MIT Professional Education Short Programs:
Linking Academia and Industry
MIT Professional Education Short Programs is the gateway to the Institute for industry professionals from around the world who want to gain knowledge about advances in technologies and bring it back to their workplaces. In turn, faculty who choose to teach short courses have the opportunity to augment their research and MIT courses with industry knowledge gained from participants in the classroom.
MIT Professional Education’s recent international course delivery initiative is enabling the Institute’s research priorities to connect to an industry audience worldwide.
For instance, Professor Daniel Nocera brought his breakthrough work on solar energy to Tokyo in January 2009, when Professional Education offered his one-day course in conjunction with the MIT Industrial Liaison Program’s Japan conference. In 2010, Professional Education offered a three-day course in India on air transportation infrastructure led by Professor of Engineering Systems Richard de Neufville and Dr. Peter Belobaba of the International Center for Air Transportation. Leading players from the booming airports and airline development industry in India attended the course.
On campus, Short Programs offers some 45 courses, mostly in the summer. The programs cover a broad range of topics that span most of the science and engineering disciplines offered at MIT. This summer, the two-to-five day courses will include topics such as nanostructure fabrication, the future of vehicular transportation, network coding, and supply chain design.
Advantages for Faculty
Faculty who are considering teaching in the program might be interested in the experience of Charles Cooney, who has taught Short Programs for 40 years. Like many faculty, the Robert T. Haslam (1911) Professor of Chemical Engineering is certainly busy – he teaches in the rapidly evolving field of biochemical engineering with a focus on separation processes and drug development. His MIT posts include faculty director of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation and, outside MIT, he is actively involved with industry. Yet Cooney makes teaching industry professionals through Short Programs at MIT a priority year after year.
Prof. Cooney began teaching weeklong summer courses in 1970 – his first year as a faculty member. He wanted to teach at MIT, in part, because of the opportunity to work in an emerging field with Daniel Wang. After Cooney’s first year teaching, he and Wang, now an Institute Professor, launched a new course, Fermentation Technology. Later, as the new knowledge about recombinant DNA techniques was emerging, Cooney launched a parallel course, Downstream Processing, which focused on recovering the biotechnology products created in fermentation and other techniques. Last summer, Cooney marked the 25th year of teaching his signature Downstream Processing course, which he updates every year, and he continues to join Wang in the fermentation course each summer because he still benefits from the exchange with students.
“We learn by questions we get and discussions in class,” Cooney says. “We learn a lot by the conversations in the hallway when you are talking one-to-one or to small groups and they bring in their real-life problems. All of this relates to the content that you are giving in the classroom. I always say it keeps me honest in terms of what I present and how I describe it. I’m trying to address real solutions to real problems.”
Translating Theory for a Broader Audience
Faculty who teach in Short Programs are active participants in realizing MIT’s historic goal of supporting America’s industry and business base. The Institute first offered summer courses to students in 1898 and refocused the courses on industry needs beginning in 1949.
In the past year, 47 MIT faculty members from 25 departments, centers, and labs taught Short Programs. They gained contacts with a wide range of professionals – the students came from 475 companies and organizations located in 50 countries.
“This thriving intellectual exchange furthers MIT’s historic mission of bringing new knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges,” says Bhaskar Pant, Executive Director of MIT Professional Education.
If you’re interested in learning more about teaching for MIT Professional Education Short Programs, contact Anna Mahr, Associate Director for Short Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-253-6161.