MIT model explains how the brain can learn novel tasks while still remembering what it has already learned.
The 1996 Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award recipient is Barbara Liskov, the NEC Professor of Software Science and Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The award, which is the highest given by the SWE, was given in recognition of "her significant contributions to the field of computer system design, in particular, the development of data abstraction, often known as `object-oriented' or `modular' programming."
Professor Liskov's work on data abstraction led to the development of the CLU programming language and to a programming methodology based on data abstraction and specifications. Her subsequent research in distributed computing resulted in the Argus programming language, which supports robust distributed programs that survive hardware failures, and the Mercury communications mechanism, which supports efficient communication in a heterogeneous distributed system. Her current research is on the design and implementation of Thor, an object-oriented database system that supports safe and efficient sharing of objects in a heterogeneous distributed environment.
Professor of Electrical Engineering Michael Athans has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) in Greece. The citation is "for lifelong contributions to education and research in the field of automatic control and systems engineering." Professor Athans, who was born in Drama, Macedonia, Greece, is a former director of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems and has been on the electrical engineering and computer science faculty since 1964. Last year, he also received the Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award of the American Automatic Control Council "in recognition of a distinguished career in automatic control; as a leader and champion of innovative research; as a contributor to fundamental knowledge in optimal, adaptive, robust, decentralized and distributed control; and as a mentor to his students."
Daniel Stroock, professor of mathematics, is one of two winners of the 1996 Steele Prize for Seminal Contribution to Research given by the American Mathematical Society. The award cited three papers and a book by Professors Stroock and co-winner S.R.S. Varadhan of New York University, in which they "introduced the new concept of a martingale solution to a stochastic differential equation, enabling them to prove existence, uniqueness and other important properties of solutions to equations which could not be treated before by purely analytic methods; their formulation has been widely used to prove convergence of various processes to diffusions."
Two from the music and theater arts section--David M. Epstein, professor emeritus and senior lecturer, and Evan Ziporyn, Class of 1958 Career Development Professor in music--have been chosen as this year's winners of the ASCAP Award conferred by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. The cash awards aim to "assist and encourage writers of serious music" and are based on "the unique prestige value of each writer's catalogue of original compositions" as well as recent performances of those works, according to ASCAP.
Robert A. Brown, the Warren K. Lewis Professor of Chemical Engineering and dean of the School of Engineering, won the 1996 Professional Progress Award sponsored by Air Products & Chemicals, given to recognize outstanding progress and significant contribution to the field of chemical engineering by those under age 45. He is the fifth MIT professor to win the award (the most recent was Robert C. Armstrong in 1992).
Several other faculty members in the Department of Chemical Engineering have recently received honors as well. Paula Hammond, the Hermann P. Meissner Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, was awarded the 1996-97 DuPont Young Professor Grant, which is intended to encourage highly original research and is sponsored by DuPont and its educational aid program. Adel Sarofim, the Lamott du Pont Professor of Chemical Engineering, has been selected to receive the 1996 Percy Nicholls Award. The joint American Society of Mechanical Engineers/American Institue of Mechanical Engineering national award, established in 1942, is presented annually for notable scientific or industrial achievement in the area of solid fuels. Jackie Y. Ying, the Raymond A. and Helen E. St. Laurent Career Development Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, received a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award for 1996. The foundation which selects the finalists for this award encourages emphasis on enhancement of the undergraduate research experience.
Professor Steven Pinker's critically acclaimed book, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, has been selected by the Linguistic Society of America to receive its first Linguistics, Language, and the Public Interest Award. The presentation will be made at the society's annual meeting in Chicago in January.
Dr. Pinker is professor of psychology in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and director of the department's McDonnell Pew Program of Cognitive Neuroscience. He is regarded as one of the world's leading researchers in the area of children's learning of syntax and morphology, the system of word-forming elements and processes in a language.
Matthew R. Vaneman, a senior in materials science and engineering, was among 80 college undergraduates chosen for the 1996 Summer Medical and Research Training Program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX.
The 10-week program, for which more than 700 applied, is designed for students interested in careers in scientific research and offers first-hand work experience in laboratories conducting biomedical projects. One of the sponsors is the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
Four of 16 recipients of the 1996 Runyon-Winchell Postdoctoral Fellowships, awarded by the Cancer Research Fund of the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation of New York City, will conduct their research at MIT.
The fund identifies outstanding young postdoctoral scientists and provides them with financial support for their research. Each fellowship lasts three years in the laboratory of the fellow's sponsor. Those coming to MIT, their sponsors and their research projects are:
Dr. Bruce H. Horwitz, sponsored by Professor David Baltimore, "Regulation of immune function by the p65 subunit of NF-kB." Dr. Horowitz received the PhD and MD degrees from Yale University.
Dr. Petra Anne Levin, sponsored by Professor Alan D. Grossman, "Mechanisms of asymmetric division in Bacillus subtilis." Dr. Levin received the PhD from Harvard University.
Dr. Anthony Schwacha, sponsored by Professor Stephen P. Bell, "The role of regulatory factors that interact with ORC at yeast origins of DNA replication." Dr. Schwacha received the PhD from Harvard University.
Dr. Hongkui Zeng, sponsored by Professor Susumu Tonegawa (a former Runyon-Winchell Fellow), "Synaptic plasticity and learning behavior in tissue-specific CaM kinase II knockout mice." Dr. Zeng received the PhD from Brandeis University.
Dr. Subra Suresh, professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering, has been named a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The Fellow grade is conferred upon a member with at least 10 years active engineering practice who has made significant contributions to the field. Professor Suresh is also a Fellow of the American Society of Materials and the American Ceramic Society.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 18, 1996.