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21st Century Requirement: Global Citizenship

by Dean Subra Suresh, Winter 2008

A great awareness of the importance of international experiences for students has permeated MIT. This understanding is shared broadly across both faculty and students and is readily accepted as a key element to be integrated into the Undergraduate Educational Commons in the coming years. Currently, our engineering department heads and faculty are exploring new ways students can gain meaningful international experiences, both in education and research.

The School and the Institute are considering the role a preeminent research university should play in today’s global society and in addressing major problems that face humankind. In this issue, I would like to direct your attention to news of several initiatives, including some that have been recently announced:

Faculty Honors and Achievements

First, let me mention some of the significant honors that the School and our faculty have received and appointments that we have announced in recent weeks.

American Physical Society Fellows
Each year, the American Physical Society (APS) awards fellowships to selected honorees from among its members. Fellowships demonstrate recognition by one’s professional peers. The 2007 APS Fellows include:

  • Professor of Mechanical Engineering Seth Lloyd for seminal contributions to the theories of quantum computation and quantum communication and their physical properties; and
  • Professor of Teaching Innovation Gareth McKinley in the Department of Mechanical Engineering for the development of methods for characterization of the rheology of complex liquids and improved understanding of elastic effects and instabilities.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellows
MIT faculty members have been named fellows by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). This distinction recognizes important contributions to the advancement or application of engineering, science and technology, bringing the realization of significant value to society. The IEEE fellows are:

  • Professor of Electrical Engineering Akintunde Ibitayo Akinwande for contributions to the development of digital, self-aligned gate technology and vacuum microelectronic devices;
  • Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Judy Hoyt for contributions to silicon-based heterostructure devices and technology;
  • Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Muriel Medard for contributions to wideband wireless fading channels and network coding; and
  • Cecil H. Green Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Jacob White, for contributions to simulation tools for RF circuits, electrical interconnects and micromachined devices.

Ed Boyden, who has a joint appointment in the Department of Biological Engineering, has received a research award from the Society for Neuroscience for innovation in neuroscience. Supported by Astellas USA Foundation, the award honors imaginative, innovative research that will advance novel ideas and has the potential to lead to significant breakthroughs in the understanding of the brain and nervous system and related diseases. The Benesse Career Development chair holder in media arts and sciences, and head of the MIT Media Lab’s Neuroengineering and Neuromedia group, Boyden also has an appointment at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. He also received a New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the fall semester.

For her outstanding, widespread and lasting impact on the teaching of physics, MIT Institute Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering Mildred S. Dresselhaus has been awarded the Oersted Medal by the American Association of Physics Teachers, the AAPT announced in late November.

Earll Murman, Ford Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department and the Engineering Systems Division, has been named to present the SAE International/American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) William Littlewood Memorial Lecture at the annual AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit. This honor recognizes an individual “who has made significant contributions to the field of air transport engineering.”

Professor of Biological Engineering and Health Sciences and Technology Ram Sasisekharan has been selected as one of four recipients of the 2007 Princess Chulabhorn Gold Medal. The award is given in recognition of world-renowned individuals or organizations that give outstanding support for the activities of the Thailand-based Chulabhorn Research Institute, as well as make important contributions to the advancement of science in developing countries.

The director of the Crystal Physics and Electroceramics Laboratory in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Harry Tuller, professor of ceramics and electronic materials, was awarded the Edward Orton, Jr. Memorial Award at the Materials Science and Technology 2007 Conference and Exhibition. The award recognizes scholarly attainments in ceramics or a related field.

Krystyn J. Van Vliet, Thomas Lord Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, has received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the nation’s highest honor for professionals at the outset of their independent scientific research careers. Established in 1996, the PECASE honors the most promising researchers in the nation within their fields. Van Vliet was nominated for the award by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Recently, I was very pleased to make two appointments in the School of Engineering. Ian Waitz, the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, has been named the next head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, effective February 16. He served as deputy head of the department from 2002 to 2005 and led the development of the department's 2007 strategic report. Professor Waitz was appointed as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow in 2003 and received the MIT Class of 1960 Innovation in Education Award in 2002.

I have also named a new assistant dean for Development and Strategic Initiatives for the School. Dr. Dedric Carter (S.B. '98, S.M. '99) has served as the executive director of our Office of Engineering Outreach (OEO) programs since April 2005 and was a member of the MIT Corporation from 2000 to 2005.

Global Initiatives

First School Director of International Programs

As of January 2008, Professor Dick K.P. Yue, the Philip J. Solondz Professor of Engineering, became the School’s first director for international programs. In this newly created position, Dick will help coordinate and facilitate the School’s international programs and activities in education and research. He will interact closely with Institute-wide initiatives in these areas, serve on the Institute’s International Advisory Committee, and work together with the dean for undergraduate education to develop international educational opportunities for undergraduate students. In his new capacity, Dick will also serve as the MIT co-director of the Singapore-MIT Alliance (see below), as well as the associate director for education of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research & Technology (SMART) that will be launched later this month.

Dick will chair a new School of Engineering Committee on International Initiatives (CII) with representatives from all the School’s academic units. CII is charged with conducting a survey of international programs and initiatives of peer U.S. and foreign universities; reviewing MIT’s past and ongoing international activities; articulating objectives, guiding principles and strategies for the School in this area; and developing priorities and plans for implementation. CII will deliver a report by fall 2008. After serving for more than eight years as associate dean of Engineering, Dick recently stepped down to assume this new role.

International Innovation Initiative (I3)

In November 2007, MIT’s President Hockfield announced a new initiative while in India—the International Innovation Initiative, or I3—to strengthen, connect, and accelerate MIT's innovation efforts around the globe. The goals of I3 are to facilitate future interactions between MIT researchers and the global venture capital community. I3 is expected to enhance MIT’s innovation efforts around the world through partnerships with institutions in India and other countries.

Modeled on and organized through the School’s Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation which funds innovative research and helps guide new technologies to the market, I3 provides a streamlined organizational umbrella to strengthen and enhance the innovation ecosystem by applying the best practices of the Deshpande Center to MIT’s international activities and collaborations. At the time of the MIT announcement in November, I was also pleased to name Charles Cooney, faculty director of the Deshpande Center and Robert T. Haslam (1911) Professor of Chemical Engineering, as the faculty director of I3. Professor Cooney plans to apply to I3 what has been learned through the Deshpande Center about converting early-stage science and technology to develop useful solutions to real-world problems.

Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI)

Also announced in India in November, MIT has undertaken a partnership with the government of India’s Department of Biotechnology that will result in the creation of a new Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI). Funded by the Indian government, the new institute in India is being modeled after the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) and will be a multidisciplinary, multiprofessional research and training center. THSTI will have close ties to HST, which will help recruit and train new faculty members for THSTI, as well as planned research and educational collaborations between the two institutions.

Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA-2)

The Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) is a collaboration among MIT, the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The SMA uses state-of-the-art, synchronous and asynchronous technologies to achieve seamless instruction across 12,000 miles and 12 time zones, simultaneously teaching students in Singapore and at MIT. Over 65 faculty, drawn from all five MIT Schools, but mostly from Engineering, have participated in SMA since its inception in 1999. Anchored in Singapore but with a broad regional reach, SMA has graduated over 735 students (with degrees in Singapore), drawn primarily from India, China, and other countries in the region.

The second phase of the alliance, SMA-2, offers graduate programs in advanced materials for micro- and nano-systems, chemical and pharmaceutical engineering, computational engineering, manufacturing systems and technology, and computational and systems biology. Students can obtain a dual (not joint) degree: a master's degree from MIT and a master's degree from either NTU or NUS. Doctoral degrees are also granted from either of the Singapore universities, with supervision from an MIT faculty member. To participate in the program, students apply separately to MIT and one of the Singapore universities. If admitted independently to both, students are eligible to apply for an SMA graduate fellowship. All students will spend at least one semester in residence at MIT. To date, 27 students have graduated with MIT master's degrees and an additional 38 students will graduate in June 2008.

MIT Portugal Program

Launched in October 2006 by MIT and the Portuguese government, through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, the MIT Portugal Program is a large-scale international collaboration involving government, academia and industry designed to significantly expand research and education related to engineering systems across many of Portugal's top national universities. The program, which is part of the Engineering Systems Division in the School of Engineering and directed by Professor Dan Roos, involves both educational and research initiatives, with participation of over 40 faculty from all five Schools at MIT.

Through the program, the Portuguese government intends to strengthen the country's knowledge base at an international level through a strategic investment in people, knowledge and ideas. The MIT Portugal Program also affords MIT an opportunity to gain insight into the planning, design and implementation of transportation, energy, manufacturing and bioengineering systems in Portugal, all critical sectors of the global economy. The program launched its first master's and Ph.D. classes in September 2007 and recently recently launched a lecture series featuring top experts in science and technology. 

Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi

Launched in February 2007, a $35-million project is helping Abu Dhabi develop a new university, create opportunities for research and development, and expand the country’s capacity in alternative forms of energy. Through a cooperative agreement between MIT and the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, MIT’s Technology and Development Program is providing assistance and advice to the new Masdar Institute, a private, not-for-profit, independent, post-graduate institute that is research-driven and anchored in science and technology. The new institute focuses on five areas that include high-tech entrepreneurship and the strategic coupling of research findings and emerging technological needs. The campus will be part of a zero-carbon, zero-waste, green economic zone. With MIT’s assistance, these efforts aim to establish high-quality, indigenous programs and expertise in Abu Dhabi to create long-lasting, sustainable science and technology excellence in the emirate.

MIT faculty have been providing guidance to help the Masdar Institute establish its master of science and Ph.D. programs. The first class will be admitted to the master's program in September 2009 and will work toward degrees granted by the Masdar Institute. Professor Fred Moavenzadeh, James Mason Crafts Professor of Engineering Systems and director of the MIT Technology and Development Program, and Professor David H. Marks, Goulder Family Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering Systems, currently serve as the MIT co-directors of the cooperative program with Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI)

Begun in 1994, MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) provides intensive, hands-on, professional internships for MIT students at all academic levels and for postdoctoral researchers, placing them in companies, research laboratories, and universities around the world. Over the last ten years, MISTI has placed more than 2,000 MIT students as interns in labs and offices from Beijing to Berlin.1

This year, MISTI extends its established portfolio of eight countries (China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico and Spain) to include a new internship and research exchange program with Israel. Professor Christine Ortiz of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering will serve as faculty director of the new MISTI-Israel program. MISTI also supports workshops, conferences, symposia and lectures for MIT students and faculty with international corporations, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, and assists MIT faculty with cross-border research collaboration.


I hope this brief MIT “world tour” provides a glimpse into the many activities that MIT is undertaking to reach out globally and collaboratively, offer our students and faculty valuable international experiences in education and research, and continue to have a significant impact on the challenging issues of our time.

1 Numbers of students placed by MISTI in 2007:

Japan China Germany India Italy France Mexico Spain TOTAL
32 40 60 26 25 40 20 25 268