MIT Campus News MIT News is dedicated to communicating to the media and the public the news and achievements of the students, faculty, staff and the greater MIT community. en Mon, 09 Mar 2020 13:35:01 -0400 Creating Peru’s next generation of data scientists IDSS and social impact group Aporta share a vision to educate and empower. Mon, 09 Mar 2020 13:35:01 -0400 Scott Murray | Institute for Data, Systems, and Society <p>“Participating in the MIT MicroMasters in Statistics and Data Science, I have discovered new concepts and skills that will allow me to become a data scientist,” says Karen Velasquez. “I am excited to apply what I have learned to challenges that will help NGOs in Peru.”</p> <p>When Velasquez graduated with a bachelor’s degree in statistical engineering from the Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería in Lima, Peru, she was among the top 10 percent of students in her class. Now, while working for a marketing and intelligence company in Peru, she’s expanding her education as one of the first 25 participants in the&nbsp;<a href="">Aporta</a>’s Advanced Program in Data Science and Global Skills, which supports a cohort of Peruvians through the MIT&nbsp;<a href=";utm_source=idss&amp;utm_content=news">MicroMasters Program in Statistics and Data Science</a>.</p> <p><strong>Training future data scientists</strong></p> <p>Both Aporta and the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) recognize the urgent need to solve global challenges through rigorous and systemic analysis of large and complex datasets, using tools from statistics and computing. These approaches and techniques can bring new insights to societal challenges by detecting fake news, designing real-time demand response for the power grid, or maximizing the efficacy of vaccine intervention to prevent the spread of disease.</p> <p>This critical need led Aporta and IDSS to join forces to advance education in powerful data science methods and tools to train the next generation of data scientists in Peru. Aporta is leveraging the IDSS MicroMasters for a program of their own: the Advanced Program in Data Science and Global Skills. In partnership with IDSS faculty and staff, Aporta — a subsidiary of Peruvian conglomerate Breca Group — is offering the IDSS MicroMasters Program in Statistics and Data Science to a carefully vetted group of learners, along with additional content to develop skills in cross-cultural communication, teamwork, and leadership.</p> <p>The IDSS MicroMasters Program offers a rigorous MIT education, available from anywhere in the world. Through four online courses, learners in the MicroMasters program gain in-demand skills in data analysis and machine learning, plus get hands-on experience in applying these skills in challenges centered in economics and development.</p> <p>To support the Aporta cohort’s progress through the challenging courses of the MicroMasters program, IDSS recruits teaching assistants (TAs) with areas of expertise specific to each course. Learners interact with each other in physical space while receiving live instruction and feedback from TAs through online office hours. TAs use these sessions to identify challenge areas and develop individualized course materials. This personalized and interactive method creates a vibrant classroom experience for the learners, similar to being in a residential program on MIT’s campus.</p> <p>Custom TA-led sessions have “been beyond helpful to complement the online material,” said David Ascencios, a learner who is already working as a data scientist in Peru.</p> <p>The cohort has cleared the halfway mark of their journey through the program, and already the impact is significant. “I am very grateful to Aporta and to MIT,” says Johan Veramendi, a systems engineering graduate working in finance. “The program is an excellent opportunity to advance and guide my career into the world of data science.”</p> <p><strong>Giving back</strong></p> <p>Aporta’s educational outreach program began with a gift from Ana Maria Brescia Cafferata, the daughter of Grupo Breca’s late founder. It is a philanthropic endeavor with the goal of empowering Peruvian professionals with learning opportunities to enhance their careers, while providing much-needed talent across different industries and government. Data science is a young and growing field in South America, with untapped potential, an expanding job market, and increasing opportunity for both the private and public sectors.</p> <p>“This unique program has the vision to make Peru a hub in Latin America for analytics and artificial intelligence,” says Luis Herrera, who is balancing the program with his job as a software engineer and his role as a new father. “I share this vision and I think they are doing a great job. The MIT courses are very challenging and rewarding at the same time.”</p> <p>The pilot class of 25 learners represent a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Most have college degrees. Thanks to Brescia Cafferata’s philanthropy, Aporta made a commitment to support all of them with scholarships throughout the program. Going forward, the initiative intends to become self-sustainable, granting as many scholarships as possible.</p> <p>“Her wish is to dedicate part of her parents’ legacy to the country she’s from, and to give back,” says Luz Fernandez Gandarias, director of the Institute for Advanced Analytics and Data Science within Aporta. “Her spirit is also behind the design of the program’s academic model, keeping people as the key point around which everything evolves, rather than technology. Ensuring the presence of an ethical conscience, recognizing the impact on people of technology — that humanistic view is something she’s always promoted.”</p> <p>For IDSS Director Munther Dahleh, the collaboration of Aporta and IDSS presents a compelling model of how MIT and IDSS can share their elite faculty and courses with the rest of the world: “IDSS wants to provide a rigorous data science education to the world. We think these skills are critical in the private sector, but also to solving global societal challenges.”</p> <p>This was the initial vision of Ana Maria Brescia Cafferata, who wants to give back to the country that gave her parents so much. Says Dahleh: “I am delighted to share the hopes and vision of Ana Maria. We have developed a unique program and partnership that aspires to educate students in an emerging field that is fundamentally changing the nature of work. In line with MIT’s mission of creating a better world, our goal is to create a more educated workforce capable of tackling the world’s challenges through enhanced data analysis and insights.”</p> Learners in the Advanced Program in Data Science and Global Skills interact with each other in physical space while receiving live instruction and feedback from teaching assistants, recruited by the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, to support their journey through the MicroMasters Program in Statistics and Data Science.IDSS, Latin America, MITx, Massive open online courses (MOOCs), Data, Analytics, online learning, Classes and programs, EdX, International initiatives, Global, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing 3 Questions: Renae Irving on creating supportive learning environments for middle- and high-school students Molecular biology researcher and MIT alumna is an Office of Engineering Outreach Programs (OEOP) instructor. Mon, 09 Mar 2020 12:20:01 -0400 Office of Engineering Outreach Programs <p><em>The MIT <a href="">Office of Engineering Outreach Programs</a> (OEOP) runs outreach programs under the School of Engineering for underrepresented and underserved students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Since 1975, its programs have served more than 4,400 middle- and high-school students, free of charge.&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Renae Irving '18, is a molecular biology research associate at Finch Therapeutics Group, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, and a graduate of the OEOP <span class="ILfuVd rjOVwe"><span class="e24Kjd">Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) </span></span>program. Her work focuses on developing genetic sequencing of the microbiome, and understanding its influence in inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis. She is also a Saturday Engineering Enrichment and Discovery (SEED) Academy Academic Mentoring Seminar (AMS) instructor, and during her five-year journey as part of the OEOP instructional staff she has also been teaching assistant for the MITES,<span class="ILfuVd rjOVwe"><span class="e24Kjd"> </span></span>MIT Online Science, Technology, and Engineering Community (MOSTEC), and E2 programs. Irving hails from Lawrenceville, Georgia, and holds a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering with a minor in Spanish from MIT; she is preparing to pursue a MD-PhD program. Irving recently spoke on her work with OEOP and its students.</em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What inspired you to become an OEOP instructor and what keeps you coming back?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> I came to the OEOP as a MITES student, when I was a rising high school senior in 2013. I went to a STEM-focused high school, and had an interest in medicine and disease, but didn’t have a clear idea of the field. During MITES I was part of the genomics course, which is offered in collaboration with the <a href="" target="_blank">Broad Institute</a>. The course gave me a better understanding of biological engineering, synthetic biology, and the vast applications for microbes. After MITES, I decided to pursue my interest in bioengineering, and I ended up at MIT as an undergrad. I knew I wanted to be a doctor and have an MD-PhD one day, so, as a pre-med student, a lot of the work I chose to do was clinically focused.</p> <p>As an undergrad, I really wanted to give back to the OEOP, so I became a teaching assistant for MITES. Over the course of three years I expanded into other programs, including MOSTEC and E2. I found being a [teaching assistant] very rewarding, because I helped create the same environment that helped me learn when I was in MITES, giving students more exposure to science and engineering. After graduation, as a professional, it only made sense to continue to give back, and I found I was best suited to be a program instructor. I was really excited to apply, but I worried it would be difficult to teach bioengineering outside of a lab. Then I saw they were also looking for an Academic Mentoring Seminar instructor for the 12th grade, and I realized I had great training for the role, and could truly support students.</p> <p>The reason I stay engaged comes down to the OEOP feeling like family. It would feel like a loss if I wasn’t in contact with this community that is like my family. I also think everything that I give to the programs and the people that I’m working with actually comes back to me in some way. It gives me so much joy working with the students, and the staff, I can’t imagine not doing it.</p> <p>I know that one day, if I’m not steps away from MIT, that I’m definitely going to miss this.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> How do you help students gain confidence to pursue a career in STEM?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> As an instructor, I share as much as I can about my journey and how I got to the position where I am. Students have told me it is really helpful to hear and see the passion that I have for the STEM-focused work I do. They enjoy hearing about my research in biological engineering and how I obtained a position in a biotech company. As a MITES student, I remember having TAs that were really good at acknowledging the challenge of STEM fields, but also did a good job highlighting the benefits of collaboration, or cool research they were looking forward to. When I became a TA, I tried to intersperse my experiences taking biochemistry in MITES with my experiences thus far as an MIT college student.</p> <p>As an instructor, I work to create an open environment where students feel they can ask questions freely, without judgment, and feel like they can fail knowing that it will lead them to learning, which is something they may not experience on a day-to-day basis in their high schools. I want to offer a supportive community, because as a MITES student I felt that I always had a team of college students and instructors supporting me. In my instructor role I really try to reinforce that sense of community.</p> <p>I also encourage students by celebrating the work they do as part of OEOP programs. Students are often building amazing things, they are all super-excited for their projects, it’s important to have someone cheering for them, celebrating their achievements and being there as they go through the challenge. I see the instructor role as supporting students both in terms of knowledge, helping them understand concepts, but also working with them to reach their college and career aspirations. My metric for success as an instructor is to empower students to choose the college that fits them best, to make choices that benefit them and make them happy in the future.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What is the most challenging part of the OEOP instructor experience? And the most rewarding?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> OEOP students are really driven and resourceful, which can make lesson planning challenging. I plan the lesson around concepts and foundational knowledge that I want them to walk away with, but sometimes I get to class and realize the students are steps ahead of me, so I have to plan ahead for the sorts of enrichment that will be best for them when this happens. I also have to know how to answer questions I might not be prepared for, and that’s a great challenge to have.</p> <p>The best part of my experience as an instructor is seeing the students and how much they grow in the programs, and in college. I see SEED students most weeks during a semester, and many OEOP alumni end up at MIT or around Boston/Cambridge. When they leave OEOP programs they’ve already achieved so much growth. When they’re in college, you feel like you have propelled them even further.</p> <p>It’s rewarding to hear students reflect on the impact that the OEOP had on them, but also any small impact I had on them. I treasure knowing that something that I taught a student about chemistry is something they remember two years into college. Or the times when I teach my students to knit during study break. I think of all my experiences with the OEOP, and they are all muddled together in warmth and happiness of knowing that I’ve touched so many students and that I’ve had some impact throughout that time.</p> Renae Irving '18 is a molecular biology research associate, and Academic Mentoring Seminar instructor for the SEED Academy program at MIT.Photo: Dora P. GonzalezBiological engineering, Broad Institute, School of Engineering, K-12 education, 3 Questions, Diversity and inclusion, Alumni/ae, Community, STEM education, Office of Engineering Outreach Program (OEOP) MIT continues its commitment to undergraduate student support Financial aid will increase 7.8 percent for 2020-2021, offsetting a 3.8 percent rise in tuition and fees. Mon, 09 Mar 2020 11:05:01 -0400 Office of the Vice Chancellor <p>On Thursday, March 5, the MIT Corporation approved the undergraduate tuition rate for 2020-2021. Financial aid will increase by 7.8 percent, offsetting a 3.8 percent rise in tuition and fees. The Institute will commit $147 million for financial aid. The net cost for an average MIT student receiving need-based aid will be $23,442.</p> <p>“Our undergraduates are bristling with a kind of vibrant energy that you can see and feel. As a source of MIT’s power and promise to build a better world, we are committed to meeting their financial needs so they can unleash their full potential while they are here. It’s an honor to be able to support such incredible thinkers, innovators, and future leaders,” says Ian A. Waitz, vice chancellor for undergraduate and graduate education and the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.</p> <p>The estimated average MIT scholarship for students receiving financial aid next year is $53,258. More than 35 percent of MIT undergraduates receive aid sufficient to allow them to attend the Institute tuition-free.</p> <p>For undergraduates not receiving any need-based financial aid, tuition and fees will be $55,818 next year. Including housing and dining costs, the total will come to $73,138.</p> <p>MIT is one of only five American colleges and universities that&nbsp;admit all undergraduate students without regard to their financial circumstances; that award all financial aid based on need; and that meet the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students.</p> <p>For students with family incomes under $90,000 a year and typical assets, MIT makes it possible for many to receive scholarship funding from all sources that will allow them to attend the Institute tuition-free. While the Institute’s financial aid program primarily supports students from lower- and middle-income households, even families earning more than $250,000 may qualify for need-based financial aid based on their family circumstances, such as if two or more children are in college at the same time.</p> <p>About 59 percent of MIT’s undergraduates receive need-based financial aid from the Institute and 18 percent receive Federal Pell Grants, which generally go to U.S. students with family incomes below $60,000.</p> <p>MIT treats the Pell Grant in a unique way to further support low income students. Unlike most other colleges and universities, MIT allows students to use the Pell Grant to offset what they are expected to contribute through work during the semester and the summer. MIT also changed its financial aid policies recently to provide more support for U.S. veterans.</p> <p>In 2019, 76 percent of MIT seniors graduated with no debt; of those who did assume debt to finance their education, the median indebtedness at graduation was $13,481.</p> The Massachusetts Avenue entrance to MITImage courtesy of the MIT Division of Student Life.Financial aid, Tuition, Admissions, Undergraduate, Vice Chancellor 2020 MacVicar Faculty Fellows named Anikeeva, Fuller, Tisdale, and White receive MIT&#039;s highest honor in undergraduate teaching. Mon, 09 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0400 Alison Trachy | Registrar’s Office <p><em>This article has been updated to reflect the cancellation of the 2020 MacVicar Day symposium.</em></p> <p>The Office of the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar’s Office have announced this year’s Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows: materials science and engineering Professor Polina Anikeeva, literature Professor Mary Fuller, chemical engineering Professor William Tisdale, and electrical engineering and computer science Professor Jacob White.</p> <p>Role models both in and out of the classroom, the new fellows have tirelessly sought to improve themselves, their students, and the Institute writ large. They have reimagined curricula, crossed disciplines, and pushed the boundaries of what education can be. They join a matchless academy of scholars committed to exceptional instruction and innovation.</p> <p>For nearly three decades, the <a href="">MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program</a> has been recognizing exemplary undergraduate teaching and advising around the Institute. The program was&nbsp;named after Margaret MacVicar, the first dean for undergraduate education and founder of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Nominations are made by departments and include letters of support from colleagues, students, and alumni. Fellows are appointed to 10-year terms in which they receive $10,000 per year of discretionary funds.</p> <p>This year’s MacVicar Day symposium — which had been scheduled for this Friday, March 13 — has been canceled after <a href="" target="_self">new MIT policies on events</a> were set in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus.</p> <p><strong>Polina Anikeeva</strong></p> <p>“I’m speechless,” Polina Anikeeva, associate professor of materials science and engineering and brain and cognitive sciences, says of becoming a MacVicar Fellow. “In my opinion, this is the greatest honor one could have at MIT.”</p> <p>Anikeeva received her PhD from MIT in 2009 and became a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering two years later. She attended St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University for her undergraduate education. Through her research — which combines materials science, electronics, and neurobiology — she works to better understand and treat brain disorders.</p> <p>Anikeeva’s colleague Christopher Schuh says, “Her ability and willingness to work with students however and whenever they need help, her engaging classroom persona, and her creative solutions to real-time challenges all culminate in one of MIT’s most talented and beloved undergraduate professors.”</p> <p>As an instructor, advisor, and <a href="">marathon runner</a>, Anikeeva has learned the importance of finding balance. Her colleague Lionel Kimerling reflects on this delicate equilibrium: “As a teacher, Professor Anikeeva is among the elite who instruct, inspire, and nurture at the same time. It is a difficult task to demand rigor with a gentle mentoring hand.”</p> <p>Students call her classes “incredibly hard” but fun and exciting at the same time. She is “the consummate scientist, splitting her time evenly between honing her craft, sharing knowledge with students and colleagues, and mentoring aspiring researchers,” wrote one.</p> <p>Her passion for her work and her devotion to her students are evident in the nomination letters. One student recounted their first conversation: “We spoke for 15 minutes, and after talking to her about her research and materials science, I had never been so viscerally excited about anything.” This same student described the guidance and support Anikeeva provided her throughout her time at MIT. After working with Anikeeva to apply what she learned in the classroom to a real-world problem, this student recalled, “I honestly felt like an engineer and a scientist for the first time ever. I have never felt so fulfilled and capable. And I realize that’s what I want for the rest of my life — to feel the highs and lows of discovery.”</p> <p>Anikeeva champions her students in faculty and committee meetings as well. She is a “reliable advocate for student issues,” says Caroline Ross, associate department head and professor in DMSE. “Professor Anikeeva is always engaged with students, committed to student well-being, and passionate about education.”</p> <p>“Undergraduate teaching has always been a crucial part of my MIT career and life,” Anikeeva reflects. “I derive my enthusiasm and energy from the incredibly talented MIT students — every year they surprise me with their ability to rise to ever-expanding intellectual challenges. Watching them grow as scientists, engineers, and — most importantly — people is like nothing else.”</p> <p><strong>Mary Fuller</strong></p> <p>Experimentation is synonymous with education at MIT and it is a crucial part of literature Professor Mary Fuller’s classes. As her colleague Arthur Bahr notes, “Mary’s habit of starting with a discrete practical challenge can yield insights into much broader questions.”</p> <p>Fuller attended Dartmouth College as an undergraduate, then received both her MA and PhD in English and American literature from The Johns Hopkins University. She began teaching at MIT in 1989. From 2013 to 2019, Fuller was head of the Literature Section. Her successor in the role, Shankar Raman, says that her nominators “found [themselves] repeatedly surprised by the different ways Mary has pushed the limits of her teaching here, going beyond her own comfort zones to experiment with new texts and techniques.”</p> <p>“Probably the most significant thing I’ve learned in 30 years of teaching here is how to ask more and better questions,” says Fuller. As part of a series of discussions on ethics and computing, she has explored the possibilities of <a href="">artificial intelligence</a> from a literary perspective. She is also developing a tool for the edX platform called PoetryViz, which would allow MIT students and students around the world to practice close reading through poetry annotation in an entirely new way.</p> <p>“We all innovate in our teaching. Every year. But, some of us innovate more than others,” Krishna Rajagopal, dean for digital learning, observes. “In addition to being an outstanding innovator, Mary is one of those colleagues who weaves the fabric of undergraduate education across the Institute.”</p> <p>Lessons learned in Fuller’s class also underline the importance of a well-rounded education. As one alumna reflected, “Mary’s teaching carried a compassion and ethic which enabled non-humanities students to appreciate literature as a diverse, valuable, and rewarding resource for personal and social reflection.”</p> <p>Professor Fuller, another student remarked, has created “an environment where learning is not merely the digestion of rote knowledge, but instead the broad-based exploration of ideas and the works connected to them.”</p> <p>“Her imagination is capacious, her knowledge is deep, and students trust her — so that they follow her eagerly into new and exploratory territory,” says Professor of Literature Stephen Tapscott.</p> <p>Fuller praises her students’ willingness to take that journey with her, saying, “None of my classes are required, and none are technical, so I feel that students have already shown a kind of intellectual generosity by putting themselves in the room to do the work.”</p> <p>For students, the hard work is worth it. Mary Fuller, one nominator declared, is exactly “the type of deeply impactful professor that I attended MIT hoping to learn from.”</p> <p><strong>William Tisdale</strong></p> <p>William Tisdale is the ARCO Career Development Professor of chemical engineering and, according to his colleagues, a “true star” in the department.</p> <p>A member of the faculty since 2012, he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware and his PhD from the University of Minnesota. After a year as a postdoc at MIT, Tisdale became an assistant professor. His <a href="">research interests</a> include nanotechnology and energy transport.</p> <p>Tisdale’s colleague Kristala Prather calls him a “curriculum fixer.” During an internal review of Course 10 subjects, the department discovered that 10.213 (Chemical and Biological Engineering) was the least popular subject in the major and needed to be revised. After carefully evaluating the coursework, and despite having never taught 10.213 himself, Tisdale envisioned a novel way of teaching it. With his suggestions, the class went from being “despised” to loved, with subject evaluations improving by 70 percent from one spring to the next. “I knew Will could make a difference, but I had no idea he could make that big of a difference in just one year,” remarks Prather. One student nominator even went so far as to call 10.213, as taught by Tisdale, “one of my best experiences at MIT.”</p> <p>Always patient, kind, and adaptable, Tisdale’s willingness to tackle difficult problems is reflected in his teaching. “While the class would occasionally start to mutiny when faced with a particularly confusing section, Prof. Tisdale would take our groans on with excitement,” wrote one student. “His attitude made us feel like we could all get through the class together.” Regardless of how they performed on a test, wrote another, Tisdale “clearly sent the message that we all always have so much more to learn, but that first and foremost he respected you as a person.”</p> <p>“I don’t think I could teach the way I teach at many other universities,” Tisdale says. “MIT students show up on the first day of class with an innate desire to understand the world around them; all I have to do is pull back the curtain!”</p> <p>“Professor Tisdale remains the best teacher, mentor, and role model that I have encountered,” one student remarked. “He has truly changed the course of my life.”</p> <p>“I am extremely thankful to be at a university that values undergraduate education so highly,” Tisdale says. “Those of us who devote ourselves to undergraduate teaching and mentoring do so out of a strong sense of responsibility to the students as well as a genuine love of learning. There are few things more validating than being rewarded for doing something that already brings you joy.”</p> <p><strong>Jacob White</strong></p> <p>Jacob White is the Cecil H. Green Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and chair of the Committee on Curricula. After completing his undergraduate degree at MIT, he received a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley. He has been a member of the Course 6 faculty since 1987.</p> <p>Colleagues and students alike observed White’s dedication not just to teaching, but to improving teaching throughout the Institute. As Luca Daniel and Asu Ozdaglar of the EECS department noted in their nomination letter, “Jacob completely understands that the most efficient way to make his passion and ideas for undergraduate education have a real lasting impact is to ‘teach it to the teachers!’”</p> <p>One student wrote that White “has spent significant time and effort educating the lab assistants” of 6.302 (Feedback System Design). As one of these teaching assistants confirmed, White’s “enthusiastic spirit” inspired them to spend hours discussing how to best teach the subject. “Many people might think this is not how they want to spend their Thursday nights,” the student wrote. “I can speak for myself and the other TAs when I say that it was an incredibly fun and educational experience.”</p> <p>His work to improve instruction has even expanded to other departments. A colleague describes White’s efforts to revamp 8.02 (Physics II) as “Herculean.” Working with a group of students and postdocs to develop experiments for this subject, “he seemed to be everywhere at once … while simultaneously teaching his own class.” Iterations took place over a year and a half, after which White trained the subject’s TAs as well. Hundreds of students are benefitting from these improved experiments.</p> <p>White is, according to Daniel and Ozdaglar, “a colleague who sincerely, genuinely, and enormously cares about our undergraduate students and their education, not just in our EECS department, but also in our entire MIT home.”</p> <p>When he’s not fine-tuning pedagogy or conducting teacher training, he is personally supporting his students. A visiting student described White’s attention: “He would regularly meet with us in groups of two to make sure we were learning. In a class of about 80 students in a huge lecture hall, it really felt like he cared for each of us.”</p> <p>And his zeal has rubbed off: “He made me feel like being excited about the material was the most important thing,” one student wrote.</p> <p>The significance of such a spark is not lost on White. "As an MIT freshman in the late 1970s, I joined an undergraduate research program being pioneered by Professor Margaret MacVicar," he says. "It was Professor MacVicar and UROP that put me on the academic's path of looking for interesting problems with instructive solutions. It is a path I have walked for decades, with extraordinary colleagues and incredible students. So, being selected as a MacVicar Fellow? No honor could mean more to me."</p> The 2020 MacVicar Faculty Fellows are: (clockwise from top left) Polina Anikeeva, Jacob White, William Tisdale, and Mary Fuller.Photos (clockwise from top left): Lillie Paquette, Sampson Wilcox, Webb Chappell, Jon SachsOffice of the Vice Chancellor, MacVicar fellows, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Materials Science and Engineering, Literature, EdX, Electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), School of Engineering, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty, Awards, honors and fellowships, Education, teaching, academics, Mentoring, Undergraduate, Chemical engineering School of Engineering fourth quarter 2019 awards Faculty members recognized for excellence via a diverse array of honors, grants, and prizes over the last quarter. Fri, 06 Mar 2020 13:30:01 -0500 School of Engineering <p>Members of the MIT engineering faculty receive many awards in recognition of their scholarship, service, and overall excellence. Every quarter, the School of Engineering publicly recognizes their achievements by highlighting the honors, prizes, and medals won by faculty working in our academic departments, labs, and centers.</p> <p>Hal Abelson, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,&nbsp;received an <a href="">honorary doctorate in education from the Education University of Hong Kong</a>&nbsp;on Nov. 22, 2019.</p> <p>Jesús del Alamo, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, <a href="">won the University Researcher Award</a> from the Semiconductor Industry Association and the Semiconductor Research Corporation on Nov. 7, 2019.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Mohammad Alizadeh, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,&nbsp;won the&nbsp;<a href="">2019 VMware Systems Research Award</a>&nbsp;on Dec. 18, 2019.</p> <p>Hari Balakrishnan, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,&nbsp;was named a&nbsp;<a href="">2020 fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers</a> (IEEE)&nbsp;on Dec. 3, 2019.</p> <p>Irmgard Bischofberger, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, won the&nbsp;<a href="">2019 APS/DFD Milton van Dyke Award</a>&nbsp;on Dec. 4, 2019.</p> <p>Adam Chlipala, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,&nbsp;was named a distinguished member of the Association for Computing Machinery on Dec. 20, 2019.</p> <p>William Freeman, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, <a href="">won the Distinguished Researcher Award</a> from the IEEE Computer Society's Technical Committee on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence on Oct. 30, 2019.</p> <p>Shafi Goldwasser, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,&nbsp;received an <a href="">honorary doctorate of science from Oxford University</a> on June 26, 2019, and she received an <a href="">honorary doctorate in mathematics from the University of Waterloo</a>&nbsp;on June 13, 2019.</p> <p>Wesley L. Harris, of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, was named a&nbsp;<a href="">2019 AAAS Fellow</a>&nbsp;on Nov. 26, 2019.</p> <p>Jonathan How, of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, won the&nbsp;<a href="">2020 AIAA Intelligent Systems Award</a>&nbsp;on Dec. 5, 2019.</p> <p>Roger Kamm, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering,&nbsp;won the&nbsp;<a href="">Shu Chien Achievement Award</a>&nbsp;on Jan. 2.</p> <p>David Karger, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was <a href="">inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences</a>&nbsp;on Nov. 12, 2019.</p> <p>Heather Lechtman, of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, <a href="">won the Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology</a>&nbsp;on Jan. 4.</p> <p>Charles Leiserson, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, <a href="">won the Test of Time Award for 1999</a> from IEEE Symposium on the Foundations of Computer Science on Nov. 9, 2019.</p> <p>Nancy Leveson, of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, won the&nbsp;<a href="">2020 IEEE Medal for Environmental and Safety Technologies</a> on Dec. 18, 2019.</p> <p>Barbara Liskov, Institute Professor Emerita of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, received an <a href="">honorary doctorate in mathematics from the University of Waterloo</a>&nbsp;on June 13, 2019.</p> <p>Leonid Mirny, of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science,&nbsp;was selected for the&nbsp;<a href="">Chaires Blaise Pascal 2019</a>&nbsp;on Oct. 30, 2019.</p> <p>Dava Newman, of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, was <a href="">elected to the Aerospace Corporation’s Board of Trustees</a>&nbsp;on Dec. 23, 2019.</p> <p>Wim van Rees, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering,&nbsp;won the&nbsp;<a href="">2019 APS/DFD Milton van Dyke Award</a>&nbsp;on Dec. 4, 2019.</p> <p>Ellen Roche, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering,&nbsp;was named <a href="">associate scientific advisor of <em>Science Translational Medicine</em></a>&nbsp;on Jan. 17.</p> <p>Kripa Varanasi, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, won the&nbsp;<a href="">2019 APS/DFD Milton van Dyke Award</a>&nbsp;on Dec. 4, 2019.</p> <p>Alan Willsky (post-tenure), of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,&nbsp;won the&nbsp;<a href="">IEEE Jack S. Kilby Signal Processing Medal</a>&nbsp;on May 17, 2019.</p> <p>Maria Yang, Sang-Gook Kim, and Caitlin Mueller, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, won the&nbsp;<a href="">National Science Foundation LEAP HI Award</a>&nbsp;on Dec. 4, 2019.</p> <p>Xuanhe Zhao, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering,&nbsp;won the&nbsp;<a href="">Thomas J.R. Hughes Young Investigator Award</a>&nbsp;on Jan. 2.</p> Members of the MIT engineering faculty receive many awards in recognition of their scholarship, service, and overall excellence.Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of EngineeringSchool of Engineering, Mechanical engineering, Awards, honors and fellowships, Faculty, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), DMSE, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering 3 Questions: Emre Gençer on the evolving role of hydrogen in the energy system With support from renewable energy sources, the MIT research scientist says, we can consider hydrogen fuel as a tool for decarbonization. Thu, 05 Mar 2020 15:05:01 -0500 Nafisa Syed | MIT Energy Initiative <p><em>As the world increasingly recognizes the need to develop more sustainable and renewable energy sources, low-carbon hydrogen has reemerged as an energy carrier with the potential to play a key role in sectors from transportation to power. </em></p> <p><em>At MITEI’s&nbsp;2019 Spring Symposium, MIT Energy Initiative Research Scientist Emre Gençer gave a presentation titled “</em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>Hydrogen towards Deep Decarbonization</em></a><em>,” in which he elaborated on how hydrogen can be used across all energy sectors. Other themes </em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>discussed</em></a><em> by experts at the symposium included industry’s role in promoting hydrogen, public safety concerns surrounding the hydrogen infrastructure, and the policy landscape required to scale hydrogen around the world. </em></p> <p><em>Here, Gençer shares his thoughts on the history of hydrogen and how it could be incorporated into our energy system as a tool for deep decarbonization to address climate change. </em></p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>How has public perception of hydrogen changed over time?<strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>A: </strong>Hydrogen has been in the public imagination since the 1870s. Jules Verne wrote that “water will be the coal of the future” in his novel “The Mysterious Island.”<em> </em>The concept of hydrogen has persisted in the public imagination for over a century, though interest in hydrogen has changed over time.</p> <p>Initial conversations about hydrogen focused on using it to supplement depleting fuel sources on Earth, but the role of hydrogen is evolving. Now we know that there is enough fuel on Earth, especially with the support of renewable energy sources, and that we can consider hydrogen as a tool for decarbonization.</p> <p>The first “hydrogen economy” concept was introduced in the 1970s. The term “hydrogen economy” refers to using hydrogen as an energy carrier, mostly for the transportation sector. In this context, hydrogen can be compared to electricity. Electricity requires a primary energy source and transmission lines to transmit electrons. In the case of hydrogen, energy sources and transmission infrastructure are required to transport protons.</p> <p>In 2004, there was a big initiative in the U.S. to involve hydrogen in all energy sectors to ensure access to reliable and safe energy sources. That year, the National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering released a report titled “<a href="">The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&amp;D Needs</a>.” This report described how hydrogen could be used to increase energy security and reduce environmental impacts. Because its combustion yields only water vapor, hydrogen does not produce carbon dioxide (CO<sub>2</sub>) emissions. As a result, we can really benefit from eliminating CO<sub>2</sub> emissions in many of its end-use applications.</p> <p>Today, hydrogen is primarily used in industry to remove contaminants from diesel fuel and to produce ammonia. Hydrogen is also used in consumer vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells, and countries such as Japan are exploring its use in <a href="">public transportation</a>. In the future, there is ample room for hydrogen in the energy space. Some of the work I completed for my PhD in 2015 involved researching efficient hydrogen production via solar thermal and other renewable sources. This application of renewable energy is now coming back to the fore as we think about “deep decarbonization.”</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>How can hydrogen be incorporated into our energy system?<strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>A: </strong>When we consider deep decarbonization, or economy-wide decarbonization, there are some sectors that are hard to decarbonize with electricity alone. They include heavy industries that require high temperatures, heavy-duty transportation, and long-term energy storage. We are now thinking about the role hydrogen can play in decarbonizing these sectors.</p> <p>Hydrogen has a number of properties that make it safer to handle and use than the conventional fuels used in our energy system today. Hydrogen is nontoxic and much lighter than air. In the case of a leak, its lightness allows for relatively rapid dispersal. All fuels have some degree of danger associated with them, but we can design fuel systems with engineering controls and establish standards to ensure their safe handling and use. As the number of successful hydrogen projects grows, the public will become increasingly confident that hydrogen can be as safe as the fuels we use today.</p> <p>To expand hydrogen’s uses, we first need to explore ways of integrating it into as many energy sectors as possible. This presents a challenge because the entry points can vary for different regions. For example, in colder regions like the northeastern U.S., hydrogen can help provide heating. In California, it can be used for energy storage and light-duty transportation. And in the southern U.S., hydrogen can be used in industry as a feedstock or energy source.</p> <p>Once the most strategic entry points for hydrogen are identified for each region, the supporting infrastructure can be built and used for additional purposes. For example, if the northeastern U.S. implements hydrogen as its primary source of residential heating, other uses for hydrogen will follow, such as for transportation or energy storage. At that point, we hope that the market will shift so that it is profitable to use hydrogen across all energy sectors.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What challenges need to be overcome so that hydrogen can be used to support decarbonization, and what are some solutions to these challenges?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>The first challenge involves addressing the large capital investment that needs to be made, especially in infrastructure. Once industry and policymakers are convinced that hydrogen will be a critical component for decarbonization, investing in that infrastructure is the next step. Currently, we have many hydrogen plants — we know how to produce hydrogen. But in order to move toward a semi-hydrogen economy, we need to identify the sectors or end users that really require or could benefit from using hydrogen. The way I see it, we need two energy vectors for decarbonization. One is electricity; we are sure about that. But it's not enough. The second vector can be, and should be, hydrogen.</p> <p>Another key issue is the nature of hydrogen production itself. Though hydrogen does not generate any emissions directly when used, hydrogen production can have a huge environmental impact. Today, close to 95 percent of its production is from fossil resources. As a result, the CO<sub>2</sub> emissions from hydrogen production are quite high.</p> <p>There are two ways to move toward cleaner hydrogen production. One is applying carbon capture and storage to the fossil fuel-based hydrogen production processes. In this case, usually a CO<sub>2</sub> emissions reduction of around 90 percent is feasible.</p> <p>The second way to produce cleaner hydrogen is by using electricity to produce hydrogen via electrolysis. Here, the source of electricity is very important. Our source of hydrogen needs to produce very low levels of CO<sub>2</sub> emissions, if not zero. Otherwise, there will not be any environmental benefit. If we start with clean, low-carbon electricity sources such as renewables, our CO<sub>2</sub> emissions will be quite low.</p> Emre Gençer discusses hydrogen at the MIT Energy Initiative’s 2019 Spring Symposium.Photo: Kelley TraversMIT Energy Initiative, Research, Energy, Sustainability, Alternative energy, Infrastructure, Policy, 3 Questions, Staff, Carbon, Emissions MIT senior Christine Soh integrates computer science and linguistics Knowledge in both a technical and humanistic field prepares her to make new tools in computational linguistics. Thu, 05 Mar 2020 14:50:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>Christine Soh fell in love with MIT the summer before her senior year of high school while attending the Women’s Technology Program run by MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. That’s when she discovered that learning to program in Python is just like learning a new language — and Soh loves languages.<br /> <br /> Growing up in Colorado, Soh spoke both English and Korean; she learned French and Latin in school. This June, Soh will graduate from MIT, where she has happily combined her passions by majoring in computer science and engineering (Course 6-3) and linguistics (Course 24). She plans to begin working toward a PhD in linguistics next year.<br /> <br /> With fluency in both technical and humanistic modes of thinking, Soh exemplifies a "bilingual" perspective. "Dual competence is a good model for undergraduates at MIT," says engineer/historian David Mindell, who encourages MIT students to "master two fundamental ways of thinking about the world, one technical and one humanistic or social. Sometimes these two modes will be at odds with each other, which raises critical questions. Other times they will be synergistic and energizing."<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>The challenge of natural language and computation</strong><br /> <br /> “The really cool thing about language is that it’s universal,” says Soh, who has added ancient Greek, Chinese, and the programming language Java to her credits since that summer. “I can have a really interesting conversation with anybody, even if they don’t have a linguistics background, because everyone has experience with language.”<br /> <br /> That said, natural language is difficult for computers to comprehend — something Soh finds fascinating. “It’s really interesting to think about how we understand language,” she says. “How is it that computers have such a hard time understanding what we find so easy?”<br /> <br /> <strong>Tools from computational linguistics to improve speech</strong><br /> <br /> Pairing linguistics with computer science has allowed Soh to explore cutting-edge research combining the two disciplines. Thanks to MIT’s Advanced Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, Soh got the chance to explore whether speech analysis software can be used as a tool for the clinical diagnosis of speech impairments.</p> <p>“It’s very difficult to correctly diagnose a child because a speech impairment can be caused by a ton of different things,” says Soh. Working with the Speech Communication Group in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, Soh has been developing a tool that can listen to a child’s speech and extract linguistic information, such where in the mouth the sound was produced, thus identifying modifications from the proper formation of the word. “We can then use computational techniques to see if there are patterns to the modifications that have been made and see if these patterns can distinguish one underlying condition from another.”<br /> <br /> <strong>A natural leader</strong></p> <p>Even if the team isn’t able to find such patterns, Soh says the tool could be used by speech pathologists to learn more about what linguistic modifications a child might need to make to improve speech. In December, Soh presented a poster on this work at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and was honored with a first-place prize in her category (signal processing in acoustics).<br /> <br /> Exploring such real-world applications for computational linguistics helped inspire Soh to apply to doctoral programs in linguistics for next year. “I’ll be doing research that will be integrating computer science and linguistics,” she says, noting that possible applications of computational linguistics include working to improve speech-recognition software or to make machine-produced speech sound more natural. “I look forward to using the knowledge and skills I’ve learned at MIT in doing that research.”<br /> <br /> “Christine’s unique interests,&nbsp;energy, and deep interests in both linguistics and computer science should enable her to accomplish great things,” says Suzanne Flynn, a professor of linguistics who has had Soh as a student. “She is a natural leader.”<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>From field methods to neurolinguistics</strong><br /> <br /> Looking back at her time at MIT, Soh recalls particularly enjoying two linguistics classes: 24.909 (Field Methods in Linguistics) which explores the structure of an unfamiliar language through direct work with a native speaker (in Soh’s year, the class centered on Wolof, which is spoken in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania), and 24.906 (The Linguistic Study of Bilingualism).<br /> <br /> In the latter class, Soh says, “We looked at neurolinguistics, what’s happening in the brain as the bilingual brain developed. We looked at topics in sociolinguistics: In communities that are bilingual, like Quebec, what kind of impact does it have on society, such as how schools are run? … We got to see a spectrum of linguistics. It was really cool.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Building community at MIT</strong><br /> <br /> Outside class, Soh says she found community at MIT through the Asian Christian Fellowship and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), which she served last year as vice president of membership. “SWE has also been a really awesome community and has opened up opportunities for conversation about what it means to be a woman engineer,” she says.<br /> <br /> Interestingly, Soh almost didn’t apply to MIT at all, simply because her brother was already at the Institute. (Albert Soh ’18 is now a high school teacher of math and physics.) Fortunately, the Women’s Technology Program changed her mind, and as she nears graduation, Soh says, "MIT has been absolutely fantastic.”<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h5><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Senior Writer: Kathryn O'Neill</em><br /> &nbsp;</h5> Potential applications of Soh's work in computational linguistics include improving speech recognition software and making machine-produced speech sound more natural.Photo: Jon Sachs/MIT SHASS Communications School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), SuperUROP, Research Laboratory of Electronics, computer science, Linguistics, Students, Profile, Women in STEM, School of Engineering, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing Historic migration patterns are written in Americans&#039; DNA Genetic, geographic, and demographic data from more than 30,000 Americans reveal more genetic diversity within ancestry groups than previously thought. Thu, 05 Mar 2020 14:11:03 -0500 Tom Ulrich | Broad Institute <p><em>The following press release was issued today by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.</em></p> <p>Studies of DNA from ancient human fossils have helped scientists to trace human migration routes around the world thousands of years ago. But can modern DNA tell us anything about more recent movements, especially in an ancestrally diverse melting pot like the United States?</p> <p>To find out, researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) analyzed data provided by more than 32,000 Americans as part of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project. This project, launched in 2005, asked Americans to provide their DNA along with their geographic and demographic data, including birth records and family histories, to learn more about human migration.&nbsp;</p> <p>The research team found distinct genetic traces within many American populations that reflect the nation's complicated history of immigration, migration, and mixture.</p> <p>Writing in the <em><a href="" target="_blank">American Journal of Human Genetics</a></em>, the team also reported subtle but potentially important levels of diversity within certain groups, such as the Hispanic population.</p> <p>They also call on genetics researchers to increase the ancestral diversity of the participants in their studies so that their findings capture more of the genetic diversity in US populations. This will help ensure that precision medicine will benefit as many people as possible in the US.</p> <p>"Understanding the genetic structure of the US is important because it helps illuminate distinctions between populations that studies might not otherwise account for," said Alicia Martin, a geneticist in the Broad Institute's <a href="" target="_blank">Program in Medical and Population Genetics</a>, a research fellow in MGH's Analytical and Translational Genetics Unit, and co-senior author of the study with Carlo Ratti, director of MIT's Senseable City Lab. "If we want genetic technologies to benefit everyone, we need to rethink our current approach for genetic studies because at the moment, they typically miss a huge swath of American diversity."</p> <p>Martin, Ratti, and their colleagues, including study first author Chengzhen Dai of MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, partnered with the Genographic project because they wanted to understand the geographic patterns of genetic ancestry and admixture across the US over time, and learn how much people’s genetics across the US reflect historic demographic events.</p> <p>Some findings caught the researchers by surprise. For instance, their analysis revealed a striking diversity in the geographic origins of participants who identified as Hispanic or Latino. The genetic patterns of these participants indicated a complex mixture of European, African, and Native American ancestries that varied widely depending on where participants lived, whether they were in California, Texas or Florida, for example.</p> <p>Results like this, Martin noted, could hold implications for precision medicine as it becomes available to more and more Americans.</p> <p>"There are subtle genetic differences within ancestry groups that arise from their population history,” she said. “Those differences will be important but challenging to account for, especially as genetic testing is used by more diverse groups of patients than have been studied so far."</p> An analysis of genetic, geographic, and demographic data provided by more than 32,000 Americans found distinct genetic traces within many American populations that reflect the nation's complicated history of immigration, migration, and mixture.Image: Susanna M. Hamilton, Broad CommunicationsResearch, Broad Institute, Genetics, School of Engineering, School of Architecture and Planning, Urban studies and planning, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), DNA Agustín Rayo wins 2020 PROSE Award MIT philosophy professor&#039;s “On the Brink of Paradox” honored as one of the best books in professional and scholarly publishing. Wed, 04 Mar 2020 13:00:01 -0500 MIT Press <p>The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has announced the winners for the 2020 PROSE Awards, which annually recognize the best in professional and scholarly publishing. Among the winners is “<a href="" target="_blank">On the Brink of Paradox: Highlights from the Intersection of Philosophy and Mathematics</a>” (MIT Press, 2019) by Agustín Rayo, author and professor of philosophy at MIT.</p> <p>The book won for the textbook/humanities category. In it, Rayo, who is also associate dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, offers an introduction to awe-inspiring issues at the intersection of philosophy and mathematics and explores ideas at the brink of paradox: infinities of different sizes, time travel, probability and measure theory, computability theory, the Grandfather Paradox, Newcomb's Problem, and others. The book is based on a popular course (<a href="" target="_blank">and massive open online course</a>) taught by the author at MIT.</p> <p>The AAP unveiled 49 subject category <a href="" target="_blank">winners&nbsp;</a>for the 2020&nbsp;<a href="">PROSE Awards</a>&nbsp;honoring the best scholarly works published in 2019. The winners were selected by a panel of 19 judges from the&nbsp;<a href="">157 finalists</a>&nbsp;previously identified from the more than 630 entries in this year’s PROSE Awards competition. The subject category winners announced demonstrate exceptional scholarship and have made a significant contribution to a field of study.</p> <p>“I want to congratulate the winners of this year’s PROSE Awards and recognize the 10 MIT Press books that were named finalists,” says Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press. “'On the Brink' offers unique and compelling insights into mathematics and reflects the overall mission of the MIT Press to push the boundaries of what a university press can be. We are honored to be among the other winners for this distinguished prize.”</p> <p>Another MIT Press book, “<a href="">Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music</a>,” by Kyle Devine, also won a PROSE Award for the music and the performing arts category.</p> MIT Press, Awards, honors and fellowships, Books and authors, Faculty, Philosophy, Mathematics, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Not your average science classroom MIT student volunteers host fifth annual Northeast Regional Middle School Science Bowl for over 100 middle schoolers. Wed, 04 Mar 2020 12:40:01 -0500 Fernanda Ferreira | School of Science <p>More than 100 middle schoolers gathered at MIT to compete in the annual&nbsp;<a href="">Northeast Regional Middle School Science Bowl</a>. The campus was filled with the sounds of buzzers going off, cheering, and lots of science, math, and engineering.</p> <p>The Saturday, Feb. 22, event brought together 24 teams from 11 middle schools in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. The three teams representing the James F. Doughty School came from Bangor, Maine; they had to wake up at 4 a.m. to be on MIT’s campus in time to register for the competition.</p> <p>The middle school team from the Roxbury Latin School, an all-boys middle and high school in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, competed for the third time this year. According to Christopher Zhu, a senior at the school who leads the participating team’s weekly practices, the science bowl competitions are a great way to get middle schoolers involved in science. “I would say that one half of the people who do science bowl have a strong personal interest in science and the other half are trying things out,” says Zhu.</p> <p>“It’s not your stereotypical science classroom,” Zhu says. “It’s a fun and engaging competitive environment that a lot of the younger kids enjoy.” For Robert Moore, who coaches Roxbury Latin’s team, the appeal is the level of excitement generated. “It’s no different than a basketball tournament.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Those who have experienced the exhilaration of answering the right question and gaining points for their team find it hard to leave science bowl. The Northeast Regional was originated by former MIT undergraduate and alumna of the science bowl Kathleen Schwind. The event is now in its fifth year and, now that Schwind has graduated from MIT, was coordinated and executed by Paolo Adajar, a third-year majoring in mathematical economics; Alborz Bejnood, a computational biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; Andrew Gu, a second-year majoring in mathematics; Sujay Kazi, a third-year double majoring in mathematics and physics; Jushua Park, a second-year majoring in biological engineering; and Mihir Singhal, a second-year majoring in mathematics.</p> <p>“This is the only science bowl in the nation entirely run by veterans,” says Adajar, who adds that the majority of the volunteers are also alums. For many, organizing science bowl is their way to stay involved and give back to the competition that marked their middle and high school experiences. The MIT School of Science funds the event each year.</p> <p>The morning began with a series of round-robin style competitions, with the 24 teams divided into groups of six that play against each other, fielding questions from across the STEM universe. Each round involves a number of toss-up questions, which both teams can buzz to answer. These questions are heavily guarded prior to the event, but the U.S. Department of Energy, which organizes science bowl, has <a href="" target="_blank">sample questions online from previous years</a>. These vary from what type of process is used by nuclear power plants to generate energy (answer: fission) to which cellular organelle is responsible for photosynthesis (answer: chloroplast).&nbsp;</p> <p>A correctly answered question gains the team four points and the chance to answer a bonus question worth 10 points. While toss-up questions have to be answered individually, bonus questions involve teamwork, with the four team members whispering back and forth, trying to make the most of the 20 seconds they have to agree on an answer. One bonus question from 2017, for instance, asked a team to solve the following equation for x: x2 – 7x – 120 = 0 (Answer: Both -8 and 15, and the team was required to give both answers in order to receive points).</p> <p>Practice at Roxbury Latin, which started in January, focuses on teaching contestants how to play the game. “The team knows what they know, but they need to learn to listen carefully, to not buzz in too early, to not blurt,” says Moore. “For me, that’s why we practice.”</p> <p>After a break for lunch, the top two teams from each group headed to the single-elimination bracket, which decided who proceeded to the semi-finals. In the middle of the afternoon, the final winning and third place-deciding matches brought this year’s annual Regional Middle School Science Bowl to a close.</p> <p>This year, both first and second place went to two teams from Jonas Clarke Middle School in Lexington, Massachusetts. Clarke Team 2 came in first, while Clarke Team 1 came in second. The winning team received not only the “fame and glory of winning the coolest science bowl in all the nation,” according to Adajar, but they will also go on to represent the Northeast in the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">National Science Bowl</a> in Washington in April.</p> <p>Roxbury Latin’s team did not go to the single-elimination round and over lunch, two of the team’s eighth-graders analyzed their performance. “We were zero-to-two after the first two rounds, then came back to two-for-two, and the last round was really close,” said one student. “That was a confidence hit, but the questions got easier and we got more aggressive with the buzzing,” added another team member. Ending the tournament two wins to three losses may have been disappointing, but when asked about their plans for next year there was no hesitation. “We’re definitely doing science bowl in high school.”</p> Over 100 middle schoolers from Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts came to the MIT campus to compete in the fifth annual Northeast Regional Middle School Science Bowl. Photo: Paolo AdajarSchool of Science, Broad Institute, STEM education, K-12 education, Community, Contests and academic competitions