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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. Among MIT's historical achievements:

  • 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 unabated. Here are a few sample accomplishments from this decade:

  • Genetically reprogramming skin cells to cure a mouse model of sickle-cell anemia
  • Developing a new form of wireless power transmission
  • Inventing a way to duplicate photosynthesis in order to store solar energy
  • 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
  • Engineering a soft autonomous earthworm-like robot that can inch away unscathed even when stepped upon
  • Discovering evidence of water ice and organic material on Mercury
  • Developing ceramics that bend without breaking

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

During the academic year, approximately 3,590 researchers (including 580 visiting faculty and scientists) work with MIT faculty and students on projects funded by government, foundations, and industry. Approximately 2,440 graduate students are appointed as research assistants and 580 are appointed as teaching assistants; 1,785 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 (MITEI) 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.