Michael Levin (biologist)

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Michael Levin
Born1969 (age 54–55)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materTufts University (BS)
Harvard University (PhD)[2]
Known forLeft-right asymmetry, Bioelectricity, morphogenesis, xenobots
AwardsCozzarelli prize (2020)[1]
Scientific career
FieldsDevelopmental biology, synthetic biology
InstitutionsForsyth Institute[2]
Tufts University[3]
Wyss Institute
Harvard Medical School
Doctoral advisorClifford Tabin

Michael Levin is an American developmental and synthetic biologist at Tufts University, where he is the Vannevar Bush Distinguished Professor.[3] Levin is a director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University and Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology.[3] He is also co-director of the Institute for Computationally Designed Organisms[4] with Josh Bongard.

Early life[edit]

Michael Levin was born in Moscow, USSR, in 1969, in a Jewish family.[5] His parents faced antisemitism in the Soviet Union, and in 1978 took advantage of a visa program for Soviet Jews and moved the family to Lynn, Massachusetts.[5] Levin's father was a computer programmer and worked for the Soviet weather service;[5] his mother was a concert pianist.[6]

Levin's family immigration was sponsored by Temple Sinai in Marblehead, Massachusetts. His family is still members of Temple Sinai.[6] Levin stated that "... I've always lived within about a mile radius of where we landed in '78."[6]


Levin received dual bachelor's degrees in computer science and biology from Tufts University, and a Ph. D. in genetics from Harvard University (working in the lab of Clifford Tabin). His post-doctoral training was in the Cell Biology department of Harvard School of Medicine with Mark Mercola.[7] Levin first established his independent lab at the Forsyth Institute in 2000. His research interests include: bioelectrical signals by which cells communicate to serve the dynamic anatomical needs of the organism during development, regeneration, and cancer suppression; basal cognition and intelligence in diverse unconventional substrates; and top-down control of form and function across scales in biology. He moved his group to Tufts in 2009.[8] In 2010, he also became an associate member of the Wyss Institute of Harvard Medical School.[9]

A xenobot design discovered in simulation (left) and the deployed organism (right) built from frog skin (green) and heart muscle (red).

He is known for co-discovering the Xenobots, "Living robots made from frog skin cells can sense their environment".[10] This research is focused on development of a multiplexed, microfluidic, Xenopus embryo culture system that will enable discovery of new drug targets and development of therapeutics when combined with multiomics and an integrated bioinformatics pipeline. This work was funded by the DARPA L2M program.

As of 2021, Levin's lab is working on synthetic biology applications of bioelectricity for cellular control; development of a bioinformatics of shape, AI tools for discovery and testing of algorithmic models linking molecular-genetic data to morphogenesis; using techniques from AI, computational neuroscience, and cognitive science to make models of morphogenesis.[11]

Levin is co-editor in chief of Bioelectricity, founding associate editor of Collective Intelligence, and is on editorial advisory board of Laterality journals.[3]

Awards and honors[edit]


  • 2020 Distinguished Professor, Tufts University
  • 2013 Distinguished Scholar Award, Tufts University
  • 2013 Certificate of Teaching Excellence from MBL Stem Cell Course
  • 2012 Scientist of Vision Award, IFESS
  • 2011 Vannevar Bush Endowed Chair appointment
  • 2004 The work on the molecular basis of left-right asymmetry (Cell 1995) was chosen by the journal Nature as a “Milestone in Developmental Biology in the last century”
  • 2001 “Best Talk” award at the Juan March Foundation conference on Left Right Asymmetry in Madrid, Spain
  • 2000 Junior Investigator Award, Society for Physical Regulation in Biology and Medicine
  • 1997-2000 Helen Hay Whitney Foundation post-doctoral fellowship
  • 1997 Alexander Imich Award, paper on cognitive science and consciousness
  • 1992-1995 NSF pre-doctoral fellowship for Ph.D. work
  • 1990, 1991 Hughes Scholarships for research in developmental biophysics


Michael Levin has published more than 350 papers; the full list can be found on his Google Scholar page[13] or in his official biography at Tufts website[14] or on his official website.[15][12] Some of the most cited papers:


  1. ^ "PNAS Announces Six 2020 Cozzarelli Prize Recipients". National Academy of Sciences.
  2. ^ a b "Michael Levin Brief Bio". loop.frontiersin.org.
  3. ^ a b c d "Tufts University: The Levin Lab". Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  4. ^ "Institute for Computationally Designed Organisms". Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  5. ^ a b c "Persuading the Body to Regenerate Its Limbs". The New Yorker. 29 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Oral History Interviews with Michael Levin". American Institute of Physics. 24 September 2021.
  7. ^ "Mark Mercola". 19 March 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  8. ^ "Levin Lab". Tufts University: The Levin Lab. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  9. ^ "Wyss Institute: Michael Levin". Wyss Institute: Michael Levin. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  10. ^ "Living robots made from frog skin cells can sense their environment". New Scientist.
  11. ^ "Levin's Lab: New directions". Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  12. ^ a b "Michael Levin Biographical Sketch" (PDF).
  13. ^ "Michael Levin GS". Google Scholar ML biologist. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  14. ^ "Levin's Lab Publications".
  15. ^ "Peer-Reviewed Papers on Levin's website".

External links[edit]