thomas, MD MBA is a Researcher at the Astera Institute primarily contributing literature review support for the Obelisk project.  Previously, he served as Senior Researcher with e-Cortex, Inc. and as Research Associate in Randall O’Reilly’s Computational Cognitive Neuroscience lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. Prior to that he practiced internal medicine and served in a series of executive management roles for a variety of medical groups and health care organizations in Florida, Southern California, and Colorado.

Careers

Astera Institute is recruiting exceptional researchers, engineers, and creative thinkers to fuel scientific and technological research with the highest potential for dramatic transformational change to human civilization.

Open Roles