Our People

Project Directors

Ed Boyden

Web: edboyden.org
Email: esb, followed by @media.mit.edu

Ed Boyden is Associate Professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute. He leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and engineering the 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. These technologies, created often in interdisciplinary collaborations, include ‘optogenetic’ tools, which enable the activation and silencing of neural circuit elements with light, 3-D microfabricated neural interfaces that enable control and readout of neural activity, and robotic methods for automatically recording intracellular neural activity and performing single-cell analyses in the living brain. 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, the “Top 20 Brains Under Age 40” by Discover Magazine, and 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, the New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Investigator Award, the Perl/UNC prize, the IET Harvey Prize, and other recognitions, including having his work featured in 2010 as the “Method of the Year” by the journal Nature Methods, and he has delivered lectures on optogenetics at TED and at the World Economic Forum. Ed received his Ph.D. 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 180 invited talks on his work.

Newton Howard

Web: newtonhoward.com
Email: nhmit, followed by @mit.edu

Newton Howard is the former director of the Mind Machine Project and a resident scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He received his Doctoral degree in Cognitive Informatics and Mathematics from La Sorbonne, France where he was also awarded the Habilitation a Diriger des Recherches for his leading work on the Physics of Cognition (PoC) and its applications to complex medical, economical and security equilibriums.

Dr. Howard works with multi-disciplinary teams of physicists, chemists, biologists, brain scientists, computer scientists, and engineers to reach a deeper understanding of the brain. He recently published The Mood State Indicators (MSI) algorithm, which models and explains the mental processes involved in human speech and writing, to predict emotional states. His natural-language approach to system understanding and design pointed to the multi-dimensional structures embedded and nested within speech-based cognitive systems, which have led to much advancement in building more accurate cognitive engines for modeling behavioral and cognitive feedback. Dr. Howard’s research efforts aim to improve the quality of life for so many who suffer from degenerating conditions currently considered incurable. Advancing the field of brain sciences opens new opportunities for solving brain disorders and finding new means for developing artificial intelligence. Dr. Howard’s most recent work focuses on the development of functional brain and neuron interfacing abilities. To better understand the structure and character of this information transfer he concentrated on theoretical mathematical models to represent the exchange of information inside the human brain. This work has proven applicable in the diagnosis and study of brain disorders and has aided in developing and implementing necessary pharmacological and therapeutic tools for physicians. He has also developed individualized strategies to incorporate solutions for psychiatric and brain prosthetics. Through collaborative research efforts with multiple universities Howard’s research aims to advance our understanding of principles of behavioral and molecular mechanisms affected by brain diseases.

In 2011 Dr. Howard established the Brain Sciences Foundation, a non-profit research entity  dedicated  to developing novel paradigms that enable the study of mind and brain and ultimately the treatment of neurological disorders. The Foundation works with Universities and private collaborators to study the origins of human cognition and intelligence, and conduct groundbreaking research to materialize into new treatment strategies for neurological disorders.

Postdoctoral Scholars

Erik Cambria

Web: sentic.net
Email: cambria, followed by @media.mit.edu

Erik received his BEng and MEng with honours in Electronic Engineering from the University of Genova, in 2005 and 2008 respectively. In 2011, he has been awarded his PhD in Computing Science and Mathematics, following the completion of an industrial Cooperative Awards in Science and Engineering (CASE) research project, funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which was born from the collaboration between the University of Stirling, the MIT Media Laboratory, and Sitekit Solutions Ltd.. His interests include AI, Semantic Web, KR, NLP, opinion mining and sentiment analysis, affective and cognitive modeling, HCI, and e-health. Erik is chair of several international conferences, symposia, and workshops series, e.g., IEEE ICDM SENTIRE and ACM KDD WISDOM. He is also editorial board of Springer Cognitive Computation and the Brain Sciences Journal.

Brian Allen

Web: syntheticneurobiology.org
Email: bdallen, followed by @media.mit.edu

Brian is from Chicago and Buffalo, completed his undergraduate study at Northwestern, and worked in New York City for a couple of years for a biotech firm. His formal background is in physics and cognitive science, with a concentration in artificial intelligence. He is interested in the dynamical nature of emotion. He is developing the tools and experiments to do real-time neural data analysis and neural control, to make possible the systematic study of brain dynamics.

Young Gyu Yoon

Web: syntheticneurobiology.org
Email: ygyoon, followed by @media.mit.edu

Young Gyu Yoon is currently a Ph. D. student in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in MIT and he received the B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from KAIST.

Fei Chen

Web: syntheticneurobiology.org
Email: chenf, followed by @media.mit.edu

Fei received his BS in Electrical Engineering from Caltech, and is currently a graduate student in the Biological Engineering Department at MIT. He is interested in the convergence of electrical engineering and bioengineering. He also loves to build things, whether it’s electronics or biological molecules.