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MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World

MIT SHASS at SOLVE

An October 2015 conference on the MIT campus marked the launch of SOLVE — a project dedicated to generating ongoing thinking, research, and collaboration to solve the world's toughest problems in energy, health, education, and innovation. Meet MIT-SHASS participants in some of the initial events.  

 


 

Melissa Nobles

Kenan Sahin Dean,
School of Humanities Arts, and Social Sciences
Professor of Political Science

SOLVE conference member

Reflecting on the collaborative mission to solve the great issues of our era, Dean Nobles notes that "because these challenges are always embedded in the cultural, economic, and political realities of the human world, 'meaningful solutions,' as President Reif has said, 'must reflect the wisdom of these domains.' The political, cultural, and economic realities of our world are the areas that the MIT SHASS community researches and explores. We welcome opportunities to bring our expertise together with that of ‘solvers’ from all fields; we also aim to encourage and help advance the art of collaboration.”

In her own scholarship, Dean Nobles researches transitional and restorative justice, and works closely with Northeastern Law School's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice law clinic. She is the author of Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics (Stanford University Press, 2000), and The Politics of Official Apologies, (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

3 Questions: Melissa Nobles on Racial and Restorative Justice

3-minute video: Dean Nobles discusses her research

Website



           

 

Parag Pathak  

Professor of Economics
Co-Director, MIT School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative (SEII)

Co-moderator, LEARN panel,
"Preparing Students to Become Lifelong Learners"


Pathak helped design the Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York, and New Orleans school assign­ment mech­a­nisms. In addi­tion to gen­er­at­ing aca­d­e­mic pub­li­ca­tions that study, develop, and test dif­fer­ent school assign­ment sys­tems, this work has directly affected the lives of over one mil­lion pub­lic school students.

Story

SEII website


              

 

Glenn Ellison 

Gregory K. Palm Professor
and Associate Head of Economics


Panelist, LEARN session "Supporting Teachers and Transforming Teaching"

Eight years ago when economist 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.

Ellison's research interests include game theory, learning, education, industrial organization, large population and spatial models, e-commerce, and pharmaceuticals.

Story

Webpage


 

Judith Jarvis Thompson

Professor Emerita of Philosophy

Moderator/Catalyst, SOLVE dinner event: On Ethics and Robots

“Ethics has always been a central question in philosophy, both because many people look to philosophy for answers on what we can do, and because it can seem hard to fit ethics into our picture of the world. Judy has never been shy of using philosophy to say what we can do (she has, for example, famous views on the rights of abortion and of self-defense), but in this volume [on Normativity] she is concerned with the more theoretical question of the nature of ethics, and of normativity more generally.” — Richard Holton, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

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Research Portfolio: The Trolley Problem

Webpage


 

Susan Silbey

Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, Sociology and Anthropology; and Professor of Behavioral and Policy Sciences

Moderator/Catalyst, SOLVE dinner event on "What is Human?"

Silbey researches governance, regulatory, and auditing processes in complex organizations. Her current research focuses on the creation of management systems for containing risks, including ethical lapses, as well as environment, health and safety hazards. “Both the Left and the Right," she says, "have promulgated and used public regulations to advance the programs and interests of their favored groups." To remedy matters, Silbey edited a volume of Annals, generating a new, common sense approach to regulation by tapping the insights of a core group of women scholars from three continents.

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Award-winning research on safety in science labs

Webpage


 

Eric Klopfer

Director, the Education Arcade
Comparative Media Studies

Moderator, LEARN panel session, "Bringing the Benefits of Collaborative In-Person Learning to Digital Learning Programs"

Klopfer’s research focuses on the development and use of computer games and simulations for to develop a stronger understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The games that he works on are designed to build familiarity with scientific practices and concepts, critical knowledge, and real-world issues. He is the co-author of the books Adventures in Modeling and The More We Know, as well as the author of Augmented Learning. Klopfer is also the co-founder and past president of the non-profit Learning Games Network.

Website


 

Ian Condry

Associate Professor, Comparative Media Studies

SOLVE conference member,
and leader of Dissolve: A Summit on Inequality

“Anime is imbued with a sense of social energy,” Condry says in his recent book, The Soul of Anime. He studies the culture and history of anime for "lessons we might use for new emergent industries, including crowdsourcing and collective feedback." Audience participation also makes anime a highly personal form of entertainment, and the "soul" of the medium, Condry says, comes from the investment of creative energy that fans pour into it.

The Soul of Anime

Website


 

Heidi Williams

Class of 1957 Career Development Assistant Professor, Economics

Featured speaker, SOLVE Talks @Google/WGBH: Reinventing Healthcare

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.

Williams wins 2015 MacArhtur "genius grant" for research on the economics of innovation

Study: Firms “underinvest” in long-term cancer research

Webpage


David Autor

Professor of Economics

Featured speaker, SOLVE Talks @Google/WGBH: Rebalancing Inequality

Autor's research includes a focus on human capital, skill supply and demand, earnings inequality, and labor market impacts of technological change and globalization. The economics database IDEAS/RePEc ranks him among the top five percent of economists. A few articles include:

Inequality among the 99%: In an article in Science, Autor moves the inequality discussion beyond the “1%.”
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Inequality offensive: Autor and other economists evaluate the consequences of increasing inequality in America, and suggest solutions.
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Study: Polarized U.S. labor market is leaving more employees in service job with limited upside and leverage.
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Webpage


Thomas Levenson

Professor of Science Writing
Director of the MIT Science Writing Program

SOLVE conference member

Thomas Levenson is Professor of Science Writing at MIT where he heads the Graduate Program in Science Writing. Levenson has written four books on science and the history of science: Newton and the Counterfeiter (2009), Einstein in Berlin (2003), Measure for Measure:
A Musical History of Science (1994), and Ice Time: Climate Science
and Life on Earth
(1989). He has produced, directed, written, or produced several science documentaries, most recently the PBS series Origins.

Story: Newton and the Counterfeiter

Webpage


 

Mary Fuller

Professor of Literature, and Head, MIT Literature

SOLVE LEARN sessions

Fuller researches the history of early modern voyages, exploration, and colonization, and is also interested in material books and how readers use them. She is an adept in collaborating across fields and disciplines, and at MIT has developed and taught courses cross-listed with  Engineering, Science, Anthropology, Music, and Media Studies. She has published articles on exploration and video games, circumnavigations and their media, and on narratives of travel to Russia, West Africa, Guiana, Newfoundland, and Istanbul.

Of her research, Fuller says "In the case of early travel writing, paper evidence tells only part of the story. So I've come to feel that it helps, whenever possible, to smell the air, see the sights, and put your foot on the ground in places the travel narratives mention."

Story

Website


 

David Mindell

Frances and David Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing

SOLVE MAKE sessions

In his new book, Our Robots, Ourselves (Viking, 2015), Mindell takes us to extreme environments — high atmosphere, deep ocean, and outer space — to reveal the most advanced robotics. He argues that the stark lines we’ve drawn between human and not human, manual and automated, aren’t helpful for understanding our relationship with robotics.

About the book | Q&A on Our Robots, Ourselves

Website


 

Andrea Campbell

Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science
Head, MIT Department of Political Science

SOLVE CURE sessions

In her recent book Caught in the Social Safety Net (University of Chicago Press, 2014), Campbell gives a firsthand perspective on the effects of means-tested social insurance programs. The single biggest flaw with means-testing, in Campbell’s view, is that the income limits and other restrictions can make it harder for people to break free of social insurance programs.

Story

Webpage


 

Seth Mnookin

Ford International Career Development Professor of Science Writing
Co-Director, MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing

Seth Mnookin is the Co-Director of MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing. His most recent book, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, won the National Association of Science Writers 2012 “Science in Society” Award and the New England chapter of the American Medical Writers Association’s Will Solimene Award for Excellence. He is also the author of the 2006 New York Times bestseller Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top, which chronicles the challenges and triumphs of the John Henry-Tom Werner ownership group of the Boston Red Sox. His first book, 2004’s Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media, was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year.

Seth is currently a member of the FDA’s Expert Working Group on Medical Countermeasure Emergency Communication Strategies. Since 2005, he’s been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, where he’s written about the American media presence in Iraq, Bloomberg News, and Stephen Colbert. In 2002 and 2003, he was a senior writer at Newsweek, where he wrote the media column “Raw Copy” and also covered politics and popular culture.

Seth’s essays and reporting have been featured in the annual Best American Science and Nature Writing anthologies, and his journalism has appeared in numerous publications, including The New YorkerNew York, Wired, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Spin, Slate, and Salon.com. A former music columnist for The New York Observer, he began his journalism career as a rock critic for the now-defunct webzine Addicted to Noise and has also worked as a crime reporter at The Palm Beach Post, a city hall reporter at the Forward, a presidential campaign reporter at Brill’s Content, and a jack-of-all-trades at Inside.com. He graduated from Harvard College in 1994 with a degree in History and Science, and was a 2004 Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, he and his wife currently live outside of Boston with their ten-year-old dog, their five-year-old son, and their three-year-old daughter.

- See more at: http://sethmnookin.com/bio/#sthash.4qLaAAhS.dpuf

Seth Mnookin is the Co-Director of MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing. His most recent book, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, won the National Association of Science Writers 2012 “Science in Society” Award and the New England chapter of the American Medical Writers Association’s Will Solimene Award for Excellence. He is also the author of the 2006 New York Times bestseller Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top, which chronicles the challenges and triumphs of the John Henry-Tom Werner ownership group of the Boston Red Sox. His first book, 2004’s Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media, was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year.

Seth is currently a member of the FDA’s Expert Working Group on Medical Countermeasure Emergency Communication Strategies. Since 2005, he’s been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, where he’s written about the American media presence in Iraq, Bloomberg News, and Stephen Colbert. In 2002 and 2003, he was a senior writer at Newsweek, where he wrote the media column “Raw Copy” and also covered politics and popular culture.

Seth’s essays and reporting have been featured in the annual Best American Science and Nature Writing anthologies, and his journalism has appeared in numerous publications, including The New YorkerNew York, Wired, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Spin, Slate, and Salon.com. A former music columnist for The New York Observer, he began his journalism career as a rock critic for the now-defunct webzine Addicted to Noise and has also worked as a crime reporter at The Palm Beach Post, a city hall reporter at the Forward, a presidential campaign reporter at Brill’s Content, and a jack-of-all-trades at Inside.com. He graduated from Harvard College in 1994 with a degree in History and Science, and was a 2004 Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, he and his wife currently live outside of Boston with their ten-year-old dog, their five-year-old son, and their three-year-old daughter.

- See more at: http://sethmnookin.com/bio/#sthash.4qLaAAhS.dpufSOLVE CURE sessions

SOLVE CURE sessions

Mnookin is the co-director of MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing. His most recent book, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy (Simon & Schuster, 2011), won the National Association of Science Writers 2012 “Science in Society” Award. He is a member of the FDA’s Expert Working Group on Medical Countermeasure Emergency Communication Strategies. His essays and reporting have appeared in Best American Science and Nature Writing anthologies, The New Yorker, Wired, and The New York Times, among many others. 

Story in The New Yorker: One of a Kind
What do you do if your child has a condition that is new to science? 

Story: Mnookin co-authors AAAS report calling for dedicated research on vaccination decisions

Q&A: Seth Mnookin on vaccination and public health
"It's far easier to scare people than it is to reassure them," says MIT researcher and author.

Seth Mnookin is the Co-Director of MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing. His most recent book, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, won the National Association of Science Writers 2012 “Science in Society” Award and the New England chapter of the American Medical Writers Association’s Will Solimene Award for Excellence. He is also the author of the 2006 New York Times bestseller Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top, which chronicles the challenges and triumphs of the John Henry-Tom Werner ownership group of the Boston Red Sox. His first book, 2004’s Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media, was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year.

Seth is currently a member of the FDA’s Expert Working Group on Medical Countermeasure Emergency Communication Strategies. Since 2005, he’s been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, where he’s written about the American media presence in Iraq, Bloomberg News, and Stephen Colbert. In 2002 and 2003, he was a senior writer at Newsweek, where he wrote the media column “Raw Copy” and also covered politics and popular culture.

Seth’s essays and reporting have been featured in the annual Best American Science and Nature Writing anthologies, and his journalism has appeared in numerous publications, including The New YorkerNew York, Wired, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Spin, Slate, and Salon.com. A former music columnist for The New York Observer, he began his journalism career as a rock critic for the now-defunct webzine Addicted to Noise and has also worked as a crime reporter at The Palm Beach Post, a city hall reporter at the Forward, a presidential campaign reporter at Brill’s Content, and a jack-of-all-trades at Inside.com. He graduated from Harvard College in 1994 with a degree in History and Science, and was a 2004 Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, he and his wife currently live outside of Boston with their ten-year-old dog, their five-year-old son, and their three-year-old daughter.

- See more at: http://sethmnookin.com/bio/#sthash.4qLaAAhS.dpuf

Website


 

Erica Caple James

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Founder, MIT Global Health & Medical Humanities Initiative

Conference member

“With the new MIT Global Health and Medical Humanities Initiative, we want to look at illness and disease from multiple perspectives, not only as a matter of individual physiology. This means also thinking through the political, economic, social, and cultural determinants of health."

Story

MIT Global Health and Medical Humanities Initiative

Story: The anthropology of humanitarianism

Webpage


 

Philip Khoury

Ford International Professor of History
Associate Provost

SOLVE conference member

Khoury is a political and social historian of the Middle East. He served as the inaugural Kenan Sahin Dean of SHASS from 2002-2006, and has been Associate Provost at MIT since 2006. As Associate Provost Khoury is responsible for overseeing MIT's non-curricular arts programs and initiatives (including the MIT Museum and the List Visual Arts Center), and is engaged in planning for international education and research; for programs to advance the public understanding of science and technology; and for opportunities at the intersections of MIT's five schools. 

Website


 

Jennifer Light

Professor of Science, Technology, and Society
Professor of Urban Studies and Planning


SOLVE MAKE session

Trained as a historian and sociologist of science and technology, Light studies past efforts to apply scientific methods and technological tools to solve social and political problems. Her careful attention to understanding when and how well-intentioned individuals and institutions failed to achieve their goals shows how humanistic inquiry can provide vital guidance to enhance the future work of scientists and engineers. She is the author of The Nature of Cities: Ecological Visions and the American Urban Professions, 1920-1960 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), and From Warfare to Welfare: Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).

Story: Jennifer Light on new media and democracy
MIT historian of technology discusses new work examining “digital citizenship.”

Website


 

Anne McCants

Professor of History
Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow

SOLVE FUEL session

In research on the economic and social history of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe, McCants illuminates standards of living in the past, as well as features of economies that contribute to social welfare. MIT students flock to her classes and "maker workshops" that use historical technology. As one of the Institute's renowned teachers, she is keenly aware that "an understanding of history can increase the perspective and wisdom of the decisions MIT graduates will make as scientists, engineers, and thought leaders. Her classes reveal to students that the quality of a society’s cultural production is profoundly related to its economy; and that potential genius can be nurtured by a healthy economy, or stymied by extremes of inequality and poverty."

Story

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SOLVE

Learn more about the MIT SOLVE initiative, which asks people to work together to find solutions to hard problems facing our global community.

Website  |  October 2015 conference program