Photo Credit: Daniel Goodwin

Deblina Sarkar

Deblina Sarkar is an assistant professor at MIT and AT&T Career Development Chair Professor at MIT Media Lab. She heads the Nano-Cybernetic Biotrek research group. Her group carries out trans-disciplinary research fusing engineering, applied physics, and biology, aiming to bridge the gap between nanotechnology and synthetic biology to develop disruptive technologies for nanoelectronic devices and create new paradigms for life-machine symbiosis.

Sarkar is the inventor of the world’s thinnest channel (six atoms thick) quantum-mechanical transistor, which overcomes fundamental thermal limitations, could lead to energy reduction by more than 75%, and allows dimensional scalability to beyond the silicon-scaling era. Her research also showed for the first time that employment of atomically thin flexible 2D-materials and quantum mechanical transistors can lead to low-power nanoelectronic biosensors with extremely high sensitivity and the potential for single- molecular detectability—greatly beneficial for wearable/implantable biomedical devices and point-of-care applications.

Apart from low-power electronic computation, Sarkar is also passionately curious about biological computational systems—especially the brain—which can be thought of as an ultimate example of a low-power computer. She has developed the technology which deciphers biomolecular building blocks of the brain, which previously remained invisible. This technology can help in elucidating the fundamental codes of brain computation. Researchers around the globe are currently employing this technology to answer fundamental questions in biology and to understand neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Autism, Schizophrenia and Parkinson’s diseases. Recently her team has developed the first ultra- miniaturized antenna that can work wirelessly inside a living cell in 3D biological systems. This technology can explore and augment the mysterious inner environment of the cell and can bring in the prowess of information technology inside a living cell to create cellular scale-cyborgs!

Sarkar’s PhD dissertation was honored as one of the top three dissertations throughout the USA and Canada in the field of mathematics, physical sciences, and all departments of engineering by the Council of Graduate Schools. She is the recipient of numerous other awards and recognitions, including the Lancaster Award at UC Santa Barbara for the best PhD Dissertation, the US Presidential Fellowship; Outstanding Doctoral Candidate Fellowship, the prestigious IEEE EDS PhD Fellowship Award (one of three researchers worldwide), Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 from India, NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, the IEEE Early Career Award in Nanotechnology (only awardee worldwide in 2022), Innovative Early Career Engineer by National Academy of Engineering, the NIH Director's New Innovator Award with the highest and rarely achieved impact score, the MIND Prize, the Science News' 10 Scientists to Watch, the Distinguished Scientist Award (one of the 3 awardees nationwide), the Nanomaterials Young Investigator Award (one of the 3 awardees worldwide) and many more. Her work has led to more than 40 publications to date, which have appeared in popular press worldwide and her technologies are being utilized by researchers around the globe.

Sarkar’s long-term goal is to achieve seamless integration of nanoelectronics into biological systems to incorporate functionalities, not otherwise enabled by biology, and thus, transcending us beyond our biological limitations.