Rebekah Costello, Sarah Edwards, Timothy Kassis - MIT NEET Living Machines

About LM

Living Machines (LM) allows you to apply engineering principles and concepts to problems in the Life and Medical Sciences, through various biotechnology innovations. As a Living Machines scholar, you have the opportunity to work on projects spanning synthetic biology, immuno-engineering, tissue engineering, microfluidics, and computational biology and other disruptive research areas, united by a theme of improving our understanding of and therapies for human disease. The thread aims to engage you with frontier challenges in biotech no matter what your background is - course 6, interested in applying your skills to bio/medical problems; course 2 who wants to design the next cutting-edge biotech platforms, perhaps integrating robotics; or a course 20 who wants to gain greater depth in one of the tracks. The most important problems in biotech require interdisciplinary teamwork, a skill Living Machines emphasizes through projects and professional development.
As an LM scholar, you choose one (or more) technical track you would like to pursue at your own pace. Tracks offer flexibility and modularity and give you the technical skills to be highly competitive in your next career steps. Most importantly, you will be part of a diverse and interdisciplinary community of undergrads, graduate students, staff researchers, faculty, and industry partners where you establish long-term personal and professional relationships through a variety of personal and career development opportunities.

MIT NEET Living Machines, Sarah Edwards

Interdisciplinarity at its Core

The Living Machines thread is an interdisciplinary project-centric apprenticeship focused on biotechnology. Ambitious technological advances often require highly interdisciplinary teams from science, engineering, and design working together synergistically. Each team member brings individual disciplinary skills but must bridge to other disciplines which have different semantics, shared knowledge, and ways of approaching problems. The Living Machines thread provides a structured experience in how to be successful in such projects, through an apprenticeship a variety of interdisciplinary projects. The Living Machines thread has interdisciplinarity at its core.

MIT NEET - Living Machines Sophomores in MIT.nano

Technical Tracks

Once you are a Living Machine scholar you can choose the technical track to pursue at your own pace. The requirements for which are laid down by specific MIT faculty who are international leaders in the specific track are along with industry partners that ensure the content is relevant to prepare you for a career in industry. It is up to you to choose which track(s) to pursue and how to integrate the requirements within your classes trajectory at MIT. 

MIT NEET - Living Machines, Ronit Langer and Dorothy Szymkiewicz

Speak the Terminology

Contract an ability to speak the terminology of other engineering fields by establishing some domain knowledge from another engineering discipline. This is achieved through continuous interactions with students and researchers from very diverse science and engineering backgrounds. 

MIT NEET - Living Machines, Pedro La Rotta

Breadth AND Depth

As a Living Machines scholar, you will be exposed to diverse areas of biotechnology through the introductory 20.051 class as well as numerous events and activities organized by NEET - Living Machines. In addition to breadth, you choose to specialize in one or more technical tracks that prepare you to become a highly attractive candidate for specific industry careers, medical schools and graduate school admission by certifying you as an expert in fields such as synthetic biology, immuno-engineering, computational biology, tissue engineering and device engineering. 

Requirements

Each Living Machines track has a particular set of requirements to ensure both diversity and to give you specialized skills for a highly competitive industry career and/or admission to an advanced degree program.

Depending on the chosen track and your schedule, requirements maybe fulfilled in as little as 4 semesters, but you will be part of our community until you graduate and beyond!


A chart showing overlap between Living Machines and the Course 2, 2-A, 6 and 20 major requirements can be found here. For questions about how Living Machines can work with these and other majors, we recommend that you speak with your major advisor or NEET Academic Administrator Becky Shepardson.

Requirements Details

MIT NEET Living Machines

Intro to Living Machines

In 20.051 - Intro to Living Machines, you gain a high-level hands-on introduction to all the tracks offered through expert lectures and mini-projects in the context of "Physiomimetics: Transforming Therapeutic Strategy and Development”. The class is 6 units and offered both Fall and Spring. This is a common class required of all LM scholars entering the thread and it is expected that you take it sometime in Sophomore year or Spring of Freshmen year (with instructor permission).

MIT NEET - Living Machines

Engineering Subjects

To build a strong foundation in your track(s) of choice, you also need to complete some MIT subjects being offered by several departments. Depending on your major, in most cases, these might also fulfill your major's degree requirements. Please note that some subjects on the diagrams have prerequisites that are not indicated. It is up to you to decide which track to choose and what classes within the track to take that would be practical for your MIT course trajectory. 

MIT NEET - Living Machines

Immersion

Depending on the track, this can be a structured UROP, an internship, senior thesis or other MIT activity (such as iGEM for example). The structured UROP is accompanied by a variable unit class (20.054) that encompasses certain communication-based deliverables that accompany your for-credit or for-pay UROP. The internship is an industry or academic summer internship of your choosing that falls under the track focus area. The purpose of this immersion experience is to give you real-world experience.

MIT NEET - Living Machines Ginkgo Bioworks

LM Activities

A fundamental part of NEET - Living Machines is to help you grow as an individual. Throughout your time as an LM Scholar, you will have many opportunities to engage in career and personal development events which include industry site visits, lab tours, lunch & learn with academics and industry guests, panel discussions and of course many socials and technical workshops! You are required to complete 60 HEQ in total while you are an LM Scholar (over a 3-year period). Each HEQ is approximately 1 hr.

MIT NEET - Living Machines Seminars

Technical Talks

It is vital that you as an engineer continuously learn about new areas of research, that's why we require you to attend 8 seminars as part of your track. These are departmental seminars and other types of talks of your choosing, but they have to be technical in nature. We recommend 4 of them be related directly to your track and the other 4 be something not directly related to allow you to gain breadth in the biotech field. These can be taken at any time during your time as an LM Scholar (over 3-year period). Each seminar is usually around 50 min long. No units or grades are associated with the seminars. You just have to fill in a short online form specifying the seminar title/date and describing briefly what you learned.

MIT NEET - Living Machines IDR

Intellectual Diversity Requirement (IDR)

As engineers in 2020, it is important that you be able to understand the thought process and terminology of other engineering disciplines besides your own. The IDR is a core class that you take that is outside your major, for example, a course 20 would take 2.00 while a course 2 might take 20.110. The table on the right shows options based on your declared major. Note that other IDRs might be possible by petition.

Classes

The introductory 20.051 is required for all scholars. The 20.054 class is required when choosing the 'UROP' immersion option in the various tracks.

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20.051: Intro to NEET - Living Machines

A gateway to the NEET Living Machines thread, which has the focus on “Physiomimetics: Transforming Therapeutic Strategy and Development”. The development of therapies for complex diseases relies on understanding disease mechanisms in heterogeneous patient populations, developing therapeutic strategies for patient subgroups, modeling these in vitro, and testing the therapies. Five essential technological contributions to this process comprise tracks in the LM thread: computational systems biology, synthetic biology, immuno-engineering, microphysiological systems devices/tissue engineering, and microfluidic device engineering for in vitro models and analysis. This subject introduces students to the disease modeling, patient stratification, and drug development processes and how these fields work together, includes extensive examples from industry, and provides context for students to choose a concentration track (or tracks) for further study in the Living Machines thread. The format is weekly topical lectures from experts in the field, with structured short projects in each topic area. Required for all NEET - Living Machines students. This is a 6-unit class.

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20.054: NEET - Living Machines Research Immersion

A structured lab research experience in a specific Living Machines track. Students identify a project in a participating research lab, on a topic related to the five tracks in the NEET Living Machines program, propose a project related to the drug development theme, and prepare interim and final presentations and reports while conducting the project. Links to industry-sponsored research projects at MIT are encouraged. A project proposal must be submitted and approved in the term prior to enrollment. It can be used to fulfill the optional research immersion requirement for NEET - Living Machines tracks. This 3-unit class is for NEET - LM students only and is designed to accompany a for-credit or for-pay UROP.

Ronit Langer - MIT NEET Living Machines

20.053: NEET - Living Machines Advanced Research Immersion

For students who have completed 20.052 and wish to carry out additional research on the chosen topic, or shift to another Living Machines Track area for breadth. Requirements are the same as those for 20.052, including approval of a pre-proposal in the term prior to enrollment Students identify a project in a participating research lab, on a topic related to the five tracks in the NEET Living Machines program, propose a project related to the drug development theme, and prepare interim and final presentations and reports while conducting the project. Links to industry-sponsored research projects at MIT are encouraged. A project proposal must be submitted and approved in the term prior to enrollment. It can be used to fulfill the optional research immersion requirement for NEET - Living Machines tracks. This 12-unit class is for NEET students only.

Example Projects

Gut-on-a-chip NEET Living Machines

Human Gut-on-a-Chip

Using their interdisciplinary expertise spanning mechanical, biological and chemical engineering as well a computer science, LM scholars designed, built and validated a human gut micro-physiological system that houses epithelial, vascular and fibroblast cells. The chip is being utilized by multiple scientific collaborators for real-world experiments.

NEET - Living Machines DNA storage

Exabyte-scale Molecular Data Storage, Recovery, and Computing

DNA offers the highest information storage density compared to all current storage solutions. The project aims to 1) Optimize a microfluidics system for DNA manipulation, 2) Devise improved synthesis or retrieval methods and 3) Integrate methods with device automation

NEET - Living Machines Single Cell RNA Analysis

Analysis of Single-Cell RNA Sequencing Data

Various machine learning and computational biology approaches were applied on single-cell RNA-Seq datasets which revealed differences in cell populations and molecular features of Endometriosis and Adenomyosis.

Featured Scholars

Leadership

Prof. Linda Griffith - MIT NEET Living Machines

Prof. Linda Griffith

Founding Faculty Co-Lead


Biological Engineering

Illustration

Prof. Eric Alm

Founding Faculty Co-Lead

On Sabbatical

Biological Engineering

Illustration

Dr. Mehdi Salek

Lead Instructor, NEET


School of Engineering

Timothy Kassis - MIT NEET Living Machines

Dr. Timothy Kassis

Lead Instructor, NEET


School of Engineering

Scholars Leadership Team

Amy Jin - Academic Liaison Officer

Amy Jin

Mentoring Program Officer 

Biological Engineering

Jose Aceves-Salvador - Community Building Officer

Rachel Shen

Industry Liaison Officer 

Biology

Melody Wu - Industry Liaison Officer

Catherine Griffin 

Academic Liaison Officer

Biological Engineering

Diana Garibay - Communications Officer

Juan Ibarra Arriaga

Community Building Officer 

Biological Engineering

Diana Renteria - MIT/NEET Liaison Officer

Varsha Sandadi

MIT/NEET Liaison Officer

Computation and Cognition

Diana Renteria - MIT/NEET Liaison Officer

Sherry Nyeo

Community Building Committee Member 

Computer Science and Molecular Biology

FAQ

  • Who is eligible for the Living Machines thread?

    The thread is open to all MIT rising sophomores who can satisfy a specific track's requirements within their degree plan.

  • How many students are you planning to take?

    New enrollments will be capped at 30 students/year.

  • Will I get a certificate?

    Yes, upon completing your SB degree you will also gain a NEET Certificate in Living Machines from the School of Engineering.

  • What benefits may I expect from being in Living Machines?

    The thread emphasizes interdisciplinary team-work, research output and individual mentoring. As such, you will benefit from exposure to a variety of interesting work being carried out by research labs from across all participating majors.

  • Can I pursue multiple Living Machines tracks?

    Of course! But keep in mind the tracks are quite different and it is unlikely you can easily fulfill the requirements for multiple tracks.

  • Is there a specific time-line to finish a track?

    Not at all, you can satisfy the various requirements anytime during your MIT degree. 

  • Will you help me find a UROP or internship?

    It is up to you to sort those out but we are certainly willing to help by offering contacts, guidance and helping you with application material when applicable.