MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


The School of Science at MIT continues to play a leadership role in science education and research both nationally and internationally. Our faculty received a broad array of honors and awards during the past year, internal and external, national and international. We note particularly the appointment of Professor Mario J. Molina of EAPS and Chemistry to the position of Institute Professor. Various studies including especially the NRC study of Research Doctorate Programs in the United States show that our graduate programs quite broadly are ranked among the top few in the Nation. The one exception is neuroscience where we are in a building phase. Of course, maintaining this high standard in the future will require continued dedication and diligence by all of the members of our community, especially in an era of diminishing resources.

Our education programs continue to evolve and improve in response to ever-changing conditions. Mathematics has extensively revised introductory calculus 18.01 and has introduced an "intermediate difficulty" freshman calculus sequence 18.01A and 18.02A; the latter has proven to be quite popular. Biology has been successfully introduced into the core curriculum and is continuing quite successfully. One result of adding Biology to the core is a dramatic increase in the number of Biology majors over the past several years. Physics introduced a major change in the structure of 8.01 with most of the teaching taking place in small sections of ~ 20 students; this approach is now being evaluated. EAPS has revamped its educational program, especially at the graduate level, with an emphasis on a systems approach and has introduced a professional masters degree in Geosystems. BCS has revamped its Cognitive Science major dividing it into four core areas and has introduced a neuroscience major. Overall, after EECS, the departments with the largest number of undergraduate student contact hours at MIT are, in order, Mathematics, Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Further, Biology is now the second most popular major after EECS. Thus, the School of Science continues to carry a major part of the undergraduate teaching responsibility at MIT.

In 1993 the School of Science established the "School of Science Teaching Prize for Graduate Education" to complement the prize for undergraduate education established by John Deutch in 1983. The 1997 winners of this award were Professors Moungi Bawendi of Chemistry and Edward Farhi of Physics. The School of Science Teaching Prize for Undergraduate Education was won by Tomas Arias of Physics. John Essigman of Chemistry and Toxicology was selected as a MacVicar Fellow in FY97.

The quality of an academic enterprise such as the School of Science is determined primarily by the caliber of the faculty who make it up. Thus, one of the highest priorities of the current administration in the School has been to support properly our existing outstanding faculty as well as recruiting to MIT exceptionally talented young educators and researchers including especially women and underrepresented minorities. In 1996-97 six new faculty joined the School as assistant professors and three additional faculty were appointed as full professors. We also have had to stave off an unprecedented number of outside offers to our most distinguished faculty. We were, unfortunately, not always successful in this endeavor. A large number of School of Science senior faculty took advantage of the early retirement program in FY97. This has provided most departments with significant opportunities for recruiting new faculty.

One of the most significant events of the recent past was the formation of the Committee on Women Faculty in the School of Science. This committee was created as the result of an initiative which involved all of the senior women in the School of Science. The committee has multiple purposes and responsibilities. First, the committee has collected data to be used in assessing the status and equitable treatment of women faculty in the School of Science. Second, the committee is facilitating communications between the women faculty and the dean and department heads. Third, the committee is acting as a resource for the Dean of Science and the department heads. Finally, the committee is also serving as a resource to the MIT community as a whole to provide advice about issues of concern to women faculty at MIT. The committee submitted its first official report in FY97.

There are many new research initiatives in the School of Science. One of the most significant is our newly established partnership with the Carnegie Institution, the Harvard Smithsonian, the University of Michigan and the University of Arizona in the Magellan Project; this involves the design and construction of twin 6.5m telescopes at Los Campanas in Chile. In addition, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) is scheduled to be one of the premier scientific experiments on the International Space Station to be launched in 2001. The AMS project, which involves an international consortium, will look for anti-matter and dark matter candidates above the Earth's atmosphere. MIT, in partnership with the Whitehead Institute, continues to play a leading role in genome research.

Fund raising in the School of Science reached all-time highs over the past two years with total cash received approaching $40M. Of particular note is the "Chemistry Campaign 2000."


There were 882 undergraduates in the School of Science during the past academic year, a 3.40% decrease from the previous year. The number of minority students at the undergraduate level changed as follows:


Increased from 37 to 41 (10.81% increase)
Increased from 48 to 62 (29.17% increase)
Native Americans
Decreased from 8 to 2 (75% decrease)
Asian Americans
Decreased from 289 to 279 (3.46% decrease)

The female undergraduate population increased from 418 to 434 (3.83%). Twenty-seven percent of the Institute's upperclass undergraduates were enrolled in the School of Science.

Graduate enrollments in science decreased from 1,059 to 1,001. The total enrollment represents 19 percent of the graduate population at MIT. The number of minority students at the graduate level changed as follows:


19 to 23 (21.05% increase)
Increased from 19 to 23 (21.05% increase)
Native Americans
No change (0)
Asian Americans
No change (51)

The number of female graduate students decreased from 316 to 295 (-6.65%). However, the overall percentage of female graduate students stayed unchanged at 30%.

The 262 faculty members in the School this past year represents a 5% decrease from the previous year. The undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio was 3.3 to 1, and the graduate student-to-faculty ratio was 3.8 to 1.


The FY97 research volume was $118 million, a 4% decline over the FY96 research volume.

Robert J. Birgeneau

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97