Hear me at the Big Question Podcast by Oxford Sparks
Me and Konny (Konrad Kauffman) at Stockholm in 2016
I believe biologically inspired engineering is the key to a prosperous and sustainable future that is going to impact every aspect of our lives. I, in particular, want to see us transitioning to biological computing, the brain being the most powerful and efficient example of that.
I am a mechanical engineer who has engineered cutting edge scientific instruments to explore the role of mechanical vibrations at biological surfaces. The journey started with attacking one of the deepest mysteries in neuroscience, "How are neurons so energy efficient?". The question unravels the 1962 Nobel prize winning model of Hodgkin and Huxley - a central pillar of neuroscience - by showing how the model is at great odds with the second law of thermodynamics. As Sir Arthur Eddington once warned “If your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
The quest let to the discovery of the extraordinary properties of sound waves in lipid interfaces that were established for the first time in my Ph.D. thesis at Boston University. The research strongly supports the possibility of sound (not just electricity) being a physical basis for the phenomenon of nerve pulse propagation, and has been highlighted in the “Revolutions in Science” edition of the Scientific American and on the cover of German science magazine Spektrum.
More recently I was a Senior Research Associate at the Rosalind Franklin Institute under the research theme "imaging with light and sound". I was also affiliated with the department of engineering science at the University of Oxford. At Oxford I was applying my understanding of sound waves and biological materials to develop nanoparticles for mRNA delivery. I was also building world's fastest video microscope to observe the acoustic vibrations at a cellular level.
In summary, over the past decade I have led fundamental advances in neuroscience and physics by building state of the art instruments. It is now time to apply the laws of thermodynamics as design principles to solve major challenges in biomedical, environmental and computational sciences, at scale.