Meet the TED Fellows who will share their ideas and innovations at TED2019.
Taghi Amirani is an Iranian physicist turned documentary filmmaker. He has made over 40 documentaries, a couple of fiction shorts and a handful of commercials. He is from the very first class of TED Fellows. When invited to apply for a Senior Fellowship in 2009, he pitched his first feature documentary, COUP 53. Ten years in the making, the film has just been completed. Edited by the great Walter Murch, COUP 53 tells the story of the 1953 Anglo-American coup d’état in Iran in unprecedented detail. Described as "politically explosive" and "cinematically innovative," the film will be released in 2019.
Human rights activist, social entrepreneur and decorated military veteran Brandon Anderson invented Raheem, a text-messaging service that gathers crowdsourced stories from the public about their interactions with police. In its first three months, Raheem collected police conduct data four times faster than the local government and police department. The information feeds into a national database of police conduct, supporting public defenders, community organizations and helping cities advance data-driven policies to end police violence. Anderson is working to expand Raheem to six US cities by 2020.
Molecular engineer Christopher Bahl uses computational protein design -- building never-before-seen-in-nature proteins with the aid of computers -- to develop new drugs for use in combating infectious diseases. Bahl’s genetically encodable protein drugs are inspired by molecules naturally found in snake and insect venom. Bahl believes that computational protein design has the potential to make drug development faster and cheaper, which may lead to breakthroughs in medicine and help scientists better understand the molecular mechanics of life.
Federica Bianco is currently organizing 2,000 scientists to carry out collaborative research using the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile, as well as developing a plan for inclusion in STEM, which she’s working on at the University of Delaware’s Data Science Institute. She is also a professional boxer.
Laurel Braitman is a bestselling author, historian and anthropologist of science. Her book Animal Madness was a New York Times bestseller, and her collaborations with musicians, artists and scientists have been featured on the BBC, NPR and elsewhere. She is currently a writer-in-residence at Stanford University School of Medicine, where she helps physicians, medical students and staff tell better stories -- both for themselves and their patients.
Brandon Clifford is best known for bringing megalithic sculptures to life to perform tasks. He is the director and cofounder of Matter Design, where his work focuses on advancing architectural research through spectacle and mysticism. He creates new ideas by critically evaluating ancient ways of thinking and experimenting with their value today. This work ranges from an award-winning play structure for kids to a colossal system of construction elements that can be guided into place with ease by mere mortals. He is dedicated to reimagining the role of the architect, and his speculative work continues to provoke new directions for design in the digital era.
Clifford is also an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His most recent authored work, The Cannibal's Cookbook, demonstrates his dedication to bringing ancient knowledge into contemporary practice with theatrical captivation. He received his Master of Architecture from Princeton University and his Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Georgia Tech. For his work as a designer and researcher, he has received recognition with prizes such as the American Academy in Rome Prize, the SOM Prize, the Design Biennial Boston Award and the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects & Designers.
Bruce Friedrich is cofounder and executive director of The Good Food Institute (GFI), an international nonprofit that is fostering a sustainable, healthy and just agricultural system through food innovation. With branches in the United States, India, Israel, Brazil, Europe and Asia Pacific, GFI is accelerating the production of plant-based and cell-based meat, eggs and dairy in order to bolster the global protein supply while protecting our environment, promoting global health and preventing food insecurity and animal cruelty. Friedrich has penned op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wired and many other publications. He has appeared on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News and a variety of programs on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN. Friedrich has coauthored two books, contributed chapters to seven more, and has written seven law review articles. Watch his TEDxSonoma talk here.
Friedrich graduated magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, from the Georgetown University Law Center and holds degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Economics.
Biologist-turned-filmmaker Alexis Gambis tells tales of science that blur the line between documentary and fiction. His films often feature animals in leading roles, taking on their perspective. His most recent feature narrative, Son of Monarchs, tells the story of a Mexican evolutionary biologist in New York who transforms into the organism he studies -- the Monarch butterfly -- to connect with his cultural heritage and family back home. Gambis is also the founder and executive director of the nonprofit film festival Imagine Science Films, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, and Labocine.com, a growing platform for science cinema.
Scholar and artist Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin transforms historical material about black identity into theatrical performances. She's currently developing At Buffalo, a musical theatre piece created from historical records documenting representations of black experience at the 1901 World's Fair in Buffalo, New York. It exposes the impacts such performances still have on our everyday enactments of racial and national identity.
Dr. Erika Hamden is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona. Her observational focus is on measuring and mapping diffuse hydrogen around galaxies and within star forming regions in our own galaxy. Her current projects include FIREBall, a UV balloon-borne telescope; KCRM, a spectrograph for the Keck telescope; and Hyperion, a UV space telescope she is currently developing. Her work is driven by a desire to know and understand more about the universe around us.
Hamden received a bachelor's from Harvard in 2006 and a PhD from Columbia in 2014, both in astrophysics. She has held an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow and the R.A. and G.B. Millikan Prize Postdoctoral Fellow in Experimental Physics at the Caltech. She was awarded a Nancy Grace Roman Technology Fellowship for her detector work in 2016. She worked as a chef for a year before beginning grad school and has a serious yoga practice.
All kinds of junk are floating around in space -- old satellites, rockets, other man-made debris -- that pose an increasing danger to space missions. Astrodynamicist Moriba Jah monitors this orbital debris with ASTRIAGraph, a software that tracks the positions and speeds of objects in Earth’s orbit. Jah's vision is for AstriaGraph to become a crowd-sourced citizen-science platform that will make information about space traffic openly available to future generations. His ultimate goal is to make space safe, secure and sustainable.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph's opera libretto We Shall Not Be Moved was named one of 2017's "Best Classical Music Performances" by the New York Times. His latest piece, The Just and the Blind, investigates racial profiling and the prison-industrial complex, and premiered at Carnegie Hall this year. Bamuthi currently serves as vice president and artistic director of social impact at The Kennedy Center.
William Kamkwamba, from Malawi, is a born inventor. When he was 14, he built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, working from rough plans he found in a library book called Using Energy and modifying them to fit his needs. The windmill he built powers four lights and two radios in his family home.
After reading about Kamkwamba on Mike McKay's blog Hactivate (which picked up the story from a local Malawi newspaper), TEDGlobal Conference Director Emeka Okafor spent several weeks tracking him down at his home in Masitala Village, Wimbe, and invited him to attend TEDGlobal on a fellowship. Onstage, Kamkwamba talked about his invention and shared his dreams: to build a larger windmill to help with irrigation for his entire village, and to go back to school.
Following Kamkwamba's moving talk, there was an outpouring of support for him and his promising work. Members of the TED community got together to help him improve his power system (by incorporating solar energy), and further his education through school and mentorships. Subsequent projects have included clean water, malaria prevention, solar power and lighting for the six homes in his family compound; a deep-water well with a solar-powered pump for clean water; and a drip irrigation system. Kamkwamba himself returned to school, and is now attending the African Leadership Academy, a new pan-African prep school outside Johannesburg, South Africa.
Kamkwamba's story is documented in his autobiography, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. A documentary about Kamkwamba, called William and the Windmill, won the Documentary Feature Grand Jury award at SXSW in 2013 (watch a trailer ). You can support his work and other young inventors at MovingWindmills.org.
Danielle N. Lee examines the ecology and natural history of nuisance rodents across urban gradients, from the small field mice of North America to the giant pouched rats of Tanzania. A strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in the sciences, she uses hip-hop to share science with broader audiences. She's currently studying the behavioral differences between city mouse and country mouse, with the aim of understanding how and why rodents successfully vex us by living in and near our homes, pantries, farms and silos.
Ashwin Naidu founded the Fishing Cat Conservancy to empower local people in south and southeast Asia to help protect the fishing cat and its mangrove habitat. Mangroves protect coastal communities from tsunamis, sequester carbon and are an important source of fish. They’re also extremely vulnerable to deforestation, primarily from aquaculture. Fishing Cat Conservancy offers local people conservation jobs and alternative livelihoods, such as replanting mangrove forests, and encourages communities to protect and restore this crucial ecosystem.
Skylar Tibbits is the founder and codirector of the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT and assistant professor of design research in the department of architecture. He is the author of the books Self-Assembly Lab: Experiments in Programming Matter and Active Matter.
Nanfu Wang's Peabody Award-winning documentary, Hooligan Sparrow -- which follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan as she faces government surveillance and harassment after advocating for sexually abused schoolgirls -- was shortlisted for a 2017 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. She also directed and produced I Am Another You, winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and her latest film, One Child Nation, which explores the history of China's birth policy and its profound effects on generations of Chinese parents and children. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Originally from a remote village in China, Wang overcame poverty and a lack of access to formal education en route to earning three master's degrees from Shanghai University, Ohio University and New York University. She teaches editing at the School of Visual Arts as well as cinematography at New York University.