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Pages: Biological & Chemical Studies

At MIT, you will use everyday building blocks of the world to help create discoveries, treatments, and innovations. Below are a few of our favorite biology and chemistry projects in the works by researchers at MIT.

Bright ideas, borrowed from nature

Chemical engineers at MIT are using the bioluminescent properties of fireflies to make glow-in-the-dark plants that can emit light for as long as four hours. One day, these plants could be bright enough to use as a desk lamp!

To see the science behind the glowing plant magic, check out the video below. (Or in this Vice News Tonight clip, where the MIT scientists explain their cutting-edge research to a first-grade classroom.)

Harnessing the hidden powers of the human body

“I said we should study mucus because it’s a really amazing barrier. It allows us to integrate nutrients, it protects us from pathogens, and it allows us to communicate with the outside world. It’s also a major obstacle to drug delivery. But we have no idea how it works.” —MIT Professor Katharina Ribbeck

Learn how MIT professor Katharina Ribbeck is unlocking the potential of this sticky substance to reimagine how we understand our bodies, diagnose illness, and treat disease.

Fighting cancer

What if there was a way we could harness the body’s immune system response to fight cancer? That’s what MIT assistant professor of biology Stefani Spranger is aiming to do with her cutting-edge research. She’s studying how the immune system interacts with tumors, with the goal of improving existing cancer immunotherapies or developing novel therapeutic approaches.

Treating nut allergies

MIT senior Julia Ginder is conducting research at the Koch Institute on peanut allergies. The biology major hopes to identify cells associated with the development of tolerance to allergens so that more effective treatments can be found.

What is a Gene?

Blogger Abby H. went to MIT Biology Professor Gerald Fink’s (who we learned discovered yeast transformation!) optional lecture about genes on a whim, and wrote a great rundown which basically boils down to “The human genome is still a mysterious soup, even now that we know the order and identity of the base pairs in it.”

Studying musical tastes

Are your music tastes really up to you, or are they hardwired in your brain from birth? MIT brain and cognitive sciences researchers looked at populations from all over the world to figure out the answer.

Allowing machines to learn like humans

The MIT Quest for Intelligence is a project by the MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department that is focused on learning about the human mind and how it’s expected to change as it increasingly collaborates with machines. But a bigger goal of the project is to reverse engineer the human brain and apply those lessons to developing better artificial intelligence.

“Imagine if we could build a machine that grows into intelligence the way a human being does, that starts off like a baby and that learns like a child,” Josh Tenenbaum, an MIT professor of cognitive science and computation says. “This is really the oldest dream of artificial intelligence.”

Solutions to antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is an issue that scientists are working hard to combat, and MIT chemistry researchers are at the forefront of new discoveries to help. Last year, they pioneered a new method of linking molecules together that could help overcome drug-resistant infections.

Learn more

Intrigued? You can learn more and see how you’d fit in each program by visiting their respective websites:

Take an MIT class and try it yourself

The best way to get a feel for MIT is to take a class yourself. Enroll in the self-paced MITx course, Introduction to Biology – The Secret to Life, and explore the mysteries of biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, DNA technology, and genomics. Did we mention it’s taught by Professor Eric Lander, father of the Human Genome Project?