Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash named MacArthur Fellow

Stanford’s Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering, has been awarded a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Manu Prakash examines problems in biological sciences through the lens of physics. As part of that he has developed a folding paper microscope costing less than a dollar and distributed it to people worldwide studying issues in their community. His other work involves things as diverse as the physics of water droplets and disassembled music boxes to insect flight.

Of his often whimsical approach to science and plans for the award, Prakash said, “I’ve done science the way I’ve wanted to do science. Sometimes it’s hard to convince others that we are taking the right approach.”

“This award gives me the flexibility to not think about those bounds,” he said.

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Foldscope Images

The Prakash lab has distributed a one dollar folding paper microscope, called the Foldscope, to more than 50,000 people in 135 countries who use the tool for research and education. These are a few of the many images people from around the world have taken while studying everything from diseases in bees to detecting cervical cancer.

Diverse Interests

Prakash’s work ranges from microscopy and insects to water droplets and chemistry. The unifying feature is a compulsive curiosity and focus on low cost solutions for human health.

Curiosity leads Stanford bioengineers to discover insect’s flight secret

A chance observation of a water lily beetle flitting from pad to pad inspired researchers to investigate how it overcomes the physical challenges of flying over water.

Stanford engineers develop computer that operates on water droplets

Manu Prakash and his students have developed a synchronous computer that operates using the unique physics of moving water droplets.

Stanford researchers solve the mystery of the dancing droplets

Years of research satisfy a graduate student's curiosity about the molecular minuet he observed among drops of ordinary food coloring.

Inspired by a music box, Stanford bioengineer creates $5 chemistry set

Manu Prakash won a contest to develop the 21st-century chemistry set. His version, based on a toy music box, is small, robust, programmable and costs $5.

Foldscope: Microscopy for everyone

Manu Prakash and team are encouraging curiosity and motivating the next generation of scientists, inventors and innovators by providing a million microscopes to children all over the world.

Science Tools Anyone Can Afford

Manu Prakash wants to grow a generation of young scientists by distributing powerful yet inexpensive laboratory instruments around the globe.

Bioengineer designs diagnostic microscope costing less than $1

It’s an invention that would make TV’s secret agent MacGyver proud: a fully functional microscope that can be assembled from folded paper and a tiny bead of glass.

Through the Looking Glass

Can Manu Prakash revolutionize global health with a lens and a piece of paper?

The Brilliant Ten: Manu Prakash brings science to the masses

He creates low-cost alternatives to high-tech research equipment.

Imaginative inventions liberate science from the ivory tower.

Manu Prakash is determined to push down the cost of doing science. Expensive facilities, he says, limit knowledge and expertise to a privileged elite.

Changing the world with a paper microscope

Born in India, biophysicist Manu Prakash heads a lab at Stanford that specializes in what he calls “frugal science,” designing inexpensive laboratory instruments that can spread science and medical opportunity around the world.

A medical lab in a music box

One night, as Manu Prakash turned the handle on a music box, he realized the simple mechanism–a crank rotating gears–could also run a programmable chemistry set.

Media Contacts

Amy Adams, University Communications: (650) 796-3695, amyadams@stanford.edu