Symposium: Beyond 2016—MIT's Frontiers of the Future
Beyond 2016: MIT’s Frontiers of the Future
When MIT moved from Boston to Cambridge in 1916, it built a new campus designed to foster collaboration across disparate disciplines. As the Institute celebrated the centennial of that historic move in the spring of 2016, more than a dozen faculty from across disciplines gave short, exciting talks on their ground-breaking research—tied together by an immersive, multimedia campus tour by foot, drone, and skateboard.
Lunch, networking, and student poster session
L. Rafael Reif (+), President, MIT
L. Rafael Reif has served as MIT’s 17th President since July 2012. While fostering the rapid growth of MIT’s non-profit online learning platform edX—which has engaged more than six million students from every country in the world—he has challenged MIT to use the campus as a lab to explore the future of higher education. The recommendations of the Task Force on the Future of MIT Education, published in September 2014, have spurred rapid adoption of blended learning models on campus and cleared new pathways for engaging a global audience of learners.
In keeping with MIT’s role as a wellspring of innovation, President Reif was asked by the White House to co-chair the steering committee of the national Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP 2.0). In October 2013, to enhance MIT’s own innovation ecosystem and promote education, research, and policy, he launched the MIT Innovation Initiative, and in the spring of 2014, MIT began work on MIT.nano, a major new campus facility that will accelerate research and innovation at the nanoscale. In May 2014, President Reif launched an Environmental Solutions Initiative to promote transformative, cross-disciplinary research relating to the environment. In October 2015, after a yearlong campus conversation about MIT’s most effective path forward against global warming, MIT issued its Plan for Action on Climate Change, centered on research, education, campus sustainability, and a strategy of industry engagement.
A member of the MIT faculty since 1980, President Reif is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an elected member of both the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and inventor or co-inventor on 15 patents.
TALKS AND PRESENTERS
Amos Winter (+), Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT
Amos Winter is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. He is the director of the Global Engineering and Research (GEAR) Lab, which focuses on the marriage of mechanical design theory and user-centered product design to create simple, elegant technological solutions for use in highly constrained environments. His research interests include design for emerging markets and developing countries, biomimetic design, fluid/solid/granular mechanics, biomechanics, and the design of ocean systems.
Winter is the principal inventor of the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC), an all-terrain wheelchair designed for developing countries that won a 2010 R&D 100 award and was named one of the Wall Street Journal’s top innovations in 2011. His PhD work focused on adapting the burrowing mechanisms of razor clams to create compact, low-power, and reversible burrowing systems for subsea applications such as anchoring, oil recovery, and cable installation. He is a founder of Global Research Innovation and Technology (GRIT). His awards include the Tufts University Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award (2010), the MIT School of Engineering Graduate Student Extraordinary Teaching and Mentoring Award (2010), and the ASME/Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal (2012). In 2013, he was named one of the 35 Innovators Under 35 (TR35) by MIT Technology Review. He earned his BS from Tufts University and both his SM and PhD from MIT.
Lydia Bourouiba (+), Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT
Lydia Bourouiba is a physical applied mathematician who concentrates on the geophysical problems of hydrodynamic turbulence and the mathematical modeling of population dynamics and disease transmission. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where she focuses on problems at the interface of fluid dynamics and disease transmission with the aim of elucidating the fundamental physical mechanisms shaping the epidemiology and disease transmission dynamics in human, animal, and plant populations.
The Bourguiba Research Group uses a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches to elucidate the fundamental physical mechanisms of transmission of nosocomial, respiratory, waterborne, and foliar diseases where fluids are ubiquitous and to design and to formulate new control strategies.
Bourouiba joined the Department of Mathematics at MIT in January 2010 as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council postdoctoral fellow and lecturer. She previously worked on the modeling of influenza at the Centre for Disease Modelling in Toronto, Canada. She earned her PhD from McGill University studying rotating homogeneous turbulence both theoretically and numerically.
Pablo Jarillo-Herrero (+), Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor of Physics, MIT
Pablo Jarillo-Herrero is the Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor of Physics. He joined MIT as an assistant professor of physics in January 2008. His research interests are in the area of experimental condensed matter physics, particularly quantum electronic transport and optoelectronics in novel low-dimensional materials, such as graphene and topological insulators (TIs).
Jarillo-Herrero’s awards include the Spanish Royal Society Young Investigator Award (2007), an NSF Career Award (2008), an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (2009), a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship (2009), the IUPAP Young Scientist Prize in Semiconductor Physics (2010), a DOE Early Career Award (2011), a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE, 2012), and an ONR Young Investigator Award (2013).
Jarillo-Herrero received his MSc in physics from the University of Valencia, Spain. He received a second MSc from the University of California in San Diego before earning his PhD at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. After a one-year postdoc in Delft, he moved to Columbia University in New York, where he worked as a NanoResearch Initiative Fellow.
Gabriela Schlau-Cohen (+), Assistant Professor, Chemistry, MIT
Gabriela Schlau-Cohen is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, where her research group uses single-molecule spectroscopy and ultrafast spectroscopy to explore the energetic and structural dynamics of biological systems. In particular, she develops new techniques to investigate photosynthetic light harvesting.
Recently, Schlau-Cohen was awarded the Smith Family Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research, aims to support promising junior faculty members who are beginning to establish their own laboratories and research programs with a focus on basic biomedical science.
Schlau-Cohen was a postdoctoral fellow of the Center for Molecular Analysis and Design at Stanford University, where she worked with Professor W.E. Moerner. She received her PhD in Physical Chemistry in 2011 from the University of California, Berkeley, working under the direction of Professor Graham Fleming as an AAUW American Fellow. She received her BS in Chemical Physics in 2003 from Brown University.
Heidi Williams (+), Class of 1957 Career Development Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, MIT
Heidi Williams is the Class of 1957 Career Development assistant professor in the Department of Economics, where she works to unravel the causes and consequences of innovation in health care markets, combining finely grained empirical observations and custom-designed data collection methods to build entirely new datasets about technological changes in health care. Her creative methods for determining causal inference and keen understanding of regulatory law, biological science, and medical research have allowed her to trace the interplay among institutions, market behavior, and public policy-relevant outcomes.
Leveraging the race to decode the human genome by private and public institutions as a model, Williams revealed how the timing and nature of intellectual property restrictions affect subsequent innovation. She presented convincing evidence that a non-patent form of intellectual property protection at the early stages of scientific research limited follow-on innovation on human genes, a finding that was cited in arguments submitted to a 2013 US Supreme Court case on gene patents. In subsequent work, however, she and a co-author found evidence that patent protection on human genes has, in fact, not substantively hindered later research or product development, suggesting that the precise design of intellectual property policies is important in shaping innovation outcomes. More recently, Williams and colleagues have investigated institutional factors affecting cancer drug development. Her articles have appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, American Economic Review, and the Journal of Political Economy, among others.
Williams received an AB from Dartmouth College, an MSc from the University of Oxford, and a PhD from Harvard University. She has been affiliated with MIT since 2011 and is also a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Tavneet Suri (+), Maurice J. Strong Career Development Associate Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management
Tavneet Suri is an associate professor of applied economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management. A development economist with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa, her research centers on agriculture, household financial access and informal risk sharing, and, more recently, governance and political participation. A large body of her work focuses on the constraints to technology adoption in agriculture.
Suri has conducted research on the impacts of mobile money (for example, M-PESA in Kenya) and applications of the mobile money platform for credit contracts (e.g., trade credit and credit for solar panels). Her most recent work has focused on governance issues in the Kibera slum in Nairobi and on a large-scale field experiment she conducted in Kenya during the 2013 general election. She spends a significant amount of time in the field collecting her own data, primarily in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda.
Suri is the scientific director for Africa for J-PAL, a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, an affiliate of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis and the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and co-director of the Agriculture Research Program at the International Growth Center. She holds a BA in economics from Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and her MA, MPhil, and PhD from Yale University.
Yasheng Huang (+), International Program Professor in Chinese Economy and Business and Associate Dean, MIT Sloan School of Management
Yasheng Huang is the International Program Professor in Chinese Economy and Business and a professor of global economics and management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is also an associate dean at MIT Sloan School of Management.
Huang founded and runs the China Lab and the India Lab, which aim to help entrepreneurs in those countries improve their management skills. He is an expert source on international business, political economy, and international management. In collaboration with other scholars, Huang is conducting research on human capital formation in China and India, entrepreneurship, and ethnic and labor-intensive foreign direct investment (FDI). Prior to coming to MIT, he held faculty positions at the University of Michigan and at Harvard Business School and served as a consultant to the World Bank. He holds a BA in government from Harvard College and a PhD in government from Harvard University.
Huang’s research has been profiled in many publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Businessworld, Le Monde, the Economic Times, as well as in numerous Chinese publications. He has published many books, including Selling China (2003) and Financial Reform in China (2005, co-edited with Tony Saich and Edward Steinfeld). His book Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics was selected by The Economist as a best book in 2008. Huang has also published several books in Chinese, including, What Exactly is China Model?, winner of the Blue Lion Prize for the best book published in 2011. A book on social innovations is forthcoming in 2016.
Neri Oxman (+), Sony Corporation Career Development Associate Professor, Media Lab
Neri Oxman is the Sony Corporation Career Development and associate professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab, where she founded and directs the Mediated Matter research group. Her group explores how digital design and fabrication technologies mediate between matter and environment to radically transform the design and construction of objects, buildings, and systems. Oxman coined the term “material ecology” to describe the study and design of products and processes integrating environmentally aware, computational, form-generation processes and digital fabrication. Her goal is to enhance the relationship between the built and the natural environments by employing design principles inspired by nature and implementing them in the invention of novel digital design technologies.
Oxman was named to ICON’s list of the 20 most influential architects to shape our future (2009), and was selected as one of the “100 most creative people” by Fast Company (2009). Her work is among the permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Other exhibitions include the Smithsonian Institution, the Boston Museum of Science, the FRAC Collection (Orleans, France), and the 2010 Beijing Biennale. She is included in prestigious private collections and has received numerous awards, including a 40 Under 40 Building Design + Construction Award, a Graham Foundation Carter Manny Award, the International Earth Award for Future-Crucial Design, and a METROPOLIS Next Generation Award.
Oxman received her PhD in design computation as a Presidential Fellow at MIT, where she developed the theory and practice of material-based design computation. She earned her diploma from the Architectural Association (RIBA 2) after attending the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and the Department of Medical Sciences at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Kristala Prather (+), Theodore T. Miller Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
Kristala Jones Prather is the Theodore T. Miller Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and an investigator in the multi-institutional Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Her research interests are centered on the design and assembly of recombinant microorganisms for the production of small molecules, with additional efforts in novel bioprocess design approaches. Her research combines the traditions of metabolic engineering with the practices of biocatalysis to expand and optimize the biosynthetic capacity of microbial systems. A particular focus is the elucidation of design principles for the production of unnatural organic compounds within the framework of the burgeoning field of synthetic biology.
Prather is the recipient of a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award (2004), an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2005), an MIT Technology Review “TR35” Young Innovator Award (2007), and NSF CAREER Award (2010), and the Biochemical Engineering Journal Young Investigator Award (2011). Additional honors include selection as the Van Ness Lecturer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012) and a Young Scientist of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions (2012). She has been recognized for excellence in teaching with the C. Michael Mohr Outstanding Faculty Award for Undergraduate Teaching in the Department of Chemical Engineering (2006), the MIT School of Engineering Junior Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching (2010), and through appointment as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow (2014), the highest honor given for undergraduate teaching at MIT.
Prather earned her SB from MIT and her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining MIT’s faculty, she worked for four years in BioProcess Research and Development at the Merck Research Labs.
Dina Katabi (+), Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Dina Katabi is the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. A communications researcher working at the interface of computer science and electrical engineering to improve the speed, reliability, and security of data exchange, Katabi has contributed to a range of networking issues and has become a leader in accelerating our capacity to communicate high volumes of information securely without restricting mobility.
In WiFi (802.11) networks, it is common for two devices to send packets of information nearly simultaneously, resulting in partial data loss and rejection of both packets, a process that is repeated until each packet is transmitted without interference. Katabi and her colleagues developed a “ZigZag” algorithm that reconstructs the contents of the collided packets and reduces the retransmission rates significantly. Additionally, because 802.11 networks are radio broadcasts, their signals are vulnerable to interception and manipulation by nefarious third parties. Katabi designed a method that uses random wireless signals to protect low-power devices during the exchange of encryption keys and make it impossible for intermediaries to insert themselves undetected in the data stream. She and her colleagues are designing wearable devices that protect pacemakers against malevolent interference while allowing medical personnel emergency access without security codes. Further, Katabi and her students have shown that WiFi signals can be used to track the movements of humans, even if they are in a closed room or behind a wall. This technology can also be used to send commands to a computer via a person’s gestures as the signals reflect off of the person’s body.
Katabi received a BS from Damascus University and both an SM and PhD from MIT. She joined the faculty of MIT in 2003, where she is the director of the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing (Wireless@MIT) and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).
Content courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation
Katharina Ribbeck (+), Eugene Bell Career Development Professor of Tissue Engineering, Department of Biological Engineering
Katharina Ribbeck is the Eugene Bell Career Development professor of tissue engineering at MIT. Her research at the Laboratory for Biological Hydrogels focuses on basic mechanisms by which mucus barriers exclude or allow different molecules and pathogens to pass. It also focuses on the mechanisms that pathogens have evolved to penetrate mucus barriers. Through this research, Ribbeck and her research group hope to provide the foundation for a theoretical framework that captures general principles governing selectivity in mucus, and likely other biological hydrogels, such as the extracellular matrix, and also bacterial biofilms. The lab’s work may also be the basis for the reconstitution of synthetic gels that mimic the basic selective properties of biological gels.
Ribbeck earned her Bachelor’s degree and her PhD in biology from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. She continued her postdoctoral research at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, and in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. She established her independent research group as a Bauer Fellow at the FAS Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University in 2007 and joined the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT as an assistant professor in 2010.
Marcus Thompson (+), Institute Professor and Robert R. Taylor Professor of Music, MIT
Marcus Thompson, violist, has appeared as soloist, recitalist, and in chamber music series throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Far East. He has been a soloist with the orchestras of Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, and Saint Louis; The National Symphony, the Boston Pops, and the Czech National Symphony in Prague. He performed the West Coast Premiere of the Harbison Viola Concerto with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Chicago Premiere with the Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Boston premiere with the New England Conservatory Honors Orchestra. In recent seasons he has received critical acclaim for performances of the Penderecki Viola Concerto with the MIT Symphony Orchestra in Boston and London. He has been a guest of the Audubon, Borromeo, Cleveland, Emerson, Orion, Shanghai, and Vermeer String Quartets and a frequent participant at chamber music festivals in Anchorage, Seattle, Sitka, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, and Okinawa.
In addition to his busy performing career, Thompson serves as a member of the viola faculty at New England Conservatory of Music, where he founded performance programs in private studies and chamber music. He holds MIT’s highest professorial honor as Institute Professor and has been recognized for extraordinary teaching at MIT with an appointment as a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow. He previously taught at The Juilliard School Pre-College Division, Oakwood College (AL), Mount Holyoke College (MA), and Wesleyan University (CT).
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York City, Thompson earned his PhD at The Juilliard School. He currently lives in Boston, where he is violist and Artistic Director of the Boston Chamber Music Society.
John Fernandez (+), Professor, Department of Architecture and Director, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative
John E. Fernández is a professor and director of both the Building Technology Program in the Department of Architecture and of the Urban Metabolism Group, a multidisciplinary research group focused on the resource intensity of cities and design and technology pathways for future urbanization. He is also co-director of the International Design Center at MIT, a large internationally funded center for design studies across engineering and architecture.
The MIT Urban Metabolism Group, founded by Fernández in 2008, has been at the forefront of establishing an understanding of the resource intensity of urbanization. Research has included material flow analysis of a number of cities in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Recent projects include an examination of the Chinese building sector to identify sustainable transition pathways for provinces and cities, a system dynamics model for the Singapore water system, an alternative urban technology development scenario for Lagos, Nigeria, and the development of a global typology of urban resource consumption based on a comprehensive analysis of urban resource intensity data. In June 2015, the Urban Metabolism Group inaugurated the creation of the African Urban Metabolism Network, a research and implementation network of academic, government, non-governmental, business, and international agency partners motivated by the prospect for a sustainable and humane urban African future.
Fernández has designed more than 2.5 million square feet of new construction since completing graduate work at the School of Architecture at Princeton University. He is author of two books and numerous articles in scientific and design journals, including Science, the Journal of Industrial Ecology, Building and Environment, and Energy Policy. He is chair of Sustainable Urban Systems for the International Society of Industrial Ecology, associate editor of the journal Sustainable Cities and Society, and housemaster at Baker House on the MIT campus.
Rebecca Saxe (+), Symposium Cochair, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT
Rebecca Saxe is a professor of cognitive neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and an associate at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. Before joining the faculty, she was a Junior Fellow in Harvard’s Society of Fellows. Her research addresses the human brain’s astonishing capacity for complex abstract thought. She is especially known for her work on Theory of Mind (ToM)—people’s ability to think about the thoughts, beliefs, plans, hopes, and emotions of other people.
Saxe’s lab uses functional neuroimaging, behavioral studies with kids and adults, patient studies, and transcranial magnetic stimulation to study abstract representations in the human brain. In addition to Theory of Mind, their recent research investigates brain development, moral reasoning, causal reasoning, and language.
Saxe has authored more than 70 articles and is proud to have mentored more than a dozen talented graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. She is a recognized teacher and was awarded MIT’s Arthur Smith Award for Distinguished Service to Student Life and Learning in 2015. In 2012, she was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and her 2009 TED talk has been watched 2.5 million times and translated into 27 languages. Saxe earned her BA from Oxford University and her PhD from MIT.
Reception in Kresge Lobby