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Benesse Career Development Professor of Research in Education
Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Ed Boyden is the Benesse Career Development Professor, and associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences, at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute, respectively. He leads the Synthetic Neurobiology group, which develops tools for controlling and observing the dynamic circuits of the brain, and uses these neurotechnologies to understand how cognition and emotion arise from brain network operation, as well as to enable systematic repair of intractable brain disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, post- traumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain. The tools his group has invented include a suite of 'optogenetic' tools that are now in use by hundreds of groups around the world, for activating and silencing neurons with light. These tools enable the causal assessment of how specific neurons contribute to normal and pathological brain functions, revealing with great temporal precision the processes for which their activities are necessary or sufficient. He has launched an award-winning series of classes at MIT that teach principles of neuroengineering, starting with basic principles of how to control and observe neural functions, and culminating with strategies for launching companies in the nascent neurotechnology space.
He was named to the "Top 35 Innovators Under the Age of 35" by Technology Review in 2006, and to the "Top 20 Brains Under Age 40" by Discover magazine in 2008. He has received the NIH Director's New Innovator Award, the Society for Neuroscience Research Award for Innovation in Neuroscience, the NSF CAREER Award, the Paul Allen Distinguished Investigator Award, and the New York Stem Cell Robertson Investigator Award. In 2010, his work was recognized as the "Method of the Year" by the journal Nature Methods, and in 2011 he delivered a lecture on his lab's work at TED.
Boyden received his PhD in neurosciences from Stanford University as a Hertz Fellow, where he discovered that the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned. Before that, he received three degrees in electrical engineering and physics from MIT. He has contributed to over 250 peer-reviewed papers, current or pending patents, and articles, and has given over 140 invited talks on his work.