Interdisciplinarity at its Core

The Living Machines thread is an interdisciplinary project-centric apprenticeship focused on biotech and medical devices. Ambitious technological advances often require highly interdisciplinary teams from science, engineering, and design working together synergistically. Each team member brings individual disciplinary skills but must bridge to other disciplines which have different semantics, shared knowledge, and ways of approaching problems. The Living Machines thread provides a structured experience in how to be successful in such projects, through an apprenticeship a variety of interdisciplinary projects. The Living Machines thread has interdisciplinarity at its core. Scholars participating in the thread will:

An Interdisciplinary Mindset

Cultivate a robust interdisciplinary mindset with the ability to lead complex multi-disciplinary projects both in industry and academia.

In-Depth Domain Knowledge

Acquire an in-depth domain knowledge in their discipline through which they contribute concrete skills and knowledge to the group projects.

Speak the Terminology

Contract an ability to speak the terminology of other engineering fields by establishing some domain knowledge from another engineering discipline.

Meet Our Instructors

The Living Machines faculty are dedicated to creating a unique learning experience for all our scholars.

  • Prof. Linda Griffith

    Prof. Linda Griffith

    Faculty Lead

    Biological Engineering

  • Prof. Eric Alm

    Prof. Eric Alm

    Faculty Lead

    Biological Engineering

  • Dr. Mehdi Salek

    Dr. Mehdi Salek

    Lead Instructor

    School of Engineering

  • Dr. Timothy Kassis

    Dr. Timothy Kassis

    Lead Instructor (part-time)

    School of Engineering

Living Machines Classes

These are a series of 12-unit unrestricted elective classes that LM scholars take throughout the three-year program. All the classes are accompanied by weekly seminar hosting guest speakers from industry, academia and government addressing a variety of issues under the thread theme.


20.051 - Sophomores


20.052 - Juniors


20.053 - Seniors

20.051 - Sophomores

MIT's Living Machines Gut-on-Chip

20.051: 12-Unit LM Class for Sophomores

Scholars work in small, highly interdisciplinary teams organized analogously to biotech startups. The 'companies' operate in a very similar manner to a real-world company. They have to pitch their project at the beginning of the semester to get funding. We use our currency, which is known as the Living Machines Currency (LMC), for all transactions. Companies have their own name, governance style, and even get to file internal patents to protect their idea from other companies. The goal of the 20.051 is for each company to build a fully functional gut-on-chip that has a novel component not previously reported in the literature. Current implementations include lymphatic integration, immune cell integration, novel materials (other than PDMS) and vertical membranes to facilitate high-resolution imaging. The emphasis of 20.051 is to learn a variety of hands-on technical skills, team-work, organizational behavior, resource and project management, intellectual property, and communication skills. The class culminates with the companies showcasing their achievements at the annual NEET Research Symposium organized by Living Machines.

The Research Lab

Living Machines Scholars have their very own dedicated BSL-2 laboratory.


The Living Machines laboratory is available for use by all scholars but is mainly utilized for the sophomore project in 20.051. It is a fully equipped facility for human tissue culture, device microfabrication, and testing. Including:

  • 1

    Biosafety cabinets, tissue incubators, fume hoods, centrifuges, cell counters and electronic pipettes.

  • 2

    3D SLA printer, ovens and a variety of microfluidic pumps.

  • 3

    A fully programmable Opentrons pipetting robot.

  • 4

    An integrated fluorescence microscope with access to a top-of-the-line confocal system.

Career Development Programs

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Peer Mentorship Program

Upperclassmen mentoring sophomores

Life at MIT can be hectic. Our mentoring program links upperclassmen from LM with sophomore mentees from their own major. The mentors provide a listening ear, help with class selection, general academic and personal advice as well as help navigating Living Machines. Mentors and mentees interact through a variety of events including LM organized socials and drink credit.

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The Community Space

Intended to be a social space where Living Machines scholars can meet, socialize and collaborate. The space is only accessible to LM scholars and is open 24/7. It has several desks, a meeting table, a TV, fridge, microwave, tea kettle and cold water dispenser. Numerous snacks are always available.

Recognition and Awards

Living Machines scholars are recognized for their commitment and contribution through a variety of annual awards. Only one award of each is given annually.

  • Outstanding Researcher

    Granted annually to an individual for most intellectual contribution towards LM projects. 

  • Best Sophomore Project

    Granted to the sophomore team that demonstrates the best 20.051 project. 

  • Above & Beyond Award

    Granted annually to an individual who has gone out of their way to make the LM experience an outstanding one to other scholars.

  • Outstanding Peer Mentor

    Nominated by their mentees, this award recognizes one mentor annually that has shown extraordinary mentorship.

Our MIT Partners

  • MIT School of Engineering
  • MIT Biological Engineering
  • MIT Center for Microbiome Informatics & Therapeutics
  • MIT Mechanical Engineering
  • MIT Chemical Engineering

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