News Archive 2013

School news from 2013.

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.   


New medical operations

At MIT’s “Innovations in Health Care” conference, industry experts discuss how to maintain quality while reining in costs.


Water, water everywhere: But is there enough to drink?

MIT experts address the challenges of supplying clean, safe water to a growing world population.

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."


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.

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.  


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).

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.      

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. 


Benjamin Olken on the economics of climate change

How is climate change going to affect our economic activity in the future? Many researchers have dug into this subject empirically in recent years. Now Olken, along with economists Melissa Dell of Harvard University and Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University, has co-authored a review article for the Journal of Economic Literature, surveying this research and suggesting areas needing further study. Olken sat down with MIT News to discuss the climate-economy connection.

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.” 


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.

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. 


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.


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.


Hard Math = Powerful Fun

Six years ago when MIT 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.


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.


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

Annotation Studio, a digital humanities project developed by HyperStudio, 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.


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.


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. 


An experiment puts auditing under scrutiny

In an eye-opening experiment involving roughly 500 industrial plants in the state of Gujarat, in western India, changing the auditing system has indeed produced dramatically different outcomes — reducing pollution, and more generally calling into question the whole practice of letting firms pay the auditors who scrutinize them.

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.

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 University Press!  

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).

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."

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.

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."   

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."

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.  

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.

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, MA 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."

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.


Innovative study estimates extent to which air pollution in China shortens human lives

A high level of air pollution, in the form of particulates produced by burning coal, significantly shortens the lives of people exposed to it, according to a unique new study of China co-authored by an MIT economist.

Alma Steingart

Alma Steingart to join Harvard Society of Fellows

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.”

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.  

MIT music documentary "Awakening" pays tribute to the Arab Spring

WGBH aired the New England Emmy-winning MIT music documentary "Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring through Music" on Friday, May 31, 2013. The 30-minute program features the world premiere of "Awakening," by composer Jamshied Sharifi '83, which was 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.  

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. 

Three MIT undergraduates win Kelly Essay Awards

SHASS has announced three recipients of the 2013 Kelly Essay Award:  Alicia Singham Goodwin '14, and Michelle Dion '13 are co-winners of the Kelly Essay Prize; Caitlin Mackey '15, has received the Honorable Mention. The Kelly Essay Prize honors outstanding writing achievement by MIT undergraduates, awarding two prizes of up to $800 each.

MIT theater artist Jay Scheib receives MAP Fund grant  

Writer, director and designer of plays, operas and installations, and winner of a 2012 Obie, Jay Scheib, Associate Professor of Theater Arts, was awarded a MAP Fund grant to support a production of Platonov, or the Disinherited.

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.

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.

MIT OpenDoc Lab receives NEA grant 

The MIT Open Documentary Lab, a program of SHASS Comparative Media Studies/Writing, has received an NEA ArtWorks grant for the development of an online, curated database of interactive documentaries.

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. 

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.”

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.  

J-PAL review research featured in Science 

J-PAL Science review article, "The Challenge of Education and Learning in the Developing World," characterizes the challenges to improving learning outcomes in developing countries. This is "the first time J-PAL's cost effectiveness analysis of programs that aim to improve student learning has been released, and to the best of our knowledge, this is the first analysis of its kind," says J-PAL policy analyst Conner Brannen.  

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.   


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.

"Eloquence" | MIT's David Deveau performs Brahms

Jordan Hall, April 28, 2013.  Boston Music Intelligencer writes: "With David Deveau, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players elevated the Brahms "Trio in A Minor," Opus 114 to indescribable eloquence." 

Citation for MIT Historian Wood's 2012 essay "Performing Memory"    

Brill Publishing announces that MIT Professor of History Elizabeth Wood's essay "Performing Memory: Vladmir Putin and the Celebration of WWII in Russia," is among the most read Slavic journal articles of the year.

MIT Professor of Linguistics, Kai von Fintel joins two artists to explore "The Language of Forms" 

SHASS Associate Dean von Fintel and two noted artists present viewpoints on the relationships of form (both visual and conceptual) in a Catalyst Conversation event. A discussion will follow on the similarities and differences that may exist in the way scientists and artists approach these concepts.

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.

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.

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.

Irving Singer, MIT philosopher and author, retires after 55 years

MIT Professor Irving Singer, a renowned philosopher and the author of more than 20 books, retires from MIT after an extraordinary 55 years at the Institute. Singer’s many books—including The Nature of Love (1966–1987), a three-volume exploration of the idea of love in Western philosophy, as well as a second trilogy, Meaning in Life (1992–1996), which addresses the creation of value, the pursuit of love, and the harmony of nature and spirit—reveal the broad scope of his scholarship in humanistic philosophy. 

Two new Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows join the MIT community

With the generous support of the Mellon Foundation, the School awards up to three fellowships each year to promising young scholars working at the intersection of humanities disciplines, or between humanities and other disciplines. We are delighted to welcome our two new Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows for 2016-2018 — Lauren Flood and Sun-ha Hong.

Peter Matthiessen at MIT to receive the 2013 PEN New England Thoreau Award

Matthiessen, a three-time National Book Award-winning American novelist, nonfiction writer and environmental activist will be at MIT receive the Thoreau Award for Literary Excellence in Nature Writing, presented by PEN New England. Thursday, April 11, 2013, MIT 10-250, 7pm. 

MIT and Harvard host the 59th Annual Society for French Historical Studies Conference

Conference to focus on "Nature and Technology in French History"; Thursday, April 4 – Sunday, April 7, at the Kendall Marriott on the MIT Campus; Free for SHASS faculty and graduate students

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.


Sizing up Japan, after the disaster

“When we talk about crises, they are instruments, or tools,” MIT political scientist Richard Samuels reflects. “They’re not independently transformative. They’re tools in the service of people with preferences, and those preferences are remarkably sticky.”

SHASS to award $800 prize for best MIT undergraduate essay(s)

To your keyboards, undergraduates!  This year, all forms of nonfiction prose — including personal essays, science writing, cultural commentary, research papers, memoir, travel literature, or nature writing—are eligible to win the Kelly Essay Prize. Essays may be 12-20 pages long, and are due by noon, April 16, 2013.  


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.

Esther Duflo selected as a 2013 Dan David Prize laureate

Honored for research on strategies to alleviate poverty through disease prevention


New insight into how people choose insurance plans

Study: Consumers avoid high-deductible plans if they expect to reduce their use of medical care.


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

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. 


Profile of Historian Lerna Ekmeckcioglu

“There was no Armenian women’s history in Armenian or Turkish,” Ekmekcioglu says. “So, I decided to write it myself.” A faculty member in History, and in the Women’s and Gender Studies, Ekmekcioglu says she has been interested in feminism since college.

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.

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.

 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).


The health-insurance markets of the (very near) future

“Health insurance is a confusing and difficult choice,” says Jonathan Gruber, a professor of economics at MIT who specializes in health-care issues. “It’s important that people make decisions in an organized and effective market. In that way they can make the best choices, and we can ensure the best level of competition among insurers.”