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Design Engine

Get to know the inventor of Xenobots, Sam Kriegman

Xenobots, robots crafted entirely from biological cells, promise revolutionary advancements in various fields. 

Meet Sam Kriegman, an American computer scientist and roboticist behind these remarkable creations. In his early life, Kriegman was interested in arts and leaned into computer graphics and photography. But, then he turned towards mathematics and earned an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics from Ohio State University. 

He worked for three years as a data scientist for an insurance company. At 25, he went back to school to study computer science and robotics. At this time, he obtained a master’s degree in Statistics and a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Vermont. Kriegman said of his journey, “It was what I had always wanted to do but it took me a while to realize that I could do it. It seems kind of daunting, like you must have to be a child prodigy at coding. That’s not true—at least I hope it’s not!”

During his time at Harvard University, as a postdoctoral fellow with Michael Levin at the Wyss Institute and Tufts University’s Allen Discovery Center, Kriegman worked in the area of biological systems that helped him in his discoveries.

With the creation of the Xenobot, Kriegman’s techniques with biological systems marked a new era in robotics. Reflecting on his groundbreaking discovery, Kriegman remarked, “When people look at this robot, they might see a useless gadget, I see the birth of a brand-new organism.”  

Kriegman was honored with the prestigious National Academy of Sciences Cozzarelli Prize for this work.

Currently he is serving as assistant professor of computer science, chemical and biological engineering, and mechanical engineering at Northwestern University, Together with his team, he explores the fundamental principles of life, harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to craft robotic lifeforms.

As Kriegman looks towards the future he has said, “My hope is that this is exciting for people. In particular, we’ve seen young people getting extremely excited about Xenobots. I get dozens of emails every month from students aged from middle school through to undergraduate and I’m very passionate about getting the next generation involved in this work. We have been creating soft robot kits for the classroom and more recently we’ve been trying to do the same with the Xenobots.”

We can only wonder about the possibilities that lie ahead with the work of this ingenious inventor.


Northwestern University

Berggruen Institute



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