Michael Levin, Ph.D.

Prior to college, Michael Levin worked as a software engineer and independent contractor in the field of scientific computing. He attended Tufts University, interested in artificial intelligence and unconventional computation. To explore the algorithms by which the biological world implemented complex adaptive behavior, he got dual B.S. degrees, in CS and in Biology.  He received a PhD from Harvard University for the first characterization of the molecular-genetic mechanisms that allow embryos to form consistently left-right asymmetric body structures in a universe that does not macroscopically distinguish left from right (1992-1996); this work is on Nature’s list of 100 Milestones of Developmental biology of the Century. He then did post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School (1996-2000), where he began to uncover a new bioelectric language by which cells coordinate their activity during embryogenesis. His independent laboratory (2000-2007 at Forsyth Institute, Harvard; 2008-present at Tufts University) develops new molecular-genetic and conceptual tools to understand information processing in regeneration, embryogenesis, and cancer suppression. He holds the Vannevar Bush endowed Chair and serves as director of the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. Recent honors include the Scientist of Vision award and the Distinguished Scholar Award. His group’s specific focus is on endogenous biophysical mechanisms that implement decision-making during pattern regulation, and harnessing voltage gradients that serve as prepatterns for anatomical polarity, organ identity, gene expression, and epigenetic modification. The lab’s current main directions are: 1) understanding how somatic cells form bioelectrical networks for processing pattern memories and guiding morphogenesis, 2) creating next-generation AI tools for helping scientists understand top-down control of pattern regulation (a new bioinformatics of shape), and 3) using these insights to discover new capabilities in regenerative medicine and engineering.

Stephen M. Fuchs, Ph.D.

Dr. Stephen Fuchs is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Tufts University. His research is broadly aimed at understanding how protein structure dictates protein function.  In particular, his lab is focused on how post-translational modifications of proteins, such as histones and the repetitive C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II, regulate chromatin structure and dictate the recruitment of effector proteins. Previously, Dr. Fuchs was a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Fellow and Lineberger Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an NIH-Biotechnology Training Program fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Fuchs was recently named a Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow by National Academy of Sciences and the Kavli Foundation.

David L. Kaplan, Ph.D.

David Kaplan is the Stern Family Endowed Professor of Engineering at Tufts University and a Distinguished University Professor.  He is Professor & Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and also holds faculty appointments in the School of Medicine, Department of Chemistry and the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.  He received his Ph.D. from Syracuse University and the State University at Syracuse.  His research focus is on biopolymer engineering to understand structure-function relationships, with emphasis on studies related to self-assembly, biomaterials engineering and regenerative medicine.  Since 2004 he has directed the NIH P41 Tissue Engineering Resource Center (TERC) that involves Tufts University and Columbia University.  He has published over 700 peer reviewed papers.  The lab has pioneered the study of silk-based biomaterials in regenerative medicine, from fundamental studies of the biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysical features to their impact on stem cell functions, complex tissue formation and medical device formation.  Studies are also focused on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine with the use of complex 3D tissue co-culture systems to establish and study a range of tissues.  He is the editor-in-chief of ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering and serves on many other editorial boards and programs for journals and universities.  He has received a number of awards for teaching, was Elected Fellow American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and received the Society for Biomaterials Clemson Award for contributions to the literature.

Yamuna Krishnan, Ph.D.

Yamuna Krishnan, is a Professor and Brain Research Foundation Fellow of Chemistry and the Grossman Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. She received a PhD from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and pursued her postdoctoral studies as an 1851 Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK. She set up her group at the NCBS, Bangalore, in 2005 that focuses on intelligent DNA-based molecular devices to interrogate cellular processes. She relocated to the University of Chicago in 2014.

Research in her laboratory spans supramolecular chemistry, nucleic acid biophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology. Her lab has pioneered the deployment of DNA nanodevices as quantitative fluorescent reporters of second messengers for in vivo imaging.

Given the powerful ability to engineer a range of designed functions into DNA, she is driven to realize quantitative fluorescent reporters for signaling cues that have proved challenging to visualize and thereby unplug decades-old bottlenecks to enable quantitative measurements for systems biology.

She is the youngest woman recipient of India’s highest scientific prize, the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award and most recently featured by the journal Cell on their 40 under 40 list of young scientists who are shaping current and future trends in biology. She has also received the Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship, the AVRA Young Scientist Award, Associateship of the Indian Academy of Sciences, the Innovative Young Biotechnologist Award, the INSA Young Scientist Medal, and the YIM Boston Young Scientist Award and named the Chemical Sciences Emerging Investigator by the Royal Society of Chemistry for 2015.

Kelly McLaughlin, Ph.D.

After receiving her B.S. in Biology from Wheaton College, Kelly A. McLaughlin completed her Ph.D. (1996) in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) for her work examining the underlying mechanisms regulating programmed cell death during the development of the immune system.  She completed her post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School (1996-2000), where she received awards from the National Institutes of Health (NRSA), National Kidney Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Harvard University) to study the genetic cascades used to direct the creation of functional organs during embryonic development.  In 2001 she joined the Department of Biology at Tufts University, received tenure in 2007, and is currently an Associate Professor of Biology. McLaughlin’s research team uses the amphibian model system, Xenopus laevis (African clawed frog) as a model organism to elucidate how complex structures such as tissues and organs are formed during development and repaired after injury.  Research in the McLaughlin lab has been supported by awards from the National Science Foundation and the American Heart Association.  In addition to her research, Dr. McLaughlin has been awarded several honors for teaching and mentoring including: Undergraduate Initiative in Teaching Award (Tufts University), Certificate of Distinction in Teaching (Derek Bok Center; Harvard College), and the Excellence in Teaching Award (UMass, Amherst).

Alexis Pietak, Ph.D.

Alexis Pietak is a biophysicist and research scientist whose work focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying the creation of complex, functional patterns in living systems. Dr Pietak has a PhD in physics (2005), and dual degrees in engineering physics (2000) and biochemistry (2001) from Queen's University in Canada, along with more than a decade's experience in theoretical and experimental research at various universities in Canada and New Zealand. Since 2008, Dr Pietak has used her multidisciplinary math, physics, and biology experience to develop useful and inventive computational models applicable to patterning processes happening in both in vitro culture plates and bioreactors, as well as the complex environment of living systems. Dr Pietak is currently a research scientist at Octane Biotechnology in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where she develops computational models and engineering systems for automated bioreactors which deliver clinically-relevant, “patient-scale” cell therapies.

Oded Rechavi, Ph.D.

Oded Rechavi completed his B.Sc. in the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program for Excellent students in Tel-Aviv University (TAU) in 2006. In 2010 he obtained a PhD degree in Biology, also from TAU. Dr. Rechavi conducted his Post-doctoral studies in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, in Columbia University Medical Center under the mentorship of Dr. Oliver Hobert. In his PhD Dr. Rechavi found an exception to the original “Cell Theory” (formulated in 1839), when he discovered that small RNAs and other nonsecreted macromolecules “Ignore cell boundaries” and transfer between interacting human immune cells. In his post doc, Dr. Rechavi used nematodes to provide the first direct evidence that an acquired trait can be inherited through small RNA molecules. After establishing his own lab in TAU in 2012, Dr. Rechavi’s team showed that starvation produces a small RNA-mediated transgenerational effect that extends the progeny’s life span. Recently, the Rechavi lab discovered rules and genes that determine which heritable epigenetic responses would be inherited to the progeny, and for how long each response would last. In addition Dr. Rechavi uses powerful genetic tools to study “molecular memories” and the theoretical links between developmental and genetic processes. Dr. Rechavi is an ERC Fellow, and was awarded many prestigious prizes, such as the Krill Wolf, Alon, and F.I.R.S.T (Bikura) Prizes, and the Gross Lipper Fellowship. Dr. Rechavi was selected as one of the “10 Most Creative People in Israel Under 40," and one of the “40 Most Promising People in Israel Under 40."

Stas Shvartsman, Ph.D.

Stas Shvartsman is a Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. He was born in Odessa, in the former Soviet Union, and studied Physical Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in the Moscow State University, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and Princeton University. After postdoctoral work at MIT, he opened his own laboratory at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton. The Shvartsman group uses experiments, theory, and computational approaches to develop predictive models of dynamical processes in cells and tissues. Current projects in the group fall into three broad classes, related to enzyme kinetics, tissue morphogenesis, and developmental bioenergetics. The first class of projects aims to establish quantitative descriptions of enzyme kinetics in vivo. The experimental systems here are Drosophila embryos and reconstituted enzyme reactions and theory is based on more or less conventional models of chemical kinetics. The second class of projects explores the processes by which two-dimensional sheets of cells give rise to three-dimensional structures of tissues and organs. Here, experiments are done in developing Drosophila eggs and zebrafish embryos and theory relies on either continuum or discrete mechanical models of epithelial tissues. Projects in the third class study how developing systems manage their constant need for energy. This project is still very young and uses the early Drosophila embryo as a powerful experimental system for genetic, biochemical, and imaging studies of embryonic metabolism.

Clifford J. Tabin, Ph.D.

Cliff Tabin entered MIT as a graduate student in Biology in 1976.  This was an extremely fortuitous time and place to begin a career in molecular biology, as the ability to create recombinant DNA had been invented the previous year.  He carried out his thesis work studying oncogenes with Bob Weinberg.  A fundamental question at that time was to understand the molecular difference between oncogenically activated oncongenes and their normal cellular progenitors.  The first cloned oncogene was an activated version of a gene called ras isolated from a bladder carcinoma.  Dr. Tabin’s work identified a single amino acid change in the coding region of this gene as being the crucial oncogenic mutation; the first time the nature of a mutation involved in tumorgenesis was known.

As a postdoc, Dr. Tabin was drawn to the area of vertebrate embryology.  After a year and a half of training as a postdoctoral fellow with Doug Melton at Harvard University, Dr. Tabin moved to an independent postdoctoral position at Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Molecular Biology. There he initiated work on the molecular biology of limb development, which has continued to be one of the areas of focus of his laboratory at Harvard Medical School where he has been on the faculty in the Department of Genetics since 1989.  He has been a Full Professor since 1997 and was appointed Chairman of the Department in January 2007. 

Dr. Tabin was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2007. Among his many honors, he received the National Academy of Sciences Award in 1999; the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology in 2008; elected to the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2010; received the Conklin Medal from the Society for Developmental Biology in 2012, received a ScD honoris causa degree from Union College, Schenectady, New York; asked to present the Harvey Lecture in 2012, and was elected Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London in 2014.

The common theme of Dr. Tabin's research investigations has been an attempt to understand  "pattern formation", how the organization of an embryo arises during its development.  His efforts are responsible for our current understanding of such embryological questions as why the leg is different in form from the arm, and why the heart is on the left and not the right, as well as evolutionary questions such as understanding the genetic basis for the differences in the shapes of the beaks of different species of Darwin’s Finches in the Galapagos Islands.

In addition to his research program, Dr. Tabin has had a major involvement in education efforts at Harvard Medical School, teaching embryology and genetics to both the medical students and the graduate students.  He has also played a leadership role in recent wide-ranging medical education reform at Harvard.  Additionally Dr. Tabin has utilized his expertise in this area to assist the development of a new medical school in Nepal.

Jessica L. Whited, Ph.D.

Jessica Whited is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital.  She developed a fascination with the natural world at a young age growing up in Michigan and Missouri.  Jessica earned a BA in Philosophy and a BS in Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri.  In her graduate studies at MIT, she pursued questions of pattern development and maintenance in the Drosophila nervous system in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Garrity.  These investigations led Jessica to consider mechanisms that animals use to ensure body plans are preserved following injury, and she has since worked to understand how axolotl salamanders regenerate entire limbs following amputation.  While a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Cliff Tabin’s lab at Harvard Medical School, Jessica developed molecular tools for interrogating this system more deeply, and she established a breeding colony of axolotls at HMS.  Jessica’s laboratory is now using these tools, combined with new gene expression data, to elucidate molecular and cellular principles underlying vertebrate limb regeneration with the hopes that this knowledge will shed light on the more limited regenerative responses in humans.

Benjamin E. Wolfe, Ph.D.

Dr. Benjamin Wolfe is an assistant professor of microbiology in the Department of Biology at Tufts University. He received a B.Sc. in 2003 from Cornell University, a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University in 2011, was a postdoctoral researcher in the FAS Center for Systems Biology from 2010-2014. Benjamin established his lab at Tufts in 2014. His lab uses model systems to determine the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape the diversity and function of microbiomes. Projects integrate experimental evolution, metagenomics, comparative genomics, genome engineering, and in situ community reconstructions. Basic principles of microbial community assembly determined in the tractable microbiomes used in the Wolfe lab can help guide the design and manipulation of more complex microbial communities in industry, medicine, and nature.