Katharina Ribbeck

Katharina (and Livia)

Katharina Ribbeck, MS/PhD
Associate Professor of Biological Engineering, MIT
Eugene Bell Career Development Professor of Tissue Engineering, MIT


Katharina’s Email: ribbeck@mit.edu
Simmons Hall: W79-436C
MIT Office: 56-341


20.363J  Biomaterials Science and Engineering
20.380  Biological Engineering Design
20.463J  Biomaterials Science and Engineering

Research Focus

Katharina’s research focus is on basic mechanisms by which mucus barriers exclude, or allow passage of different molecules and pathogens, and the mechanisms pathogens have evolved to penetrate mucus barriers.

She hopes to provide the foundation for a theoretical framework that captures general principles governing selectivity in mucus, and likely other biological hydrogels such as the extracellular matrix, and bacterial biofilms.

Her Lab’s work may also be the basis for the reconstitution of synthetic gels that mimic the basic selective properties of biological gels.

Resident Scholar Programming Ideas

Baking artisan bread and apple strudel

Cheese and yogurt making

Arts and craft: activities such as pinch pottery, chocolate making, and soap making

Strategies for mindful living: programs in strategies for mindful living, including healthy sleep, good nutritional habits, stress management and personal growth.

Tenzin Priyadarshi Shukla


The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi Shukla, BA/MDiv
President and CEO The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values, MIT
Director Ethics Initiative, Media Lab at MIT
Founding President, Prajnopaya Foundation
Buddhist Chaplain, MIT


Simmons Hall: W79-528B
Tenzin’s Email: tenzin@mit.edu
MIT Offices: E15-245, W11-063

Ethics Initiative at the MIT Media Lab

As a Fellow and Director of the Ethics Initiative program at the MIT Media Lab, Tenzin works to foster multi-disciplinary and critical conversations around ethics, wellbeing, and human flourishing. The initiative seeks to create collaborative platforms for scientists, engineers, artists, and policy makers to optimize designing for humanity.

Life Focus

Tenzin’s educational background is in physics, philosophy, and comparative philosophy of religion.  Tenzin’s life focus is on international humanitarian, religious and educational efforts. His work at MIT emphasizes responsibility and examines meaningfulness and moral purpose between individuals, organizations, and societies. He is also the Buddhist Chaplain to the Institute. Tenzin lectures at MIT and internationally on subjects ranging from philosophy, science, ethics and religion to socio-political thought.

Resident Scholar Programming Ideas

The art of meditation

Tea ceremony and tasting

Indian cooking

Sushi workshop

Bollywood film screenings

Invited Lectures: Lectures by prominent MIT, national and international speakers focused on ethical issues, societal responsibilities of scientists and engineers, and the complex problems faced in technology, education, engineering and science in today's modern world.

Sand Mandala:


A special event co-sponsored by the MIT Buddhist Community. Mandalas are a representation of positive qualities in an ideal world in the form of an artistic pattern.

Mandalas planned for Simmons Hall will be visionary and reflective exercises that hope to encourage young minds to visualize and meditate about the positive qualities that they would like to see manifested in the world.

During these exercises, Simmons residents, members of the MIT community and outside visitors will be able to view the monks at work as they create the Mandala using colored sand made from pulverized marble. An opening ceremony with prayers, music and a reception are included at the beginning of the exercise. Upon completion of the Mandala, there will be a number of related events, including talks by guest speakers, film screenings, and a dissolution ceremony.

Supawadee (Apple) Chawanthayatham

Apple + Pierre

Supawadee (Apple) Chawanthayatham, PhD
Research Scientist
Pierre Duhamel
Harvard University
Micro-Robotics Laboratory


Apples’s Email: applecgi@mit.edu
Pierre’s Email: pierre.duhamel@gmail.com
Simmons Hall Address: W79-480C
MIT Office (Apple): 56-654

Research Focus

Apple studies why young animals are more sensitive to drugs and environmental toxins than older ones.  Her research probes the basic mechanisms underlying this early life window of susceptibility.  She uses modern informatics tools to determine how early in life the “genetic signatures” of later life diseases appear.  These signatures become biomarkers we can eventually use to develop disease-prevention strategies.

Pierre is a computer scientist in the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory.  His work focuses on flying wing micro-robotics (e.g., RoboBees).  He specifically develops control techniques for computation-limited robots.  Animate bees are currently endangered and robotic bees may need to fill the gap as crop pollination agents.   

Resident Scholar Programming Ideas

Authentic Thai-Canadian Cooking: Apple’s family ran a restaurant in Thailand where she helped out and learned many of the traditional Thai recipes.  She would be happy to teach the residents to make a few dishes such as Thai Curry, Tom Yum Soup, or Pad Thai.    We plan to teach students how to cook Thai style.   Pierre (a Canadian-American) could do a similar cooking event for Poutine, a Canadian Dish with French fries, gravy, and cheese curds.  It is delicious in the winter months!

“Sponge Bob Square Brunch” Outings:  Apple and Pierre plan a series of outings where a small group of residents go for brunch.  Each outing could visit a different “square” in the surrounding area such as Harvard Square, Central Square, Union Square, Haymarket Square, Kenmore Square, Copley Square, Park Square, etc.  This would help the residents explore unique areas beyond the campus and meet new people at brunch.

Exercise:  One of Apple’s favorite hobbies is daily exercise, which helps her feel good throughout the day.  She has taken many exercise classes for yoga, barre, indoor cycling, suspension training (TRX), and weight lifting.  She would like to encourage the residents to try new forms of exercise and integrate exercise into their everyday life.

Post Graduate Advice: Pierre and Apple have unique graduate school experiences that we would be eager to share with the residents.  Apple attended graduate school in Thailand and completed her graduate research as an exchange student at MIT.  The MIT Thailand Research Opportunity Program (ThaiROP) is a summer research opportunity for MIT students at my graduate school in Thailand, which she has helped organize and run since 2011.  She will offer residents advice on travel, study or work in Thailand as well as the THAIROP program.  Pierre works in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in Computer Science and researches insect scale flying robots.  He could offer residents advice and information on graduate programs at Harvard and research at Harvard SEAS.

Invited Lectures: Apple plans to invite my friend Dr. Jessica R. Allegretti, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to give a lecture on fecal micro biota transplantation.  This is a fascinating new therapy for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  A second example from the same theme, will be to invite Dr. Susan Erdman of MIT, who has spoken at Simmons twice in the past.  Susan and Apple work together on a daily basis are close colleagues.

Beginner electronics, programming, robotics workshops: Pierre will work with MIT undergraduates on interactive workshops on electronics, programming, and robotics.  For residents curious about these topics, a workshop could allow residents to tinker with creations of their own outside of academics.  This could be a tutorial on computer languages, new technologies, or useful tools such as latex.  They could also be workshops where residents try small projects of interest to them and have space and time to ask questions and help each other out similar to a maker space.

Movie Nights: We both like watching movies and would enjoy hosting movie nights.

Justin Steil

Justin + Ana (and Alma)

Justin Steil, JD/PhD
MIT Professor of Law & Urban Studies
Ana Muñoz, JD


Justin’s Email: steil@mit.edu
Simmons Hall: W79-880C
Office (Justin): 9-515


11.148 / 11.368 Environmental Justice: Law and Policy
11.401 Introduction to Housing, Community and Economic Development
11.469 Urban Sociology in Theory and Practice
11.S197 / 11.S945 Cities and Immigration: Law and Policy
11.S942 Designing Policy Relevant Research in Housing and Community Development

Research Focus

Justin studies the intersection of law and urban policy.  He is particularly interested in how law and policy influence social stratification and spatial dimensions of inequality.  Before graduate school, Justin worked as a community-based planner for an environmental justice organization focusing on brownfield redevelopment, as the advocacy director for a non-profit fighting predatory lending practices, as the program manager for a project bringing youth and prisoners into critical dialogues about justice, and of the trainer for a domestic violence crisis center instructing police in Ciudad Juárez how to support of survivors of sexual assault.

Ana is a civil rights lawyer.  For the last twelve years (aside from three years of law school), she’s worked with social justice organizations in New York on issues ranging from voting rights to deportation defense to criminal justice reform.

Resident Scholar Programming Ideas

Theater: Justin and Ana love theater.  In September 2016, Justin took a number of Simmons residents to see Anna Deavere Smith’s play “Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education” at the ART theater in Cambridge.  They look forward to going to more plays in the months to come with Sims!

Walking tours: Justin still vividly remembers walking Boston’s somewhat lesser known Freedom Trail, the Black Heritage Trail two decades ago.  In September he led a dozen Simmons residents across the Longfellow Bridge to Beacon Hill for a National Park Service tour of the Boston African American National Historic Site, beginning at the 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial (across from the State House) and ending at the African Meeting House where Frederick Douglass often spoke.

Civic engagement: Justin and Ana are passionate about civic engagement and voting rights.  With GRT Parrish Bergquist, they are arranging visits from some of the nation’s leading political scientists for talks and dinner with Simmons students before and after the November 2016 election.  The first talk will introduce some political science perspectives on what to expect in the final weeks before the vote.  The second one will help make sense of what happened!

Urban agriculture: Getting outside and doing work in a garden can be a great context in which to get to know each other and put studies in perspective.  Justin used to work at the Food Project, a local organization dedicated to promoting personal and social change through sustainable agriculture.  In the spring, he hopes to take a group of Simmons students to one of the Food Project’s farms or gardens in Dorchester, Lincoln, Lynn, or Beverly to build a sense of teamwork and to prepare, plant, or weed beds.  

Urban infrastructure: Justin is fascinated by how cities how cities work, especially the infrastructure that keeps cities functioning on a day to day basis and that keep water flowing through our pipes, electricity running through our wires, and waste flowing out through our sewage lines. He looks forward to taking a group of students to the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority sewage treatment plant on Deer Island to learn about the biological and chemical processes involved in the “digester eggs” that disinfect the city’s sewage and discharges it.  Or if sewage doesn’t appeal, we could potentially visit one of the MWRA drinking water treatment plants and learn about the infrastructure involved in getting potable water to the region’s residents.

Boston Harbor: To get outdoors a little, Justin and Ana hope to take Simmons residents to some of Boston’s Harbor Islands, such as George’s Island, Peddock’s Island, or Spectacle Island.  Spectacle Island once included a quarantine hospital, a grease reclamation plant, and a landfill, but now is a park with beautiful views of the city and lots of space for walking, swimming, and games. Little Brewster Island is home to the oldest light station in the United States, and the National Park Service provides tours of the harbor, and the U.S. Coast Guard light keeper provides an introduction to the light house.

Invited Lectures: Justin and Ana plan to invite Professor Alvaro Muñoz from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to speak about his work in biostatistics and epidemiology including research on HIV/AIDS, liver disease, and chronic kidney disease.

Post Graduate Advice: Justin and Ana have a few graduate experiences they are happy to share.  Justin originally studied City Design, intending to practice as an urban planner but he eventually realized that he wanted to research and teach and returned to school to complete a J.D./Ph.D.  Ana originally considered doing a J.D./Ph.D. but then realized that she wanted to practice law and has worked as a civil rights lawyer since.  We both welcome the opportunity to talk with Simmons residents about what happens after graduation and about graduate school.