James R. Killian Award & Lecture Series

Archive of award recipients and lectures


Eric Lander

Lecture title TBD
Date and time TBD
MIT Room 10-250 (Huntington Hall)

Eric Lander, professor of biology and president and founding director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, is MIT’s James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2016–2017. A biologist widely known for his work in mapping the human genome, Professor Lander is recognized by the committee for the the transformative effect he has had on the study of biology and medicine, as well as for his roles as a leader, teacher, mentor, and public advocate for science at the highest levels.

More information at MIT News.

Photo: Rick Friedman

Tyler Jacks
Lecture title: "Unlocking the Secrets of Cancer"
Date: Thursday, February 11, 2016
MIT Room 10-250 (Huntington Hall), 4 pm

Tyler Jacks, the David H. Koch professor of biology and director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, was MIT’s James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2015–2016. A pioneering cancer biologist, Professor Jacks was recognized by the committee for his influence on the field of cancer research and for his leadership of MIT’s multidisciplinary cancer research community.

More information at MIT News.

Photo: Alisha Siegel


Sallie (Penny) Chisholm
Lecture title: "Tiny cells, global impact: A journey of discovery with a microbe from the sea"
Date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015
MIT Room 10-250 (Huntington Hall), 4 pm

Sallie (Penny) Chisholm, the Lee and Geraldine Martin professor of environmental studies in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was MIT’s James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2014–2015. Professor Chisholm holds a joint appointment in the Department of Biology and was recognized by the Killian Award committee for her discovery of Prochlorococcus, a microorganism with global impact. One faculty colleague observed, "Her work is a defining example of the value of thinking both big and small to make sense of the complex interplay of life and the environment. ” Coverage of Professor Chisholm's lecture is available at MIT News.

Photo: Richard Howard


Stephen C. Lippard
Lecture title: "Understanding and Improving Platinum Anticancer Drugs"
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Stephen Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes professor in the Department of Chemistry, was MIT’s James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2013–2014. Professor Lippard has spent his career studying the role of inorganic molecules, especially metal ions and their complexes, in critical processes of biological systems. He has made pioneering contributions in understanding the mechanism of the cancer drug cisplatin and in designing new variants to combat drug resistance and side effects. Coverage of Professor Lippard's lecture is available at MIT News.


Maria T. Zuber
Lecture title: "The Early History of the Moon"
Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Maria Zuber, the E.A. Griswold professor of geophysics in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), has spent much of her career charting new territory in planetary science, spearheading missions to map planetary bodies within the solar system in unprecedented detail. Such maps have revealed new information about the composition and atmosphere of Mercury, Mars, and the moon.

Professor Zuber’s “breakthrough moment” came with her involvement in the Clementine space project — a mission to launch a spacecraft to observe the moon and surrounding asteroids. She led the analysis of data from the mission, and generated the first reliable topographic map of the moon. Her work established a new way to quantitatively analyze geophysical data, which has since become the standard in planetary mapping throughout the world. Read more at MIT News. Professor Zuber was named vice president for research in November 2012.


JoAnne Stubbe
Lecture title: "Freeing Radicals from Their Negative Connotations"
March 6, 2012

JoAnne Stubbe, Novartis professor of chemistry and biology, has spent most of her career studying enzymes involved in nucleotide metabolism, which is central to the synthesis of DNA and RNA. Professor Stubbe's success in unraveling the specific steps in enzymatic reactions has had profound impacts on a wide variety of fields; her many honors include the 2008 National Medal of Science. Read more at MIT News.

Ronald L. Rivest
Lecture title: "The Growth of Cryptography"
February 8, 2011

Ronald L. Rivest, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science who helped develop one of the world's most widely used Internet security systems, was MIT’s James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2010–2011. Rivest, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is known for his pioneering work in the field of cryptography, computer, and network security. Read more at MIT News.


Rudolph Jaenisch
Lecture title: "Making Stem-cell Therapy a Reality"
September 28, 2010

Rudolf Jaenisch, professor of biology and a founding member of the Whitehead Institute, was MIT's James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2009–2010. A pioneer in the field of mammalian developmental genetics, Professor Jaenisch helped found the area of transgenic science, the science of gene transfer for making mouse models, which is now widely used for studying human genetic diseases. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2010. Read more at MIT News.


Rafael Bras '72 SM '74 ScD '75
Lecture title: "Planet Water: Complexity and Organization in Earth Systems"
March 30, 2009

Rafael Bras, now dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California at Irvine, returned during his leave from MIT to deliver the 2008–2009 James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award Lecture. Professor Bras's expertise is in surface hydrology and hydrometeorology, and his work encompasses many aspects of Earth's water cycle. He has contributed to significant international projects that include the development and construction of tidal gates to protect the city of Venice against flooding, and he is known for his pioneering ideas about the deforestation in the Amazon region. Read more at MIT News.


John W. Dower
Lecture title: "Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9–11/Iraq"
April 7, 2008

John Dower, Ford International professor of history, was the 2007–2008 James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner. Professor Dower is renowned for his expertise in modern Japanese history and US-Japan relations. His book, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and the 1999 National Book Award for nonfiction, among many other awards. His lecture used examples from the past 66 years of warfare to show how government leaders, once bent on war, both deny history and rely on it. Read more at MIT News.


H. Robert Horvitz
Lecture title: "Worms, Life and Death: Cell Suicide in Development and Disease"
April 24, 2007

Nobel laureate H. Robert Horvitz, the David H. Koch professor of cancer biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, was the winner of the 2006–2007 James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award. The Horvitz laboratory has identified genes and proteins involved in the four-step genetic pathway of cell division and death, work that has potential for application in the treatment of human diseases. Read more about Professor Horvitz's lecture at MIT News.

Isadore Singer
Lecture title: "Some Geometry of the Past Half Century and Its Historical Background"
March 23, 2006

Institute Professor Isadore Singer, a world-renowned mathematician known for his work covering a broad spectrum of geometry, analysis, and algebra, was MIT's James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2005–2006. "His work is fundamental in differential geometry, topology, in function and operator algebras and in partial differential equations," said Professor Marcus Thompson, chair of the Killian Award Committee. Read more at MIT News.

Wolfgang Ketterle
Lecture title: "When Freezing Cold Is Not Cold Enough"
March 15, 2005

Wolfgang Ketterle, John D. MacArthur professor of physics, was MIT's James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2004–2005. His research is in atomic physics and laser spectroscopy, particularly in the area of laser cooling and trapping of neutral atoms with the goal of exploring new aspects of ultracold atomic matter. Professor Ketterle shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics with two MIT alumni for their discovery of Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) in 1995, and he was later the first scientist to realize an atom laser in 1997. Read more at MIT News.

Peter A. Diamond PhD '63
Lecture theme: Social Security and its Effect on the Economy
March 15, 2004

Institute Professor Peter A. Diamond was the 2003–2004 James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner. In 2010, he shared the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work in analysis of markets with search frictions. Among many other avenues of research he has pursued in his career, Professor Diamond helped develop studies from the late 1970s onward that examined the ways markets function over a period of time. This aspect of economic research—“search theory”—has been frequently applied to labor markets in the years since, in an attempt to see how the needs of individuals and employers are met. Professor Diamond discussed in his Killian Lecture how economists think about Social Security and its effects on the economy, described current projections of Social Security's financial problems, and offered proposals for restoring it to what is called "actuarial balance." Read more at MIT News.

Ann Graybiel '71
Lecture title: "The Robot Within Us: Neural Mechanisms Underlying Habit Formation"
March 17, 2003

Ann Graybiel, Walter A. Rosenblith professor of neuroscience and winner of the 2001 National Medal of Science, was named the 2002–2003 James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner. The selection committee praised her passionate advocacy of neuroscience at MIT, as well as her teaching and mentorship of MIT's undergraduate and graduate students. Professor Graybiel is also a principal investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, recognized worldwide for her pioneering work on the architecture and neurochemical organization of the large forebrain region known as the basal ganglia. Read more at MIT News.

Erich P. Ippen '62
Lecture theme: Femtosecond flashes and their effect on the microscopic world
March 13, 2002

Erich P. Ippen, the Elihu Thomson professor of electrical engineering and a professor of physics, was awarded the James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award for 2001–2002. Professor Ippen has received numerous awards and honors, including the Arthur Schawlow Prize from the American Physical Society, the Quantum Electronics Award from the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the Harold E. Edgerton Award from the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, and the R.W. Wood Prize from the Optical Society of America. One of the creators of the field of femtosecond optics, he described in his Killian lecture how ultrafast laser pulses allow researchers to freeze motion on a microscopic level. Read more at MIT News.

Jerome I. Friedman
Lecture title: "Are We Really Made of Quarks?"
March 20, 2001

Jerome Friedman, Institute Professor emeritus and one of a team of physicists who proved that quarks are real, said in his 2001 Killian Lecture that the battle of the quark is over, the next step was to learn more about the particle's structure. Professor Friedman shared the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics for "pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics". Read more at MIT News.

Robert A. Weinberg PhD '69
Lecture title: "Genes and the Origins of Human Cancer"
April 24, 2000

Robert Weinberg, the Daniel K. Ludwig professor for cancer research, American Cancer Society professor of biology, and National Medal of Science winner, is one of the country's eminent cell biologists. During his Killian Lecture, he described his ongoing struggle to discover how a normal cell is converted into a cancer cell, along with some of the puzzle pieces of cancer research over the past 200 years. Read more at MIT News.

Pauline Maier
Lecture title: "High Crimes and Misdemeanors: Reflections on the Bonds between Past and Present"
April 6, 1999

Pauline Maier, William R. Kenan Jr. professor of history, was the recipient of the 1998–1999 Killian Faculty Achievement Award and the first historian to be given that honor. The object of her lecture was to illuminate the impeachment proceedings of President Clinton in "new and interesting ways and perhaps begin making sense of them... in a broad historical context." Read more at MIT News.

Robert Langer ScD '74
Lecture title: "Biomaterials and How They Will Change Our Lives"
March 11, 1998

In honoring Robert Langer's personal contributions to the MIT community and to the larger world, the Killian Award selection committee said, "Using his background in polymer science, which he learned largely here at MIT, Bob Langer has become the leader in applying polymer chemistry to several distinct areas in the discipline of pharmacology. Bob has been the leader in the development of polymeric drug delivery systems that allow humans to receive drugs in a physiologically normal manner." The next decade brought Professor Langer many honors, including being named David H. Koch Institute Professor and winning the National Medal Science and the Millennium Technology Prize. In his Killian Lecture, he explored his experiences in the field, reviewed what has been accomplished to date, and described his hopes for the future. Read more at MIT News.

Gian-Carlo Rota
Lecture title: "Mathematical Snapshots"
March 5, 1997

Mathematician Gian-Carlo Rota was the recipient of the 1996–1997 James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award. He was described by the Killian Award Committee as "a leading innovator and theorist in the transformation of combinatorics from a disparate collection of facts and techniques unworthy of serious mathematical consideration into an active, systematic, and profound branch of modern pure and applied mathematics". In his lecture, Professor Rota presented some little-known facts of mathematics drawn from recent discoveries in geometry, mathematical analysis, and combinatorics. Read more at MIT News.

Daniel Kleppner
Lecture title: "Views From a Garden of Worldly Delights"
March 13, 1996

Daniel Kleppner, Lester Wolfe professor of physics and associate director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics, presented his Killian Award lecture in the spring of 1996. He spoke of advances in science from a personal point of view, tracing themes that wend through the creation of modern science and flow into today's world of atomic physics. The award selection committee said of Professor Kleppner, "...his discoveries, inventions, and contributions in atomic physics place him at the forefront of a science which is one of the foundations of modern technology." He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2006. Read more at MIT News.

John Harbison
Spring 1995

John H. Harbison, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and former Class of 1949 professor (later, Institute Professor of Music) was the 1994–1995 Killian Award recipient. Noting that Professor Harbison was among America's top composers, the selection committee also said: "His music is distinguished by its exceptional resourcefulness and expressive range. He has written for every conceivable type of concert performance, from the grandest to the most intimate, pieces that embrace jazz along with the pre-classical forms of Schutz and Bach, the graceful tonality of Prokoviev along with the rigorous atonal methods of late Stravinsky. The unique, personal idiom that John has developed from these origins is one of the leading compositional voices of our time." Read more at MIT News.

Phillip A. Sharp
Spring 1994

The 1993–1994 Killian Award lecturer was Phillip A. Sharp, then head of the Department of Biology and later, Institute Professor and Nobel laureate. A scientist internationally recognized for his contributions to molecular biology, Professor Sharp and his laboratory were commended by the selection committee for providing "some of the most insightful and definitive work on the complex but robust molecular mechanisms that make [RNA] splicing so common in nature. He has also succeeded in identifying quite a few of the proteins or so-called 'transcription factors' that govern whether and when a gene gets read out into RNA at all. And he has been involved with manipulating the genes themselves via various artificial splicings and cloning, both in the laboratory and in the biotech industry." Read more at MIT News.

Peter S. Eagleson ScD '56
Lecture theme: Hydrology and its practical application and uses
Spring 1993

The 1992–1993 Killian Award lecturer was Peter S. Eagleson, Edmund K. Turner professor of civil engineering, who is recognized internationally for his work in hydrology and hydro-climatology. The selection committee cited Professor Eagleson's vision as head of his department from 1970 to 1975 and commended him for his work as chair of the National Research Council Committee, which, under his leadership, produced an authoritative and imaginative strategy for the hydrologic sciences going into the next century. As president of the 25,000-member American Geophysical Union, Professor Eagleson "admirably represented and nurtured an emerging interdisciplinary view of the earth sciences which will help the AGU address the scientific and societal problems of the future." Read more at MIT News.

Noam A. Chomsky
Lecture title: "Language: The Cognitive Revolution"
April 8, 1992

Noam A. Chomsky, MIT faculty member since 1955 (later, Institute Professor), delivered the 20th annual Killian Award lecture. Often referred to as “the father of modern linguistics,” Professor Chomsky revolutionized the field of linguistics and paved the way for transformational grammar and universal grammar. His book Syntactic Structures (1957) was considered groundbreaking. He also made significant contributions to the fields of psychology, cognitive science, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. An interview taken with Professor Chomsky around the time of the lecture is available here.

George H. Büchi
Spring 1991

George H. Büchi, Camile and Henry Dreyfus professor of chemistry, was the recipient of the Killian Award in 19901991. At that time, a colleague described him "as one of the best scientists at MIT, and one of the most human." The award citation read: "George H. Büchi, MIT faculty member for nearly 40 years, has set an unprecedented standard in organic chemistry. His contributions in research and education have added to the quality of life globally, and his colleagues and students have derived direct benefit from his wisdom, dedication to excellence, and friendship." More at MIT News.

Marvin L. Minsky

Marvin Minsky is the Toshiba professor of media arts and sciences and a professor of electrical engineering and computer science. A pioneer of robotics and telepresence, his research has led to both theoretical and practical advances in artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, neural networks, and the theory of Turing Machines and recursive functions. (In 1961 he solved Emil Post's problem of "Tag", and showed that any computer can be simulated by a machine with only two registers and two simple instructions.) Read more about Professor Minsky's work at his home page.


John S. Waugh
Spring 1989

"Many of the past half-century’s discoveries in chemistry, physics, biology and materials science flow in part from MIT Professor Emeritus John S. Waugh’s pioneering work in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). His theoretical and experimental breakthroughs revolutionized the field of NMR spectroscopy, an extremely powerful and widely used research tool that uses the magnetic properties of atoms to determine the physical and chemical properties of molecules." Read more about Professor Waugh's work via MIT News.



Jay M. Forrester
Lecture titles: "The Common Foundation Underlying Physical and Social Systems" (March 30, 1988) and " Applications of System Dynamics" (April 6, 1988)

Jay Forrester is professor emeritus of Management in System Dynamics at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

A pioneer in early digital computer development and a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Professor Forrester invented random-access magnetic-core memory during the first wave of modern computers. He also pioneered the growing field of system dynamics. His research focuses on the behavior of economic systems, including the causes of business cycles and the major depressions, a new type of dynamics-based management education, and system dynamics as a unifying theme in pre-college education. A 2009 interview with Professor Forrester is available via MIT News.


Mildred S. Dresselhaus

Lecture title: "Adventures in Carbon Research"
April 1, 1987

Mildred Dresselhaus is Institute Professor emerita of electrical engineering and physics at MIT. She was educated in the New York City public school system before matriculating to Hunter College. She later received a Fulbright Fellowship to attend the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University (1951–1952), followed by a Master’s degree at Radcliffe College and a PhD at the University of Chicago. Professor Dresselhaus began her MIT career at Lincoln Laboratory, where her work has led to a fundamental understanding of the electronic structure of semi-metals, especially graphite. She came to MIT in 1967 as a visiting professor, and recognized for her enthusiasm for teaching and mentoring, was named full professor just one year later. Awarded the National Medal of Science in 1990, Professor Dresselhaus’s area of study is carbon science, including electronic materials and nanotechnology. A 2012 interview is available via the New York Times; read more at MIT News.



Franco Modigliani

Lecture title: "Life Cycle Hypothesis of Savings"
April 2 and 9, 1986

Institute Professor Franco Modigliani "was awarded the Nobel Prize for his pioneering research in several fields of economic theory that had practical applications. One of these was his analysis of personal savings, termed the life-cycle theory. The theory posits that individuals build up a store of wealth during their younger working lives not to pass on these savings to their descendents but to consume during their own old age. The theory helped explain the varying rates of savings in societies with relatively younger or older populations and proved useful in predicting the future effects of various pension plans.

Professor Modigliani also did important research with the American economist Merton H. Miller on financial markets, particularly on the respective effects that a company’s financial structure (e.g., the structure and size of its debt) and its future earning potential will have on the market value of its stock. They found, in the so-called Modigliani-Miller theorem, that the market value of a company depends primarily on investors’ expectations of what the company will earn in the future; the company’s debt-to-equity ratio is of lesser importance. This dictum gained general acceptance by the 1970s, and the technique Modigliani invented for calculating the value of a company’s expected future earnings became a basic tool in corporate decision making and finance." - Encyclopedia Britannica

A celebration of Professor Modigliani's life and work was held in 2013 at the MIT Sloan School of Management; an autobiography is available via the Nobel website; more at MIT News.

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Philip Morrison
Lecture title: "The Fruits of the Tree of Astronomy"
April 3, 1985


Robert W. Mann
Lecture title: "Engineering Designs" (Parts 1 and 2)
April 9 and 12, 1984




Hermann A. Haus
Lecture titles: "On Learning and Teaching and Electrodynamics" and "Noise, the Uncertainty Principle, and Picosecond Optics"
April 1983



Chia-Chiao Lin
Spring 1982





Alexander Rich
Spring 1981




David J. Rose
Spring 1980





Morris Halle
Spring 1979





Robert M. Solow
Spring 1978





Hans-Lukas Teuber
Spring 1977

Professor Teuber came to MIT in 1961 after gaining worldwide recognition as a leader in psychology and neuroscience. Just before his death in 1977, he had been selected as the next Killian Lecturer.



Frank Press
Spring 1976






Morris Cohen '33 ScD '36
Lecture title: "Materials in the Scheme of Things" (Parts 1 and 2)
April 5 and 12, 1975

Morris Cohen was a metallurgist and member of the MIT faculty from 1936 to 1987. He became an Institute Professor the same year he was named Killian Lecturer (1974). He is known for major contributions to the understanding of the structure of matter and the ways in which materials such as iron and steel can be processed, and his many honors included the National Medal of Science and the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology. Professor Cohen paved the way for materials science and engineering to emerge from its roots in metallurgy, thanks to the influential report, "Materials and Man's Needs," which he wrote for the National Academy's Committee on the Survey of Materials Science. More at MIT News.

Victor F. Weisskopf
Lecture titles: "The Search for the Ultimate Structure of Matter" and "The Frontiers and Limits of Science"
April 3 and 10, 1974



Nevin S. Scrimshaw
Lecture titles:"Myths and Realities in International Health Planning" and "Health Problems and Programs in North Vietnam and Laos"
March 22 and April 12, 1973

Nevin S. Scrimshaw, who founded MIT's Department of Nutrition and Food Science, was also the first James R. Killian, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award Lecturer. As Institute Professor emeritus, he was recognized for his efforts and significant contributions to combating malnutrition in dozens of countries. Beginning in the 1950s, Professor Scrimshaw researched the causes of the protein-deficiency disease kwashiorkor, a deadly disease affecting children throughout the developing world. He came up with inexpensive, protein-rich nutritional supplements to combat the disease, in different formulas based on locally available produce, that remain in widespread use. More at MIT News.

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