2022 Wulff Lecture

Friday, April 22, 2022 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Huntington Hall (10-250), 10-250

Title: Bridging brain and machine: a materials scientist's journey in neuroscience

Abstract: Put your two fists together – this is the size of your brain. Inside it, about 100 billion neurons connected by trillions of synapses are exchanging electrical, chemical, and mechanical signals. Approximately the same number of glia – the other cells in the brain, protect and support this symphony of activity. How can we understand this incredible complexity? And how can we use this knowledge to treat the neurological disorders and mental illnesses that afflict our society? In my talk, I will show how materials science and engineering principles can be applied to create tools that match the complexity of the nervous system. I will describe fibers that look like nerves and can deliver drugs, genes, and light into the brain, while also recording the neuronal activity. I will then take you on a journey to the nanoscale describing magnetic nanoparticles that can convey remote signals to proteins on membranes of neurons, allowing us to wirelessly control behavior and physiology without invasive implants. I will conclude with a discussion of emerging problems in neuroscience that can uniquely benefit from materials science thinking.

Bio: Polina Anikeeva received her BS in Physics from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, and a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT. She completed her postdoctoral training at Stanford, where she created devices for optical stimulation and recording from brain circuits. She is now a Professor in the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and is an Associate Member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Polina also serves as an Associate Director for the Research Laboratory of Electronics. Her lab focuses on the development of flexible and minimally invasive materials and devices for neural recording, stimulation, and repair. Polina is a recipient of NSF CAREER Award, the TR35, Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, and NIH Pioneer Award among other honors. In 2020, she was named MacVicar Faculty Fellow for her contributions to undergraduate teaching.

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MIT Community, Students, Alumni, Faculty

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Undergraduate, neuroscience, materials science



Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE)

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