Skip to content

Edward Boyden

MIT Professor, Media Lab Synthetic Neurobiology Group Leader

Edward Boyden is a professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the MIT Media Lab and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. He leads the Media Lab’s Synthetic Neurobiology group, which develops tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems, such as the brain, and applies them systematically both to reveal ground truth principles of biological function and to repair these systems.

These technologies, often created in interdisciplinary collaborations, 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,) and optical, nanofabricated, and robotic interfaces (which enable recording and control of neural dynamics).

Boyden has launched an award-winning series of classes at MIT, which teach principles of neuroengineering, starting with the basic principles of how to control and observe neural functions, and culminating with strategies for launching companies in the nascent neurotechnology space. He also co-directs the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, which aims to develop new tools to accelerate neuroscience progress.

Amongst other recognitions, Boyden has received the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2016), the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2015), the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator 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 (twice, 2012 and 2013), and the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize (2011). He was also named to the World Economic Forum Young Scientist list (2013), MIT Technology Review’s international "Top 35 Innovators under Age 35" list (2006), and his work was included in Nature Methods "Method of the Year" in 2010.

Boyden’s Media Lab group has hosted hundreds of visitors interested in learning how to use new biotechnologies. He also regularly teaches at summer courses and workshops in neuroscience, and delivers lectures to the broader public, including talks at TED (2011) and the World Economic Forum (2012, 2013, 2016).

He 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 his doctorate, he received three degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and physics from MIT. Boyden has contributed to more than 300 peer-reviewed papers, current or pending patents, and articles, and has given over 300 invited talks on the work of the Media Lab’s Synthetic Neurobiology group.