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Heidi Williams wins MacArthur "genius grant"
Economist who studies the economics of innovation wins $625,000 prize.

photograph: MacArthur Foundation

Williams researches the causes and consequences of technological change in health care markets. Her broad goal is to shed light on the economics of innovation in a context — health care —that has important consequences for human health and welfare, one which is critical to national fiscal policy.

Excerpt from article by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office

September 29, 2015 — MIT economist Heidi Williams, whose scholarly work looks at the effects of patent policies and technology on medical research and health care, has been granted a 2015 MacArthur Fellowship.

The high-profile annual fellowships, unofficially known as “genius grants,” include an award of $625,000 that is paid over five years and is unrestricted, meaning recipients are allowed to use it as they see fit. There are usually fewer than 25 MacArthur Fellowships awarded each year. 

Williams says she is “very humbled and extremely grateful” to be a recipient of the fellowship. Upon being informed of the award by an official with the MacArthur Foundation, she adds, “I was completely speechless.”

Williams, the Class of 1957 Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics, emphasized that the award was a reflection of the intellectual atmosphere and encouragement she has received from colleagues in her department.

“I’ve really been extremely grateful to my department here at MIT,” Williams says. “The department in general has just been so supportive.”

What affects the pace of medical research?

Williams says she aims to conduct “empirically-grounded, socially useful” research. In practice, she has produced methodologically rigorous studies on questions such as whether or not intellectual property rights influence the pace of biomedical research, and how the use of certain technologies affects health care outcomes and costs.

Williams’ best-known study, published in 2013, examined the effects of intellectual property rights within biomedical research — through the lens of the celebrated “race” to sequence a version of the human genome, between the private firm Celera and the government-backed Human Genome Project.

Williams concluded that granting intellectual property rights to Celera for its discoveries reduced subsequent scientific research and product development by 20 to 30 percent, relative to the pace of research and development seen after the Human Genome Project’s later work put the same information in the public domain.


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Full story at MIT News

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SHASS stories by the MIT News Office team 

The research, profile, and feature stories archived on this page are written by the MIT News staff, principally by Peter Dizikes. More


An October conference on the MIT campus marks the launch of SOLVE — a project dedicated to generating ongoing thinking, research, and collaboration to solve the world's toughest problems. MIT's humanities, arts, and social science faculty will be engaged in SOLVE's efforts in all four areas of focus: FUEL, CURE, LEARN, and MAKE. Meet MIT-SHASS participants in some of the initial events.

Study: Climate policy focused on local impacts is most effective for Americans

In a recent talk at MIT based on his recent book, Clean and Cheap, political scientist David Konisky PhD '06 says citizen demand for climate policy is so soft in the U.S. that new tactics are needed to address global warming. More

Haitian educators and MIT faculty develop Kreyòl-based teaching tools

Six veteran educators from Haiti — two biologists, two physicists, and two mathematicians — were on campus recently to work closely with MIT faculty to develop and hone Kreyòl-based, technology-enhanced pedagogical tools for STEM education. More

Melissa Nobles named dean of SHASS Political scientist and department head to lead School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

Political scientist Melissa Nobles has been named the new dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, effective July 1. Nobles, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and head of MIT’s Department of Political Science since 2013, is an accomplished scholar who has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1995. In addition to her role as department head, Nobles has served on a series of Institute-wide committees over the last decade. More

"Visualing Japan" humanities MOOC nominated for the Japan Prize: Interview with Shigeru Miyagawa

“Visualizing Japan”—a massive open online course (MOOC) co-taught by Shigeru Miyagawa and others—has been nominated for the Japan Prize, a prestigious international prize awarded to educational broadcast and digital media programs selected from around the world. More

Your Brain on Music | The Significance of Music Education at MIT

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Hundreds of MIT students explore social science, arts, and humanities fields at the TOUR de SHASS 2015

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TOUR de SHASS 2015 on September 10

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Philosopher Robert Stalnaker solves problems the MIT way

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Donca Steriade: Searching for the building blocks of language

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MIT chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society inducts 80 graduating seniors 

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MIT grad students organize summer institute to increase diversity in the philosophy field.

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Andrea Louise Campbell named head of Political Science

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Jeffrey S. Ravel named head of MIT History

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Helen Elaine Lee and Emma Teng named to SHASS leadership roles

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Faculty Promotions - Spring 2015

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Five MIT students win MISTI Excellence Awards

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How do we tell the story about climate change?

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MIT students launch national competition to inspire young humanities, arts, and social science researchers

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Music for the 4th of July

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Vivian Tran ’16 and Caleb Lin ’16 win the 2015 Isabelle de Courtivron Prize  

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MIT List Visual Art Center

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2015 SHASS Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching announced   

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Fotini Christia receives Andrew Carnegie Fellowship

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MIT Political Science graduate student awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship

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Literature Professor Arthur Bahr named a 2015 MacVicar Faculty Fellow

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David Dolev and Daria Johnson receive 2015 MIT Excellence Awards

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Lily Tsai

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SHASS Diversity Predoctoral Fellowship launches with three PhD students

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Political Science and EECS join forces for new "Elections and Voting Technology" course

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Dean Fitzgerald announces new Cynthia L. Reed Chair in French Studies and Language

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A Lasting Legacy: Anthropologist Jean Jackson retires 

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Bringing Science and Humanities Together - Promise and Perils

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35 Burchard Scholars announced for 2015

The award honors sophomores and juniors who demonstrate academic excellence in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, as well as in science and engineering. “The Burchard scholars are some of MIT’s liveliest undergraduates,” says Margery Resnick, professor of literature and director of the Burchard Scholars Program. “Selection is extremely competitive, and the students chosen are unafraid to wrestle with new ideas.” More

Twelve SHASS Research Fund recipients announced for 2015

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Global Health & Medical Humanities Initiative launched

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MIT SHASS alumnus and Visiting Professor Jean Tirole MIT PhD'81 wins 2014 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

Tirole, PhD'81, who is also a former MIT faculty member and a current annual Visiting Professor of Economics at MIT, was awarded the 2014 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for his analysis of market power and how governments can better regulate industries from banking to telecommunications. More

David Mindell named 2015 AIAA Associate Fellow
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has selected historian David A. Mindell as a 2015 AIAA Associate Fellow. Mindell, who is also a Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT will receive the award on January 5, 2015 at a ceremony held in conjunction with the AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition in Kissimmee, Florida.  More

MIT linguist Danny Fox named Anshen-Chomsky Professor of Language and Thought
Research that illuminates both language and the mind itself 

"Fox belongs to the rare breed of researchers who not only discover remarkable new facts about language, but also has the vision to see what these discoveries are teaching us about the mind as a whole, about the structure of language as a part of the human mind, and about the internal workings of language itself." — David Pesetsky, Head, MIT Philosophy and Linguistics  More

Welcoming New Faculty | Fall 2014

The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is very pleased to present the newest members of the School faculty. They come to us with diverse backgrounds and vast knowledge in their areas of research: empirics of matching markets; nineteenth- and twentieth-century representations of childhood and the history of children's literature; international political economy, and formal and quantitative methodology; the intersection of philosophy and linguistics; causes and consequences of ethnic conflict; the intersection of science, technology, and urban politics in US history; the meaning of natural language expressions; moral philosophy; and game theory, microeconomic theory, and political economy. Please join us in welcoming these excellent scholars into the School community. More

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum to lead Knight Science Journalism at MIT | Wade Roush, PhD'94, to be Acting Head, 2014-15

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STEM + Humanities + Arts + Social Sciences

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MIT Melville scholar Wyn Kelley sails on the the Charles W. Morgan 

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MIT chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society inducts 89 graduating seniors 

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Fusco joins SHASS as 2014-15 MLK Visiting Scholar

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Tribute to Thomas Parke Hughes (1923-2014) — by Rosalind Williams

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Gamma Sonification: MIT students make music from particle energy 

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Elizabeth Garrels, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies, retires after 35 years at MIT

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Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates dazzles campus during two years as MLK Visiting Scholar

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2014 Levitan Awards
for Excellence in Teaching announced

Dean Fitzgerald has announced the recipients of the 2014 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Warmest congratulations to these nine educators and colleagues, who represent the very best academic leadership in the School.  More

Anthropologist Christine Walley receives CLR James Best Book Award for Exit Zero 

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Two new Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows join the MIT community

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  See Mellon Fellows | Profiles

Female scholars led by MIT anthropologist Susan Silbey illuminate path to commonsense regulation

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Six MIT undergraduates awarded Kelly-Douglas Traveling Fellowships  

Travel beyond MIT to pursue an independent project in an HASS field, or to collaborate on a humanitarian project, can have a transformative impact on a student's life and career.  More

Perreau examines the politics of adoption in France 

MIT Associate Professor of French Studies Bruno Perreau explores how adoption issues in France reveal deeply-held views about gender, parenthood, and "Frenchness." More

Women's and Gender Studies project honors former MIT President Charles Vest

The contributions of women to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields gained some additional visibility on Wikipedia this spring as MIT students and faculty members teamed up for a "Women in STEM Edit-a-thon" in honor of former MIT President Charles M. Vest (1941-2013). More

Remi Mir '17 and Daniel Stone '17 win the 2014 de Courtivron Prize 

Established in 2011 as a tribute to French Studies Professor Emerita Isabelle de Courtivron, the prize recognizes student writing on topics related to immigrant, diaspora, bicultural, bilingual, and/or multi-racial experiences. It is awarded each year by the Center for Bilingual/Bicultural Studies within MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS). More

Philosopher Sally Haslanger receives Ford Chair 

Deborah Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has awarded Professor of Philosophy Sally Haslanger a Ford Chair. “This honor is in recognition of both her distinctive scholarship, and her distinguished leadership within the discipline of philosophy internationally," said Fitzgerald. More

Two MIT undergraduates win 2014 Kelly Essay Awards

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Knight Science speakers cite communication as vital to progress on climate change

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Acclaimed cellist Carlos Prieto, SB ’58, receives the 2014 Robert A. Muh Alumni Award 

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3 Questions with Paul Raeburn | How the KSJ Tracker raises the bar for science media 

"Our goal is to provide an informal peer review of science reporting, which we hope will help improve science coverage across the board." — Paul Raeburn, Chief Media Critic, MIT KSJ Tracker  More

Неординарные идеи меняют мир 
Sources of Innovation: for MIT student fluency in Russian is transformative 

How important is it for MIT students to become fluent in new languages as they expand their horizons and prepare to serve the world? Amanda von Goetz's story is a good example: mastering Russian has proved to be a transformative experience in her life — not just once, but several times over.  More

Political Scientist Daniel Hidalgo receives 2014 Kellogg/Notre Dame Award 

MIT Assistant Professor F. Daniel Hidalgo has won the 2014 Kellogg/Notre Dame Award for best paper in comparative politics—together with his co-author, Simeon Nichter of the University of California, San Diego. The Kellogg/Notre Dame Award recognizes outstanding research presented at the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) Conference, one of the largest academic conferences held on political science each year. A scholarly association founded in 1939, the MPSA is the publisher of The American Journal of Political Science. More

Humanities + Engineering at MIT | Le Morte d'Arthur and the Engineer

In the fall of 2013, after having taught "Medieval Literature: Legends of Arthur" at MIT for six years, Arthur Bahr took a leap of faith. Instead of a final paper, he gave his students the option to turn in a creative project about Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.  “These are MIT students," says Bahr, Associate Professor of Literature."They’re makers. Mens et manus, right?” More

Anthropologist Heather Paxson named 2014 MacVicar Faculty Fellow

Every year, the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program recognizes a handful of professors who are exceptional undergraduate teachers, educational innovators, and mentors. This year’s awardees included Heather Anne Paxson, an associate professor of anthropology.  More

April Julich Perez of MISTI Program receives 2014 MIT Excellence Award

April Julich Perez, associate director of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) within the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has been honored for her leadership with a 2014 MIT Excellence Award for Bringing Out the Best More

Bruno Perreau awarded 2014-15 Stanford Humanities Center External Faculty Fellowship

Bruno Perreau, who was recently promoted to Associate Professor of French studies in Global Studies and  Languages, has received a Stanford Humanities Center External Faculty Fellowship for 2014-’15. The Stanford Humanities Center is a multidisciplinary research institute dedicated to advancing knowledge about culture, philosophy, history, and the arts. More

Open Documentary Lab puts MIT in the vanguard of new media for storytelling 

Internet, cellphone cameras, big data, interactive games, and other technologies have created an explosion of new methods of storytelling that is transforming the media landscape. The Open Documentary Lab, located in MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, explores the challenges and opportunities these changes present for documentarians today. “The field is now like looking at the early years of television," says William Urichio, Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Principal Investigator for the OpenDocLab. "new tools, new storytelling technique, new participants. It's a very exciting moment."    More

2014 Burchard Scholars announced

The award honors sophomores and juniors who demonstrate academic excellence in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, as well as in science and engineering. “The Burchard scholars are some of MIT’s liveliest undergraduates,” says Margery Resnick, professor of literature and director of the Burchard Scholars Program. “Selection is extremely competitive, and the students chosen are unafraid to wrestle with new ideas.” More

Loren Graham on Sources of Innovation 

Innovators particularly need different frames of mind in crisis moments, when one doesn't know how to go forward. Sometimes these frames of mind are philosophical, sometimes they are moral or ethical. More

3 Questions | Interview with Seth Mnookin

The challenge and impact of science writing More

Elevating the Discourse: The Knight Science Journalism Fellows at MIT   

This year MIT's Knight Science Journalism program welcomed 11 acclaimed journalists who investigate topics ranging from phenology and climate change, to medicine and human health, to quantum mechanics to hone their science reporting skills. In this article, the Fellows offer their insights on the challenges and rewards of their field.  More

Manduhai Buyandelger receives $25K Levitan Prize in the Humanities for 2013

Associate Professor of Anthropology Manduhai Buyandelger has been awarded the James A. (1945) and Ruth Levitan Prize in the Humanities, a $25,000 research grant that will support her in-depth ethnographic study of parliamentary elections in Mongolia, with specific emphasis on the experience of female candidates. More

Gallery of Digital Humanities at MIT

The work going on in digital humanities and new media is one expression of the innovation that characterizes the Humanities more broadly. Using computational tools and methods, MIT humanities scholars are opening new lines of research and discovery, revitalizing the study of objects from the past, and asking questions never before possible. More

A global community gathers to celebrate J-PAL@10

MORE THAN A THOUSAND PEOPLE from across the nation and the world gathered at MIT on December 7, 2013 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Established in 2003 as a research center in the Economics Department of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, J-PAL's founders pioneered the use of randomized control trials to test the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs. Today, J-PAL comprises a global network of nearly 100 researchers working in 55 countries.    More

detail, George Inness painting, The Lakawanna Valley

Symposium honors 50th anniversary of The Machine in the Garden by Leo Marx

MIT Professor Emeritus Leo Marx wrote The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America in 1964, before cell phones, the Internet, and computers became omnipresent in American life. Yet today this work — centered on the tensions nineteenth century authors saw as shaping American life — remains as relevant as ever. On November 8, 2013, colleagues and former students gathered to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Marx’s book with a symposium at MIT.  More

HASTS alumni return to campus to present their work at 25th anniversary symposium

Fifteen distinguished HASTS alumni gave presentations on their current work at a November 2013 symposium held to celebrate the program’s 25th anniversary. In opening remarks, Deborah Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, said, "Our mission in SHASS is to empower our students with the perspectives and skills needed to think deeply and to provide real leadership in their fields. The impressive work displayed by our HASTS alumni is a surpassing example of how that goal is being achieved.”  Story + Gallery

SHASS convenes event with leaders in Science Engagement field 

This fall, MIT gathered 75 top practitioners from across the field at the "Evolving Culture of Science Engagement" event to take the measure of the potentials in the convergence of science, education, and entertainment. More

David Kaiser awarded the Davis Prize from the History of Science Society

The History of Science Society has awarded the Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize to MIT historian and physicist David Kaiser for his book How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival (W. W. Norton, 2011). More

The Atlantic cites Natasha Schüll's Addiction by Design as a "Best Book I Read This Year"  

Atlantic senior editor Alexis C. Madgiral, who selected Schüll's book, writes: Schüll "looks at how the gambling companies engineer behaviors as they simultaneously create and satisfy human desires...If books can be tools, Addiction by Design is one of the foundational artifacts for understanding the digital age." More

The Economist names Rosalind Williams' Triumph of the Human Empire one of the best books of 2013

The Economist has named The Triumph of Human Empire (University of Chicago Press) one of the best books of 2013. Williams is the Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology in MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society. In The Triumph of Human Empire, she explores the turning point in history and technology when human endeavors began to dominate the planet like never before.   More

detail, Alfred Bierstadt, The Buffalo Trail

3 Questions Interview | Rosalind Williams on Machine in the Garden by Leo Marx

The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America by Leo Marx, Kenan Sahin Professor of American Culture emeritus, is a seminal work that has had ongoing influence on thinking about the environment. Rosalind Williams, Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology, offers thoughts on the enduring significance of Marx's book.       More

Wi-Phi online video platform presents "philosophy's greatest hits"

A little philosophy could go a long way toward making the world a better place, says Damien Rochford, Ph.D. ’13, who has co-launched the Wi-Phi, an online, interactive philosophy website. The site presents more than a dozen short entertaining video animations to accompany talks by top scholars on such timeless questions as whether humans have free will, whether god exists, and what is it for a sentence to be true. The goal is for people to learn how to do philosophy, rather than simply learning what philosophers have thought, so the site focuses on developing critical thinking skills. More

Panel at MIT assesses the benefits/uncertainties of climate engineering

As the human and economic costs of climate change threaten to rise—and with little progress in reducing global carbon emission—some activists, scientists, and politicians are searching for new ways to respond to the global climate crisis. More

Class on digital humanities premieres with tech-savvy approach

First offered in the Spring 2013 term, and taught by Professor James Paradis and Principal Research Associate Kurt Fendt, both of Comparative Media Studies/Writing, "Digital Humanities: Topics, Techniques, and Technologies" (CMS.633), gave MIT students the chance to pair technical know-how with real-world humanities projects  — such as designing innovations for the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (ICA), and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. More

Digital Humanities
"Annotation Studio" translates an ancient literary practice into the digital age 

Annotation Studio, a project developed by HyperStudio (the MIT SHASS lab for digital humanites), promises to improve upon traditional techniques for entering marginalia and side notes in books — enabling readers not only to annotate texts across media, but also to share comments with others and to enhance them with links, images, video, and audio. More

Hard Math = Powerful Fun
MIT economist Ellison's "Hard Math" books inspire young students

Six years ago when Glenn Ellison volunteered to coach his daughter Caroline’s middle-school math team, he hardly realized he would soon become a leading authority in the niche market of advanced mathematics textbooks for elementary- and middle-school students. More

Williams awarded Leonardo da Vinci Medal for lifetime achievement

Rosalind H. Williams, Professor in the School's Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) was honored for a lifetime of achievement when the Society for the History of Technology presented her with its highest award, the Leonardo da Vinci Medal. The medal is given annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the history of technology through research, teaching, publications, and other activities.  More

Ritvo's Animal Estate featured on centennial list of 100 most significant books from Harvard University Press 

Harvard University Press, celebrating its centennial year, recently selected MIT Professor Harriet Ritvo’s 1987 book, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age, as one of its 100 most significant publications.  Congratulations to Professor Ritvo — and to Harvard Univeristy Press!   More

TOUR de SHASS expo showcases MIT's humanities, arts, social sciences

Several hundred MIT students gathered on September 5, 2013, for the inaugural TOUR de SHASS—a new academic expo showcasing MIT's wide range of fields and classes in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. More

Anthropologist Natasha Schüll honored for Addition by Design - research on technology and gambling   

Associate Professor Natasha Schüll of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) has received the Sharon Stephens Prize from the American Ethnological Society (AES) for her book, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (Princeton 2012). More

MIT's Jameel Poverty Action Lab launches a regional office for North America

Established in 2013, J-PAL North America is based at MIT in the Department of Economics, and works to improve the effectiveness of social programs in the U.S. and Canada through J-PAL's three core activities: research, policy outreach, and capacity building. More

Emma Teng named one of Ten Outstanding Faculty 

Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity has selected MIT Professor Emma Teng as one of Ten Outstanding Faculty honored nationwide for her "passion for inspiring [her] students, as well as [her] dedication to [her] own personal values." More

Caspar Hare / MITx offer first intro philosophy MOOC 

"Analytic philosophy gives you a way to think about [challenging] questions in a rigorous and organized way. In a very concrete sense, it teaches you life skills, because most of the problems you face in life do not have an instruction manual." More

Welcoming New Faculty | Fall 2013

The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is very pleased to present the newest members of the faculty. They come to us with diverse backgrounds and vast knowledge in their areas of research: history of South Asia and South Asian diasporas; comparative politics; French history and visual culture; history of law focusing on slavery, abolition, and the Atlantic revolutionary period; international law; and Classical Greek and contemporary rhetorical theory, and comparative media. Please join us in welcoming these excellent scholars into the School community. More

Catherine Clark Receives Contemporary French Civilization Award

Catherine E. Clark has received the CFC's 2nd Annual Annual Lawrence R. Schehr Memorial Award for her essay "The Vidéothèque de Paris, Archive of the Future."    More

Women in philosophy | Haslanger commentary in NYT

In a recent New York Times article, Sally Haslanger, MIT Professor of Philosophy, provides her perspective on the current underrepresentation of women in philosophy.   More

Faculty Promotions

The MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is pleased to announce the following faculty promotions, which are effective 1 July 2013. More

Pauline Maier

Path-breaking historian, Pauline Maier, dies at 75 

The eminent historian Pauline Maier, a treasured member of the MIT SHASS community for more than thirty years, died August 12 in Cambridge, Massachusetts after a short illness. Her award-winning books cast new light on Revolutionary-era America and the foundations of U.S. democracy, and her dedicated teaching influenced generations of scholars. Responding to the news, Dean Fitzgerald said, "One of the key intellectual figures in her field, Pauline was also a leader at MIT — a great historian and scholar who understood the pulse of the Institute and helped guide and improve our community in profound ways....We will miss her enormously." More

Shankar Raman

Literary scholar Shankar Raman wins 2013 Levitan Prize in the Humanities 

Raman, Professor of Literature, has received the 2013 James A. ('45) and Ruth Levitan Prize in the Humanities. The $25,000 prize is awarded annually to support innovative and creative scholarship in the humanities. The prize will support Raman's development of his manuscript-in-progress, Before the Two Cultures: Literature and Mathematics in Early Modern Europe. More

Alma Steingart

Alma Steingart to join Harvard Society of Fellows 
three year fellowship recognizes exceptional young scholars

Alma Steingart, a doctoral candidate in MIT's Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) has been invited to join the Harvard Society of Fellows, an elite group dedicated to “the unregimented cultivation of scholarly genius.” More

Sherry Turkle receives The Centennial Medal from Harvard; also named a Literary Light

Sherry Turkle, The Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, has recently received the honor of "Literary Light" from the Associates of the Boston Public Library, and The Centennial Medal from Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.   More

Mark Harvey and Aardvark Jazz Orchestra mark two anniversaries 

MIT Lecturer Mark Harvey led his Aardvark Jazz Orchestra at Kresge Auditorium, celebrating the 40th anniversary of his band. More

WGBH Boston broadcasts MIT music documentary
"Awakening" pays tribute to the Arab Spring

WGBH aired the MIT music documentary concert "Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring through Music" on Friday, May 31. Several firsts were involved in this event. The broadcast marks the first time PBS has shown a work by MIT Video Productions. And the 30-minute program features the world premiere of a new work, "Awakening," by composer and MIT alumnus Jamshied Sharifi — performed in March 2012 by the MIT Wind Ensemble, led by Dr. Frederick E. Harris, Conductor of the ensemble, and Director of Wind and Jazz Ensembles for MIT Music and Theater Arts.   More

Anthropologist Graham Jones receives the 2013 MIT Edgerton Award

“Graham is a talented scholar with an unquenchable passion for teaching. His deep intelligence, breadth of knowledge, and commitment to excellence are apparent in everything he does.” More

Profile of Emma Teng | MacVicar Faculty Fellow 

Emma Teng, T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations and an associate professor of China studies, relishes the unique atmosphere within MIT that fosters multidisciplinary collaboration. And through her research and teachings about Asian and Asian-American identities and histories, Teng helps her students challenge their own assumptions, an exercise that she hopes extends beyond the classroom. More

Dean Fitzgerald announces appointments to SHASS leadership roles 

Deborah Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has announced the appointment of eight faculty members to new leadership roles.  More

Seven undergraduates awarded Kelly-Douglas Traveling Fellowships  

An important dimension of the Kelly-Douglas Fund is support for undergraduate education in the humanities, arts and social sciences; travel beyond MIT to pursue a project in an HASS field, or to collaborate in a humanitarian project, can have a powerful and lasting effect on students. More

John G. Mikhael ’13 wins Isabelle de Courtivron Prize  

Math major Mikhael received the $400 prize for his essay, “Lost in Translation,” which explores Mikhael’s experience growing up—first in the United States and then in Lebanon—and his return to the States to study at MIT. The Prize honors cross-cultural fluency — an ability key to leadership and success in today's global world. More

2013 Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching announced

Dean Fitzgerald has announced the recipients of the 2013 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Warmest congratulations to these seven educators and colleagues, who represent the very best academic leadership in the School.  More

2013 SHASS Research Fund recipients announced

The SHASS Research Fund supports research in the areas of humanities, arts, and social sciences that shows promise of making an important contribution to the proposed area of activity. The School is pleased to announce the eight recipients for 2013.   More

Richard Locke publishes research on equity/safety issues in the global supply chain 


Can global brands create just supply chains, fair and safe working conditions? In his new book, The Promise and Limits of Private PowerMIT political scientist Richard Locke says that protecting workers involved in the global supply chain will require three things: actions by firms themselves; long-standing supply-chain relationships, and government effort.    More

MIT literature scholar Stephanie Frampton awarded the Rome Prize 

Assistant Professor of Literature Stephanie Ann Frampton has been awarded the prestigious Rome Prize for ancient studies by the American Academy in Rome. The award will provide funding for Frampton to spend 11 months living and working at the academy, a leading American overseas center for independent studies and advanced research in the fine arts and humanities. More

Arthur Bahr’s first book reveals a surprise about 14th century manuscripts    

While reading online, do you sometimes find yourself skipping from politics to poetry to humor? If so, your experience is rather medieval, says Arthur Bahr, an associate professor of literature at MIT whose first book, Fragments and Assemblages: Forming Compilations of Medieval London was just released by University of Chicago Press. More

What is "natural," and what is "social"
Q&A with Philosopher Sally Haslanger

Professor of philosophy and Director of Women's and Gender Studies at MIT, Sally Haslanger recently published Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (Oxford University Press), a collection of essays on gender and race. We caught up with her to talk about the rich ideas in her most recent book.  More

Burchard Scholars for 2013 announced 

MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences has named 32 undergraduate students as Burchard Scholars for 2013. The award recognizes sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated outstanding abilities and academic excellence in some aspect of the humanities, arts, and social sciences, as well as in science and engineering. More

Esther Duflo selected as a 2013 Dan David Prize laureate

Honored for research on strategies to alleviate poverty through disease prevention More

 President Obama announces intent to appoint Esther Duflo to Global Development Council

President Barack Obama has announced he intends to appoint MIT Professor Esther Duflo to the President’s Global Development Council. Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics, and a founder and director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). More

Profile of Lerna Ekmeckcioglu published 

“There was no Armenian women’s history in Armenian or Turkish,” Ekmekcioglu says. “So, I decided to write it myself.” A faculty member in MIT’s Program in Women’s and Gender Studies, Ekmekcioglu says she has been interested in feminism since college. That was when she first researched the Turkish women’s movement and discovered that the only information available centered on the experience of Muslims, the majority population in Turkey. Non-Turks, including ethnic Armenians, Greeks, and Jews, were simply absent.


AIAA honors David Mindell for Digital Apollo

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics has named MIT historian David A. Mindell the winner of its Gardner-Lasser Aerospace History Literature Award for his book Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight. More

Ideas Matter series hosts explorations of the Occupy Movement and of Climate Change   

Ideas Matter, a joint project of Boston Review and the MIT SHASS Department of Political Science, is a lecture series that brings Boston Review writers together with other experts and practitioners for debate on the challenges of our times. Here are updates on the two most recent events, along with links to books and more information. More

MIT SHASS launches The Listening Room, the sounds of MIT Music online 

The finest music composed and performed by MIT’s renowned music faculty and students is now available in The Listening Room—an online collection that showcases the Institute’s longstanding engagement with music. “The arts at MIT are rooted in experimentation, risk-taking, and imaginative problem-solving, said, Deborah Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. "The Listening Room now opens the doors for a worldwide audience to enjoy the MIT musical experience." More

School within a School: MIT's Concourse learning community 

The single best thing about college for MIT Professor of History Anne McCants was "exploring ideas ravenously."  It was like being in a candy store for four years,” she says. Now, as newly appointed director of Concourse, a learning community for MIT freshmen, McCants says her goal is to give today’s students the same heady experience of intellectual adventure and discovery within the context of a supportive group.  More

MIT Philosophy has extraordinary success placing PhD grads in top tenure-track positions.

Consistently ranked among the top ten philosophy departments in the country, MIT’s small Philosophy section—just 12 full time professors—recently also drew attention for its extraordinary success in placing PhD graduates in tenure-track positions at top philosophy programs nationwide. The Leiter Reports, an influential publication in the field, placed MIT second in grad student placement, just behind New York University, a program nearly twice as large. Because obtaining a faculty position in philosophy is notoriously difficult—often 700 applicants for every appointment—many are wondering: what is the secret of MIT’s outsized success? More

MIT SHASS hosts symposium for 50th anniversary of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Friday, December 7, 2012
Bartos Theater, E51-070 | 1-5:30pm
Free and open to the public 
  Schedule + Commentary

Q&A with Michel DeGraff 

Associate Professor Michel DeGraff recently received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for his linguistics research in Haiti, which includes developing classroom tools to teach science and math in Haitian Creole (Kreyòl) for the first time. In this interview, he speaks about his vision for the research, about Haiti and Kreyòl, and how this project can be a model for reaching the millions of science-hungry students around the world who speak local languages like Haitian Creole. Read more

DeGraff awarded $1m NSF grant   

Michel DeGraff, Associate Professor of Linguistics, is the Principal Investigator for a five-year project that will help develop classroom tools to teach science and math in Haitian Creole for the first time.  Full Story at MIT News

MIT SHASS News Clips | 2013

MIT SHASS research, programs, and faculty in the national and international media reports.   More

New York Times interviews Junot Díaz

Q & A with the Pulitzer prize-winning author and MIT Professor of Writing  More

Marcus Thompson

Marcus Thompson presents world premiere of Viola Concerto by Wilson

Violist Marcus Thompson, Robert R. Taylor Professor of Music at MIT, presented the world premiere of the Viola Concerto by composer Olly Wilson with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra on June 2. More

Sal Khan

Salman Kahn's talk at MIT Commencement 2012 

A brilliant, joyful commencement address, June 8, 2012 More

MIT establishes Center for Art, Science, and Technology

A new Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) is being established at MIT with support from a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  Full Story at MIT News

bulldog puppy smiling

Think you're funny?  — Prove it! 

Apply for a grant from the de Florez Fund for Humor. Yes, it's true—at MIT you can be funded for being funny. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences invites MIT students, faculty, and staff to apply for grants from the de Florez Fund for Humor.  More

Economists Daron Acemoglu of MIT and James Robinson of Harvard publish new thesis on the wealth of nations


Collection of significant reviews, interviews, videos, broadcasts about the ideas

Shigeru Miyagawa

Shigeru Miyagawa receives President's Award from the OCW Consortium    

MIT linguistics professor Shigeru Miyagawa has been selected to receive the President's Award for OpenCourseWare Excellence (ACE) for his contributions to the global OpenCourseWare and Open Education movements. Miyagawa, who is also head of the Foreign Languages and Literatures Section, has been a key member of the faculty team that has nurtured the development of MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), has contributed a significant amount of his own course materials to the site, and has traveled extensively to spread the practice of openly sharing educational materials globally.  More at MIT News

MIT Symphony Orchestra season finale concert to feature Katzin '12 and Chen '13

The orchestra, under the direction of Adam K. Boyles, will spotlight two talented MIT students: Composer Dustin R. Katzin ’12 and pianist Yimin Chen ’13, on the season Finale Concert on May 4th in Kresge Auditorium. The evening will include Chen's performance of Prokofiev's first Piano Concerto, and the premiere of Katzin's "Schrödinger’s Cat: a Musical Journey into the Strange World of Quantum Physics." Full story

building 10

Meet the MacVicars of MIT SHASS 

The SHASS MacVicar Faculty Fellows discuss the significance,the goals—and the sheer fun—of teaching MIT students.   More

Gallery | The MIT SHASS MacVicar Faculty Fellows 

Photographs, research areas, and commentary  More

Rosalind Williams: on the "Human Empire"

An historian who finds evidence and insight in literature, Rosalind Williams, Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology, recently completed a book examining the critical juncture when human endeavors began to dominate the planet as never before. Forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press (2013), The Triumph of Human Empire, explores this turning point in history and technology through the works of three writers from the late 1800s. More

Tech companies cite the humanities as key for today's careers 

Well said, Google!  More

Cuthbert receives $500K Digging into Data grant for innovative musicology research

Associate Professor of Music Michael Cuthbert, together with an international team of researchers, has been awarded a $500K grant from the Digging into Data consortium (including $175K from the National Endowment for the Humanities). The grant supports his for work using computational techniques to study changes in Western musical style. More

Irene Heim

Scientific Reunion commemorates 50 years of Linguistics at MIT

To celebrate the first 50 years of MIT’s graduate program in Linguistics, alumni, former faculty and postdoctoral scholars attended a Scientific Reunion, held at MIT on December 9-11, 2011, and participated in a discussion of some of the foundational questions investigated by its past and present members. Professor David Pesetsky writes, "Intellectually, it was first-rate and exciting; there were some fireworks (just as we'd hoped). It was also a very emotional weekend. Collectively, this was the group that built the field."  More

Great Ideas exhibit features MIT research in the humanities, arts, and social sciences    

For MIT's 150th anniversary, Dean Deborah Fitzgerald and the School leadership initiated a new permanent exhibit about the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Located on the first floor of Building 14, near Killian Hall, the exhibit presents the 20+ fields of study that make up the School, as well as an updating gallery of research, news, and profiles.  Take a look

Richard Holton

Philosopher Richard Holton on what New Year's resolutions say about us 

"Our ability to make resolutions is at the center of our sense of free will." — Story in The Boston Globe More

colorful communication cables

MIT's Communication Forum conducts a conversation for scholars—and citizens

How are new technologies transforming public discourse? Are traditional news outlets still influential in framing the news we get online?  What are the legal dangers for publishing secrets in the crowd-sourced era? These are just a few of the questions recently addressed by the MIT Communications Forum. Founded in 1978—well before the advent of the Internet—by the pioneering media scholar Ithiel de Sola Pool of MIT’s Political Science Department, the forum continues to engage leading scholars, journalists, media producers, and others around the globe in cutting-edge discussions on how emerging media are changing our world. More

Finding the pulse of the poor 

Armed with data, an MIT lab offers fresh insight on some of the world’s most vexing problems. For nearly a decade, MIT economics professors Esther Duflo, and Abhijit Banerjee, have worked with a global network of researchers to conduct experiments in the world’s poorest places - where families live on less than $1 day - and reached conclusions that are changing the way economists and policy makers think about development in impoverished areas. More

explosion of energy

Energy challenge calls on political, economic, and cultural realms   

Meeting 21st energy requires both technological solutions and innovation and input from economic, political, social and cultural spheres. Technical issues have human and social components, and there is no one solution to the energy problem.  •   More

Robert A. Muh

About the Robert A. Muh Alumni Award

Profiles of the first six recipients of the biennial award, which was founded in 2000 by Robert and Berit Muh, to honor MIT alums who make significant career contributions in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.   More

MIT economists Finkelstein and Gruber demonstrate the health and financial benefits of Medicaid 

Landmark study shows the effects of health insurance program: much better health and more financial stability for the poor; more bills paid for hospitals and doctors. Professors of Economics Amy Finkelstein (a principal investigator) and Jonathan Gruber contributed to the study.   More

The deaths of others book cover

The Deaths of Others, by John Tirman, explores fate of civilians in America's wars

Americans are greatly concerned about the number of our troops killed in battle — 100,000 dead in World War I; 300,000 in World War II; 33,000 in the Korean War; 58,000 in Vietnam; 4,500 in Iraq; more than 1,000 in Afghanistan — and rightly so. But why are we so indifferent, often oblivious, to the far greater number of casualties suffered by those we fight and those we fight for? This is the compelling, largely unasked question that John Tirman, a principal research scientist and executive director at the MIT Center for International Studies, answers in The Deaths of OthersMore

Report cites arts as essential to MIT's mission    

The arts at MIT connect creative minds across disciplines and encourage a lifetime of exploration and self-discovery. They are rooted in experimentation, risk-taking and imaginative problem-solving. The arts strengthen MIT’s commitment to the aesthetic, human, and social dimensions of research and innovation. Artistic knowledge and creation exemplify our motto — mens et manus, mind and hand. The arts are essential to MIT’s mission to build a better society and meet the challenges of the 21st century. More

book cover, A Widening Sphere

A Widening Sphere | Alexander examines how early MIT leaders shaped the Institute 

The men who drove MIT's early development were "charismatic, diverse, quirky, sometimes tragic individuals," says Philip Alexander, a research associate in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. In A Widening Sphere: Evolving Cultures at MIT, his new book honoring the Institute's 150th anniversary, he describes how its first nine presidents, from William Barton Rogers to Karl Taylor Compton, shaped much of its first century. More

FAST Arts Festival Recap

MIT's Festival of Art, Technology and Science (FAST) was a prominent feature of the MIT150 events, a festival celebrating MIT’s unique confluence of art, science, and technology. With strong participation by the School's music and theater arts faculty and communities, the festival presented an exciting, surprising variety of work, embracing past to future, performance to debate, and installations to the unclassifiable. FAST appeared throughout the MIT campus and extended  over the entire spring semester, punctuated by five special festival weekend events.  More

Daron Acemoglu

Acemoglu on inequality and the financial crash

This excellent podcast interview with Daron Acemoglu, Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Economics, examines the role of income inequality in the financial crash.  More

radiation check, March 2011, Japan

CIS Starr Forum examines Japan's nuclear crisis and governmental response

Special forum on March 16, 2011, co-sponsored by the Center for International Studies and the MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.  Three MIT experts discuss Japan's nuclear past, present, and future from a political and engineering perspective. The presentation includes an eyewitness account of the crisis and the Japanese government's response.  More + Video of the Forum

Why Japan relies on nuclear power | CNN interview with Richard Samuels 

Japan has more than 50 nuclear power plants and had planned to build two dozen more by 2030, according to Samuels, Ford International Professor of Political Science, and director of MIT's Center for International Studies, who has written on Japanese energy and security policy.   More

Q&A with David Pesetsky 

Why is the idea of Universal Grammar controversial?  What does linguistics tell us about how we think? — Q&A with David Pesetsky, Ferrari P. Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics, and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science More

Kaiser and Alexander create books for MIT's 150th anniversary   

MIT150 and MIT Press have partnered to bring out two books for MIT's sesquicentennial year—both works authored by members of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. David Kaiser, Professor in Science, Technology and Society, is the editor of Becoming MIT: Moments of Decision. Philip Alexander, of the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, is the author of  A Widening Sphere: Evolving Cultures at MIT.   More

George Frideric Handel

Handel and Haydn Society perform "Israel in Egypt" for MIT's 150th 

Colloquium and concert on February 19, 2011 to celebrate the Arts at MIT. Premiered in the United States by the Handel and Haydn Society in 1859 (and last performed by the Society in 1974), this monumental work depicts the biblical story of Exodus. It recounts in detail the ten plagues, and celebrates the extraordinary parting and crossing of the Red Sea. More

Kresge Auditorium

Economics Symposium launches MIT's 150th celebration | From Theory to Practice to Policy

This symposium, organized by the School's Department of Economics and the Sloan School of Management, celebrated the role of MIT’s faculty and students in advancing the fields of economics and finance, in putting the latest developments into practice, and in contributing to the design of public policy. A series of six panels, which included Nobel laureates, policy makers, and academic and industry experts, addressed three broad questions:  • What are the key recent scientific developments and the major unresolved issues of economics and finance?  • What are the central challenges in economic policy?  • How can one assess the contributions of, and limitations of, recent advances in financial economics? Story + On Demand Videos

Nobel Prize in Economics

Peter Diamond receives Nobel at ceremony in Sweden

Institute Professor Peter Diamond PhD ’63 will collect the Nobel Prize in economics on Friday, Dec. 10, during a ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall in Sweden. Diamond, Dale T. Mortensen of Northwestern University and Christopher A. Pissarides of the London School of Economics won the prize for their analysis of “markets with search frictions,” which roughly equates to any setting in which buyers and sellers don’t easily find one another.  More

US Constitution

Maier's Ratification delivers new knowledge about the adoption of the US Constitution, the most consequential debate in American history

"A stunning examination of... 'the beginning of American national politics' — the debate that explains the way we Americans govern ourselves, resolve disputes, conduct diplomacy, choose leaders and protect our freedoms."  More

Fox Harrell

Harrell convenes thought-leaders to catalyze new research informed by science, humanities, and arts disciplines 

Bringing together the resources of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is no easy task, but newly appointed Associate Professor D. Fox Harrell recently succeeded in leading a joint workshop focused on research informed by both arts and science disciplines. 55 thought leaders gathered in September 2010 to explore the goal of using technology to better understand society—and using the humanities and arts to build creative computational systems. More

School offers courses for Studies in Energy Minor

Multi-disciplinary approach
MIT's energy minor provides a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the policy, economics, science and technology of energy. All MIT undergraduate students now have a new academic option available: a minor in energy, which can be combined with any major subject. The minor is inherently cross-disciplinary, encompassing all of MITs five schools. SHASS-based courses include: Environmental Policy and Economics; Energy Economics and Policy; and Energy, Environment, and Society.   More


Student Perspective: Why I am a history major at MIT

Excerpt from MIT Admissions Student Blog | Guest Blog by Dora '11, double major in course 8 and Ancient and Medieval Studies. She writes: "There are lots of people here who love the humanities, and who approach subjects in humanities with the same excitement and fervor that they approach their technical fields.... humanities at MIT carries a distinctly MIT feel: challenging, stimulating, and entirely fulfilling.  More

Girl drinking water

Global water issues call on humanities and social science research  

"Rethinking Water" workshop shows significance of research in the humanities and social sciences for meeting global water needs.  More

rubble of Haitian earthquake

Rebuilding Haiti

Haiti’s past casts a long shadow over its future, according to four MIT scholars (all with strong personal ties to Haiti) who spoke at a Starr Forum held to explore the future of the country. Insights from Michel DeGraff, associate professor of linguistics, Erica James, associate professor of anthropology, Cherie Miot Abbanat, lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and Dale Joachim, a visiting scientist at the MIT Media Lab. Learn about the keys to Haiti's future


Haldeman receives science fiction community's highest honor    

Joe Haldeman, Adjunct Professor in the School's Program in Comparative Media Studies / Writing, has received the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master award for 2010 from the Science Fiction and Science Fantasy Writers of America. The Grand Master award is SFWA’s highest accolade and recognizes excellence for a lifetime of contributions to the genres of science fiction and fantasy. 

Natasha Schull examines technology and gambling addiction    

Natasha Schull, Assistant Professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, observed that gamblers become transfixed for hours at video poker and slot machines. What, she wondered, kept them glued to machines until they lost all they had to lose? Schull is publishing her conclusions that proprietary mathematical algorithms and immersive technology are used to keep people gambling until they—in the industry jargon—"play to extinction." More


Mens et Manus et Mundus:
Global Council plan for international education at MIT

A September 2009 report from the MIT Global Council outlines an historic opportunity to deepen international learning at the Institute, and to make international education a core component of an MIT education.  More