Skip to Content
MIT News magazine

Anna Wexler ’07

Storyteller and brain researcher explores the unorthodox
August 21, 2012

Anna Wexler, an adventure traveler, writer, filmmaker, and brain researcher, lives a colorful life. There’s the story about the time she bought a one-way ticket to Katmandu at age 18 and traveled alone through Asia for a year. She once biked solo across Mexico. She’s been a professional fire dancer. She juried Serbia’s World Testicle Cooking Championship.

Anne Wexler treks the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas.

These days, she is telling a different story—one about leaving the Orthodox Jewish community. At age 16, Wexler transferred from her all-girls yeshiva in New Jersey to a public high school and stopped observing Jewish holidays. While a sophomore at MIT, she started working on the film Unorthodox, which weaves her experience with the stories of three Orthodox Jewish teenagers spending a transformative post-high-school year in Israel. The film is a labor of love for Wexler and co-director Nadja Oertelt ‘07, who have funded the effort through grants and a recent successful Kickstarter campaign. Wexler, who focused on the project as a 2007–’08 filmmaker in residence at WGBH, expects the film to premiere in 2013. 

Wexler earned two degrees at MIT, one in brain and cognitive sciences and another in humanities and science with a focus in writing and neuroscience. In the first week of her freshman year she arranged a neuroscience UROP, and over the years she worked on topics including moral cognition and the neural and psychophysical effects of meditation. She also discovered that writing combines her passions. “There seems to be a dearth of scientists who are able to communicate with the public, so I feel like my work is fulfilling in a deeper sense, advancing the cause of the science,” she says.

After graduation, she moved to Tel Aviv—a city she’d grown fond of while filming Unorthodox—and embarked on a freelance writing and editing career. She credits MIT’s training in critical thinking with helping her become a better technical editor. “I’m not afraid to criticize reasoning, assumptions, and the logical flow of arguments, even if they’re being made by top researchers in their respective fields,” she says. Living in Israel, however, didn’t change her religious views, as evidenced by her six-word memoir: “Started off kosher. Then discovered bacon.”

This fall, Wexler is returning to the Institute. She is beginning a PhD in MIT’s Science, Technology, and Society program, where she will study the social and ethical implications of brain-machine interfaces.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.