Canan Dagdeviren has joined the MIT Media Lab as an assistant professor in the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, where she leads the new Conformable Decoders research group. The group aims to convert the patterns of nature and the human body into beneficial signals and energy.
“The world is changing rapidly, and doing the necessary work with the right timing is a must,” Dagdeviren says. “The Media Lab provides that flexibility.” Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Dagdeviren earned her PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she focused on exploring patterning techniques and creating piezoelectric biomedical systems. Her collective PhD research involved flexible mechanical energy harvesters, multi-functional cardiac vessel stents, wearable blood pressure sensors, and stretchable skin modulus sensing bio-patches.
Most recently, as a junior fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, she conducted postdoctoral research at the MIT David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, working on designing and fabricating multi-functional, minimally invasive brain probes that can simultaneously deliver drugs on demand and electrically modulate neural activity precisely and selectively for the treatment of neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.
At the Media Lab, Dagdeviren’s Conformable Decoders group is working to create mechanically adaptive electromechanical systems that can intimately integrate with the target object for sensing, actuation, and energy harvesting, among other applications. Her research is built on the belief that vital information from nature and the human body is “coded” in various forms of physical patterns, and that conformable decoders can “decode” these patterns into beneficial signals and/or energy.
At a Media Lab event in October 2016, Dagdeviren said she’s “a big fan of the feature of flexibility — flexible ideas, flexible dreams, flexible devices, innovations, features, bodies, and relationships.”
Her work has been featured in many media outlets, including Smithsonian Magazine, Popular Mechanics, CBS News, The Los Angeles Times, BBC News, New Scientist, IEEE Spectrum, Physics World, and Nature Materials. In 2015, MIT Technology Review named her among the "Top 35 Innovators Under 35" (inventor category) and Forbes magazine selected her as one of the "Top 30 Under 30 in Science." Among other honors, she has been named a Gifted Citizen by Ciudad de las Ideas of Puebla, Mexico, and a Spotlight Health Scholar by the Aspen Institute. Last December, Dagdeviren was awarded the Science and Sci Life Prize for Young Scientists in the translational medicine category.
Dagdeviren’s appointment underscores an expansion of research at the Media Lab, says Pattie Maes, the Alex W. Dreyfoos Professor of Media Technology and academic head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences. “While the lab started out 30 years ago primarily studying the potential for digital technologies to transform our lives, in the last 10 or so years we have grown our toolbox to include the biological sciences. We are incredibly excited that Canan will join the MAS/Media Lab faculty, not just because she is an incredible, fearless, and innovative researcher, but also because her work on biocompatible electronics bridges these two lines of research and, as such, will strengthen our entire research endeavor.”