News Archive 2014

School news from 2014.


35 Burchard Scholars announced for 2015

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


Bringing Science and Humanities Together - Promise and Perils

"What does it mean to converge science and humanities? why do we want to do this? and what would it take to succeed? Here I will sketch out the beginnings of an answer."


The “metrics” system

Economist’s new book teaches how to conduct cause-and-effect studies on complex social questions.

Twelve SHASS Research Fund recipients announced for 2015

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 twelve recipients for 2015. 


A Lasting Legacy: Anthropologist Jean Jackson retires 

Jackson joined the MIT faculty in 1972, an early member of a newly formed program. Now, upon her retirement in 2014, the department’s nine members are a strong and tight-knit community — much to Jackson’s credit, say her colleagues. “She thinks ethically and acts ethically at every scale, from the global geopolitical to the very interpersonal politics of the department,” says Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology and current program Head. “She communicates through action that we’re all in it together."


Global Health & Medical Humanities Initiative launched

“We want to bring together scholars in different fields who don’t normally have a chance to talk to each other,” said Erica Caple James, associate professor of anthropology and director of the Global Health & Medical Humanities Initiative. “With this initiative, we hope to encourage more interdisciplinary collaboration on health matters — teaching together, researching together, and mobilizing the creativity of all five MIT schools, as the Institute continues to develop its future role in improving human health.”



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

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

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

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

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


3 Questions: Jonathan Gruber on the cost of smoking

Leading health care economist weighs in on a proposed cost-benefit analysis of smoking.


MIT linguist Danny Fox named Anshen-Chomsky Professor of Language and Thought

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

Welcoming New Faculty | Fall 2014

The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is very pleased to present the newest members of the School faculty. They come to us with diverse backgrounds and vast knowledge in their areas of research.


Kai von Fintel: Decoding the Meaning of Language

"What makes linguistics, the science of language, so fascinating, von Fintel says, "is that it exists at the intersection of science and the humanities." You use a scientific approach, and you get to apply it to something central to humanity."

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

Wyn Kelley has spent more than 30 years studying the works of Herman Melville — particularly his seminal whaling novel Moby-Dick — so she was thrilled to get the chance this summer to sail aboard the last surviving U.S. whaleship from Melville's era. 


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum to lead Knight Science Journalism at MIT

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum will join MIT in 2015 as the director of Knight Science Journalism at MIT, a fellowship program that enables world-class journalists to spend a year at MIT studying everything from science, technology, and engineering to history of science, literature, policy, and political science.


Fusco joins SHASS as 2014-15 MLK Visiting Scholar

Acclaimed interdisciplinary artist and writer Coco Fusco will join the School community for the 2014-15 academic year as a MLK Visiting Associate Professor in the Comparative Media Studies / Writing program.


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

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, held its MIT induction ceremony on Thursday, June 5, admitting 89 graduating seniors into the MIT chapter, Xi of Massachusetts.

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

Thomas Parke Hughes came to MIT in the 1960s as an assistant professor, then moved on to other institutions, where over time he developed into the nation’s pre-eminent historian of technology. He had a long-standing affection for MIT, and returned in 1998 as a distinguished visiting professor. Through his books and teaching, which conceptualized technology and engineering as part of broader human culture and history (thus, affected by politics, ecnomics and moral ambiguity), Hughes made an immeasurable contribution to the life of the Institute.

On Memorial Day 

Music to remember and honor. A selection of works by J.S. Bach, Copland, Gershwin, Lennon, and other composers 

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

Elizabeth Garrels, who will be retiring this spring after 35 years at MIT, has earned a reputation during her MIT career as a lively, engaged member of the community and a generous colleague. She has also been known as an uncompromising teacher who regularly offers very challenging classes, the kind that MIT students relish.


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


“What I tell my students is that you here at MIT have access to great knowledge—more knowledge than 99.9 percent of people who have ever been on planet Earth, and I think you have some sort of moral duty to learn how to communicate that. Knowledge is power; power shouldn’t be hoarded.”

Six MIT undergraduates awarded Kelly-Douglas Traveling Fellowships

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

Two MIT undergraduates win 2014 Kelly Essay Awards

SHASS has announced two recipients of the 2014 Kelly Essay Award: Leonid Grinberg'14 is the winner of the Kelly Essay Prize; Natasha Balwit, has received the Honorable Mention. The Kelly Essay Prize honors outstanding writing achievement by MIT undergraduates, awarding two prizes of up to $800 each.

2014 Levitan Awards
for Excellence in Teaching announced

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


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

Associate Professor of Anthropology Christine Walley has been awarded the CLR James Award for Best Book by the Working-Class Studies Association for Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago (University of Chicago Press 2013). Exit Zero explores the effects of deindustrialization on Chicago workers and their families. 


The anthropology of humanitarianism

Throughout Eric Caple James’ career as a medical anthropologist, she has specialized in studying people confronted with social, economic, and political uncertainty. James, now an associate professor of anthropology at MIT, has often sought to address a particular question about people placed in such difficulties: Are their psychological and civic needs being addressed by the social organizations that purport to help them?

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

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


Philosopher Sally Haslanger receives Ford Chair 

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


Perreau examines the politics of adoption in France

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


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

“The climate change crisis is no longer primarily a scientific problem. At this stage, it is a communications issue.” That assessment, from Scott Denning, Monfort Professor of Atmosphere Science at Colorado State University, was a frequent refrain during a recent MIT Knight Science Journalism “Bootcamp on Energy and Climate.” Many of the distinguished presenters at the intensive three-day course emphasized that scientists have established the evidence about climate change, and journalists now have a crucial role to educate the public about its impacts.

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

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

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

Prieto's Muh Award lecture "The Adventures of a Cello," along with a musical performance will take place Tuesday, May 6, 2014, at 5 pm, at the MIT Wong Auditorium, Building E51-115, 70 Memorial Drive, Cambridge. A festive public reception will immediately follow the lecture.  

Political Scientist Daniel Hidalgo receives 2014 Kellogg/Notre Dame Award 

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

Anthropologist Heather Paxson named 2014 MacVicar Faculty Fellow

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

April Julich Perez of MISTI Program receives 2014 MIT Excellence Award

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


MIT students find fluency in languages is transformative

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

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

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

2014 Burchard Scholars announced

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


Laura Meeker '14 | Engineering + Humanities 
Le Morte d'Arthur and the Engineer

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


Historian Loren Graham on factors that propel innovators through challenges

Innovators particularly need different frames of mind in crisis moments, when one doesn't know how to go forward. Historian of Science and Technology Loren Graham discovers that these frames of mind can often be characterized by philosophical, moral, and ethical concerns.


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

Internet, cellphone cameras, big data, interactive games, and other technologies have created an explosion of new methods of storytelling that is transforming the media landscape. The Open Documentary Lab explores the challenges and opportunities these changes present for documentarians today.

3 Questions | Interview with Seth Mnookin

The challenge and impact of science writing


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

This research represents a new common sense about regulation that acknowledges the ubiquity of legal regulation, the global circulation of regulation that has transformed its scale, and the role of the organization as the locus of regulation.


Gruber outlines key upcoming moments in Affordable Care Act rollout

MIT expert weighs in on health plan’s status as legislation becomes reality.


Study: In initial years, having Medicaid increases emergency room visits

Unique study on Oregon’s citizens sheds light on critical care in the U.S.