Lisa Dyson

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Lisa Dyson
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Imperial College London
Brandeis University
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, San Francisco
Princeton University
ThesisThree lessons in causality : what string theory has to say about naked singularities, time travel and horizon complementarity (2004)
Doctoral advisorLeonard Susskind

Lisa Dyson is an American scientist, physicist, and entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of Kiverdi, a biotechnology company that uses carbon transformation technologies to develop sustainable products for commercial applications, including agriculture, plastics, and biodegradable materials.[1][2] She is also the founder and CEO of Air Protein, a spin-off company from Kiverdi, which seeks to produce sustainable meat alternatives from elements found in air.[3]

She earned a PhD in theoretical high energy physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2004.[4][5] She is a TED speaker in residence and was the fourth Black woman (and one of only six) to earn a PhD in theoretical high energy, nuclear, or quantum gravity physics.[6][7][8]

Early life and education[edit]

Dyson grew up in Southern California and completed degrees in physics and mathematics at Brandeis University in 1997. After meeting several physics professors at Brandeis, she became more interested in pursuing physics research. She was a Fulbright Scholar at Imperial College London, where she studied quantum field theory and earned a Masters of Science degree in physics.[9]

Dyson earned her PhD at the MIT Center for Theoretical Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2004, working with Leonard Susskind on quantum gravity, general relativity, and string theory.[9][4][5] She also worked with Susskind and Matthew Kleban on the Boltzmann Brain problem, publishing on the topic in the Journal of High Energy Physics in 2002.[10][11] She was the fourth black woman to earn a PhD in theoretical high energy physics.[8]


After completing her PhD, Dyson joined the University of California, Berkeley and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Stanford University, University of California San Francisco, and Princeton University.[citation needed] She worked as a management consultant at Boston Consulting Group between 2004 and 2006, where she helped multi-national companies manage and run their business.[9][7] She has worked with the chemical, energy, transportation, travel, automotive, packaging, and telecommunications industries.[12][7]

In 2008 she co-founded Kiverdi with Dr. John Reed, a biotechnology company that uses microbes to turn carbon dioxide and carbon-rich waste, such as wood and agricultural residue, into alternative fuels, protein replacements, oils, and biodegradable materials for applications such as food and agriculture.[9][13] The technology is based on a space-age technology developed by NASA in the 1960s, where astronauts used microbes called hydrogenotrophs to convert carbon dioxide in exhaled breath into nutrient rich crops.[2][14] She started to grow the microbes in her lab, working with manufacturers to scale-up their technology.[15] Kiverdi now has over 40 patents granted or pending,[7] and a second company, Air Protein, which was established to focus on sustainable food production.[14][13] Dyson serves as the CEO of Air Protein.

Media and speaking appearances[edit]

She has delivered several TED talks, including "Turning CO2 into Oil" at TEDxFulbright in May 2014, and "A forgotten Space Age technology could change how we grow food" in July 2016, which has been viewed over one million times. She has spoken about carbon recycling,[16] and appeared on the PBS Nova program Decoding the Weather Machine in April 2018.

Honors and awards[edit]

  • In 2012, Kiverdi was awarded the Sustainable Biofuels Award for a "Leader in Bio-based Chemical Industry".[17][18]
  • In 2012, Kiverdi was also awarded a $750,000 grant from the California Energy Commission's Research, Demonstration, and Development program for its "efforts to develop beneficial uses of carbon dioxide" and was selected through competitive peer-review as an industrial user at the U.S. Department of Energy's Molecular Foundry.[19]
  • 2013 Named to San Francisco Business Times "40 Under 40"[20]
  • In 2014, Dyson was awarded an Entrepreneurship Award from the U.S. Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) Initiative Award.[21]
  • Named one of the Most Creative People in Business in 2017 by Fast Company[2]
  • Named San Francisco Business Times “One of the Most Influential Women in the Bay Area” in 2015 and 2016[citation needed]
  • Inducted into San Francisco Business Times Forever Influential Honor Roll[citation needed]
  • 2018 Women in Natural Sciences Award, "which honors an outstanding female innovator in the STEM field, whose visionary contributions in science have made a positive impact on the world."[22]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ National Public Radio (NPR), All Tech Considered. "#RaceOnTech: How An Early Love Of Math Led Her To The Role Of CEO". Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  2. ^ a b c "Lisa Dyson, Most Creative People 2017 | Fast Company". Fast Company. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  3. ^ "Team". AIR PROTEIN. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  4. ^ a b "PhD Alumna Lisa Dyson Founder and CEO of Kiverdi | Office of Graduate Education". Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  5. ^ a b Dyson, Lisa (2004). Three lessons in causality : what string theory has to say about naked singularities, time travel and horizon complementarity (Ph.D. thesis). Massachusetts Institute of Technology. hdl:1721.1/17744.
  6. ^ Dyson, Lisa. "Lisa Dyson | Speaker | TED". Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  7. ^ a b c d "About". Kiverdi, Inc. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  8. ^ a b Prescod-Weinstein, Chanda (2015-05-24). "The Five Black Women PhDs of Theoretical High Energy Physics". Medium. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  9. ^ a b c d "Harnessing the Power of Waste | Brandeis Magazine". Brandeis Magazine. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  10. ^ Overbye, Dennis (2008). "Big Brain Theory: Have Cosmologists Lost Theirs?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  11. ^ Dyson, Lisa; Kleban, Matthew; Susskind, Leonard (2002). "Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant". Journal of High Energy Physics. 2002 (10): 011. arXiv:hep-th/0208013. Bibcode:2002JHEP...10..011D. doi:10.1088/1126-6708/2002/10/011. ISSN 1126-6708.
  12. ^ "Circular - Closing the loop: how a forgotten Space Age technology could change how we grow our food - Mediachange - Casestudyourself!". Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  13. ^ a b Peters, Adele (2019-11-12). "The newest fake meat is made from thin air". Fast Company. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  14. ^ a b Greathouse, John. "Here's How Lisa Dyson's Startup Is Reducing World Hunger AND Combating Climate Change". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  15. ^ "Food for thought: How to feed the world with old school NASA tricks – fruitworldmedia". Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  16. ^ (2016-08-06), Carbon Recycling - Lisa Dyson at at Google SF HQ, retrieved 2018-04-30
  17. ^ Relations, Scoville Public (2012-03-14). "World Biofuels Markets Announces Winners of Sustainable Biofuels Awards". GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  18. ^ "Kiverdi, Inc. Wins Top Honors For Its Innovative Approach to Producing Sustainable Chemicals From Carbon-rich Waste - Bio-based News -". Bio-based News. 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  19. ^ Inc., Kiverdi. "Kiverdi Receives Energy Commission Funding for Its Pioneering Carbon Conversion Platform". GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  20. ^ San Francisco Business Times (March 1, 2013). "Lisa Dyson:CEO, Kiverdi Inc". Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  21. ^ "Lisa Dyson: Entrepreneurship Award Winner". Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  22. ^ The Academy of Natural Science at Drexel University (2018-04-02). "WINS Marks 35 Years of Making a Difference". Retrieved 2020-06-11.