Four health scientists have won John F. and Virginia B. Taplin Awards from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) for 2001. Martha L. Bulyk, Hugh M. Herr, Leonid A. Mirny and Fiona E. Murray will each receive a $50,000 stipend.
Bulyk, a graduate of MIT (S.B. 1993) and Harvard (Ph.D. 2000), was recently appointed assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS) with an appointment in HST. Her research includes development of a novel threading technique for protein folding and investigations into the interaction of protein with DNA that seeks to predict the specificity of a DNA-binding protein, given its sequence. Bulyk will integrate bioinformatics into HST's pathophysiology curriculum through her Taplin support. Her efforts will not only provide new ways to systematically analyze accumulated genomic, structural and functional information, but will also enable the use of these analyses in solving biological problems.
Herr is an instructor in HST and a member of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. His work in the Leg Lab at the AI Lab involves development of human-assistive technologies and investigations into mammalian locomotive control, tissue engineering and robotics. He plans to use his Taplin fellowship to investigate a virtual wheel model that characterizes limb axial and rotational behavior in bipedal walking. A graduate of MIT (S.M. 1993) and Harvard (Ph.D. 1998), Herr is also an instructor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at HMS.
Mirny, a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, was recently appointed assistant professor of health sciences and technology in HST. A researcher in biophysics and computational biology, he received the Ph.D. from Harvard, the M.Sc. in 1994 from the Wiezmann Institute of Science and a 1992 diploma from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. His research in Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology has focused on protein structure prediction, bioinformatics and structural genomics.
Mirny will devote his Taplin fellowship to developing a computational biology subject that will attract students of not only biology and chemistry, but also computer science and physics. He also plans to establish a local seminar series on bioinformatics, which will be a component of HST's new Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics Program.
Murray, an assistant professor of management of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship at the Sloan School, will coordinate a new joint curriculum in biomedical enterprise between Sloan and HST. The new curriculum will not only strengthen skills in the laboratory and at the bedside, but will also provide the knowledge needed to commercialize new biomedical technology in industry or in new biomedical business ventures. Murray's research focuses on entrepreneurship in the life science and healthcare industries. The Harvard graduate (M.Sc., Ph.D.) will also develop two core subjects for the new Sloan-HST curriculum in biomedical enterprise: entrepreneurship in the biomedical sciences and critical needs assessment.
Following his graduation from MIT in 1935 with a degree in electrical engineering, John F. Taplin became a prolific inventor and entrepreneur. He developed products including the Fenwal plastic blood bag (a worldwide standard for handling blood) and rolling diaphragm seals for aircraft and automobile engines. Since his retirement, he and his wife Virginia have supported hospitals and academic institutions in transferring scientific discovery to industry.
In 1997, the couple established the HST Taplin Faculty Fellows Awards program with a $2 million endowment. Since then, 17 Taplin fellows have been supported in enhancing HST's educational and research infrastructures.
The Taplins also established the Edward Hood Taplin Professorship in HST in 1981, now held by Professor Martha L. Gray, HST co-director.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 17, 2001.