News Archive 2012

School news from 2012.

Kaiser wins Physics World’s Book of the Year Award

How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser, Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science, has been named 2012 Book of the Year by Physics World magazine. “A rollicking good read,” according to Physics World, the book describes how a group of young, unconventional physicists working in in Northern California in the 1970s changed the face of modern physics. Kaiser is the head of MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and a senior lecturer in the Department of Physics.

Craig Wilder, MIT Professor of History

Wilder, head of MIT History, featured in new Ken Burns film, “The Central Park Five”

Professor Craig Wilder, head of the MIT History section, served as a consultant on the new Ken Burns documentary, "The Central Park Five.” He also appears in the film, providing historical perspective on the shocking events that began on April 20, 1989, when a jogger was raped and severely beaten in New York’s Central Park. In this interview, he reflects on what makes this story relevant today. 

Philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson

American Philosophical Association honors Judith Jarvis Thomson with the Quinn Prize

MIT Philosophy Professor Emerita Judith Jarvis Thomson has been awarded the 2012 Quinn Prize from the APA in recognition of her lifetime contributions to philosophy and philosophers. An internationally renowned philosopher, Thomson is known for her thought experiments, including the famous "trolley problem," which present simple scenarios that illuminate serious moral and ethical questions.

10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10

Montfort and colleagues parse meanings in code  

"Like a diary from the forgotten past, computer code is embedded with stories of a program’s making, its purpose, its assumptions, and more. Every symbol within a program can help to illuminate these stories and open historical and critical lines of inquiry.”  


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—has extraordinary success in placing PhD graduates in tenure-track positions at top philosophy programs nationwide. The Leiter Reports placed MIT second in grad student placement. (New York University, a program nearly twice as large, was first). 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?

Said and Done published | December 2012 edition 

News, Research, Kudos
Published by the Office of the Dean
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

How the Hippies Saved Physics is finalist for the Best Physics Book of the Year Award for 2012.

The journal Physics World has named How the Hippies Saved Physics, by MIT professor David Kaiser, to the shortlist of the ten physics books that are finalists for the Physics Book of the Year Award for 2012. The winner will be announced on December 18, 2012.    

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 

December 1, 2012
Applications due | 2013 Burchard Scholars Program

The Burchard Scholars Program brings together distinguished members of the faculty and promising MIT sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated excellence in some aspect of the humanities, arts, or social sciences.


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. 

Anna Mikusheva

MIT economist Anna Mikusheva receives the 2012 Elaine Bennett Research Prize   

The prize, from the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP), recognizes outstanding young women in economics.   

Roger Petersen wins Distinguished Book Award for Western Intervention in the Balkans

The Ethnicity, Nationalism and Migration section of the International Studies Association has awarded the Distinguished Book Award to Roger Petersen's Western Intervention in the Balkans, The Strategic Use of Emotion in Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Petersen is the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science at MIT.  


Announcing 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. The Listening Room now opens the doors for a worldwide audience to enjoy the MIT musical experience."

Stefan Helmreich wins Rachel Carson prize for Alien Ocean 

Stefan Helmreich's book Alien OceanAnthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas, has won the 2012 Rachel Carson Book Prize, given by the Society for the Social Study of Science to recognize a book-length work of special social or political relevance in the area of science and technology studies. Alien Ocean (University of California Press, 2009) has also received two earlier significnt prizes: the 2010 Gregory Bateson Book Prize, awarded by the Society of Cultural Anthropology, and the 2010 Senior Book Prize from the American Ethnological Society. 

Junot Díaz is finalist for the 2012 National Book Award

The novel This is How You Lose Her, by author and MIT Professor of Writing, Junot Díaz, has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious National Book Awards. The National Book Awards Ceremony will take place on November 14, 2012 at the Cipriani Wall Street, New York City.  

Q&A with linguist Michel DeGraff
On the role of language in education and economic development

MIT Associate Professor Michel DeGraff recently received a $1M grant from the NSF for research to develop tools to teach STEM subjects in Haitian Kreyòl—part of a larger, transformative project to use Kreyol, the language Haitians actually speak, in the country's classrooms. In this interview, DeGraff speaks about his vision, and how the project is a model for teaching in other local languages around the globe.


Silbey honored for lab safety research

Susan Silbey has received the 2012 Scott Award from ASA, a $25K Seed Grant from UCLA, and a grant from the MIT Simons Center for the Social Brain.


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. 


Junot Díaz wins MacArthur Fellowship

Junot Díaz, the MIT writing professor widely acclaimed for his vivid, inventive works of fiction, has won a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship, sometimes referred to as a “genius grant.” The MacArthur Foundation cited Díaz for his stories that use “raw, vernacular dialogue and spare, unsentimental prose to draw readers into the various and distinct worlds that immigrants must straddle.”

WGS Symposium launches new Border Crossing Research Initiative   

What is citizenship and how is it affected by race and gender? How have concepts of identity evolved over time? and What role do race and gender play in contemporary border conflicts? These are among the central questions motivating the launch of The Borders Research Initiative in Women’s and Gender Studies at MIT, which will hold its kickoff event, "Border Crossing: Citizenship, Race, Gender," on October 12–13 at MIT’s Stata Center.

detail, Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Medievalists explore the art of being interdisciplinary

MIT medievalist Arthur Bahr describes the Babel Working Group's conference, “Cruising in the Ruins" at which scholars from several fields explored large, compelling questions—as a way of advocating for more cross-discipliinary work, and the proposition that today's great universities could generate even better research and pedagogy by encouraging a “rhythm of disciplinary attachment and detachment." 

September Said and Done published

News, Research, Kudos
Published by the Office of the Dean
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences


New York Times interviews Junot Díaz

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

Seth Mnookin, co-director, MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing


Seth Mnookin wins 2012 Science in Society Award for his book The Panic Virus

Seth Mnookin, Assistant Professor of Science Writing, and co-director of the MIT SHASS Graduate Program in Science Writing (GPSW), has been awarded the 2012 Science in Society Journalism Award for his book The Panic Virus. Of the award, given annually by the National Association of Science Writers, Tom Levenson, MIT Professor of Science Writing, notes, "This is one of the very top awards in our field. It reflects the judgment of the leading science writing association in the world and it is an honor that only comes to superlative work."    

Sue Mannett

Profile | Susan Mannett 

On the occasion of her retirement, the community salutes Susan Mannett, the longtime SHASS Director of Human Resources extraordinaire.  


Professor Jay Scheib's World of Wires will be performed at the ICA September 21 and 22.

David Pesetsky elected a Fellow of the Linguistics Society of America

David Pesetsky, Professor of Linguistics, MIT SHASS, has been elected a Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America. The induction ceremony for the 2013 class of Fellows 
will take place on Friday, January 4, 2013 at the LSA Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.  


In Profile: Kenneth Oye

Associate professor in MIT’s Department of Political Science and the Engineering Systems Division, Kenneth Oye is an expert in the way governments assess the potential risks posed by new technologies. His work makes the case that for regulatory systems that are designed to incorporate advances in knowledge.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is 2012-2013 MLK Visiting Scholar

Acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates will join the School community for the 2012-13 academic year as a MLK Visiting Scholar in CMS/Writing.  

Welcoming New Faculty | Fall 2012

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: film and media studies; electoral behavior; science writing; opera and the politics of musical style; macroeconomics and finance; the internet and game studies; American political development; classical literature, and the Roman alphabet. Please join us in welcoming these excellent scholars into the School community.      

Mattei Athena, Louvre

Three new Administrative Officers join the School community

Elouise Evee-Jones, Sarah Smith, and Amberly Steward have been chosen to serve as the Administrative Officers for Foreign Languages and Literatures, Comparative Media Studies, and Anthropology, respectively.

Friendship Bridge, Taiwan

Schiappa is Visiting Professor, TUSA members are Visiting Scholars for 2012-2013

Edward Schiappa is a Visiting Professor, and three members of the Taiwan-USA Alliance are Visiting Scholars for 2012-2013.

Faculty Promotions | Spring 2012

The MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is pleased to announce the following faculty promotions, effective July 1, 2012.


The economic cost of increased temperatures

A study by MIT economist Ben Olken finds evidence that warming episodes hurt poor countries and limit long-term growth. “Higher temperatures lead to substantially lower economic growth in poor countries,” says Olken.

Economist Parag Pathak receives PECASE
Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers 

President Obama has named named MIT Associate Professor of Economics Parag Pathak as recipient of an Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.

"An amazing success"

MIT's David Deveau, Senior Lecturer in Music, lauded as a pianist and as Artistic Director of Rockport Music by The Boston Musical Intelligencer.  Rockport Music's 31st Chamber Music Festival concluded July 16, 2012.

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.

Sal Khan

Salman Kahn's talk at MIT Commencement 2012 

A brilliant, joyful commencement address, June 8, 2012

2012 Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching announced

Dean Fitzgerald has announced the recipients of the 2012 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.

Jay Scheib wins Obie Award for Best Director 

MIT Theater Arts Associate Professor Jay Scheib, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, received a coveted 2012 Obie Award — off-broadway's highest honor—for his production of World of Wires. The Obies, or Off-Broadway Theater Awards, are annual awards given byThe Village Voice to selected theatre artists and productions worthy of distinction.

Kaiser receives Frank E. Perkins Award for Excellence in Graduate Advising 

"It is impossible to do justice to Dave’s generosity as a teacher and adviser...Perhaps the best of his many ways of teaching is by example."  

Amy Finkelstein wins 2012 John Bates Clark Medal

MIT SHASS economist Amy Finkelstein, a leader in studying health insurance markets, was named winner today of the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, an annual award given by the American Economic Association (AEA).

Said and Done | April 2012 Edition  

Digest of Research, News, Kudos, and Events
Published monthly by the Office of the Dean 
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences 

Said and Done | April 2012 Edition

MIT Economists Autor and Finkelstein are elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 

Autor and Finkelstein are among the leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts elected as new members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  

Stephen Yablo

Philosopher Stephen Yablo is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — also receives Guggenheim Fellowship 

Yablo, Professor of Philosophy in MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — and has been awarded a 2012 Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Keeril Makan

Composer Keeril Makan receives Guggenheim Fellowship

Makan, Associate Professor of Music in MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has been awarded a 2012 Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for his “prior achievement and exceptional promise.” This is the second year in a row that a faculty member in Music and Theater Arts has received the Guggenheim.

News Clips | March/April 2012

MIT SHASS in the media and news


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. 

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. 

Susan Silbey

Best Paper award to Silbey and Huising from Regulation and Governance     

"Governing the Gap" articulates the nuances of aligning regulatory ideals with real world conditions to achieve safety in science labs.  

Adrian Jimenez-Galindo ’15  and Eric Trac ’13 win the 2012 Isabelle de Courtivron Prizes

Prize from the Center for Bilingual/Bicultural Studies honors cross-cultural fluency — an ability key to leadership and success in today's global world.

Three MIT SHASS economics graduating PhD students selected as among the most promising in the world 

Annually, The Review of Economic Studies European Meetings selects seven of the most promising graduating doctoral students in economics and finance in the world to present their research to audiences in Europe. Three of this spring's graduating MIT SHASS Ph.D. students—Gabriel Carroll, Melissa Dell, and Nathan Hendren—have been honored as participants in the 2012 tour.

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, a key member of the faculty team that 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. 


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

A collection of the significant reviews, interviews, videos, broadcasts about the thesis on the origins of power, prosperity, and poverty

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."


Broadhead, Kaiser, Rose named 2012 MacVicar Faculty Fellows 

Four professors have been named 2012 MacVicar Faculty Fellows for their outstanding undergraduate teaching, mentoring and educational innovation. Three are from SHASS: William Broadhead, the Class of 1954 Career Development Associate Professor of History; David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science; and Nancy Lin Rose, the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics. The fourth professor honored is Leslie Pack Kaelbling, the Panasonic Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.  

SHASS After Hours  

Pesetsky, Kaiser, and Sugawara in performance with the New Philharmonia
(Which one sings Sinatra?)


Gallery | The MIT SHASS MacVicar Faculty Fellows

Photographs, research areas, and commentary from SHASS faculty who are among the Institute's finest educators

door opening to light filled room

MIT SHASS welcomes PEN New England to new home at MIT 

Dean Deborah Fitzgerald and members of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences welcomed the PEN New England organization to the group’s new home at MIT during a reception held at the MIT Faculty Club on Monday March 5, 2012. The liveliness of the gathering, which brought together novelists, poets, scholars, publishers, agents, and members of the academy, gave a foretaste of the potential creative collaborations between the PEN and MIT communities. 

MIT Japan 3.11 Initiative receives grant  

Project prepares for year two in its response to Japan's disaster 

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.  

Anthropologist Erica Caple James awarded the 2012 Levitan Prize in the Humanities   

Deborah K. Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has announced that Erica James, Associate Professor of Anthropology, has received the James A. ('45) and Ruth Levitan Prize in the Humanities. The $25,000 prize is awarded annually as a research fund to support innovative and creative scholarship in the humanities. Professor James's project is for research on the impact of anti-terrorism measures on charitable giving.  

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 nine recipients for 2013.  

Faculty Promotions

The MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is pleased to announce the following faculty promotions, which are effective 1 July 2012.

Heidy Gonzales

Heidy González receives 2012 MIT Excellence Award

González, the program coordinator for the MIT-SHASS Program in Women's and Gender Studies, received the 2012 MIT Excellence Award for Fostering Diversity and Inclusion at a ceremony held Tuesday, February 28, in Kresge Auditorium.


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.


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

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.

Charles Weiner

Historian of science Charles Weiner dies at 80

Charles Weiner, professor emeritus of the history of science and technology at MIT, died Saturday, January 28, 2012. in West Cork, Ireland. He was 80 and resided in New York and Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts. Weiner was the pre-eminent historian of his generation focusing on the political, social and ethical dimensions of contemporary science and the responses of scientists to public controversies arising from their work....  An aficionado of jazz and good food and a wonderful conversationalist, “Charlie” — as he was known to all — will be sorely missed as the kind of committed historian of science that America needs. 


Edward Baron Turk: Valedictory Thougths of an MIT Humanist 

I’ve chosen to ask myself a very simple question: What have I, Edward Turk, been doing at MIT all these years? I will begin with a reminiscence. The time is May 1967, near the end of my senior year at Brooklyn College.  I am seated in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan....

colorful communication cables


Communication Forum conducts a conversation for scholars, 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? Founded in 1978 by pioneering media scholar Ithiel de Sola Pool of MIT’s Political Science Department, the forum engages leading scholars, journalists, media producers, and citizens in discussions on emerging media in a changing world.


Great Ideas exhibit opens in Building 14

The installation, which officially opened in October 2011, presents a tour of the School’s fields of study—from Anthropology to Economics to Wrting—as well as news, profiles, and research briefs. 

world of wires

Jay Scheib's "World of Wires" premieres in NYC 

"I learned about the Mars Desert Research Station in the Utah desert where scientists and researchers go and wear spacesuits and live in full simulation for months at a time. So I began putting together the pieces..."

Radius Ensemble to perform at MIT 

10th anniversary concert in memory of composer Edward Cohen. The concert will feature performances of Edward Cohen's Clarinet Quintet, the Capriccio for Solo Piano, and 
the Suite for Solo Flute. In addition, Radius will perform a new work for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion by MIT alumnus Andrew McPherson and Echo, for piano trio by Cohen’s widow, composer Marjorie Merryman.

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

Alan Lightman on science, religion, and the universe 

In his new novel, Mr. g, and in two related essays, physicist/author Alan Lightman, Adjunct Professor in the MIT-SHASS Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, engages with questions of ultimate reality.  Of his novel, a reviewer writes, "With echoes of Calvino and Saramago, Mr. g celebrates the tragic and joyous nature of existence on the grandest possible scale." 

The Genesis of a New Symphony | presentation by John Harbison, Institute Professor of Music, with Maestro David Zinman, and mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy

In anticipation of the world premiere performances of John Harbison’s Symphony No. 6 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on January 12, 13, 14 and 17, 2012, the BSO and MIT will jointly present a roundtable discussion on the genesis of the new composition at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium from 6-7pm on Wednesday, January 11. The discussion will focus on several different aspects of the new work: its commissioning, composition, and rehearsal.