MIT researchers recognized at 2016 Breakthrough Prizes ceremony

MIT researchers recognized at 2016 Breakthrough Prizes ceremony

MIT researchers Edward Boyden, Larry Guth, Liang Fu, and Joseph Formaggio and his team were honored at the 2016 Breakthrough Prize ceremony. The event was held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California this past Sunday.

Boyden was one of five scientists awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, which included an award of $3 million. An associate professor of media arts and sciences, biological engineering, and brain and cognitive sciences, Boyden was honored for his work on the development and implementation of optogenetics, a biological technique that uses light to control living cells, such as neurons, that are typically light-sensitive.

The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was awarded to 1,300 physicists for studies in neutrino oscillations, including associate professor of physics Formaggio, assistant professor of physics Lindley Winslow, and their team.

Guth, a mathematics professor, was awarded the New Horizons in Mathematics Prize, and assistant professor of physics Liang Fu received the New Horizons in Physics Prize. Both prizes were awarded in recognition of junior researchers who have contributed substantial work to their respective fields.

The Breakthrough Prizes were established three years ago by a group of Silicon Valley moguls, including Yuri Milner, Julia Milner, Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, Jack Ma, and Cathy Zhang. Their goal is to bring important figures of the science and technology communities into the public eye.

Some of the presenters of the awards were famous actors such as Russell Crowe, Lily Collins, and Hilary Swank; Grammy Award winner Pharrell Williams also performed during the ceremony. Seth MacFarlane, the Hollywood producer and comedian, hosted the event along with the prize’s co-founders.

—Patricia Z. Dominguez