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.
Christopher Bahl's genetically encodable protein medicines 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.
Astrophysicist, professor, professional boxer and TED Fellow Federica Bianco studies stellar explosions, using the same methodologies to understand urban and social problems. She uses data-science to both study the universe and tackle problems on earth, like pollution in New York City, prosecutorial justice and how city lights can create resilient electric grids and.
Bianco splits her time as a professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Physics and Astrophysics (where she runs a lab focusing on light curves), the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration and the Urban Observatory, where she uses her astrophysics skills to study urban problems. She is also the coordinator the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Science Collaboration, a network of more than 1,500 scientists. The LSST, under construction in Chile, will go online in 2023 to survey the night sky and image the southern hemisphere sky at unprecedented depth and resolution. The collaboration will study everything about it, from the thousands of changes it will discover in the sky every night to billions of stars and galaxies, many that have never been seen before.
Bianco has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, was a Smithsonian predoctoral and James Arthur postdoctoral fellow and was the recipient of a Department of Energy "Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science" grant. When she isn't doing science, you will find her in the boxing ring, where she has made a name for herself as "The MadScientist." She is known for fighting her heart out both in and out of the ring.
Laurel Braitman, PhD, is the New York Times bestselling author of Animal Madness and House of the Heart (forthcoming), a coming-of-age story all about the ways we might live with the perspective of a terminal disease without the bad prognosis. Her writing about science, nature, beauty and loss has appeared in the New York Times, Guardian, National Geographic and more. Her collaborations with physicians, musicians, artists and scientists have been featured on the BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera and elsewhere. She has a PhD from MIT in History, Anthropology, Science, Technology and Society and is the first writer-in-residence and director of writing and storytelling at the Stanford School of Medicine, where she helps physicians, medical students and other healthcare professionals communicate more authentically -- 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.
Muthoni Drummer Queen is the founder of two festivals in East Africa: Blankets & Wine, a platform for emerging and established "alternative" Kenyan and African artists that has since expanded to franchises in Uganda and Rwanda; and Africa Nouveau, an annual music and arts festival gathering creators, curators and fans of "African cool."
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.
Alexis Gambis 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.
Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin is 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.
Jess Kutch and her team at Coworker.org are figuring out the technology, organizing models, financing and policies that can help workers improve their companies and industries in today’s economy. At Coworker.org, they believe anyone can be a workplace organizer and that seeking positive change at work is a form of civic and community leadership that requires infrastructure. Since 2013, hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and worldwide have used Coworker.org tools and services to win wage increases, scheduling improvements and parental leave benefits; end biased dress codes; fix harassment policies; demand corporate ethics and much more. Coworker.org also helps channel workers' information about the real-time effects of digital economy trends -- like automation, data profiting, surveillance and app-based gig work -- to influence decisions that will shape the future of work and inequality.
Kutch has 15 years of experience innovating at the intersection of technology and social change. Previously, she led a team at Change.org that inspired hundreds of thousands of people to launch and lead their own efforts on the platform. She also spent five years at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), where she pioneered digital strategies for the labor movement. Kutch is a TED Fellow, an Echoing Green Global Fellow, a J.M.K. Innovation Prize winner and an Aspen Institute Job Quality Fellow. She is a frequently requested speaker at business, labor, futurist, democracy and economic conferences around the world. She has been invited to provide expert testimony to the EEOC Task Force on Harassment in the Workplace and the National Labor Relations Board. In 2015, Coworker.org cohosted the first-ever White House Town Hall on Worker Voice.
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.
Besides identifying and addressing the threats to lions, other large carnivores and their habitat in Zimbabwe, Moreangels Mbizah also works to promote coexistence between wildlife and the communities that reside alongside wildlife habitats. Mbizah has dedicated her life to seeking ways to jointly address conservation and livelihoods issues to benefit both wildlife and the local communities who are living in abject poverty.
Mangroves protect coastal communities from tsunamis, sequester carbon and are an essential source of fish. They're also extremely vulnerable to deforestation, primarily from fish and shrimp farming. Ashwin Naidu's Fishing Cat Conservancy offers local people conservation jobs and alternative livelihoods, such as monitoring fishing cats and reforesting mangroves in their own lands, and encourages global communities to offset their carbon footprints by helping restore this crucial ecosystem.
The four years old media tech startup 101Reporters has produced more than 3,500 ground reported stories which have appeared in national and international media outlets like Nikkei, Asia Times, CNN, Firstpost, Ozy, The Telegraph, Mint, In etc... Gangadhar Patil quit mainstream media to pursue his interest in highlighting local stories that don’t find space in national media. After being trained in journalism at Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media in Bangalore, in 2010, he began his journalism career with The New Indian Express in Chennai. During a one year stint with Express, he also served as Express correspondent in Coimbatore and reported briefly for Bangalore bureau. His last assignment was with India's largest business daily, The Economic Times as Senior Correspondent in New Delhi. A graduate in commerce from Bangalore University, Gangadhar’s worldview is deeply shaped by his life experiences of growing up small towns across India. His experiences in a harsh school environment taught him that an individual’s performance has little to do with fundamental capability, but more to do with their environment. Reflecting on his experiences working as a journalist in Belgaum and in big media companies, he began to connect the dots. He was convinced of the need to set up an independent platform to support local reporters.
Leila Pirhaji is the founder of ReviveMed, an AI platform that can quickly and inexpensively characterize large numbers of metabolites (small molecules like glucose or cholesterol) from the blood, urine and tissues of patients. This allows for the detection of molecular mechanisms that lead to disease and the discovery of drugs that target these disease mechanisms.
Skylar Tibbits's research focuses on developing self-assembly and programmable materials within the built environment. He is the founder and codirector of the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT and an associate professor of design research in the department of architecture.
Tibbits has designed and built large-scale installations and exhibited in galleries around the world, including the Centre Pompidou, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and others. He is the author of the book Self-Assembly Lab: Experiments in Programming Matter and Active Matter, coeditor of Being Material and editor-in-chief of the journal 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing.
Tibbits holds a professional degree in architecture and a minor in experimental computation from Philadelphia University, a masters degree in design computation and a masters in computer science from MIT. He has worked at a number of design offices, including Zaha Hadid Architects, Asymptote Architecture and Point b Design. He has been recognized by a number of awards, including LinkedIn's Next Wave Award for Top Professionals under 35 (2016), R and D Innovator of the Year (2015), National Geographic Emerging Explorer (2015), an Inaugural WIRED Fellowship (2014), the Architectural League Prize (2013), Ars Electronica Next Idea Award (2013), TED Senior Fellow (2012) and in 2008, he was named a Revolutionary Mind by SEED magazine.
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.