Student Spotlight

Synthetic Biology Group: Eléonore Tham

Eleonare Tham

Hometown, Country:
Paris, France

Academic history prior to coming to MIT:
B.Sc in Physics at Ecole Polytechnique, M.Sc in Biophysics at Ecole Polytechnique, Specialized Master in Management at Ecole des Mines de Paris.

What brought you to MIT?
I came to the US and Boston to work in a startup incubator to finish my degree in France. For a year, I was exposed to a vibrant community of biotech startups in close collaboration with many MIT scientists and I realized how exceptional an academic experience at MIT was. I joined Tim Lu’s lab the following year, fascinated by their research on living functional materials. The lab to me represents exactly what brought me to MIT, a mix of scientific excellence and entrepreneurship.

What problem are you trying to solve with your current research and what are some possible applications?
I work on the development of new materials properties by genetically engineering the extracellular matrix of bacterial communities called biofilms. We modify the extracellular matrix to integrate inorganic materials and exogenous proteins, incorporating a variety of functions to the living bacterial films. We expect that engineering biofilms to synthesize and organize heterogeneous functional materials will allow the fabrication of smart composite materials combining the properties of living and non-living systems.

What interests you most about your research?
I’m particularly interested in the characterization aspect of my research. I enjoy using both classical methods to quantify mechanical or electrical properties and new protocols to characterize properties from the living such as regeneration and adaptation.

What are your future plans?
Tough question, if someone had asked me the same 3 years ago I would not have answered correctly but as of now I’d like to go back to France and contribute to the blooming biotech scene by working in a biotech startup or small company.