Open House

Life Science and Biotechnology

Thanks in large part to MIT's research, Greater Boston has emerged as a world center of biotech innovation. Visitors had a chance to learn the differences between the brain and the mind, engage with world-renowned cancer researchers in a hands-on activity, see an amazing exhibit in the DNAtrium, and tour the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

LSB theme banner

Scheduled Activities

The list below includes descriptions of events that open-house visitors were invited to attend.

High tech show and tell presentations

Wondering what powers everything from e-book readers to electric cars? Come see the MIT inventions behind cutting edge technology like laser surgery and energy efficient light bulbs.

Get introduced to the world of technology transfer: browse issued patents and technical illustrations, explore important issues such as the government’s role in funding research, and learn how inventions move from the lab to the world around you.

Sponsor: Technology Licensing Office

Koch Institute Public Galleries

The Koch Institute Public Galleries were established to connect the community in Kendall Square and beyond with the work of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

Within the Galleries, visitors can explore current cancer research projects, examine striking biomedical images, hear first-person reflections on cancer and cancer research, and investigate the historical, geographical and scientific contexts out of which the Koch Institute emerged.

Sponsor: David H Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research

MIT OpenCourseWare: unlocking knowledge and empowering minds

Come learn about MIT OpenCourseWare – a website that makes course materials used in the teaching of almost all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate subjects available, free of charge, to any user anywhere in the world. Hear about our milestones as we celebrate our 10th anniversary, and find out about our next decade initiatives.

Scot Osterweil will be on hand to demonstrate "Vanished," a Smithsonian-sponsored video game where students work together to solve a climate mystery.

Sponsor: OpenCourseWare

The incredible water bear!

The Educational Studies Program is a student group committed to providing unique educational opportunities for middle and high school students.

This is a sample class taught by an undergraduate similar to a class that would be taught at a program like Splash or Spark.

Come learn about, see with your own eyes, and maybe even befriend the incredible water bear! This miniature beast is the first member of the animal kingdom to successfully survive exposure to outer space and become a model for cutting-edge cryptobiosis research. As an oddball of the animal kingdom, you probably won't learn about tardigrades in your high school biology class, but come learn about the little-known history of the water bear, how to collect and view the critter on your own with just a few basic tools, and build up a repertoire of knowledge on water bears.

We'll have demonstrations of live organisms and cool handouts, plus we'll even talk about ways you can contribute to the pool of tardigrade knowledge.

Sponsor: The Educational Studies Program

Energy secrets of biofuels and the body

All organisms, from trees to people, store energy through chemical bonds, which work through chemical reactions. These chemical reactions are happening all the time in your body as you eat, sleep, move and think.

Chemical engineering researchers will show, through the dramatic combustion (fire!) of nitrocellulose, how power stored in organic material releases energy, and how this same concept relates to biofuels and alternative energy.

Sponsor: Department of Chemical Engineering

Confronting the climate change challenge

Come learn about the science and policy of climate change! Hands-on activities and demonstrations will help you visualize the current state of climate knowledge and what earth will look like when MIT is 300 years old. Students and researchers from a wide range of expertise will be on hand to answer questions and discuss global change issues.

Specific Activities include:

Take a spin on the Greenhouse Gamble! The Greenhouse Gamble roulette-style wheels demonstrate the likelihood of potential global temperature change in 2100. Try spinning both the "with policy" and "without policy" wheels to see two different features and learn about the climate impacts associated with the temperature you spin!

Weather-in-a-tank: explore weather and ocean systems with rotating fluid experiments from the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Three experiments will be conducted throughout the day, including demonstrations of how earth’s rotation affects atmosphere/ocean circulation, the “ingredients" that make weather (temperature difference and earth rotation), and the circulation of ocean gyres that create the “Great Garbage Patch"

Climate complexity: our climate is intertwined with many elements of life—from traditional agriculture to the modern industrial economy, and with many current issues—from energy security to economic development. Explore our graphic representations of the different aspects of our daily lives that are incorporated into climate models. Challenge yourself with our scavenger hunt to learn how the earth and human systems impact, and are impacted by, climate change.

What will you be when you grow up? Will you be the next climate scientist or environmental economist or energy policy maker? Come meet climate experts and watch streaming videos of students and researchers talking about their work and why it's important.

How much carbon dioxide is really up there? Know the number! Watch a replica of the nearly 70-foot electronic carbon counter sign in the heart of midtown Manhattan, New York. This carbon counter is a "real-time" estimate of the total amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, based on calculations from the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

Sponsor: MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Medicine, sustainability, and energy: all about materials science and engineering

Interactive talks on how materials science fits into today's world, including medicine, batteries, and communication, by professors Yoel Fink, Krystyn Van Vliet, and Lorna Gibson.

Sponsor: Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Real-time voice transformation

The Human Language Technology Group at Lincoln Laboratory will demonstrate a real-time voice transformation system that can change a person's voice. For example, a child's voice can be changed to sound like an adult, or a female voice can be changed to sound like a male. Volunteers from the audience will test the system with their voices.

Sponsor: Lincoln Laboratory

Discover MIT's Department of Biology with videos of distinguished faculty and more

"Biology@MITechnology" - Video presentations of distinguished faculty, scientific simulations, BioFact sheet, souvenirs.

Sponsor: Department of Biology

TALARIS and Exoplanet Sat: how do Draper and MIT engineers get a spacecraft to hop or look at stars in space to discover planets?

Since the inception of NASA and its Apollo program, Draper Laboratory (formerly the MIT Instrumentation Lab) has been on the leading edge of space exploration technology.

Join us as we demonstrate our latest partnerships with MIT in the area of space exploration: TALARIS, a planetary hopper that is a joint Draper and MIT Aero/Astro project being developed for the Google Lunar X Prize, and Exoplanet Satellite, a cubesat designed by MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) and Draper to study nearby stars for evidence of transitory planets.

Sponsor: Draper Laboratory

Microsystems in action

Learn how the chips in your cell phone, video game, etc., are made. Take a window tour of the lab to see the big machines that it takes to make these tiny devices.

Tours are limited to 10 people each; there will be four 20-min tours. You will see demonstrations of new applications (e.g., light emitters, medical measurements).

Sponsor: Microsystems Technology Laboratories

Hands-on activities with cancer researchers

What does a cancer researcher do? What kinds of tools do they use to understand cancer and develop cancer solutions?

Come and meet the researchers from the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and explore hands-on, family-friendly demonstrations of their work.

Sponsor: David H Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research

Speaker and language identification

The Human Language Technology Group from Lincoln Laboratory will demonstrate systems that can automatically determine who is speaking and what language is being spoken.

Volunteers from the audience will pass the microphone around to each other, and the system will determine, in near real-time, who is talking as well as the language being spoken.

Sponsor: Lincoln Laboratory


Through interactive exhibits, the DNAtrium showcases how new scientific approaches and collaborations are propelling progress in biology and medicine. Visitors can hear from scientists about their groundbreaking work at the Broad Institute, peer into the laboratory machines that yield torrents of biological information, take a virtual tour of the Broad Institute, explore historical biomedical discoveries and events, and connect with recent scientific discoveries from around the world.

The DNAtrium lies at the intersection of science, technology, art, and community. Come check out our Science in Action exhibits, DataStream, CRX, Microsoft Surfaces and Phylogenetic Mobile!

Sponsor: The Broad Institute

Brain and mind

Celebrate MIT150 exploring the most complex organ in your body — your brain!

Join us for a Brain and Cognitive Science faculty lecture, then enjoy family activities including a tour of the the Magnetic Resolution Imagery MRI facility.

Sponsor: Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Got gunk on your DNA?

“Got gunk on your DNA?" Yes, the environment can affect your DNA! Come learn about gene/environment interactions and how DNA damage affects your health.

There are three stations on a tour of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences. The first station is a research lab where you will see comet chips used to measure gunk (e.g., damage) on the DNA of single cells and robotics for automation. At the second station, see mass spectrometers, the instruments that can weigh atoms and solve the mystery of how good molecules go bad. The third station includes a slide show about interesting environmental health research at MIT, including the story about the famous peanut butter toxin.

Running concurrently will be our “play-space lab bench", a lab bench for the younger scientists (4-12 yrs old) where they may perfect their lab skills with plastic pipets and beakers with colored water, lab coats, purple gloves, and paper masks, etc.

Sponsor: Center for Environmental Health Sciences

Living sunlight: how plants bring earth to life

This session is for both children and adults who want to learn how life on Earth works. It is centered around a children’s book co-authored by Professor Sallie W. Chisholm and the award-winning children’s book writer, Molly Bang. The book describes photosynthesis, the most important process on Earth. Without photosynthesis, there would be no life as we know it on planet Earth.

We will have a book reading and demonstrate photosynthesis in action using leaves. Prof. Chisholm will also give a brief presentation on what motivated her to produce books for children, and provide a sneak preview of the next book: “The Invisible Forest in the Sea: How the Sun Feeds the Oceans."

The exhibitors are Professor Sallie W. Chisholm, Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies and Graduate Student Jessie Thompson. Hosted by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Sponsor: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Language and the human mind

We will showcase a variety of examples of research on language and the human mind. Experts on some very interesting languages (such as the Mayan languages of Central America, and the Wampanoag language of the native inhabitants of Massachusetts) will be available to answer your questions about these languages and explain how they differ and do not differ from English.

You can also watch and learn about some experiments which were designed to reveal the unconscious mechanisms by which people generalize from examples when they learn a language, and by which fluent speakers produce and interpret speech and text.

Sponsor: Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Earth science in the 21st century

The Educational Studies Program is a student group committed to providing unique educational opportunities for middle and high school students.

This is a sample class taught by an undergraduate similar to a class that would be taught at a program like Splash or Spark.

Earth science is a multidisciplinary field that applies physics, chemistry, biology, and math to understand the phenomena of the planet we live on.

Contemporary earth systems science is especially exciting—nowadays, we are using satellite measurements to weigh the Antarctic ice sheet from space, computer models to understand the effects of vegetation on the evolution of river networks, the chemistry of seafloor sediments to construct thousand-year-old climate records, and so much more.

Come grab a taste of this intriguing sphere of science and some surprising discoveries in it.

Sponsor: The Educational Studies Program