Anne A. Madden, Ph.D., (wikipedia page) is a microbiologist, inventor, entrepreneur, and science communicator whose mission is to reveal the value of the microorganisms around us. As an award-winning scientist she has investigated the microbial habitats of diverse environments from polyester clothing, to tropical plants, from human hands to wasp nests. She uses a systems engineering approach paired with a deep understanding of microbial ecology to discover novel microbes that have been used for pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, and agriculture industries.

(c) Lauren Nichols

Dr. Madden received her Ph.D. in biology from Tufts University, and her undergraduate degree in biological sciences from Wellesley College. After which, she completed postdoctoral fellowships with Noah Fierer (University of Colorado) and Rob Dunn (North Carolina State University). She has held many prestigious fellowships including an Alfred P. Sloan Microbiology of the Built Environment Postdoctoral Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a Tufts Institute of the Environment Fellowship, and an American Philosophical Society Lewis and Clark Fellowship. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi (the international research society), The Explorers Club, and the Helena Group Foundation. She is a former executive at the world’s most financially successful agriculture technology startup and a scientist at the biotech company Novobiotic Pharmaceuticals.

Image (c) Elena Cresci (2017)

Dr. Madden is currently Technology Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at the food & beverage technology company Lachancea LLC, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the department of applied ecology at North Carolina State University, and Founder and President of the nonprofit, The Microbe Institute. She also consults at Imnovate Consulting, where she helps life sciences organizations innovate to increase their impact. Her clients have included everything from small businesses to fortune 500 companies, in addition to academic universities such as MIT and Harvard University.

Avatar featuring wasps and microbes created by Ethan Kocak (@blackmudpuppy)

Dr. Madden’s research and communications focus on understanding microbial communities–in the diverse habitats of food, insects, plants, animal guts, and built environments–and deciphering the human applications of these microbes. She develops microbial pipelines that have delivered key understandings and global commercial products for biotechnology, agriculture technology and food and beverage technology industries. Her work has led to the discovery of a new fungal species, novel antibiotics, patented brewing technology, commercially produced sake, new DNA-based methods for detecting arthropod communities, technology for the manufacturing of improved breads, and a greater understanding of the microbial life around us. She has published more than a dozen peer-reviewed manuscripts (scopus profile), many of which have featured participatory (citizen) science elements.

TED (2017) credit: TED/Bret Hartman

Beyond conducting research, Dr. Madden is committed to educating the public about the microbial world in creative ways. She is a recognized science communication leader. Her open-source projects span disciplines, but are unified in bringing a creative whimsy to make globally impactful–and educational– projects. She has teamed up with fashion designers, culinary professionals, and graphic artists to create art and science installations that have been showcased at leading galleries and by major media outlets. She was featured on the award-winning science documentary film “The Kingdom, how fungi made our world.” She is a public speaker who has presented on the TED main stage as well as at four TEDx/TED adjacent events, DefCon (the world’s largest hacker conference), and at corporations, museums, and universities across the globe. Her topics include microbial science and discovery to pipeline development, alternative careers in science, and science communication.

Her research and projects are frequently highlighted by media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC, National Geographic, The Verge, Vice, The Atlantic, PBS News Hour, Newsweek, Forbes, The Smithsonian Magazine, The Verge, The Daily Beast, and Scientific American.

PBS NewsHour

When not wrangling microorganisms, or communicating the utility of the microorganisms around us, she can be found motorcycling through the streets of Boston, SCUBA diving in Florida, traveling, or wearing inappropriately tall stilettos in labs…. unless she’s socially isolating to protect the community from a Pandemic. Arguably, she has some of the most famous hair in science. Her hair is currently in the collections of museums on two continents.

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