These are complicated times, but I have said it in other posts: if there is one positive thing about this period is that for decades there has not been such a limelight for people who dream of changing the world. It applies to medical professionals in their fight against the pandemic, and to citizens fighting for social justice. Technology plays its part, and in laboratories all over the world there is a lot of research preparing the future.
On the shields, among the researchers under observation by MIT, three visionaries and researchers under 35 who are about to revolutionize everything in their respective fields. They don't remember Chernobyl, they didn't experience the fall of the Berlin Wall, but they will change the world. Women of the future Nobel, and a site like this can only "bet" on them in particular, especially on a planet that sees women at the 50% of total students, but only 25% of teachers.
Three noble women: here they are.
Christina Boville, 32 years old
What it does: Modifies enzymes to enable the production of new compounds for the industry.
Among the "women of nobel" is the one that exalted me the most. Christina Boville helped design a process that improves the way biology controls chemical reactions. It starts with natural enzymes and engineers them to produce useful chemicals that don't exist in nature. The approach can reduce production time for compounds used in the pharmaceutical industry from months to days, reduce waste by up to 99% and cut energy consumption in half.
In 2019, Christina co-founded Aralez Bio with David Romney and Frances Arnold, Nobel Prize in 2018 for a new way of creating enzymes called direct evolution. The Boville process creates chemicals known as non-canonical amino acids (ncAAs), which are used to make 12% of the 200 best-selling medicines and also used in agriculture. “Nature was built using 20 amino acids. Now our enzymes can make hundreds of new ones, ”he says. “Pharmaceutical ingredients usually take 5 to 10 steps. Now we can do it in one step ”.
Aralez Bio was recently contacted by a pharmaceutical company to produce normally developed amino acids in 9 months. The enzymes engineered by Christina Boville produced the same compound in one night.
Rose Faghih, 34 years old
What he does: His sensor-laden wristwatch could monitor your brain states.
If Rose Faghih's project spreads, a seemingly simple smart watch could determine what's going on deep in your brain.
Faghih developed an algorithm to analyze otherwise subtle changes in sweat activity, a key indicator of stress and stimulation. Using two small electrodes on a smartwatch you can monitor changes in skin conductance caused by sweat. The signal processing algorithms therefore allow Faghih to correlate these changes with specific events, such as a flashback due to post-traumatic stress disorder or even just an attention deficit, in order to identify the person's brain state.
Typically, this kind of real-time data is only available via expensive scalp-based electrode systems such as EEG or functional MRI. Faghih's "Mindwatch" would be cheap and portable enough for people to monitor their brain states anywhere.
Faghih hopes that a Mindwatch can help people manage their moods and mental states: a wearable device with its technology could suggest that a driver, when agitated, tries to relax, or in general to lower the tension a little. when it is exceeding the guard level. For people with mental illness or chronic conditions such as diabetes, it might even trigger an automated deep brain stimulation device or insulin pump.
Adriana Schulz, 34 years old
What it does: Its tools allow anyone to design products without having to understand materials science or engineering.
Adriana Schulz's design tools allow users and engineers to use drag-and-drop graphical interfaces to create different functional and complex objects (including robots) without having to understand the mechanics, geometries or underlying materials.
"What excites me is that we are about to enter the next phase of production: a new revolution", says Schulz.
One of his creations is Interactive Robogami, a tool he created to allow anyone to design rudimentary robots. A user designs the shape and trajectory of a grounded robot on the screen. Schulz's system automatically translates the raw design into a schematic that can be built from standard parts or 3D printed.
Another of the tools that you and your collaborators have created allows users to design drones to meet the requirements chosen for payload, battery life and costs. The algorithms in its system incorporate materials science and control systems and automatically generate a manufacturing plan and control software. Schulz is now helping to start the University of Washington Digital Fabrication Center. He will work with local technology and manufacturing companies to move his tools out of the lab.