MIT team finds that the ratio of component atoms is vital to performance.
Three MIT faculty, one scientist and 11 alumni are among the TR 35, Technology Review's compilation of the 35 best innovators worldwide under age 35.
The honorees were selected by a panel of leading scientists and technology experts for their potential to profoundly impact the world. "The TR35 is among the most prestigious honors that can be bestowed on a young innovator," said Jason Pontin, editor in chief of Technology Review.
This year only 35 awardees were chosen worldwide, down from the 100 chosen in previous years. They will be featured in the October issue of the magazine; the story is currently available online.
The MIT faculty to receive the award are Regina Barzilay and Samuel Madden, both assistant professors of electrical engineering and computer science, and Francesco Stellacci, an assistant professor in materials science and engineering. Shiladitya Sengupta, a scientist at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, was also honored.
Barzilay, 34, was cited for inventing Newsblaster, a "computer program able to recognize stories from different news services as being about the same basic subject, and then paraphrase elements from all of the stories to create a summary," Technology Review reported.
She is currently working to apply Newsblaster to spoken language, "which could yield applications that range from summarizing recorded lectures to handling airline reservation calls."
Madden, 29, won for his work on simplifying the wireless sensor networks key to the remote monitoring of "everything from the habitat of an endangered bird species to a building's response to an earthquake," according to the magazine.
He is currently applying the software developed to that end, called TinyDB, to "sensors in cars to monitor operating conditions and figure out faster routes"
Stellacci, 32, was honored for developing a quicker way to produce microarrays, the nanodevices used to diagnose and understand genetic illnesses such as Alzheimer's and certain types of cancer.
"In his approach, a single strand of DNA 'stamps' genetic information into a slide, which can then serve as a master template for the production of multiple identical arrays," wrote Technology Review. The resulting arrays could cost as little as $50, compared to the $500 price tag today.
Sengupta, 33, was cited for a drug-delivery device composed of novel particles; each particle is essentially a balloon within a balloon, resembling an actual cell.
According to Technology Review, "These nanocells home in on cancers based on the unique characteristics of tumor blood vessels. The outer shells then dissolve, releasing a drug that destroys the vessels. As the cancer cells starve for oxygen, they secrete enzymes that break up the inner spheres, dispensing a standard chemotherapy agent." Sengupta also has an appointment through Harvard Medical School.
MIT alumni among the TR 35 are Madden, Martha Bulyk, Kevin Eggan, Trey Ideker, Hang Lu, Daniel Riskin, Yael Maguire, Tracy Ho, Saul Griffith, George Candea and Anita Goel.