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TED2012

About Jean-Baptiste

Bio

I'm a French and Mauritian scientist, living in New York with my Bulgarian wife who is also British. I hold joint academic appointments at Harvard, where I am FQEB Fellow, and at Google, where I am Visiting Faculty.

My current focus is on using technological breakthroughs to obtain very high resolution measurements about things we didn't see before. For instance, Erez Aiden and I recently used millions of digitized books to build a sort of telescope for human culture. I argue that this makes it possible to use mathematical and computational means to discover new things about human history, society and culture. Or, Tami Lieberman and I used high-throughput genome sequencing to track the way bacteria evolve within the human body during infections. This highlights bacterial genes that we didn't know played a role in disease, and that might later become drug targets.

In general, my interests are much wider than my competences, but I'm always trying to expand the latter to match the former. In research, I use quantitative methods to ask questions about things that evolve, ranging from bacteria to human society. This can involve benchwork and lots of reagents, computers and terabytes of data, or simply a pen and paper.

Education

  • Ecole Polytechnique; Engineering
  • Harvard University; Systems Biology, Applied Mathematics

Job Titles

Postdoctoral Fellow, Visiting Faculty

Skills and interests

Science, Biology, Computer science, Technology

Uploaded photos

Jean-Baptiste Michel on the TED blog

Gallery

A biologist, an engineer, a designer and a musical robot builder walk into a room. Not a joke; it’s their office

December 19, 2013

Listen to too much talk about innovation, and before long you’re bound to hear someone utter the “cross” word. It might be followed by “fertilization,” maybe “pollination,” perhaps even “disciplinary,” but the sharing of ideas with unlike-minded people is a hot topic, the holy grail of wannabe world-changers. After all, the thinking goes, working with […]

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