Edward Boyden

Edward "Ed" S. Boyden III. ( Born August 18, 1979 in Plano, Texas ) is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology active American neuroscientist.


Edward Boyden is the son of a business consultant and a biochemist and spent his childhood with his sister in Texas. At the age of twelve years he took part in a nationwide youth science competition in Texas and won first prize. In school, he skipped several classes and was already enrolled as a 14- year-old as a student. He studied physics from 1993 to 1995 at the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. After acquiring the Bachelor's degree Boyden moved to study electrical engineering and computer science from 1995 to 1999 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There he earned with a thesis on Quantum Computing: Theory and Implementation in 1999 a master's degree. This is followed he graduated from 1999 to 2005 a study of neuroscience at Stanford University, where he received his doctorate in 2005 with a dissertation on task -specific neural mechanisms of memory encoding.

Boyden is a faculty member of the MIT Media Lab and an associate member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

Edward Boyden is married to the neuroscientist Xue Han, whom he had met during his studies at Stanford University and with whom he has two children. Boyden and Han are not only privately a couple, but also research and publish together.

At the 43rd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum from 23 to January 27, 2013 Edward Boyden was one of the officially invited scientists.


Edward Boyden is best known for his work on optogenetics. In this technology, a light-sensitive ion channel such as channelrhodopsin ( ChR2 ) is genetically modified in neurons, which makes it possible to control the activity of neurons by light. There were earlier, in 2002, datable efforts of Gero Miesenböck and Boris Zemelman to reach a targeted optical control, but which contained no direct light activated ion channel. But it was only in 2005, developed by Karl Deisseroth method, which was based on direct light activated channels of transport proteins such as channelrhodopsin, proved capable of application as on a larger scale. In this form, the optogenetics by many neuroscientists has been adopted as an auxiliary science. It is believed that it also offers therapeutic applications. Edward Boyden began his career at the MIT Media Lab in 2007. He works there with the development of new optogenetic tools as well as other technologies for the handling of brain activity.

Honors and Awards (selection)

  • 2006: Technology Review lists Boyden among the world's 35 most innovative scientists under 35 years
  • 2008: the popular science magazine Discover Boyden counts amongst the top 20 scientists under 40 years
  • 2011: AF Harvey Engineering Research Prize by the Institution of Engineering and Technology
  • 2011: Perl -UNC Neuroscience Prize
  • 2013: Brain Prize
  • 2013: Gabbay Award

Writings (selection )

  • ( co-edited with T. Knopfel ): Optogenetics: Tools for Controlling and Monitoring Neuronal Activity ( = Progress in Brain Research, Volume 196 ), Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2012.