Media + Awards Digest | August 2019

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Suzanne Berger and Daron Acemoglu named Institute Professors
Political scientist Berger and economist Acemoglu have been named MIT Institute Professors, joining a small group who hold MIT’s highest faculty honor. 
Story: Suzanne Berger | Story: Daron Acemoglu

Suzanne Berger and Daron Acemoglu

MIT's highest faculty honor
The honor recognizes “exceptional distinction by a combination of leadership, accomplishment, and service in the scholarly, educational, and general intellectual life of the Institute and wider community."

Full Honors and Awards section




Unplugging | Rick Steves talks with Alan Lightman
Lightman, an acclaimed writer and MIT professor, discusses the value of unplugging as a way of better understanding and appreciating the world around us. Lightman's most recent books are Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine (Pantheon, 2018), and In Praise of Wasting Time (Simon & Schuster, 2018).
Conversation at WGBH | Alan Lightman website
Bengali Harlem explores early wave of South Asian immigration | Vivek Bald
“For a number of years, I concentrated on answering that question of ‘Was Aladdin's father part of a larger history?'” said Bald, a professor in MIT's Comparative Media Studies/Writing program. 
Story at NBC | Vivek Bald website

Astronomer's poetic soul meets Dante's scientific mind | Review by Marcia Bartusiak
"At first glance, it seems an odd pairing of topics: In what way could Dante, the 14th-century poet, be linked with astronomy? But to my delight Tracy Daugherty has uncovered a small gem within the history of astronomy." Bartusiak's latest book is Dispatches from Planet 3 (Yale University Press, 2018).
Review at the Washington Post | Marcia Bartusiak website



Protecting children: the turn from polio to cancer vaccines | Robin Wolfe Scheffler
This essay, on the figure of the child in midcentury vaccination campaigns, drawn from Scheffler's book A Contagious Cause, "reveals the extent to which the development of biomedical research follows not only scientific consensus, but also how society understands disease."
Paper in Canadian Medical Association Journal | About A Contagious Cause

Perspective: Five myths about the Chernobyl accident | Kate Brown
Brown, an MIT Professor of Science, Technology and Society, debunks five falsehoods about the accident, including the myth that nature is thriving in the zone around Chernobyl. It is not. Brown’s most recent book is Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future.
Commentary in The Washington Post | About Manual for Survival

Outskirts of Chernobyl, 2019


Why universal basic income is a bad idea | Daron Acemoglu
One should always be wary of simple solutions to complex problems, and universal basic income is no exception. The fact that this answer to automation and globalization has been met with such enthusiasm indicates a breakdown not in the economic system, but in democratic politics and civic life.
Commentary at Project Syndicate

Five reasons why income inequality is now a major political issue | David Autor
"Computer software and industrial machines now fill roles — from clerical tasks to routine manufacturing — that once produced middle-class incomes for workers without college degrees. 'That has increased the value of abstract problem solving, interpersonal communication, organization skills — things that highly educated workers tend to be very capable of,' said MIT professor of economics David Autor. 'It has simultaneously devalued a lot of cognitively repetitive tasks in offices and on production lines.'"
Story + Video at CNBC

CNBC video featuring MIT economist David Autor

"The digital revolution creates enormous wealth for those with the skills and preparation to take advantage, but it eliminates what economists call 'middle-skill' jobs."

"Talent War" at home prompts U.S. employers to take another look abroad
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber said many US companies are paying the price for a dearth of investment in job training for AI and other digital skills at home.
Story at Wall Street Journal

Trump tariffs will hurt lower income Americans above all | Daron Acemoglu
“Among U.S. households, lower income ones will bear most direct costs,” MIT economist Acemoglu said. 
Story at Fortune

If the Democrats know what to do about China, they're not saying | David Autor
Instead of decrying the Made in China 2025 initiative, in which Beijing subsidizes crucial emerging industries such as robotics and green energy, MIT economist David Autor has suggested that the US adopt something similar — for instance, by dramatically boosting investment in the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
Story at the Atlantic

Cash, food, and healthcare help, but something's missing | Esther Duflo
Esther Duflo, an MIT economist who has studied the Graduation Approach, notes that American programs for the poor are often stigmatizing and manage to rob people of self-esteem, not boost it.
Opinion at The New York Times

Photo by Daniele Volpe, NYT

Do taxes influence unhealthy habits? | Jonathan Gruber
What's the best way for the government to deal with "sin taxes" on behaviors like smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs, and unhealthy foods?
Conversation at Boston Public Radio

How should America fight the next downturn? | Christina Patterson
Patterson finds that the people whose earnings are most likely to crash with the economy cut their spending most sharply when their income falls. Thus, it might make sense to fight future recessions by putting cash straight into their wallets.
Story at the Economist


At MIT, Michael Bloomberg launches $500 million "Beyond Carbon" campaign
During his recent commencement address at MIT, Bloomberg, the successful entrepreneur, three-term mayor of New York City, and among the nation’s most prominent voices on climate change, public health, and other issues, launched a $500 million "Beyond Carbon" campaign to fight climate change.

Climate MIT | Economic, Cultural, and Political dimensions of the Climate Crisis
The ClimateMIT website is a major source of research, innovation, and discussion on climate issues — and a global community of people leading research and action for planetary health across all fields.
The faculty in MIT's School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences contribute to planetary health by informing policy, educating leading science communicators, and addressing the economic, social, and political dimensions of climate change and related environmental challenges.
Join us! MIT SHASS Profile | Climate MIT website


The international context of Taiwan's gay-marriage victory | Emma Teng
This Spring, Taiwan legalized "same-sex marriage in Asia, "a major step forward for diversity and inclusion in Taiwan, and a signal of the island’s connection to a global movement for social justice." Wen-hui Anna Tang and MIT Professor Emma J. Teng analyze the legal and international context of Taiwan's decision.
Commentary at Nikkei Asian Review

Photocredit: Nikkei Asian Review


China is not the enemy | M. Taylor Fravel and others
MIT security expert Fravel co-authored an open letter in The Washington Post in which members of the academic, military and business communities express concern about the U.S. government’s interactions with China. “Although we are very troubled by Beijing’s recent behavior, which requires a strong response, we also believe that many U.S. actions are contributing directly to the downward spiral in relations.”
Letter at The Washington Post

Elections in Israel may not overcome divisionsMichael Freedman
Deep divides between the “left” and the “right” in Israel prevented any serious thought about Netanyahu forming a unity government with the large centrist Blue and White party. 
Story at The Washington Post

Without evidence, Pompeo blames Iran for tanker attack | Jim Walsh
MIT Senior Research Associate Jim Walsh speaks to Bloomberg about the oil tanker attack in Iran. Walsh’s research and writings focus on international security, in particular, topics involving nuclear weapons. He has testified before Congress on nuclear matters and is one of a handful of Americans who has traveled to both Iran and North Korea for talks with officials about nuclear issues.
Conversation at Bloomberg

MIT Senior Research Associate Jim Walsh; photo by Allegra Boverman

Review of Active Defense | New book by M. Taylor Fravel
In his new book Active Defense: China’s Military Strategy Since 1949, China expert M Taylor Fravel uses Communist Party history sources that have only recently become available to outside scholars.
Commentary at Asian Review of Books

A look at the PLA’s history of planning for war | M. Taylor Fravel
How does China think about the nature of war? How has China’s conception of war changed over time? What are “military guidelines” in Chinese statecraft and what leads the Chinese leadership to develop new ones? Fravel discusses these and other questions on Jaw-Jaw. 
Conversation at War on the Rocks

Steps over N. Korean border, into controversy | Jim Walsh
MIT Research Associate Walsh speaks to Lisa Mullins on "Here & Now" about Trump's trip to the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea and handshake with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in North Korean territory.
Conversation at WBUR


Solving the Tech industry's ethics problem could start in the classroom | Abby Jaques '18
Understanding the social implications and responsibilities of tech is essential to our students' success as engineers and computer scientists. An NPR feature on an MIT Philosophy class taught by Abby Everett Jaques PhD '18
Story at NPR

AI tutors will make mass retraining a viable reality | Shigeru Miyagawa
Artificial intelligence may be threatening some sectors of employment (e.g. middle-income jobs) but it could also be key to helping people find alternative jobs and careers.
Story | Video

Why we trust maps even when we shouldn’t | M.R. O'Connor, 2016-17 KSJ fellow
For Westerners, the combination of a lack of local knowledge and unquestioned faith in the power of a map can be disastrous, particularly when we forgo our own perception, instincts, and problem-solving skills. 
Story at Fast Company

Photo by NESA by Makers/Unsplash



Political scientist Suzanne Berger named the inaugural John M. Deutch Institute Professor
Berger has been named MIT’s inaugural John M. Deutch Institute Professor, joining the select group of people holding MIT’s highest faculty honor. A lauded scholar, Berger published many studies of European politics and society, and, in an overlapping phase of her career, has become an influential expert about the prospects of America’s innovation economy and advanced manufacturing.
Story at MIT News

Suzanne Berger, the inaugural John M. Deutch Institute Professor

MIT's highest faculty honor
“It is difficult to imagine anyone more deserving of the distinction of Institute Professor than Suzanne Berger," says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “Throughout her one-of-a-kind career, Suzanne has worked at the frontier of at least three distinct research areas and made influential contributions in every one. And — before we knew how much we needed it — she had the wisdom to invent the signature program that now leads MIT students into deep engagement with cultures around the world.”

Economist Daron Acemoglu named Institute Professor
Acemoglu, whose far-ranging research agenda has produced influential studies about government, innovation, labor, and globalization, has been named Institute Professor, MIT’s highest faculty honor.

Daron Acemoglu, Institute Professor

MIT's highest faculty honor
“As an Institute Professor, Daron Acemoglu embodies the essence of MIT: boldness, rigor and real-world impact,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. "And because he has focused his creativity on broad, deep questions around the practical fate of nations, communities and workers, his work will be essential to making a better world in our time.”

Daron Acemoglu receives the 2019 Global Economy Prize
"The Global Economy Prize is awarded to pioneers of a cosmopolitan, economically liberal, and public-spirited society. The jury's reasoning: Daron Acemoglu is an economist in a league of his own, not only because of his outstanding theoretical work, but also because he dares to write up his research findings in such a way that they are accessible to a wider audience. 
About the Award | Daron Acenoglu website

David Singer named head of the MIT Department of Political Science
Singer, a scholar of international political economy, is the new Head of the Department Political Science, effective July 1, 2019. “David’s well-deserved reputation for dedication and integrity, as well as his research and teaching focus, and his depth of experience in Institute affairs make him remarkably well suited for this new leadership role,” said Dean Melissa Nobles.

David Singer, Head, Department of Political Science; photo by Stuart Darsch

"David’s well-deserved reputation for dedication and integrity, as well as his research and teaching focus, and his depth of experience in Institute affairs make him remarkably well suited for this new leadership role."

— Melissa Nobles, Professor of Political Science; Kenan Sahin Dean, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Teppei Yamamoto wins Society for Political Methodology Emerging Scholar Award
The selection committee writes: Teppei’s contributions to the field of political methodology are impressive and broad ranging, encompassing scholarship, leadership, and institution-building...All of Teppei’s work contain new methods that can be taken seriously by methodologists and statisticians across disciplines and be readily applicable to empirical research in political science.
Teppei Yamamto website

M. Taylor Fravel named director of the MIT Security Studies Program
Barry Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of SSP since 2006, announced the leadership transition. Fravel, Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science, is an expert on international security, with a focus on China’s foreign and security policies. SSP is widely recognized as a leader in its field, generating research on international security issues and training graduate students for careers in academia, government, business, and civil society organizations.

“The Security Studies Program is a community of scholars dedicated to the proposition that the problem of international and internal war merits sustained study. I have every confidence that Taylor will bring an infusion of new ideas, and energy to attempt new initiatives, that come with a new leader."

— Barry Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science; director of the Security Studies Program 2008-2019

Six MIT SHASS faculty members receive the 2019 Levitan Teaching Award
"This prize honors instructors in our school who have demonstrated outstanding success in teaching our undergraduate and graduate students," said Dean Melissa Nobles. "These great educators, who are nominated by students themselves, represent the very best academic leadership in the School."  2019 Recipients include: Marah Gubar, Associate Professor of Literature; M. Amah Edoh, Assistant Professor of African Studies; Panpan Gao, Lecturer in Chinese; Frederick Harris, Jr., Lecturer in Music; Pouya Alimagham, Lecturer in History; and Liyang Sun, Teaching Assistant in Economics.

Seven outstanding MIT SHASS staff members receive 2019 Infinite Mile Awards
Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has announced the seven winners of the 2019 MIT SHASS Infinite Mile Awards. The awards, presented each year at a festive luncheon, salute members of the school staff who have made exceptional contributions to their academic units, the School, and the Institute. Recipients include: Victor Belanger, Mala Ghosh, Madeline Smith, Maria Segala, Paula Kreutzer, Emily Neill, and Sophia Hasenfus.

Dwaipayan Banerjee receives 2019 Levitan Prize in the Humanities
Assistant Professor Dwaipayan Banerjee of MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society has been awarded the 2019 James A. (1945) and Ruth Levitan Prize in the Humanities. The prestigious award comes with a $29,500 grant that will support his research into the history of computing in India.
Story | Banerjee webpage

Dwai Banerjee; photo by Jon Sachs

"In presenting this account, I urge social science research, which has predominantly focused on the history of computing in Europe and the United States, to take account of more global histories of computing." 

— Dwai Banerjee, Assistant Professor; Science, Technology, and Society

Transmedia Storytelling Initiative launches with $1.1 million gift
The goal of the program is to create new partnerships among faculty across schools, offer pioneering pedagogy to students at the graduate and undergraduate levels, convene conversations among makers and theorists of time-based media, and encourage shared debate and public knowledge about pressing social issues, aesthetic theories, and technologies of the moving image.
Story at MIT News

CAST receives $1M grant from the Mellon Foundation
"CAST was established in 2012 with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation," said Faculty Director Evan Ziporyn and Executive Director Leila Kinney, "and we are grateful for the Mellon's ongoing support, particularly with this third consecutive grant that will provide an extraordinary 12 years of continuous Mellon funding."
Story at Arts at MIT




Clare Kim receives 2019 MIT Goodwin Medal
PhD candidate Kim received the 2019 Goodwin Medal for her outstanding teaching in the inaugural "MIT & Slavery" course.  Faculty, colleagues, and former students praised Kim for her compassionate, supportive, and individual approach to teaching.
About | HASTS Program

Andreas Wiedemann PhD'18 wins two awards for his dissertation
Wiedemann, who joins the Princeton faculty this fall, has won two awards for his 2018 dissertation, “Indebted Societies: Modern Labor Markets, Social Policy, and Everyday Borrowing,” including the top award in Comparative Politics: The Ernest B. Haas Award for the Best Dissertation from the APSA’s European Politics and Society Section.
Andreas Wiedemann website

76 MIT seniors inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society
PBK honors the nation’s most outstanding undergraduate students for excellence in the liberal arts, which include the humanities and the natural and social science fields. Only 10 percent of higher education institutions have PBK chapters, and fewer than 10 percent of students at those institutions are selected for membership.

Students and their families at the 2019 induction ceremony, MIT chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society

“This year’s inductees have been chosen on the basis of their exceptional academic performance; their educational choices have included not only technical subjects and required courses but substantial commitment to the humanities and the natural and social sciences — the liberal arts."

— Diana Henderson, MIT Professor of Literature; President, Xi of Massachusetts


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Published by SHASS Communications
Office of the Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
9 July 2019