Research at MIT

The soul of MIT is research. For more than 150 years, the Institute has married teaching with engineering and scientific studies—and produced an unending stream of advancements, many of them world-changing. Examples of some of MIT’s historical achievements follow:

  • Achieving the first chemical synthesis of penicillin
  • Developing inertial guidance systems for the Apollo space program
  • Pioneering high-speed photography
  • Engineering practical microwave radar
  • Building the magnetic core memory that made digital computers possible
  • Developing the world's first biomedical prosthetic device

This stream of discovery continues. Here are just a few accomplishments from this decade:

  • Genetically reprogramming skin cells to cure a mouse model of sickle-cell anemia
  • Re-engineering viruses to produce both ends of a lithium ion battery
  • Finding a way to use RNA interference to silence multiple genes at once
  • Designing computer techniques that automatically decipher ancient languages
  • Building a new radar technology system that can see through walls up to 60 feet away
  • Demonstrating experimentally the existence of a fundamentally new magnetic state called a quantum spin liquid
  • Developing a new steelmaking process that produces no emissions other than pure oxygen
  • Designing a new paper strip diagnostic test to rapidly diagnose Ebola and other viral hemorrhagic fevers

Undergraduates can plunge directly into this world of exploration through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which offers students a chance to collaborate on cutting-edge research as junior colleagues of Institute faculty.

During the academic year, approximately 3,775 researchers (including 550 visiting faculty and scientists) work with MIT faculty and students on projects funded by government, foundations, and industry. Approximately 2,565 graduate students are primarily supported as research assistants and 610 are appointed as teaching assistants; 1,640 are supported on fellowships.

As an institution, MIT encourages interdisciplinary research across department and school boundaries while focusing on tackling great challenges for society at large. Two examples of such initiatives include the MIT Energy Initiative and the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

More interdisciplinary teams are found off-campus in nearby Lexington, Massachusetts, at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center focused on national security.