MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


The 1998—99 academic year brought about a major change for the Program in Media Arts and Sciences (MAS): We received the final go-ahead from the relevant Institute committees to launch our special freshman-year program, which will enroll its first 24 students this Fall. We view this as a first step toward establishing a full-fledged undergraduate program at some point in the future.


For the 1998—99 academic year, the MAS program received 270 applications, a 6 percent increase over last year. From these, 42 new students (including 10 women) were offered admission with 35 enrolling (23 for the master's program, and 12 for the doctoral program). This brought the total MAS enrollment to 128, which included 33 women, 3 underrepresented minorities, and 36 foreign students. Of the total, 69 were master's candidates, and 59 were doctoral candidates. Thirty-nine advanced degrees were awarded during the year (28 SMs and 11 PhDs). Twenty-nine graduate subjects were offered.

For 1998-99, the largest undergraduate presence at the Media Laboratory continued to be its UROP students, more than 250 of whom participated in research projects at the Media Laboratory. Many of these undergraduates pursued their undergraduate theses under MAS faculty supervision. In addition, the Program in Media Arts and Sciences offered eleven undergraduate subjects, and three MAS faculty members and staff conducted freshman seminars or served as freshman advisors.


Scott Manalis joined the Media Arts and Sciences faculty as an assistant professor in November 1998. Professor Manalis comes to the lab from Stanford University, where he received his PhD in applied physics in June 1998. At the Media Lab he will be using MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) to investigate new technologies for monitoring biochemical reactions related to DNA and functional proteins.

Long-term Media Lab researchers Andrew Lippman and Walter Bender were both promoted to Senior Research Scientist.


Stephen A. Benton, E. Rudge ('48) and Nancy Allen Professor of Media Arts and Sciences received the first Saxby Medal from the Royal Photographic Society (Great Britain) for his pioneering work in holography.

Neil Gershenfeld received the Graduate Student Council Teaching Award, one of two campus-wide awards presented by the council at the MIT Awards Convocation on May 5.

Resurrection, a new opera composed by Professor Tod Machover, premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in April 1999. The fourth opera composed by Professor Machover, Resurrection is based on Tolstoy's last novel, published exactly 100 years ago.

Professor John Maeda's interactive piece, "Tap Type Write," won a gold medal in the interactive media category from the Art Director's Club's (ADC) in New York. Professor Maeda was further honored by the ADC with a special "best in show" gold prize.

Bernd Schoner, graduate student working with Professor Neil Gershenfeld, received the Distinguished Paper Award from the International Computer Music Conference for his paper "Data-Driven Modeling and Synthesis of Acoustical Instruments." It was chosen from 300 submissions.

Keith Martin and Youngmoo Kim, graduate students working with Professor Barry Vercoe, took home honors from the Acoustical Society of America meeting in October 1998 for their paper "Musical Instrument Identification: A Pattern-Recognition Approach." The paper was selected by the society's technical committee as the best student presentation in musical acoustics.

Three MAS faculty members have new books out:

Justine Cassell co-edited (with Henry Jenkins) From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, (MIT Press, 1998);

Neil Gershenfeld published When Things Start to Think, (Henry Holt and Company, 1999) and The Nature of Mathematical Modeling, (Cambridge University Press, 1999);

John Maeda published a new book, Design by Numbers, (MIT Press, 1999); and

Alex Pentland co-edited (with R. Cippolla) Computer Vision for Human-Machine Interaction (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

More information about the Program in Media Arts and Sciences can be found on the World Wide Web at

Alex Pentland

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99