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Fall 2020

Thresholds: Design and Science

A conference at the intersection of design and science

The conference assembles thought leaders from science and design—researchers and practitioners who interrogate the spaces in between. The sessions, which are thematically aligned with the human senses, present a multitude of interdisciplinary approaches, methods, and techniques.


A Fall 2020 date will be announced when available!


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Knafel Center
18 Mason St.

Cambridge, MA 02138


Science and design are often thought to represent opposite mindsets of analysis versus conjecture, of explanatory versus disruptive modes of thinking. Audacious, provocative, and unconventional work emerges when we cross the traditional disciplinary divide between science and design. The March 2020 conference assembles thought leaders from both areas—researchers and practitioners who interrogate the spaces in between through their work. The sessions, which are thematically aligned with the human senses, present a multitude of approaches, methods, and techniques that transcend the disciplinary focus. Conceived as an open forum for exploration and discussion, the conference is co-hosted by faculty from the Graduate School of Design and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science at Harvard University. The projects and explorations featured range from fashion to material science, from therapeutic devices to building science, and from cooking to cognitive science.

This event is free and open to the public.


9:00 AM - 9:20 AM

Conference Opening

9:20 AM - 10:35 AM

Session 1: Sight

10:40 AM - 11:55 AM

Session 2: Smell and Taste

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Lunch Break

1:00 PM - 2:15 PM

Session 3: Hearing

2:20 PM - 3:35 PM

Session 4: Touch

3:40 PM - 4:00 PM

Closing Remarks


Jody Adams

Joanna Aizenberg

Sam Anthony

Jeronimo Beccar

Martin Bechthold

Matheus Fernandes

Jenny French

Christina Glover

Jock Herron

Chuck Hoberman

Cameron Hohimer

Ahmed Hosny

Psyche Loui

Benjamin Markham

Saurabh Mhatre

Olga Mesa

Venkatesh Murthy

Ida Pavlihenko

Eliezer (Eli) Peli

Manu Ponnapati

Russ Rymer

Allen Sayegh

Pia Sörensen

Mary Tolikas

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Chef Jody Adams is one of Boston’s brightest culinary stars with a national reputation for her Mediterranean cuisine in restaurants Rialto, Trade, Porto and Saloniki.  She is a two-time James Beard Award winner and is recognized for her commitment to social justice work directed at food insecurity, including Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, The Greater Boston Food Bank and she is a board trustee at Partner’s In Health.

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Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science; Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard SEAS

The Aizenberg lab's research is aimed at understanding some of the basic principles of biological architectures and the economy with which biology solves complex problems in the design of multifunctional, adaptive materials. The goal is to use biological principles as guidance in developing new, bio-inspired synthetic routes and nanofabrication strategies that would lead to advanced materials and devices, with broad impact in fields ranging from architecture to energy efficiency to medicine. The lab pursues a wide range of research interests that include adaptive materials, biomineralization, surface science and nanofabrication.



Co-founder and CTO, Perceptive Automata 

Dr. Sam Anthony is the co-founder and CTO of Perceptive Automata, the company that has solved one of the greatest challenges in autonomous vehicle development - understanding humans. Utilizing behavioral science, neuroscience, computer vision, and machine learning he and his team are working towards creating a world in which humans and AVs can safely interact with one another. An ex-hacker, vision scientist, and expert in human cognition, Sam is fascinated by systems, from artificial neural networks to urban transit grids and the human brain. Prior to founding Perceptive Automata, Sam was the Head of Informatics and Infrastructure at The Many Brains Project, a non-profit organization that provides tests of cognition based on the latest research in psychology and neuroscience.



Co-founder and CEO, Hyka Therapeutics

Jeronimo is the co-founder and CEO of Hyka Therapeutics. At Hyka, he is leading a team of psychologists, data scientists, engineers, and designers whose mission is to create approachable and personalized ways to address depression with technology. In studying design engineering at Harvard, Jeronimo's interest in mental health evolved into a deeper understanding of problems around depression. He noticed that treatments are often unapproachable, inaccessible, and are complicated by high rates of non-adherence. That is why he decided to start Hyka Therapeutics — to empower people to change the way they imagine and address mental healthcare.



Kumagai Professor of Architectural Technology, Harvard GSD

Martin's research, related publications, and teaching focus on innovative material systems, structural design, and robotic fabrication, with recent projects developing structural applications of architectural ceramics and advancing multi-material 3D printing technology. Martin's research broadly looks at material and fabrication technology as a catalyst of innovation for design practice. In 2010, he founded the GSD’s Design Robotics Group, which merged into the Material Processes and Systems (MaP+S) Group, a collaboration of faculty, research associates, and students that pursues sponsored and other research projects. 



Applied Math Ph.D., Harvard SEAS

Matheus Fernandes is an Applied Mathematics Ph.D. candidate with a secondary field in Computational Science and Engineering at Harvard SEAS. In the lab of Katia Bertoldi, the William and Ami Kuan Danoff Professor of Applied Mechanics, Fernandes works at the intersection of mechanics, machine learning and numerical modeling. His research involves modeling of mechanics and fluids in a vast array of bio-inspired settings as well as applying machine learning algorithms to mechanical sensing of actuators.



Assistant Professor in Practice of Architecture, GSD, and Founding partner of French 2D

Jenny French is a Assistant Professor in Practice of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and a founding partner of French 2D. With her partner Anda French, Jenny co-founded French 2D, an architecture studio based in Boston, in 2008. The firm’s work addresses the intersection of architecture, storytelling, and society, examples of which can be found in many built and experimental projects. Recent and current projects include a 180-unit microhousing building in Boston, a Cohousing community in greater Boston, and large scale graphic work.  Their work with uncommon housing typologies has led to their inclusion on numerous public panels to discuss the future of smaller living.



Design Critic in Design Engineering, Harvard GSD

Jock is an instructor focused on food systems and health. He co-led the Smart Cities and Wellness project sponsored by the Humana Corporation and the Responsive Environments and Artifacts Lab at the GSD. He has served on the Steering Committee of the Worcester County Food Hub Initiative, and is currently working on a rotational grazing project in Central Massachusetts.



Pierce Anderson Lecturer in Design Engineering, Harvard GSD

Chuck Hoberman, internationally known for his transformable structures, seamlessly fuses the disciplines of art, architecture and engineering, Through his products, patents, and structures, Hoberman demonstrates how objects can be foldable, retractable, or shape-shifting. He is the founder of Hoberman Associates, a multidisciplinary practice that utilizes transformable principles for a wide range of applications including dynamic architecture, transformable stage sets, consumer products, deployable shelters and structures for aerospace. He holds over twenty patents for his transformable inventions, and has won numerous awards for his designs.



Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard Biodesign Lab

The Harvard Biodesign Lab brings together a highly multidisciplinary group of researchers and staff from the engineering, industrial design, apparel and medical communities to develop technologies that augment and restore human performance. Cameron conducts research in robotics and material science, including robotic gloves for hand rehabilitation in stroke survivors, and a robotic apple-harvesting system with a 3D-printed soft-robotic end-effector.

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Machine Learning Research Scientist, Harvard Medical School

Ahmed received a Masters in Design Technology from the GSD, where he studied the behavior of sensor-embedded cloud-connected physical objects as a function of human interaction, through tracking and analyzing their mechanical features. He is currently working on a Ph.D in Machine Learning & Medical Imaging, and is collaborating with medical oncology researchers and professionals to identify clinically relevant questions and train machine learning models to answer them. 



Director of Architectural Acoustics; Principal Consultant at Acentech Incorporated

Benjamin is an acoustician involved in a variety of projects concerned with performance spaces and other commercial, residential, educational, and civic facilities. His responsibilities include architectural acoustics and mechanical systems noise control. He has an avid interest in acoustical models and auralization (computer simulations of acoustic environments), and has consulted on projects related to room acoustics, sound isolation, auditorium and concert hall acoustics, music rehearsal spaces, acoustics of worship spaces, classroom and lecture hall acoustics, environmental noise control, condominium sound isolation, and other aspects of acoustical design. He is a LEED AP and holds a BSE from Princeton and an MS from Rensselaer.

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Research Associate, Material Processes and Systems Group, Harvard GSD

Saurabh Mhatre is a Research Associate in the Material Processes and Systems Group (MaP+S) and the Center for Green Buildings and Cities at the Harvard GSD. He has a Masters in Design Technology from the GSD, where his dissertation was titled “Embedded Materiality: Super Absorbent Polymers in Architecture." He has worked on projects dealing with the 3D printing of ceramic and concrete, deployable mechanisms, smart materials, and folding robots in collaboration with Harvard SEAS, Wyss Institute of Biological Engineering, and the Autodesk Build Space.



Architectural designer and researcher, Harvard GSD

Olga is Research Associate in the Material Processes and Systems Group (MaP+S) at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Her primary research lies at the intersection of computer-controlled fabrication and material properties. Olga collaborates with Harvard SEAS and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering  to develop auxetic structures at various scales. She is an Assistant Professor at Roger Williams University and has over ten years of experience as a designer and project architect in residential, commercial, and institutional projects. 



Raymond Leo Erikson Life Sciences Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard

Venkatesh's lab is interested in the neural and algorithmic basis of odor-guided behaviors in terrestrial animals. To this end, they have developed behavioral tasks in mice using stimuli and situations that approximate natural settings, while allowing electrophysiological recordings, high-resolution optical imaging and optogenetic manipulation. They are also interested in understanding how neural circuits in the olfactory system are modified by behavioral state, experience and in disease.

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Postdoctoral Fellow,  Biomineralization and Biomimetics Lab, Harvard SEAS

As a Master’s student, Ida performed research on novel hyperbranched polymers. She then received an IDK-NBT fellowship to pursue her doctoral studies, and her PhD research focused on the development of an innovative integrated optoelectronic sensing platform based on bio-inspired “smart” stimuli-responsive photonic crystals. Since August 2015, she is a postdoctoral fellow in the Aizenberg group, where she continues to apply the principles of bio-inspired engineering for the assembly of novel photonic materials and devices. Co-authors on the work presented at the conference include Cathy Zhang, Jack Alvarenga, Michael Lerch, and Joanna Aizenberg.



Professor of Ophthalmology at HMS, Senior Scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute

Dr. Peli is Senior Scientist and the Moakley Scholar in Aging Eye Research at Schepens Eye Research Institute, and Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. He also serves on the faculty of the New England College of Optometry (Adjunct Professor of Optometry and Visual Sciences). Dr. Peli's principal research interests are image processing in relation to visual function and clinical psychophysics in low vision rehabilitation, image understanding and evaluation of display-vision interaction. He also maintains an interest in oculomotor control and binocular vision. Dr. Peli is a consultant to many companies in the ophthalmic instrumentation area and to manufacturers of head mounted displays (HMD). 



MIT Media Lab

Manu Ponnapati is a graduate student at MIT Media Lab pursuing her Master of Media, Arts and Sciences in the Molecular Machines group. She is currently working on computational approaches to protein engineering. She has previously worked in the fields of food systems, drug discovery and finance. Mostly recently, she has collaborated with Michael Raspuzzi (Harvard MDE'18) on work through the Harvard Innovation Lab + Global Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Massachusetts exploring the future of customization and personalization in flavor and nutrition through algorithms. Prior to that, she worked at the MIT Media Lab building computer vision and software tools to help design more inventive future food systems. She received her Master in Engineering from Cornell University.

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Journalist and Author

Russ Rymer is an independent journalist and author who writes about subjects as varied as science, politics, and the arts. His first book, Genie: An Abused Child’s Flight from Silence, earned him a Whiting Writers’ Award and was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. His second book, American Beach: A Saga of Race, Wealth, and Memory, was named a New York Times Notable Book. He has written for the Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, National Geographic, the New Yorker, the New York Times, and other publications. He has edited for the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.



Associate Professor in Practice of Architectural Technology, Harvard GSD

Allen Sayegh is an architect, designer, educator, and the principal of INVIVIA – an award winning global design firm. He is also the director of REAL, the Responsive Environment and Artifacts Lab at Harvard.

His courses and practice focus on technologically driven architectural design, exploring potentials of media and technology integrated built environment, Interaction design and the study of architectural and urban space thought through the impact of changing technology.  His work is characterized as the synthesis of architecture, digital art and design in coming up with innovative architectural human interfaces and responsive environments.



Senior Preceptor in Chemical Engineering and Applied Materials, Harvard SEAS

Pia co-teaches and manages the course Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, which explores how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in chemistry and physics. She is also the author and principal developer of the interactive textbook  Science and Cooking: A Companion to the Harvard Course. Her research interests range from chemical biology to science and engineering education — with an emphasis on online education and creative ways of teaching science and engineering in a liberal arts setting.

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Lecturer in Engineering Sciences, Harvard SEAS 

Mary has extensive experience in start-up operations, product development, strategic planning, and business development in a number of markets and applications, including software, electromechanical devices, and biotech. As an engineer, she has designed and built products for diverse industries, such as automotive, IT, medical, and aerospace. For a number of years, she served as the first Operations Director at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. She holds a PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from MIT and an MBA from the Sloan School of Management.

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