OSC Colloquium: Ed Boyden

    Thursday, October 29, 2020 - 3:30pm - 5:00pm
    Virtual Via Zoom

    Open to campus and public.


    Speaker: Ed Boyden

    Topic: Optical Tools for Analyzing and Repairing Complex Biological Systems

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    To enable the understanding and repair of complex biological systems, such as the brain, we are creating novel optical tools that enable molecular-resolution maps of such systems, as well as technologies for observing and controlling high-speed physiological dynamics in such systems.  First, we have developed a method for imaging specimens with nanoscale precision, by embedding them in a swellable polymer, homogenizing their mechanical properties, and exposing them to water – which causes them to expand manyfold isotropically. This method, which we call expansion microscopy (ExM), enables ordinary microscopes to do nanoscale imaging, in a multiplexed fashion – important, for example, for brain mapping.  Second, we have developed a set of genetically-encoded reagents, known as optogenetic tools, that when expressed in specific neurons, enable their electrical activities to be precisely driven or silenced in response to millisecond timescale pulses of light.  Finally, we are designing, and evolving, novel reagents, such as fluorescent voltage indicators and somatically targeted calcium indicators, to enable the imaging of fast physiological processes in 3-D with millisecond precision.  In this way we aim to enable the systematic mapping, control, and dynamical observation of complex biological systems like the brain.

    Speaker Bio(s): 

    Ed Boyden is Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology at MIT, an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the MIT McGovern Institute, and professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Media Arts and Sciences, and Biological Engineering at MIT. He leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain, and applies them systematically to reveal ground truth principles of biological function as well as to repair these systems. These technologies include expansion microscopy, which enables complex biological systems to be imaged with nanoscale precision; optogenetic tools, which enable the activation and silencing of neural activity with light; robotic methods for directed evolution that are yielding new synthetic biology reagents for dynamic imaging of physiological signals, such as neural voltage; novel methods of noninvasive focal brain stimulation; and new methods of nanofabrication using shrinking of patterned materials to create nanostructures with ordinary lab equipment. He co-directs the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, which aims to develop new tools to accelerate neuroscience progress, and is a faculty member of the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences, Computational & Systems Biology Initiative, and Koch Institute.

    Amongst other recognitions, he has received the Wilhelm Exner Medal (2020), the Croonian Medal (2019), the Lennart Nilsson Award (2019), the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (2019), the Rumford Prize (2019), the Canada Gairdner International Award (2018), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2016), the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2015), the Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences (2015), the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award (2013), the Grete Lundbeck Brain Prize (2013), the NIH Director's Pioneer Award (2013), the NIH Director's Transformative Research Award (three times, 2012, 2013, and 2017), and the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize (2011). He was also named to the World Economic Forum Young Scientist list (2013) and the Technology Review World’s "Top 35 Innovators under Age 35" list (2006), and is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (2019), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2017), the National Academy of Inventors (2017), and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2018). His group has hosted hundreds of visitors to learn how to use new biotechnologies, and he also regularly teaches at summer courses and workshops in neuroscience, and delivers lectures to the broader public (e.g., TED (2011), TED Summit (2016), World Economic Forum (2012, 2013, 2016)).

    Ed received his Ph.D. in neurosciences from Stanford University as a Hertz Fellow, working in the labs of Jennifer Raymond and Richard Tsien, where he discovered that the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned. In parallel to his PhD, as an independent side project, he co-invented optogenetic control of neurons, which is now used throughout neuroscience. Previously, he studied chemistry at the Texas Academy of Math and Science at the University of North Texas, starting college at age 14, where he worked in Paul Braterman's group on origins of life chemistry. He went on to earn three degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, and physics, from MIT, graduating at age 19, while working on quantum computing in Neil Gershenfeld's group. Long-term, he hopes that understanding how the brain generates the mind will help provide a deeper understanding of the human condition, and perhaps help humanity achieve a more enlightened state. His full CV is posted here.


    Colloquium will start at 3:30pm, following will be a meet and greet with Ed Boyden.