MIT Makes National, International Headlines in 2009 News

Throughout 2009, MIT made national headlines in its usual fashion. While members of the MIT community received prestigious awards and pioneered groundbreaking research, this past year ranged from the highs of White House collaboration to the lows of an epidemic and poor economy.

Biochemistry Professor wins Millennium Technology Prize

JoAnne Stubbe, an MIT Novartis Professor of Chemistry and Biology, received the National Medal of Science, the nation’s top science honor, for her research in understanding the mechanisms of essential enzymes in DNA replication and repair. She was presented the award by President Obama on October 7. The National Medal of Science recognizes “individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering,” according to the award’s website. In addition to Stubbe, 2009 winners of the National Medal of Science include Rudolf Kalman ’53 of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Liskov wins Turing Award

MIT Forde Professor of Engineering, Barbara Liskov, won the Association for Computing Machinery’s A.M. Turing Award for her pioneering work in the design of computer programming languages that make software more reliable and resistant to errors. Liskov, the first U.S. woman to earn a PhD in computer science, is now the second woman to receive this honor, which is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize” in science and engineering. It comes with a $250,000 award.

President Obama comes to MIT

On October 23, MIT welcomed President Barack Obama with a standing ovation in the Kresge Auditorium for his speech on “American leadership in clean energy.” The President commended MIT for its “extraordinary energy research” and urged America to develop alternative sources of energy. Prior to speaking in Kresge, the president, accompanied by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), took a tour of the campus research labs involved in clean energy projects.

Dalai Lama speaks at MIT

The Dalai Lama came to speak at MIT on April 30 to inaugurate the Dalai Lama Center for Transformative Values at MIT. He spoke to a packed Kresge auditorium about the role of ethics in secular education. The center, a venture of the Office of Religious Life, aims to focus on modern ethical issues.

MIT professors advise the President

Obama has called upon several MIT professors to work in or with his administration. Four professors have taken temporary leave from the Institute to work full-time in Washington D.C.: Xavier de Souza Briggs, an associate professor in Architecture and Planning, now associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Michael Greenstone, Economics professor, now chief economist of Council of Economic Advisers; Chappell Lawson, an associate professor of Political Science, now director of policy and planning for the Department of Homeland Security; and Deborah J. Lucas, a professor of Finance at Sloan, who holds a leadership position in the Congressional Budget Office.

Some other professors were asked to advise the President on current scientific issues: Biology professor Eric Lander chairs the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Physics professor Ernest J. Moniz is the Under Secretary of the Department of Energy, and former Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences professor Mario J. Molina was appointed a member of a transition team on environmental issues.

Six seniors win scholarships to study in England

Ugwechi W. Amadi ’10, Caroline J. Huang ’10, and Steven Mo ’10 were amongst the thirty-three American and eighty international recipients of the Rhodes Scholarship and will pursue a full-time postgraduate study at the University of Oxford for up to three years. These three students set a record for the number of MIT students from the United States awarded the prestigious Oxford fellowship in any one year. Joining them in England are Tanya Goldhaber ’10 and Vinayak Muralidhar ’10, who have won Marshall Scholarships, allowing them to study for up to two years at a British university. In addition, Maria Monks ’10 became the 11th MIT student to win the Churchill Scholarship and will pursue a one-year master’s degree in Churchill College at Cambridge University in England.

Battle against H1N1

In mid-September, the H1N1 virus, also known as “Swine Flu,” swept through the campus. MIT urgent care received about 60 to 80 patients daily, a third to a half of whom suffered from respiratory infections or influenza-like illnesses. 95 percent of those had the H1N1 strain. Since MIT Medical suffered from a shortage of vaccines in September, the vaccine was prioritized for those who at high risk for infections, especially pregnant women and people with asthma and diabetes. In the following two months, MIT received more shipments of the vaccines, and administered almost 2,000 doses to students and faculty at open clinics.

MIT team wins DARPA Red Balloon Network Challenge

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) declared MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team the winner of the 2009 DARPA Network Challenge with cash prize of $40,000. The team, consisting of Riley Crane, Manuel Cebrian, Galen E. Pickard G, Wei Pan G, and Anmol P. Madan G, were the first to correctly find the 10 red balloons scattered across the country on December 5 by using a social website to register the hidden locations. The winners were members of the Media Lab Human Dynamics Group.

MIT endowment drops

The MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo) has announced that the Institute’s endowment lost of 17.1 percent ($1.7 billion) of its investment as of June 30, 2009. In total, the endowment value dropped 20.7 percent from $10.1 billion to $8.0 billion the 2009 fiscal year

Ex-Dean of Admissions resurfaces as college admissions consultant

On April 26, 2007, Marilee Jones, the previous Dean of Admissions at MIT, resigned from her position when it was discovered that sge had lied about her academic credentials. Two and a half years later, Jones is a consultant for the Berklee College of Music and work as a private admissions consultant for college applicants.