Michael Levin is the Vannevar Bush Professor of Biology at Tufts University, where he directs the Allen Discovery Research Center, and associate faculty at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute. Levin and his colleagues use developmental biophysics, cognitive science, and computational modeling approaches to understand tissue plasticity, especially focused on bioelectrical information processing in non-neural cell networks. They were the first to create molecular and computational tools to probe the bioelectric software that guide tissue-level decision-making in the body during embryogenesis and regeneration, and to show how non-genetic information guides top-down control of anatomical structure. Among the many potential applications of this work are limb regeneration, tumor reprogramming, and birth defect repair. Levin’s work has been included in Nature’s list of ‘100 Milestones of Developmental Biology of the Century’. Recent honors include the Scientist of Vision award and the Distinguished Scholar Award.
Josh Bongard is the Veinott Professor of Computer Science at the University of Vermont and the director of the Morphology, Evolution & Cognition Laboratory. His work involves computational approaches to the automated design and manufacture of soft-, evolved-, and crowdsourced robots, as well as computer-designed organisms. The vision of the Bongard group is to create generally intelligent machines, using the tools of crowdsourcing, embodied cognition, and computational evolution. A PECASE, TR35, and Microsoft New Faculty Fellow award recipient, he has received funding from NSF, NASA, DARPA, the U.S. Army Research Office and the Sloan Foundation. He served as director of the Vermont Advanced Computing Core, Vermont’s high-performance computing facility. In addition to many peer-reviewed journal and conference publications, he is the author of the book How the Body Shapes the Way We Think. He runs an evolutionary robotics MOOC through reddit.com and a robotics outreach program, Twitch Plays Robotics.