Jennifer Aniston is co-owner of Living Proof, a beauty product based on Langer Lab discoveries.

Jennifer Aniston is co-owner of Living Proof, a beauty product based on Langer Lab discoveries.

This year Living Proof, a hair-care company with MIT roots, celebrates 10 years in business. Now retailing in 33 countries plus Hong Kong, Living Proof is as healthy as the glossy mane of its celebrity spokesperson and co-owner Jennifer Aniston. Institute Professor Robert Langer ScD ’74 fledged the start-up from his eponymous laboratory and the company continues to base its products on bioengineering.

“What’s been exciting to me about Living Proof is that we’ve been able to use really good science to solve challenges, and I hope that will be a good model for the whole industry,” Langer says.

The business began with a proprietary molecule. “We started in a biotech mode with a few researchers,” says Eric Spengler, Living Proof’s senior vice president of research and development. The scientists adopted Langer’s philosophy of understanding the origin of a problem and came up with a solution to the bane of beautiful hair everywhere: frizz.

Living Proof formulated hair products that capitalize on the properties or Octaflouropentyl methacrylate, or OFPMA, which are both hydrophobic and lipophobic.

Living Proof has been widely praised in magazines and won 80 awards..

Living Proof has won 80 awards and gotten lots of press.

“It lays down on the surface and changes how moisture moves in and out of the fiber,” Spengler explains. “That has a profound influence on the quality of hair. That’s the basis behind the majority of our business.”

Next, delving into MIT’s polymer and lipid library, the researchers discovered poly beta-amino ester or PBAE. “We have a lot of intellectual property around that,” Spengler says. PBAE deposits a flexible pattern of thickening points that create space between each hair strand, making fine hair feel fuller. The flexible matrix is also durable, so styles last longer between shampoos.

Living Proof scientists also work on getting the most out of the molecules. “We study rheology—the science of flow. We’re able to get very effective product coverage without it feeling heavy and greasy,” Spengler says.

This year they debuted several new products. No Frizz Humidity Shield blocks humidity like sunscreens block out UV light, Spengler says. Another line, Perfect hair Day, is nicknamed PhD, a playful reference to the company’s science-based strategy. Devotees purchase the products at beauty retailers Sephora and Ulta, at select salons, and at livingproof.com.

Ten years on, the Binney St. company maintains its ties with MIT. The Langer Lab’s Dan Anderson serves as its technical advisor, and chief science advisor Langer himself sits on the board of directors. Living Proof has been tapped for 80 honors including recognition from the Edison Award for Innovation in Consumer Products—once for each molecule—in 2010 and 2011. In 2013, the company was a finalist in the Falling Walls competition, run by a Berlin-based foundation that heralds innovations that break down technological barriers in daily life.

The struggle against frizz is real, but on the scientific scale of sexiness, big hair rates somewhere below Higgs boson. Indeed, Langer Lab researchers spend most of their time tackling healthcare challenges including cancer, diabetes, and paralysis. In July they published a paper in Nature Materials about super-long-acting pills.

“Instead of taking a pill every day, which older people or younger people or people with mental health issues sometimes forget to take, we have a pill that can last a week, or even a year,” Langer says. But Langer believes there is opportunity to improve life in lots of ways, including hair care: “I like to think everything can benefit from good science and engineering.”

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The creator of Rock Band, a popular music video game that makes anyone feel like a rock star, is back on campus. Eran Egozy ’95 is teaching MIT students to find their own way to blend technology and music.

Behind Rock Band’s success are two alumni—Eran Egozy ’95 and Alex Rigopulos ’92, SM ’94, co-founders of Harmonix. The pair founded the company in 1995 after meeting at MIT. Since 2007, the company has sold 18 million units of Rock Band and is coming out with Rock Band 4 later this year.

At an early age, Egozy spent months after school coding his Apple II computer to play back Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. He started playing the clarinet when he was 12 and continues to practice daily as a member of Radius Ensemble, a local chamber music group.

Photo: Andrew Becraft

Rock Band Lego style. Photo: Andrew Becraft

While at MIT, Egozy studied the intersection of computers and music at the Media Lab. And he still returns to campus on a regular basis. This past spring, he taught the course Interactive Music Systems. Students learned how to use spatial sensor technologies to create musical instruments that could be played by shifting arms side to side or up and down.

Eran Egozy in Harmonix's Scribblez room, one of the company's many creative spaces. Photo: Brielle Domings

Eran Egozy in Harmonix’s Scribblez room, one of the company’s many creative spaces. Photo: Brielle Domings

“When I was at MIT, I remember certain moments where people help you out and sustain you by giving back,” said Egozy. “The wonderful thing about teaching this class is I get to talk about interesting specifics in how Harmonix created products. It’s fun to give back in that way.”

Rigopolis and Egozy pay tribute to the Beatles. Photo: Len Rubenstein

Rigopolis and Egozy pay tribute to the Beatles. Photo: Len Rubenstein

Subscribe to the Slice of MIT podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Listen to past podcasts with novelists, professors, and entrepreneurs by visiting the Alumni Association’s SoundCloud page.

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Eric Clayberg ’86 plays Tempest.

Eric Clayberg ’86 will never forget the day he set a world record. It was the summer of 1982, just months before starting at MIT, in his hometown of Fredericksburg, VA. He was at the local arcade, the Zodiac, and the game was Tempest. He spent more than two hours playing the game—with a small audience of about 15-20 friends—until he finally beat the national high score, one he would keep for the entire summer.

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Clayberg’s high score in Tempest was featured in video gaming magazine Electronic Games.

He arrived at MIT at the height of the arcade gaming era and much to his delight, he found many other arcade-obsessed classmates on campus. “There were a lot of local arcades in Cambridge and Boston,” says Clayberg, “but I mostly remember the many nights I spent at MIT’s student center, which had a great arcade.” As if this wasn’t enough, Clayberg decided his sophomore year to purchase three games of his own to put in the basement of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity house. Unfortunately, none of the games survived their time at MIT and one game—a rare Sega color vector graphics game called Space Fury—was even lost to the annual smash party and thrown off the roof of the fraternity house.

By the early 1990s, arcade games were on the decline for sales and popularity in America, but for Clayberg, his collection was just getting started. After MIT, Clayberg moved to New York for a couple of years before earning his MBA at Harvard. When he graduated in 1990, he started to look for machines to buy.

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Clayberg in his home arcade.

Clayberg now has one of the best home arcades in the country in his Middleton, MA, home. His 550-square-foot basement arcade, which is decked out with lighting and arcade sound-effects, has 45 games including three Tempest machines, Star Wars, Ms. Pacman, Asteroid, Battlezone, Galaga, Stargate, Major Havoc, and Robotron. The arcade, though it’s in his private home, gets a lot of use. His two kids, Lauren and Lee, often bring over friends to use the space and the family frequently holds gatherings for events like the Superbowl. Clayberg even has visits from fellow arcade game collectors.

Clayberg’s kids clearly have the gaming gene—since the fifth grade, both have been programming video games. Lauren, who will enroll at MIT this fall, plans to study in Course 6 and Lee, a sophomore in high school, hopes to follow in his family’s footsteps. Although Clayberg enjoys modern games, he still prefers arcade games.

“What I like about the old arcade games is the simplicity of them,” says Clayberg. “A lot of the games nowadays are these monstrous, complex games with massive universes that can take days to play. I like the simpler concepts of the arcade games from the early ‘80s where you can walk up to it and learn how to play it in a few minutes. Simple, intuitive, and a lot of fun.”

Along with being an arcade aficionado, Clayberg is a serial entrepreneur, starting several technology companies, specializing in commercial software development and product development, and has been responsible for creating more than a dozen commercial Java, Eclipse, and Smalltalk products including the award winning WindowBuilder Pro, CodePro, and VA Assist product lines. His last venture, which he started in 1997 and provides software platforms for software developers, was bought by Google in 2010. As a software manager at Google, Clayberg works with his team of engineers in a Portland, Oregon-based office, videoconferencing on a daily basis and flying to Oregon and Google’s headquarters in California monthly.

Clayberg’s basement arcade has been featured on HGTV and SPACEStv.

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This story is part of gaming week put on by the MIT Alumni Association. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter and join the conversation using #gaming.

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Video and board games in the Game Lab.

A room tucked in a Building 26 hallway is filled with copies of Assassin’s Creed, World of Warcraft, and Bioshock piled high next to board games like Apples to Apples and Quirkle. Turn around and you’ll find a mini Link or Yoshi standing beside a box of playing cards and a bulk bag of hourglass timers. This room is part of MIT’s Game Lab and its contents reflect the many aspects of play that Game Lab researchers and students address. The lab explores the potential of all play, whether a video game or the MIT’s famous beer game—created as a supply chain simulation.

MIT students work on their video games.

MIT students work on their video games.

Gaming has a long and  strong presence in MIT culture, but dating the beginning of the influence is difficult, says  Philip Tan ‘01, SM ‘03, creative director at the Game Lab. “If we’re talking about gaming at MIT, we could start off with the history of sports or talk about MIT’s tiddlywinks team,” Tan explains. Digital gaming, however, does have a clear start at MIT. “I would argue the first digital game was made here,” Tan says of Spacewar!—a two-player game developed at MIT in 1962 by Stephen Russell ’60, SM ’62, EE ‘66 and fellow members of the  Tech Model Railroad Club.

Though model railroads and digital games seem like an unlikely pair, Tan says they’re a natural fit. “It’s the philosophy of trying to take something that is really complicated in reality and create this scaled down simulation. The only difference is you’re not putting it on a table, you’re creating it digitally,” he says.

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Through Girls Make Games, elementary school students create their own video games.

Today, gaming at MIT ranges across courses from engineering to economics, and the Game Lab offers resources for students at MIT and for many outside of the Institute. On a summer day, you can find Game Lab programs dotted around MIT. At the Stata Center, elementary school students hunker over laptops building their own games with Girls Make Games. In Building 7, MIT students create games in a multi-week summer workshop. In E15, teachers working with the Scheller Teacher Education Program learn ways to bring gaming ideals into their curriculum.

The Game Lab’s focus on research and programming invites students across the Institute to explore how play can be used for entertainment, education, activism, science, socialization and more. Recently, Game Lab researchers developed OpenRelativity, an open-source toolkit to simulate effects of special relativity by varying the speed of light. Researchers also recently explored how televisual sports videogames like Madden NFL fit into the sports media landscape.

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Need inspiration?

There’s no boundaries for how play can be applied to research or studies and any student in need of inspiration can borrow any of the wall-to-wall games in the Game Lab.

This story is part of gaming week put on by the MIT Alumni Association. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter and join the conversation using #gaming.

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Hopskotch in Paris (© Owen Franken)

Hopskotch in Paris (© Owen Franken)

Curious about Owen Franken? View more of his work via the Franken Photo of the Week category, learn more in this profile, read a What Matters opinion column he wrote called “Life in Brownian Motion,” or visit his Web site.

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LeRoy Kopel ’61, SM ’63

Roy Kopel ’61, SM ’63 owes much of his career to a casual two-hour conversation with an office mate about piezoelectric materials, which generate an electric charge when stressed. That chat, which happened in 1963 at MIT’s Instrumentation Lab a year after Kopel earned his Course 2 master’s degree, came in handy at a subsequent job interview.

“I’d seen an ad from Hewlett-Packard in Waltham, recruiting engineers for a medical ultrasound project, and thought it sounded interesting,” he recalls. “It turned out that medical ultrasound utilizes piezoelectric sensors, and the engineer interviewing me knew nothing about them. But I had a two-hour head start!”

Kopel got the job and the opportunity to learn about what was then the emerging field of ultrasound diagnostics. After Hewlett-Packard canceled the project, he applied his knowledge at a small industrial-probe company in Pennsylvania before moving to Arizona and joining Advanced Diagnostic Research (ADR), which was working on an innovation: moving ultrasound images.

“At the time, ultrasound machines were clunky monsters that could only make still images,” Kopel recalls. “I was in charge of probes at ADR; we developed the first compact real-time imaging systems and came up with enough innovations and patents to keep us in the forefront for several years.”

After ADR was sold to Squibb in 1982, Kopel and several colleagues founded Acoustic Imaging (AI), where his probe designs took another leap forward before the firm was acquired by Daimler-Benz.

“The initial real-time probes were flat and were good for obstetrics,” Kopel explains. “But we found that for general body or cardiac imaging, where bones get in the way, a curved probe has better imaging access. We started with a radius of 15 millimeters; almost as an afterthought we made some with about a 60-millimeter radius, and they became the most common type used today.”

The American Institute for Ultrasound in Medicine has honored Kopel as a pioneer, and his hand-built prototypes have been exhibited at the Smithsonian. But what he finds most satisfying is that ultrasound has proved so widely useful. Kopel notes that when he needed a scan recently, “the technician used a curved array and I thought to myself, ‘I made that!’”

Kopel lives in Arizona with Jemma, his wife of 28 years. An enthusiastic cyclist, he acknowledges that he’s slowed down a bit, but that’s a relative concept. “Nowadays I’m only riding two or three days a week,” he says, “and doing 2,000-foot climbs instead of 7,000.”

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Marie Law Adams MArch ’06

Marie Law Adams MArch ’06

Marie Law Adams MArch ’06 is having a spectacular year. Her firm, Landing Studio, is one of six recipients of the 2015 Architectural League Young Architects and Designers Award. The group is also one of four winners of the 2015 Design Biennial Boston and their project, Marginal, a new pier field made of material salvaged from the Boston Harbor, is on view at the Rose Kennedy Greenway through September 25.

Landing Studio, founded in 2005 by Adams and her partner Dan Adams, takes on often gangly intersections of architecture, infrastructure, and landscape in industrial settings; their projects range from port facilities to shared industrial/public park landscapes. In a recent exhibition at the MIT Keller Gallery, Landing Studio showed their work at the Rock Chapel Marine, the site of a 100,000-ton salt pile in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

They like these gritty places, in part, because of their changing nature and the ongoing movement of material in and out. “For instance, at a salt dock, the salt pile is striped with different colors of salt based on where it was mined in the world,” says Adams.

Slice: What do you hope viewers learn from your biennial piece, Marginal?

“My partner, Dan Adams, and I had been looking at pier fields around Boston Harbor when we were starting to think about this piece. We became interested in how dynamic and sculptural the form of each individual wood piling was and how it was evident that the form had evolved both from the original growth of the tree and was then re-informed by the processes of the ocean as the tides and marine organisms began to erode the material. We liked the realization that these structures were equally shaped by industrial and natural processes. So we organized the piling cross-sections in the piece to amplify those characteristics….

“We were also interested in how the particular Greenway parcel, after many transformations from being a waterfront shipping site itself, to the Central Artery, to a park now, still has a natural slope towards the waterfront, and how that is highlighted in this piece by the new horizontal datum of the pier field.

Learn more about Marie Adam’s work and Landing Studio.

Marginal is made from eight recycled oak pilings from a shipyard in Boston Harbor that have been sliced into more than one thousand cross sections and reassembled into eighteen new figures in a grid.

Marginal is made from eight recycled oak shipyard pilings that have been sliced into more than 1,000 cross sections and reassembled into 18 new figures. Photo: Mark Pasnik.

 

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Princeton University Professor Mala Murthy ’97

Mala Murthy ’97 spends a good bit of her time studying fruit flies—specifically, the songs male fruit flies create during courtship, when they stand near a female and vibrate an extended wing.

“The fly is doing something really complicated,” explains Murthy, an assistant professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton University. “He’s measuring how fast his partner is moving, how far away she is, and constantly modulating what he sings to best match her movement.”

Murthy and her colleagues are learning to analyze the cognitive processing of both the male and female flies during this acoustic communication.

“We want to understand how their brains create and recognize complex patterns,” she says. Murthy earned a doctorate at Stanford University in 2004 and then conducted postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology. Her work has been chosen for funding under the federalBrain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, part of a new presidential program aimed at developing greater understanding of the human brain, and she attended a White House kickoff event.

“It’s a huge boon for our field,” she says of the program. “It’s providing national attention and enabling study of the brain at a systems level—how large numbers of neurons connect, execute, and control behavior.”

The roots of Murthy’s research date to her Course 7 undergraduate work in the laboratory of biology professor Leonard Guarente, one of the first to study the effects of aging.

“We worked on yeast cells and felt like pioneers, working at the bleeding edge of a new field,” recalls Murthy. “When I graduated, neuroscience programs were growing, and I thought the field would give me the same thrill—and it hasn’t disappointed.”

Another important MIT experience was participating in the Burchard Scholars program, which sponsors seminars for undergraduates with faculty from the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

“It was an extraordinary experience,” says Murthy, who minored in history. “It made me see the thrill of doing research across disciplines. I thought the process was specific to the sciences, but I found humanities professors doing it the same way.”

Murthy and her husband, Timothy Tayler PhD ’05, live near Princeton with their two children. “Hanging out with the kids on weekends is my hobby at the moment,” she says, and “we enjoy relaxing at our house in the woods and spending time with friends.” Murthy will give a seminar at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research on October 22.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.

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In early February, Alison Criscitiello PhD ‘14, Rebecca Haspel, and Kate Harris SM ’10 set out on a 40-day winter ski traverse through the rugged Central-Asian Pamir Mountains carrying 50-pound backpacks and dragging sleds.

Their mission: bring attention to conservation issues related to migratory wildlife that populate an area made up of the bordering countries of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, China, and Kyrgyzstan. They named the journey Borderski.

Alison Criscitiello PhD

Alison Criscitiello PhD ’14

Called the Roof of the World by locals because of its dramatic 4,000-meter mountains, the region is home to endangered Marco Polo sheep, snow leopards, and ibex. “It’s beneficial to a healthy population of animals like ibex to have huge migratory corridors. They need a lot of land, and they cover a lot of land in a year,” said Criscitiello.

She argues that such migratory corridors are being threatened by the rise in fences being built along national borders. “Fencing borders means nothing when you are in the middle of the mountains, but has huge implications on migration,” said Criscitiello.

The Fanny Pack: Kate Harris, Rebecca Haspel, and Alison Criscitiello.

The Fanny Pack: Kate Harris, Rebecca Haspel, and Alison Criscitiello.

The women—nicknamed the Fanny Pack to honor 20th century woman mountaineer Fanny Bullock Workman—traversed along Tajikistan’s border with Kyrgyzstan, China, and Afghanistan. They met with locals in the eastern part of Tajikistan and got to know several farming and shepherding families.

Because certain areas of the route did not have enough snow suitable for skiing, the pack strapped sleds on their backs and shuttled loads or skied on frozen river beds. “I’ve avoided skiing on ice most of my life,” said Criscitiello. “This was a first.” At another point in the trip, a nearby avalanche prevented the women from meeting up with the filmmaker capturing the journey.

River skiing

River skiing

And it was cold. The pack experienced nights as cold as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and had to stop skiing by 4:30 p.m. because temperatures dropped dramatically as night fell. “Friends joke with me that it’s impossible for me to get cold,” said Criscitiello. “But I think for the first time ever I did actually say out loud, ‘I’m sick of being cold’”

Now that Criscitiello has returned to postdoctoral work as a glaciologist at the University of Calgary, she and the other women in the pack are already planning their next adventure.

“Mountaineering is my other life,” she said in a recent Women in STEM podcast. “For me, there is really nothing else in the world that compares to that feeling of being somewhere incredibly remote and frozen, even if it’s inhospitable. It just makes me be really present.”

Visit Borderski to learn more about the trip and get updates on the forthcoming film

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ivester (2)Jo Ivester ’77 got her birth name from Jo March, the impassioned protagonist of Louisa May Alcott’s book Little Women. After many years of family commitments delaying her career ambitions, Jo March declares to a friend, “I should have been a great many things.”

Ivester has certainly been a great many things, to which she can now add author. Her new book, The Outskirts of Hope, was published this spring by She Writes Press. Listen to an interview with Ivester about the book.

The story of her idealistic parents taking up the call to President Johnson’s Great Society and moving to Mississippi to start a rural health clinic, The Outskirts of Hope merges two women’s diaries of the turbulent civil rights south in the 1960s. Excerpting entries from a diary her mother kept during the move, Ivester adds her own memories, sometimes traumatic ones, of being the only white girl in an all-black school and witnessing stark living conditions in the Jim-Crow south.

“It started as [my mother’s] coming of age story,” Ivester says in this podcast, “starting to teach in her 40s in this unusual setting. And gradually it became my coming of age story as well, as I brought in my voice and in some cases told the same story from the perspective of a 10-year old child.”

The Outskirts of Hope came out in a year of heightened tensions in race relations in America.

“There’s still a huge amount to be done [in civil rights]…,” Ivester says. “It’s very easy for people who are living a comfortable life to assume that everything is fine now. That’s just not the case. We have come a long way…the more that people are willing to tell personal stories as I have done, the better off we’ll be.

Listen to the complete interview with Ivester here. Listen to past books podcasts with novelists, professors, and entrepreneurs by visiting MITAA on Soundcloud.

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