Past Big Ideas

BIG IDEAS @ScienceStowers is a lecture series exploring how science informs and inspires our communities. Aiming to bring cutting-edge and provocative scientific ideas in an engaging and accessible way to the greater Kansas City community, the series is designed to inspire a thirst for scientific knowledge and illustrate the roles that scientific discoveries play in our lives and communities.

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Magnifying Curiosity Worldwide

Science faces an accessibility challenge. Although information and knowledge are fast becoming available to everyone around the world, the experience of science is significantly limited.

One approach to solving this challenge is to democratize access to scientific tools. We believe this can be achieved via “frugal science” – a philosophy that inspires design, development, and deployment of ultra-affordable yet powerful scientific tools. Using some examples from my own work (Foldscope, a one-dollar origami microscope, and Paperfuge, a twenty-cent high-speed centrifuge), I will briefly describe the process of identifying challenges, designing solutions, and deploying these tools to enable open-ended scientific curiosity and inquiries in communities around the world.

By connecting the dots between science education, biodiversity mapping, environmental monitoring, and global health, I will explore the role of “simple” tools in advancing access to science and better human health in a resource-limited world.

About the Speaker

Dr. Manu Prakash is an assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University where he runs a curiosity-driven research group in the field of Physical Biology. His work brings together experimental and theoretical techniques from physics, computation, and fabrication to elucidate physical design principles in biology at organismic, cellular and molecular scales.

Born in Meerut, India, Prakash earned a BTech in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology before completing his masters and PhD at the Media Lab’s Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT. From 2008 to 2011 he was a Harvard Junior Fellow. In 2011, Prakash joined Stanford University.

Prakash has been distinguished as a Frederick E. Terman Fellow (2011-2013), a Pew Scholar (2013-2017), a top innovator under 35 by MIT Technology Review (2014), a Brilliant 10 by Popular Science (2014), a National Geographic Emerging Explorer (2015), a MacArthur Fellow (Genius Award) 2016 and Wired Magazine’s Next List (2017). His work is funded by a variety of organizations including the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, USAID, HHMI-Gates, Vodafone, and the Keck, Baxter, Gates, Woods and Coulter Foundations.