Wednesday, January 29, 2020
A century ago, discoveries in physics came together with engineering to produce an array of revolutionizing new technologies which changed the world and the human experience. Today, says Susan Hockfield, former president of MIT and world-renowned neuroscientist, we are on the cusp of a new convergence where discoveries in biology are converging with engineering to produce an array of almost inconceivable next-generation technologies with the potential to be as paradigm shifting as the twentieth century’s wonders: Virus-built batteries. Protein-based water filters. Mind-reading bionic limbs. Cancer-detecting nanoparticles. Computer-engineered crops. Together they highlight the promise of the technology revolution of the twenty-first century which might just enable us to overcome our greatest humanitarian, medical, and environmental challenges.
A neuroscientist by training, Susan Hockfield is the first woman to lead MIT and is the author of the "The Age of Living Machines," which speaks to the technological-biological revolution known as “convergence.” In the 20th century, technologies such as aircraft, the telephone, and the Internet changed our world—to the point where life today is inconceivable without them. In the 21st century, Hockfield says, radical new “convergence” technologies will play a similar role to reshape every facet of our world. “Living Machines,” like virus-built batteries, big-data designed food crops, mind-reading bionic limbs, and countless other inventions are only a few of the practical developments she discusses. With an eye towards how they will affect various industries, from energy, to manufacturing, to health care, to agriculture, to virtually anything, Hockfield provides a first glance into the shape of the world to come.
Hockfield’s ground-breaking career has spanned America’s most prestigious schools. At Yale, she was professor of neurobiology; she subsequently served as the dean of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and then as Yale’s provost before moving on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She served as MIT's 16th president from December 2004 through June 2012, the first woman and the first life scientist to lead the institute.
Hockfield has also held the Marie Curie Visiting Professorship at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She has served as a U.S. Science Envoy to Turkey with the U.S. Department of State, and served as the inaugural co-chair of the White House-led Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a task force of government, industry, and academic leaders. Currently, she is a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and professor of neuroscience at MIT.
President Hockfield’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the President’s Leadership Fund.