ESP Biography



RILEY DRAKE, Hacker, Immunologist, Outdoorsperson




Major: Chemistry

College/Employer: MIT

Year of Graduation: Not available.

Picture of Riley Drake

Brief Biographical Sketch:

I do a lot of things. Mainly I work in different Biomedical Research labs, but I've also worked as a Mechanical Engineer, a Publisher at a Scientific Journal and a Caterer.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


The Rite of Righting Your Writing in HSSP Spring 2018 (Feb. 24, 2018)
This class will focus on the development of each individuals students' writing style. Specifically, we will work on making our writing pieces clear, concise and effective at communicating their intended meaning(s). To facilitate the development of our own writing, we will read and analyze essays and short stories of notable authors. We will practice editing our own writing and the writing of other students. Finally, we will cover technical aspects of writing including formatting, annotations and citation styles. This class will be writing intensive, students should expect to write at least one double-spaced page and read one short piece in preparation for each meeting.


Three Dimensional Geometry in HSSP Spring 2018 (Feb. 24, 2018)
WHAT IS THE SHAPE OF THE UNIVERSE? IN 1982, MATHEMATICIAN WILLIAM PAUL THURSTON REALIZED THAT ALL THREE DIMENSIONAL SHAPES CAN BE BUILT OUT OF JUST 8 BASIC GEOMETRIES. WHAT CAN THIS DO FOR US? IN 2010, A MAJOR FURTHER BREAKTHROUGH HAPPENED. FASHION DESIGNER DAI FUJIWARA DISCOVERED THAT HE COULD MAKE CLOTHES OUT OF THESE GEOMETRIES, FINALLY GIVING US ACCESS TO THE TRUE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE. WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE? WWW.AMS.ORG/PUBLICOUTREACH/AMS-NEWS/RELEASES/THURSTON-MIYAKE AND ALSO THIS CLASS


Health and Healing in the Middle Ages in Splash 2017 (Nov. 18 - 19, 2017)
We'll investigate the diagnosis, treatment, and social implications of ailments in the medieval West. Though medieval medicine is often glossed over as rudimentary, medieval methods of healing were as varied as the complex ideological frameworks on which they were based. Topics of the course include herbal, magical, and alchemical remedies, saints, shrines, miracles and the professionalization of medicine.


Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room or: Introduction to Social Dynamics in Splash 2017 (Nov. 18 - 19, 2017)
Navigating a crowded party is like traversing a minefield. Engineering is about iteration, but in social engineering, you only have one shot to get it right. Learn how to get the conversations you need, use the conversations you have and hack any situation. Results not guaranteed. Always add water.


Don't Tell A Rocket Scientist It Isn't Rocket Science: Probability Theory, Bayesian Logic and other Fun Stuff in Splash 2017 (Nov. 18 - 19, 2017)
We live in a world of random chance. Thankfully, the mathematical foundations behind probability are beautiful and satisfying. Learn how how Bayes Theorem really works, and how it can change your life. No, actually. Life. Changing. Math.


Science Before the Scientific Revolution in Splash 2017 (Nov. 18 - 19, 2017)
The advent of modern science in the western world was never a necessary outcome of western intellectual activity. Yet histories of science frequently spin a tale of intellectual progress leading inexorably to scientific thinking (and hint at brighter futures to come). This course examines the technologies and philosophical tools that would give rise to science, but with an eye to their historical contexts and their many non-scientific aspects. We especially will focus on how pre-modern medicine, astronomy, and alchemy relate to their modern counterparts.


History of the Catholic Church in Splash 2017 (Nov. 18 - 19, 2017)
Jesus gave "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" to Peter. Many centuries later, the papacy would become a kingdom in and of itself, ruling over the past not only the Papal States but the entirely of Medieval Europe. We'll trace the development of the Catholic Church from Jesus to the second Vatican council.


Redemption Ethics in Splash 2017 (Nov. 18 - 19, 2017)
According to Roman Catholic traditions, how is the soul of the sinner saved? What is the role of redemption, penance and repentance in the life and salvation of the believer. We will trace the historical development of repemption theories from Augustine, Aquinas, Lonerghan and other notable theologians.


Science Before the Scientific Revolution in Splash 2016 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2016)
The advent of modern science in the western world was never a necessary outcome of western intellectual activity. Yet histories of science frequently spin a tale of intellectual progress leading inexorably to scientific thinking (and hint at brighter futures to come). This course examines the technologies and philosophical tools that would give rise to science, but with an eye to their historical contexts and their many non-scientific aspects. We especially will focus on how pre-modern medicine, astronomy, and alchemy relate to their modern counterparts.


Health and Healing in the Middle Ages in Splash 2016 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2016)
We'll investigate the diagnosis, treatment, and social implications of ailments in the medieval West. Though medieval medicine is often glossed over as rudimentary, medieval methods of healing were as varied as the complex ideological frameworks on which they were based. Topics of the course include herbal, magical, and alchemical remedies, saints, shrines, miracles and the professionalization of medicine.


Modern Immunobiology in Splash 2016 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2016)
Your body is a wonderland. This love is like a battlefield. Take that, combine it. Your body is battlefield. Your immune system uses complex molecular mechanisms to distinguish between self and non-self, moving quickly to neutralize potential threats. We'll learn about the CD4 and CD8 T-Cell Responses, the differentiation of T-cells, antibody creation, viral evolution and modern immunology assays. Focus will be on molecular aspects and case studies.


How to Get to Hell: A Historical View in Splash 2016 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2016)
Since the formation of the early modern Catholic Church, conceptions of the afterlife have changed drastically. We'll discuss the history of purgatory, the influence of neoclassical literature on pastoral interpretation of scripture and the role of hell in the crusades. Special attention will be paid to the evolution of the most damning crime through the centuries as well as the role of deathbed confessions in missions abroad. Finally, we'll consider the evolution of the church's stance on religious pluralism, a topic considered publicly as early as 1449.


A Brief History of Public Health in the African Diaspora in Splash 2016 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2016)
What does it mean to be sick? What does it mean to be healthy? Is disease a social construct? When did health become a human right? We'll attempt to answer these questions by drawing upon a rich history of case studies. We'll consider the importance of tribal healers like Domingos Alvarez in the British colonies, health and disease on the US plantation and the healing of freepeople in the reconstruction era. We'll also consider a few more modern case studies, like the establishment of schizophrenia as a black disease characterized by violence during the civil rights movement, the advocacy of the Black Panther movement, and the recent lead poisoning epidemic in Flint.


Intro to Photography in Splash 2015 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2015)
Ever wondered what the heck an f-stop or an ISO is? Have you ever even heard of these words! This class will teach the basics of photography. We will cover framing, the rule of thirds, shutter speed, exposure, and a whole mess of other factors that go into a fantastic photo. After learning the basics, we will then go on a photo safari through the jungle of Splash to put theory into practice.


Alarms in Splash 2015 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2015)
Alarms are everywhere! Given their prevalence, it's probably alarming how little you know about alarms. We'll go over some classic alarm circuits. We'll also learn about interesting failure methods for alarms connected to the internet and biometric sensors.


A Brief History of Doors in Splash 2015 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2015)
Humans are unique in that they are both indoor and outdoor cats. To clearly differentiate between the two, and sometimes to protect ourselves from tyranny we invented doors. And we didn't just stop there: we have hinged doors! rotating doors! high speed doors! tambour doors! rebated doors! Come to learn the rich history and engineering behind an object you once considered "ordinary".


Eleven Blue Men: Advanced Topics in Murder in Splash 2015 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2015)
No longer consider yourself a beginner in murder, and want to become an expert? Come hear enthralling tales of forensic detection (and the science behind them!)


Nylon Highway in Splash 2015 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2015)
You're hiking along the snowy terrain, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, you fall into an ice crevasse. Your friends peer into the crevasse and see that you are conscious, and they want to save you. They consider throwing you a line, but they also want to avoid falling into the crevasse themselves. As you slip out of consciousness, you yell up the crevasse "three-to-one haulingggggg". Your friends look at each other. They have no idea what that means. We'll learn how to haul and hoist and gain mechanical advantages on ropes, using a combination of practices from outdoor climbing and industrial rope access manuals.


Listening to Prozac in Splash 2015 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2015)
Depression takes more days of productive work than any other single disease. Modern anti-depressants seem to effectively treat, and sometimes cure depression. Modern anti-depressants also have fewer side effects then their predecessors -- and are used more often. The goal of anti-depressant treatment is a returning sense of self. In his treatment of patients, Peter Kramer recognized that when treated with Prozac (even in cases of minor depression) his patients underwent drastic personality changes. We'll discuss the known neurochemistry behind the dismantling of the self. Using case studies and clinical data we will evaluate Kramer's claims that prozac can and does cause drastic personality changes.


Framing Light: Photographic Composition 101 in Splash 2015 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2015)
Have you ever felt drawn in to a particular photograph? Has an image in a magazine or a newspaper ever made you feel like you were part of a story? In this class, we'll look at some photos we love, thinking about how the photographers have used composition to tell a story or bring the viewer to notice something previously unseen. Then, we'll set out with simple cameras to photograph the world around us. Finally, we'll look at the images that we have captured, and discuss our own compositional strategies, what worked, and what didn't. This class will not focus on the technical aspects of photography.


Eleven Blue Men: Advanced Topics in Murder in Splash 2014 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2014)
No longer consider yourself a beginner in murder, and want to become an expert? Come hear enthralling tales of forensic detection (and the science behind them!)


Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room or: Introduction to Social Dynamics in Splash 2014 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2014)
Navigating a crowded party is like traversing a minefield. Engineering is about iteration, but in social engineering, you only have one shot to get it right. Learn how to get the conversations you need, use the conversations you have and hack any situation. Results not guaranteed. Always add water.


Murder for the Beginner in Splash 2014 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2014)
Arsenic and old lace? Beginner luck! Everything you never wanted to know about neurotoxins (and other nasty stuff). Loosely based off the book 'The Poisoner's Handbook' by Deborah Blum and the work of Vil Mirzayanov, inventor of the world's most potent neurotoxin, Novichok-5.


Glorious Genome Editing in Splash 2014 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2014)
CRISPy With new genome editing technologies, we aren't constrained to retroactively cataloging what randomly occurring genetic changes appear to do. We can use the CRISPR-Cas9 system to make the changes we want to study. CRISPier We can change the genomes of live cells, allowing for the manipulation of a previously untouched variable. Never before could you precisely edit the genomes of mice to give them cancer! Curious how this works? Come learn all the CRISPiest details of the CRISPR/Cas9 System.


Industrial Ventilation Systems in Splash 2014 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2014)
Is that a pipe or a duct? Why does moving air around buildings have to be so complicated? What happens if you get stuck in a positive pressure room? What about a negative pressure room? What kinds of ducts are there, and how can you identify them from the ground level? Duck hunting is a surprisingly popular sport, considering it pales in comparison to its sister sport, duct hunting. The class will include a guided duct hunt.


Accidents in Northern American Mountaineering: and how to avoid them in Splash 2014 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2014)
Once upon a time, there was a women who took a rock climbing lesson. In this lesson, she learned how to descend a cliff on a rope, using a small piece of metal called an ATC to create friction and slow her descent. The key detail she did not learn, or did not remember the next time she went climbing, was the necessity of feeding both strands of rope through the ATC, which is called a double stranded rappel. The next time she went climbing, she fed the ATC through just one strand of the rope, and the rope pulled through the anchor, causing her to fall to her death. And other stories you'll never want to forget!


Household Chemistry for the Biologist in Splash 2014 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2014)
A small Gatorade bottle full of blue liquid sat atop the counter. As if stealing a cookie from a cookie jar, the four year old child picked up the bottle and quickly drank the sweet liquid. Three minutes later, the ambulance arrived, and not a moment too soon. The child had drank antifreeze, and had to have his stomach pumped immediately. The child had a complete recovery, but found himself wanting to learn what other toxic chemicals exist in the home, why they're toxic to cells and why he had never heard about this before. Probably you do too!


Covert Entry in Splash 2014 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2014)
We live in a world inherently vested in physical security. We use locks to protect most tangible things important to us. Dogs, cats, children, money. We'll learn how to pick locks, and what to do if you're on the opposite side of the keyhole.


DNA Origami in Spark 2014 (Mar. 15 - 16, 2014)
Think DNA is a double helix? Think again! DNA Origami is the nanoscale folding of DNA to create arbitrary two and three dimensional shapes. Come learn how and why this happens, and what it actually does!


Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room or: Introduction to Social Dynamics in Spark 2014 (Mar. 15 - 16, 2014)
Navigating a crowded party is like traversing a minefield. Engineering is about iteration, but in social engineering, you only have one shot to get it right. Learn how to get the conversations you need, use the conversations you have and hack any situation. Results not guaranteed. Always add water.


Protein Design in Spark 2014 (Mar. 15 - 16, 2014)
Can people design proteins? Not really, but this is how they try.


Framing Light: Photographic Composition 101 in Spark 2014 (Mar. 15 - 16, 2014)
Have you ever felt drawn in to a particular photograph? Has an image in a magazine or a newspaper ever made you feel like you were part of a story? In this class, we'll look at some photos we love, thinking about how the photographers have used composition to tell a story or bring the viewer to notice something previously unseen. Then, we'll set out with simple cameras to photograph the world around us. Finally, we'll look at the images that we have captured, and discuss our own compositional strategies, what worked, and what didn't. This class will not focus on the technical aspects of photography.


A World Without Gravity! in Spark 2014 (Mar. 15 - 16, 2014)
The apple hit Newton on the head (or maybe it didn't). Gravity is important. Or is it? In this class, we'll imagine the crazy implications of a world without gravity!


Learn to Jumprope! in Spark 2014 (Mar. 15 - 16, 2014)
Wounded Duck, Skier, Grapevine, Shuffle Bell, Scissor, Double Under, Crossover....What do all these words have in common? They're jumprope tricks! Come wearing athletic shoes and learn about the wonderful world of jumproping.


Murder for the Beginner in Splash! 2013 (Nov. 23 - 24, 2013)
Arsenic and old lace? Beginner luck! Everything you never wanted to know about neurotoxins (and other nasty stuff). Loosely based off the book 'The Poisoner's Handbook' by Deborah Blum and the work of Vil Mirzayanov, inventor of the world's most potent neurotoxin, Novichok-5.


Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room or: Introduction to Social Dynamics in Splash! 2013 (Nov. 23 - 24, 2013)
Navigating a crowded party is like traversing a minefield. Engineering is about iteration, but in social engineering, you only have one shot to get it right. Learn how to get the conversations you need, use the conversations you have and hack any situation. Results not guaranteed. Always add water.


Don't Tell A Rocket Scientist It Isn't Rocket Science: Probability Theory, Bayesian Logic and other Fun Stuff in Splash! 2013 (Nov. 23 - 24, 2013)
We live in a world of random chance. Thankfully, the mathematical foundations behind probability are beautiful and satisfying. Learn how how Bayes Theorem really works, and how it can change your life. No, actually. Life. Changing. Math.


I'm Big In Japan: Libertarianism, the FDA and the Changing Landscape of Drug Regulation in Splash! 2013 (Nov. 23 - 24, 2013)
Want lower taxes? Move to Singapore! Want to develop a drug without having to deal with the FDA? Move to Guatemala! Want to 3D Print drugs in your own home? Claim in as a civil liberty, and get on with it. We'll discuss the limits and merits of self-expermentation, long-phase clinical development and the creation of a personalized pharmaceutical market.


Biological Warfare: Theory and Applications in Splash! 2013 (Nov. 23 - 24, 2013)
Do you think the world is overpopulated? Are humans a blight upon the surface of the earth? Come learn how to solve all of these problems, and many more!


Eleven Blue Men: Advanced Topics in Murder in Splash! 2013 (Nov. 23 - 24, 2013)
No longer consider yourself a beginner in murder, and want to become an expert? Come hear enthralling tales of forensic detection (and the science behind them!)


It's Not Like in the Movies: An Introduction to Lockpicking in Splash! 2013 (Nov. 23 - 24, 2013)
We live in a world inherently vested in physical security. We use locks to protect most tangible things important to us. Dogs, cats, children, money. Learn how locks work by picking them apart. Or, maybe not apart.


Flow Cytometry in Spark! 2013 (Mar. 16, 2013)
Can you sort millions of things while eating a donut? Learn How Biologists sort cells with light, sound and plasma!


Punchcards and Room 404: When There Were Almost Computers in Spark! 2013 (Mar. 16, 2013)
Once, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Shortly after, there was a time when people fed sheets of paper to computers. Come learn about the weird and wacky past of today’s sleek computers.


Murder for the Beginner in Splash! 2012 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2012)
Arsenic and old lace? Beginner luck! Everything you never wanted to know about neurotoxins (and other nasty stuff). Loosely based off the book 'The Poisoner's Handbook' by Deborah Blum and the work of Vil Mirzayanov, inventor of the world's most potent neurotoxin, Novichok-5.


The Army Inside You in Splash! 2012 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2012)
Risk or Diplomacy? What about life or death? A whirlwind introduction to insane, yet strategic battles that go on in your body every day (and how they can go terribly awry). This course will focus primarily on the t-cell response and how diseases are an evolving, as opposed to a static, threat.