Ed Boyden, PhD

Photo of Professor Boyden.



Professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT Media Lab and McGovern Institute
Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology


Tools for mapping, analyzing, and controlling brain computations
New therapeutics for neurology and psychiatry
Approaches for ground-truth understanding of living systems


Prof. Ed Boyden completed his undergraduate degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and a Master of Engineering at MIT. He committed to his pre-doctoral studies as a fellow at the Departments of Neurobiology and Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. Prof. Boyden joined MIT as Assistant Professor at the Media Lab and the Department of Biological Engineering in 2007.


Your brain mediates everything that you sense, feel, think, and do. The brain is incredibly complex - each cubic millimeter of your brain contains perhaps a hundred thousand cells, connected by a billion synapses, each operating with millisecond precision. We develop tools that enable the mapping of the molecules and wiring of the brain, the recording and control of its neural dynamics, and the repair of its dysfunction. 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; novel methods of noninvasive focal brain stimulation; and new methods of nanofabrication using shrinking of patterned materials to create nanostructures with ordinary lab equipment. We distribute our tools as freely as possible to the scientific community, and also apply them to the systematic analysis of brain computations, aiming to reveal the fundamental mechanisms of brain function, and yielding new, ground-truth therapeutic strategies for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Research Areas: 

Honors & Awards: 

National Academy of Sciences, member, 2019
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Investigator, 2018
Canada Gairdner International Award, 2018
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, member, 2017
Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, 2016
BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award, 2015
Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award, 2013
Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize (“The Brain Prize”), 2013
NIH Director's Pioneer Award, 2013

Selected Publications:

D., Oran*, S. G. Rodriques*, R. Gao, S. Asano, M. A. Skylar-Scott, F. Chen, P. W. Tillberg, A. H. Marblestone**, and E. S. Boyden**. "3D nanofabrication by volumetric deposition and controlled shrinkage of patterned scaffolds." Science 362, no. 6420 (2018): 1281-1285 (*, equal contributors; **, equal contributors).
Piatkevich*, KD, Jung EE*, Straub C, Linghu C, Park D, Suk HJ, Hochbaum DR, Goodwin D, Pnevmatikakis E, Pak N et al. "A robotic multidimensional directed evolution approach applied to fluorescent voltage reporters." Nature Chemical Biology 14, no. 4 (2018): 352-360 (*, co-first authors) .
Shemesh*, Or A., Dimitrii Tanese*, Valeria Zampini*, Changyang Linghu, Kiryl Piatkevich, Emiliano Ronzitti, Eirini Papagiakoumou, Edward S. Boyden+, and Valentina Emiliani+. "Temporally precise single-cell resolution optogenetics." Nature Neuroscience 20 (2017): 1796-1806 (*, co-first authors; +, co-corresponding authors) .
Tillberg, P.W.*, Chen F.*, Piatkevich K.D., Zhao Y., Yu C.-C., English B.P., Gao L., Martorell A., Suk H.-J., Yoshida F et al. "Protein-retention expansion microscopy of cells and tissues labeled using standard fluorescent proteins and antibodies." Nature Biotechnology 34 (2016): 987-992 (*, co-first authors) .
Chen, F.*, Tillberg P.W.*, and Boyden E.S. "Expansion Microscopy." Science 347, no. 6221 (2015): 543-548 (*, equal contribution) .