Traditionally, biologists studied living organisms while engineers studied machinery, technology, and structures. Today, more than ever before, these fields blend together.
Engineers draw inspiration from nature’s solutions to multi-dimensional challenges for survival and reproduction while biologists integrate sophisticated tech — things like robots, nanoparticles, machine learning, computation and artificial intelligence — in their research.
To Susan Hockfield, a neuroscience professor and president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this merging of disciplines is a powerful model with untold potential to drive innovation-based economic growth.
“The power, the force, the pace of this change is really dramatic now and I think we’re going to see lots of new technologies coming forward, particularly in biomedicine, but also beyond that, in this very interesting convergence of engineering and biology,” Hockfield said during an interview with BWB TV during Biotech Week Boston.
Hockfield, who is also a faculty chair of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research board of advisors, will speak about the growing convergence of biology and engineering at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke, Virginia at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 18.
Her free public presentation, based on her latest book, The Age of Living Machines: How the Convergence of Biology and Engineering will Build the Next Technology Revolution, will take place at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke, Virginia as this month’s featured Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture at the research institute.
“The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute has embraced promise of the confluence of biology and engineering from its opening day. Our very first hires and programs included engineers, computational and life scientists with a focus on solving some of the most vexing problems of brain and heart function in health and disease,” said Michael Friedlander, vice president for health sciences and technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. “As the first life scientist to lead MIT, Dr. Hockfield has been at the forefront of leading cross-disciplinary innovation and discovery at one of the world’s premiere engineering powerhouse institutions. We expect to gain important perspective and look forward to her sharing her insights about the future of science, medicine, and technology with our community here in Roanoke.”
During her tenure as MIT’s sixteenth president between 2004 and 2012, Hockfield oversaw the creation of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science; the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research; the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard; and the MIT Energy Initiative, a $350 million initiative designed to accelerate research and apply sustainable energy practices.
Hockfield, an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, is a recipient of the Edison Achievement Award, has led one of the world’s most highly ranked universities and has played an important role in informing and guiding multiple federal policy decisions.
In 2011, President Obama appointed Hockfield to co-chair the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership steering committee. In this capacity, she helped develop policies related to energy technology and next-generation manufacturing. Hockfield also served as a member of the Congressional Commission that evaluated the U.S. Department of Energy laboratories in 2015. She serves on the Council on Foreign Relations and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Foundation Board.
A native of Chicago, Illinois, Hockfield is a graduate of the University of Rochester and Georgetown University School of Medicine. After completing her doctoral research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), she carried out research at the University of California and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.
In 1985, Hockfield joined Yale University’s faculty. Her groundbreaking application of monoclonal antibody technology was part of her contributions that led to her being awarded the William Edward Gilbert Neurobiology Professorship. Hockfield became Yale’s dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, overseeing more than 70 graduate programs, before serving as the university’s provost.
An elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Hockfield also serves as director of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. She serves on the boards of Partners HealthCare System, General Electric, Fidelity Non-Profit Management Foundation, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She holds honorary degrees from Brown University, Duke University, Georgetown University, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Northeastern University, Tsinghua University, Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, University of Edinburgh, University of Massachusetts Medical School, University of Rochester, and the Watson School of Biological Sciences at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Among the awards she has received in recognition of her research and leadership are the Charles Judson Herrick Award from the American Association of Anatomists; Yale University’s Wilbur Lucius Cross Award; the University of Rochester’s Meliora Citation; the Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award; the Women’s Union’s Amelia Earhart Award; and the Pinnacle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
A welcoming reception will begin at 5 p.m. in the VTC Café Thursday, April 18, followed by the hour-long lecture in room M203 at 5:30 p.m. Hockfield’s presentation will also be webcast on the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute website.