Research Positions in the Synthetic Neurobiology Group

Ed Boyden, Ph.D.
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About the Synthetic Neurobiology Group

Our brains and nervous systems mediate everything we perceive, feel, decide, and do -- and act as our ultimate interface to the world. An outstanding challenge for humanity is to understand the brain at a level of abstraction that enables us to engineer its function -- repairing pathology, augmenting cognition, and revealing insights into the human condition. In the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, we are inventing and applying tools to the analysis and engineering of brain circuits in both humans and in model systems, with a current focus on devising technologies for interfacing to specific circuit targets, and controlling the processing within. Our research will hopefully allow a better understanding of the nature of human existence, and the ability to engineer improvements thereupon.

The Synthetic Neurobiology Group aims to provide a highly energetic and collaborative environment for tackling some of these massive technological and scientific problems. At the MIT Media Lab, our home base, we are equipped with some of the best engineering, fabrication, and analysis people and machines in the world. We work closely with many other laboratories at MIT and around the world, in the disciplines of engineering, medicine, physics, neurology, neuroscience, computer science, business, psychiatry, and economics, in the belief that only through sophisticated and open collaboration will the necessary cross-disciplinary bridges be formed. It has become clear, as well, that only an education that comprises fundamentals in multiple such arenas will equip new professionals of this endeavor, and so I have customized all the training and class-teaching that I do, to the education of great neuroengineers and neuroscientists.

How to do graduate-level research in the laboratory

Masters or Ph.D. students from almost any MIT department -- from Biological Engineering, to Brain and Cognitive Sciences, to Materials Science, to Electrical Engineering, to Chemistry, and beyond -- are free to do research in our lab. Medical, Ph.D., or MD-Ph.D. students in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program are also welcome. (Note that the MIT Department of Biology is a closed department -- if you apply to Biology, you may find it difficult to work in labs in other departments while here at MIT.) Please write to me directly, with a brief description of your experiences, interests, and goals, and we can chat. If you are applying to Ph.D. programs, I recommend that you consider applying directly to the MIT Media Lab Ph.D. program. But, given that you can also work in my lab as a student from another Ph.D. program, I strongly advise that you also apply to these other MIT Ph.D. programs as well, such as Biological Engineering, HST, Physics, EECS, Mechanical Engineering, etc. to increase your chances of getting to work in my lab. The Media Lab Ph.D. program itself provides a fairly flexible, research-focused, and broad educational experience, with doctoral students allowed the freedom to learn across all disciplines and expected to be entrepreneurial and groundbreaking in their research.

If you are applying to a Ph.D. or MD-Ph.D. program, I highly suggest that you apply for a graduate research fellowship. This looks good on your resume/CV, and provides useful training in how to express your ideas to get funding.

Information on applying to the MIT Media Lab program can be found here. Note that the application process to the MIT Media Lab has a few important properties:

The deadline for applying this round is December 15, 2008, for a start date in either June or September of 2009. In the application, you should specify me as one of the faculty you are interested in working with, in order to be considered for the lab. The Media Lab program suggests that you include a portfolio of your work with your application; for my lab, that will mean including:
1) a 1-page curriculum vitae,
2) reprints of 2-3 scientific papers, posters, writings, or other works, that highlight the way you approach problems, and
3) a statement of scientific interests, which includes a description of the kinds of project you would want to do in the lab.

Importantly -- you should contact me directly if you are interested in research in my lab, so that we can talk before the admissions process gets too far under way. This is very important, because at the Media Lab, each professor has a direct say in selecting students who express interest in their lab. So it's important that we get to know each other early on.

How to join as a postdoctoral fellow

Independent, energetic postdocs with a passion for creating the future are encouraged to write directly to me. I suggest that you be familiar with at least some of the disciplines relevant to neuroengineering, but want to complete remaining gaps in your education -- or that you are seeking a fascinating and interdisciplinary home to try out high-risk, high-payoff projects. I would like to regard a postdoctoral experience in my lab as a mutually educational and collaborative journey into the inventing or solving of something really important. Please feel free to write, with a description of your experiences, interests, and goals. Coming with fellowship funding is a plus.

How to do undergraduate research in the lab

If you are either interested in an independent undergraduate project, or assisting with an existing project for UROP class credit or UROP pay, please write to me. We have many interesting projects, at various levels of independence and complexity. MIT UROPS have always been a major research force at the Media Lab, and have driven many of the major technological innovations to have emerged from MIT. I am more interested in your passion, drive, excitement, and commitment rather than any specific skill you have -- and would love to help you make a creative invention or discovery over the long haul. I hope that the Synthetic Neurobiology Lab will continue to catalyze undergraduate creativity, along these lines -- providing an exciting research experience for you, yielding great inventions and insights, and contributing to the amazing intellectual environment at MIT.

Copyright © 1995-present, Ed Boyden