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iLABS - Remote Lab Access


Prof. del Alamo in SingaporeStudent Jim Harden and iLabs

iLabs enriches science and engineering education by vastly increasing the scope of experiments that students have access to in the course of their academic careers. Harnessing the Internet, it enables students to use real instruments via remote online laboratories. Unlike conventional laboratories, iLabs can be shared across a university or across the world—and today, they are.


Conducting experiments motivates students; it also causes them to learn more effectively. Experiments allow a student to compare reality with simulations, collaborate with each other, and follow their curiosity. Yet, significant expense, space and safety considerations prevent many engineering classes from including lab components.

By providing online access to remote laboratories, MIT is delivering the educational benefits of hands-on experimentation both to our own students and to students anywhere, at any time.


Under the guidance of MIT professors Jesus del Alamo and Steve Lerman, iLabs is creating remote web-accessible laboratories that provide a new framework for science and engineering courses.

Three goals affected the overall design:

  • Intuitive Infrastructure: The software must make it simple and inexpensive for a lab to be internet accessible—regardless of the nature of the lab itself, the pedagogy used by the faculty, or the academic policies of the educational institution using the lab.
  • Scalable Architecture: The software and process must scale to support multiple online lab offerings for large groups of students semester after semester.
  • Cross-institution Cooperation: The system must allow schools or universities to share the cost of an expensive. It must also accommodate such government participation as limited access to national laboratories or facilities like the International Space Station.


Remote laboratories have enabled much more efficient use of laboratory equipment, and given students the opportunity to conduct experiments from the comfort of any Internet-accessible browser.

iLabs began with the microelectronics WebLab, where students can test fragile, microelectronic devices. Now, this concept of online experimentation has extended to other disciplines, creating seven MIT online laboratories to date. These include a chemical reactor, mechanical structures, a chemical engineering heat exchanger, a civil engineering shakr table, a polymer recrystallization experiment, and a photovoltaic weather station.

Tools like these are extremely expensive; indeed, universities in most developing countries often cannot afford them. Yet, if they can be accessed across the campus, they can be accessed across the world. And with these tools available 24/7, there is much excess capacity, which MIT is freely sharing with other higher education institutions.

Today, students from Africa to China are using MIT's microelectronics laboratory to perform transistor characterization experiments. By expanding this offering, iLabs has the potential to greatly enhance the education of science and engineering in the developing world at a marginal cost. Ultimately, we hope not only to share MIT resources where feasible, but to create an economy of shared laboratory experiments among educational institutions around the world.


Jesus del Alamo

Jesus del Alamo has been a professor at MIT since 1988, coming to the Institute after working as a research engineer with NTT LSI Laboratories in Atsugi, Japan. Prof. del Alamo received a degree in Telecommunications Engineering from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid in 1980, and later a MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford in 1983 and 1985. From 1977 to 1981, Prof. del Alamo worked in the Institute of Solar Energy at his alma mater in Madrid.

Since his arrival at MIT, he has been with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, teaching a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses, carrying out research in new high frequency microelectronics technologies as well as spearheading the iLab project, creating Web accessible laboratories for worldwide use.

His accolades include being named a NSF Presidential Young Investigator from 1991 to 1996; receiving the Baker Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at MIT in 1992; receiving the H.E. Edgerton Junior Faculty Achievement Award at MIT in 1993; and being elected a corresponding member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Engineering in 1999. He also was the recipient of the Louis D. Smullin Award for Teaching and given the Class of 1960 Innovation in Education Award in 2001, both at MIT. In 2002, he received the Amar Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching from MIT.

Prof. del Alamo was selected in 2003 as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, one of the most distinguished appointments in MIT academia. He also shares his time working as the associate editor of IEEE Electron Device Letters and as the associate director of Microsystems Technology Laboratory at MIT.

Steve Lerman

Steven R. Lerman is the holder of the Class of 1922 Distinguished Professorship at MIT. He is the Director of the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives (CECI), the research unit of an MIT-wide research center devoted to studying the application of computational and communication technologies to teaching and learning. He is the author of two books and numerous journal articles.

From 1983 to 1988, Prof. Lerman directed MIT's Project Athena. This project developed a campus-wide distributed system of advanced computer workstations at MIT. Athena's facilities span the entire MIT campus, providing computational support for the MIT curriculum.

Since joining the MIT faculty in 1975, Prof. Lerman has served as the Chair of the MIT faculty, the Head of the Transportation Systems Division and the Head of the Intelligent Engineering Systems Laboratory.

Professor Lerman serves as the Deputy Director of the Singapore-MIT Alliance and chairs the Faculty Advisory Boards of both MIT OpenCourseWare and the Academic Media Production Services group. He is a member of both the Management Board of the MIT Press and the Board of Directors of Cambridge Systematics, Inc.

He received his Bachelors, Masters and PhD degrees from MIT in 1972, 1973 and 1975. His undergraduate degree is in Civil Engineering, and both his graduate degrees are in the area of transportation systems. He was appointed to the MIT faculty in 1975, and he is now a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In 1994 Prof. Lerman was also appointed as a Professor II at the University of Bergen in Norway. He has been a Visiting International Professor at the Universidad Gabriela Mistral in Santiago, Chile since 1993. He served as Associate Chair of the MIT Faculty in AY97-98, as Chair-elect in AY 98-99 and as Chair from 1999 to 2001.


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Jesus del Alamo
Steve Lerman

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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