MIT Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor and Scholar Program
MLK Professors and Scholars 2010-2011 Profiles

Donal Fox, MLK Visiting Scholar, Music and Theatre Arts

S. James Gates, MLK Visiting Professor, Physics

Hector Hugo Hernandez, MLK Visiting Scholar, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Reuben A. Buford May, MLK Visiting Professor, Anthropology

Isaac Mbiti, MLK Visiting Assistant Professor, Economics

Juana Mendenhall, MLK Visiting Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Donna J. Nelson, MLK Visiting Professor, Chemical Engineering


Donal Fox is an internationally acclaimed classical and 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 whose appointment has been renewed for a second year, Prof. Peter Child will serve as Mr. Fox’s faculty host. 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 continue to teach 21M.335 – Musical Improvisation in the Department of Music and Theatre Arts.

S. James Gates is a world-renowned theoretical physicist who now serves as the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland.  Professor Gates earned his (S.B., S.M. and Ph.D) at MIT in Physics and as an MLK Visiting Professor he will collaborate with members of the Center for Theoretical Physics (CTP) in the Department of Physics. Professors Bertschinger and Farhi will be the official hosts to Prof. Gates and he will continue his work on string theory, supersymmetry and supergravity.  He will also continue to serve as a member of President Obama’s Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He is one of the country’s leading scientists and engineers chosen by President Obama to represent the highest level of scientific achievement in the country. For more information, please visit his website.

Hector Hugo Hernandez completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Chemistry at MIT in 2008 and has worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate with Prof. Janelle Thompson in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. As an MLK Visiting Scholar, he will continue to work on his innovative post-doctoral research on aqueous phase microbial growth within a supercritical CO2 atmosphere.  This research will contribute significantly to understanding the biochemical reactions associated with subsurface injection and storage of CO2. Prof. Thompson will serve as Dr. Hernandez’s official host. For more information, please visit his website.

Reuben A. Buford May is currently a Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University and is the winner of numerous research and teaching awards. His research areas include Urban Ethnography, Race and Culture, and the Sociology of Sport.  As an MLK Visiting Professor, his current research project is a nuanced look at how African Americans negotiate the public spaces of downtown Athens, Georgia. His goal is to theoretically elaborate the kinds of social forces that influence African Americans’ interactions with non-minorities.  Prof. Susan Sibley will be his official mentor in the Department of Anthropology and will offer courses on “Urban Cultures” and  “Sport and Culture”. For more information, please visit his website.

Isaac Mbiti is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.  Prof. Mbiti specializes in development economics, and has an interest in randomized experiments in development economics. As an MLK Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics, he will work closely with his host Prof. Esther Duflo in the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).  He will work on two on-going projects, “Experimental Evidence on the Returns to Vocational Education in Kenya” and “The Impact of Monitoring Technology on the impact of remittances in Kenya”. For more information, please visit his website.

Juana Mendenhall is currently an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA.  As an MLK Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and with Prof. Timothy Swager as her host, she plans to develop cohesive long-term collaborations between Morehouse College and MIT’s research laboratories in chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science and biomedical engineering. For more information, please visit her website.

Donna J. Nelson is currently a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oklahoma. As an MLK Visiting Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering with Prof. Michael Strano as her host, her research will focus on functionalizing and characterizing single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), especially by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). She will also perform research on scientific workforce development with a special interest on diversity. More information can be found on her University of Oklahoma website.