MIT Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor and Scholar Program
MLK Professors and Scholars 2009-2010 Profiles

Donal Fox, MLK Visiting Scholar, Music and Theater Arts

John Harkless, MLK Visiting Professor, Chemistry

Ray O'Neal, MLK Visiting Professor, Physics

Steward Pickett, MLK Visiting Professor, Urban Studies and Planning

Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, MLK Visiting Scholar, Literature

Quayshawn Spencer, MLK Visiting Professor, Philosophy

Latanya Sweeney, MLK Visiting Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Note, no profile available for Carl Paris, MLK Visiting Scholar, Women's Studies and School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences


Donal Fox is an internationally acclaimed classical jazz composer, improviser and pianist.  He was born in Boston, MA and received early training at the New England Conservatory of Music, and then at Berklee College of Music (Summer, 1968). He received a scholarship to study at the Tanglewood Music Center  in  the Summer of 1969 where he wrote classical music and performed jazz and classical piano in the presence of Leonard Bernstein and Gunther Schuller. As an MLK Visiting Scholar, Prof. Peter Child will serve as Mr. Fox’s faculty mentor. “As Donal testifies, his goal is to revive the tradition of improvisation that characterized the performance of great composers of the past, Bach, Mozart, Liszt, and many others, but that is rare today”.  At MIT, he will teach a new subject, 21M.335 – Musical Improvisation in the Music and Theatre Arts Section.


John Harkless is currently an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Howard University. In 2001, he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Ph.D in Theoretical Chemistry, after which he spent a year as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Researcher in the Computational Chemistry Group at NIST. He received his BS degree in Chemistry and Mathematics from Morehouse College in 1995.

While at MIT, as an MLK Visiting Professor, he will continue his research in molecular quantum mechanics working with Prof. Troy Van Voorhis in the Chemistry Department as well as colleagues in the Department of Chemical Engineering in the recruitment and mentoring of underrepresented minorities as well as establishing a local chapter of the (NOBCCHE) National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers of which John is currently the Vice President.


Ray O’Neil, Jr. is currently an Associate Professor of Physics at Florida A&M University. He received his Ph.D in Physics at Stanford University in 1995 and his BS in Physics at MIT. While at MIT he will continue to develop high resolution microcalorimeter X-Ray imaging rocket (Micro-X) instrumentation. As an MLK Visiting Professor he will be working with Professor Enectali Figuero-Feliciano in the Physics Department as well as colleagues in the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. In addition, Prof. O’Neal will continue in his efforts to incorporate students from Florida A&M University to work with him on the Micro-X project and will collaborate with Prof. Figueroa-Feliciano to start a Saturday “Open House” where underrepresented students from local high schools and middles schools can go to raise their interests in science, engineering and technology.


Steward Pickett is currently a Distinguished Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.  He received his Ph.D in Botany at the University of Illinois (1977) and his BS with Honors in Botany, Univ. of Kentucky (1972). He is an exemplary scholar and practitioner in the fields of landscape and urban ecology; and has continually strived to connect his work with broader questions of urban design and social science. Prof. Anne Whiston Spirn will serve as his principal and coordinating faculty host in the Department of Urban Studies.  As an MLK Visiting Professor, he will participate in the activities of the MIT Faculty Environmental Network, DUSP’s “MIT-USGS Science Impact Collaborative” (MUSIC) program and “Green Hub” Initiative and the work of the Community Innovator’s Lab.


Ricardo Pitts-Wiley is an accomplished actor, director, playwright, composer and theatre arts instructor. He is the co-founder and artistic Director of the Mixed Magic Theatre based in Pawtucket, RI. Over a career spanning almost 40 years he has performed at noted theatres throughout the Unites States including The Actor’s Shakespeare Project in Boston, Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI, The Old Globe theatre and many others.  He has directed over 50 plays including: A Raisin in the Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Driving Miss Daisy, The Emperor Jones.  As an MLK Visiting Scholar, Prof. James Buzard will serve as his faculty mentor. While at MIT, he will co-teach one class per semester and participate in dance and theatre productions in both fall and spring semesters in the Literature Department.


Quayshawn Spencer received his Ph.D at Stanford University in June 2009, specializing in philosophy of science and Biology, with interest in Newtonian studies, philosophy of race and ethics. He has a B.A. in Chemistry from Cornell, and an M.A in Biology from Cornell University.  Prof. Sally Haslanger will serve as his faculty mentor. As an MLK Visiting Professor, he will teach one course, a graduate seminar in philosophy of biology with an emphasis on race as a case study in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. In addition to teaching and research, he will be invited to participate in a variety of workshops and seminars and is ideally suited to collaborate with those in the Center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology and Medicine in STS.


Latayana Sweeney is currently an MLK Visiting Professor at MIT and will continue for the academic year 2010.  She received her Ph.D in Computer Science at MIT (2001) and her SMin Elec Engineering and Computer Science at MIT (1997), her ALBin Computer Science Cum Laude at Harvard University (1995). Latanya is an Associate Professor of Computer Science, Technology and Policy in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. She is one of the world’s experts in analyzing and mitigating risks to privacy that arise from the collection of large volumes of private data which of course is a common characteristic of virtually all contemporary information systems.  At MIT, she is hosted by Dr. Peter Szolovits in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. During her current year at MIT, Latanya assisted Prof Hal Abelson with his class, 6.805 Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier.  In addition to her teaching and research, Latanya will be finishing her manuscript for publication this year. The manuscript is entitled “Connecting Your Dots: What they will know from what you leave behind”.