MindEx 2015 Speakers

Dr. George Church


george church

George Church, PhD, is Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of  PersonalGenomes.org, which provides the world’s only open-access information on human genomic, environmental & trait data. His 1984 Harvard PhD included the first methods for direct genome sequencing, molecular multiplexing & barcoding. These led to the first genome sequence (pathogen, Helicobacter pylori) in  1994 . His innovations have contributed to nearly all “next generation” genome sequencing methods and companies (CGI, Life, Illumina, nanopore). This plus chip-based DNA synthesis and stem cell engineering resulted in founding additional application-based companies spanning fields of medical diagnostics (Knome, Alacris, AbVitro, Pathogenica, Veritas Genetics) & synthetic biology / therapeutics (Joule, Gen9, Editas, Egenesis, enEvolv, WarpDrive).

He has also pioneered new privacy, biosafety, environmental & biosecurity policies. He is director of NIH Center for Excellence in Genomic Science. His honorsinclude election to NAS & NAE & Franklin Bower Laureate for Achievement in Science. He has coauthored 370 papers, 60 patents & one book (Regenesis).

Dr. Martine Rothblatt

  • Chairman & Co-CEO of United Therapeutics Corporation
  • President & CEO of Lung Biotechnology
  • Board Member, Mind First Foundation


martineMartine Rothblatt, PhD, MBA, JD, is Chairman & Co-CEO of United Therapeutics Corporation (UTHR), and President & CEO of its Lung Biotechnology public benefit company.  She previously created and led Sirius XM as its Chairman & CEO. She has JD and MBA degrees from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Medical Ethics from the Royal London School of Medicine & Dentistry.    Her patented inventions cover aspects of satellite radio, prostacyclin biochemistry and cognitive software.  Dr. Rothblatt’s most recent books are on xenotransplantation (Your Life or Mine)

Dr. Ed Boyden

  • Leader, MIT Synthetic Neurobiology Group
  • Associate Professor and AT&T Chair, MIT Media Lab and McGovern Institute, Departments of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences
  • Co-Director, MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering


ed boyden

Ed Boyden, PhD, is a professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute. He leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain, and applies them systematically to reveal ground truth principles of biological function as well as to repair these systems. These technologies, created often in interdisciplinary collaborations, include expansion microscopy, which enables complex biological systems to be imaged with nanoscale precision, optogenetic tools, which enable the activation and silencing of neural activity with light, and optical, nanofabricated, and robotic interfaces that enable recording and control of neural dynamics. He has launched an award-winning series of classes at MIT that teach principles of neuroengineering, starting with basic principles of how to control and observe neural functions, and culminating with strategies for launching companies in the nascent neurotechnology space. He also co-directs the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, which aims to develop new tools to accelerate neuroscience progress.

Amongst other recognitions, he has received the Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences (2015), the Schuetze Prize (2014), the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award (2013), the Lundbeck “Brain” Prize, the largest brain research prize in the world (2013), the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (2013), the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award (twice, 2012 and 2013), and the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize (2011). He was also named to the World Economic Forum Young Scientist list (2013), the Wired Smart List “50 People Who Will Change the World” (2012), the Technology Review World’s “Top 35 Innovators under Age 35” list (2006), and his work was included in Nature Methods “Method of the Year” in 2010.

His group has hosted hundreds of visitors to learn how to use neurotechnologies, and he also regularly teaches at summer courses and workshops in neuroscience, and delivers lectures to the broader public (e.g., TED (2011); World Economic Forum (2012, 2013)). Ed received his Ph.D. in neurosciences from Stanford University as a Hertz Fellow, where he discovered that the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned. Before that, he received three degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and physics from MIT. He has contributed to over 300 peer-reviewed papers, current or pending patents, and articles, and has given over 300 invited talks on his group’s work.

Dr. Ronald C. Kessler

Ronald C. Kessler, PhD
is the McNeil Family Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School.Kessler’s research deals broadly with the social determinants of mental health and illness as studied from an epidemiological perspective. He is the author of over 600 publications and the recipient of many awards for his research, including the Senior Scientist and MERIT awards from the National Institute of Mental Health. He has been rated as the most widely cited researcher in the world in the field of psychiatry for each of the past ten years and is a member of both the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.Dr. Kessler is the Principal Investigator of the US National Comorbidity Survey, the first nationally representative survey of the prevalence and correlates of mental disorders in the US, and a Co-Director of the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative, a series of comparative community epidemiological surveys of the prevalence and correlates of mental disorders and treatment for these disorders in 28 countries around the world. In addition to his epidemiological studies, Kessler is involved in evaluating a number of innovative programs for the prevention and treatment of mental illness in high-risk segments of the population. Finally, Dr. Kessler is the Principal Investigator of the Harvard Medical School site for Army STARRS, a research program funded by the US Army and the National Institute of Mental Health to study risk and protective factors for suicide among Army personnel.Dr. Kessler earned his PhD in sociology from New York University in 1975. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatric epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin before joining the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1979. He was a Professor of Sociology and a Program Director at Michigan’s Institute for Social Research at the time he took his current position at Harvard Medical School in 1994.

Dr. Richard Wrangham

richardwranghamRichard Wrangham, PhD is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology and Harvard College Professor at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1989.  His major interests are chimpanzee and human evolutionary ecology, the evolutionary dynamics of violence, and ape conservation. He received his Ph.D. in Zoology from Cambridge University in 1975, was a Research Fellow at King’s College (Cambridge) from 1977 to 1980, and taught at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) from 1981-1989.  Since 1987 he has studied wild chimpanzee behavior in Kibale National Park, Uganda. He has been President (2004-2008) of the International Primatological Society, and an Ambassador for UNEP/UNESCO’s Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP). Wrangham was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1987, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the British Academy. His most recent book is Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Basic Books, June 2009)

Dr. Madeleine Price Ball

  • Personal Genome Project, Director of Research
  • Open Humans Project, Co-founder & Principal Investigator of Public Data Sharing


Madeleine Price Ball, PhD is Director of Research for the Harvard PGP. She has been involved in developing the computational and literature review methods used to interpret PGP genomes and is a leading developer of GET-Evidence, the PGP’s system for genome interpretation. She is also an advocate for using Wikipedia as a knowledge sharing resource. Her contributions include the Genetics page and other core genetics material, as well as helping develop an offline version of Wikipedia now used by hundreds of thousands of children. Madeleine is also a co-founder with PGP Director of Community Jason Bobe of the Open Humans Project, a new personal data sharing project affiliated with the PGP.

Dr. Alexander Wait Zaranek

Alexander (Sasha) Wait Zaranek, PhD is Director of Informatics at the Harvard PGP. Sasha works on open technologies that are part of the revolution that reduced human DNA sequencing costs by a million-fold since the completion of the Human Genome Project. A current research focus is the development of clinical-quality applications for processing massive data sets spanning millions of individuals across collaborating organizations, eventually encompassing exabytes of data. His contributions have led to highly cited publications in Science, Nature, the Lancet and other leading scientific journals. Sasha is also a cofounder of Curoverse, a venture-backed company focused on building a platform for storing and analyzing biomedical data.

Dr. Jordan Smoller

pngu_smoller.cropDr. Jordan Smoller is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. He is Associate Chief for Research for the MGH Department of Psychiatry and Director of Psychiatric Genetics. He is Director of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the MGH Center for Human Genetics Research. Dr. Smoller also serves as co-director of the Genetics and Genomics Unit of the MGH Clinical Research Program, is an Associate Member of the Broad Institute and a Senior Scientist at the Broad’s Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research.

Dr. Smoller earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard University and his medical degree at Harvard Medical School. After completing residency training in psychiatry at McLean Hospital, Dr. Smoller received masters and doctoral degrees in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the NIMH Training Program in Psychiatric Genetics.

The focus of Dr. Smoller’s research interests has been the identification of genetic determinants of childhood and adult psychiatric disorders. Dr. Smoller and colleagues have also been studying genetic predictors of treatment response and the ways in which advances in genetics may impact clinical practice in psychiatry. He is an author of more than 200 scientific articles, book chapters and reviews; the recipient of numerous research awards; and a principal investigator on NIH-funded studies of the genetics of anxiety and the genetics of bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia as well as brain imaging phenotypes.

David McRaney

David McRaney is a journalist who loves psychology, technology and the internet. Before going to college, he tried waiting tables, working construction, selling leather coats, building and installing electrical control panels, and owning pet stores. As a journalist, McRaney cut his teeth covering Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast and in the Pine Belt for several newspapers. Since then he has been a beat reporter, an editor, a photographer and everything in between. He created the blog You Are Not So Smart, which he turned into an internationally bestselling book now available in 14 languages. You Are Not So Smart also became a podcast hosted at Boing Boing where he is currently writing about psychology. His second book, You Are Now Less Dumb, was released in 2013.

Dr. Robert R. Morris

robertmorrisRobert R. Morris, PhD, earned his AB in psychology from Princeton University and his PhD in media arts and sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  His research lies at the intersection of design, crowdsourcing, and computer-based interventions for mental health.  He is an award winning designer and his work has been featured in Wired, Time, the BBC, and the Boston Globe, among others.

He is now co-founder of Koko, a social network for mental health and well-being.

Justine Debelius

justine deheliusJustine Debelius is a PhD candidate working on the role of the gut microbiome in human health under Dr Rob Knight. Justine earned a BS in Chemistry from Saint Mary’s College and an MS in Biochemistry from South Dakota State University. Ms Debelius’ work has focused on the role of the role of lifestyle factors in microbial community composition, and on the role of the gut microbiome in autoimmune disease. She has done extensive statistical analysis for the American Gut Project. Justine has contributed code to QIIME and scikit-bio, two open source platforms for microbial analysis. She has published in diverse venues including Cell Metabolism and FEBS Microbiology.

Thomas Pickard

thomas pickardThomas Pickard (KT) is CEO at WITS(MD), a medical imaging software company. Previously he held roles at Lexmark Healthcare, Emageon, eMed Technologies and Thinking Machines. In 2013, he founded StartCodon, a nonprofit promoting neurodiversity in biotechnology and life sciences. His work in personal genomics also includes research in consumer-directed health information sharing. KT has an MBA degree from St. Mary’s College of California.

Dr. Jack Harris

jack harrisJack Harris, PhD is the Director of MindModeling@Home. Dr. Harris has worked for the United States Air Force for over 14 years on a variety of projects both as an active duty officer and a government civilian.  His primary research interest is developing methods for improving the way cognitive scientists conduct research. To that end, Dr. Harris completed a joint Ph.D. in Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Indiana University with a focus on automated methods for performing cognitive model evaluations. Since that time, Dr. Harris has led various large-scale computing efforts leveraging both supercomputers and volunteer computing grids culminating with the creation of MindModeling.org. MindModeling leverages the processing power of thousands of volunteers from around the world to help accelerate the research of multiple academic, commercial and government organizations all working to better understand the human mind.

Dr. Cliff Andrew

cliffandrewClifford G Andrew, MD, PhD, is a practicing clinical neurologist www.Neurol.org and Assistant Professor of Neurology at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He has been an enthusiastic participant as PGP-84 in the Harvard Personal Genome Project since 2010, and serves as manager for both the Linked-In PGP Participant, as well as administrator for the Face Book PGP Participant Groups. He is very much interested in the complex interface between environmental factors, genomics, and clinical expression of neurological diseases, specifically cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias of aging. To this end he is principal investigator of the Personal Genome Project Alzheimer’s Longitudinal Study PGPALS launching this weekend at MindEx and PGP-Palooza 2015.


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