I'm Ethan Li, a fourth-year Bioengineering PhD student in Manu Prakash's lab at Stanford University, where I design and build hardware+software systems for global health and frugal science. I go by they/them pronouns.

I'm currently exploring the possibilities of robotic microscopy networks for global collaboration and learning. Specifically, I'm prototyping an online collaboration platform for the PlanktoScope project to build a global community where people will collect, watch, and discuss real-time measurements of plankton biodiversity in diverse environments across the world, generating and annotating ecological datasets in the process. My goal is to enable microscopic measurement of the spatiotemporal dynamics of ecologies at a global scale, as well as to offer people playful and social ways of exploring ecology and nature.

I've also worked on projects investigating and developing open-source medical devices as a strategy to support cooperative development of locally-appropriate medical devices for global health problems. Although I'm not currently working on projects in this area, I'm deeply interested in challenges and strategies for local development, production, and ownership of medical devices and scientific instruments around the world.

If you want to chat about any of these topics, you can email me at [email protected]. If you want to check out my background, please refer to my CV.


Occasional notes on developing software, cooperative technology, and community-owned scientific instruments & medical devices. Here are the first 2 posts so far:

The unyielding foundations rule

January 12, 2021 [#systems engineering] [#design] [#electronics] [#case study]

problem-solving with modular design

Open-source licensing for frugal science

December 16, 2020 [#open source] [#licensing] [#explainer]

a practical FAQ-style introduction