The Institute racked up awards in 2013

Faculty, students, and alumni win MacArthur, Marshall, and Rhodes

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The Rhodes Scholar from MIT this year, John G. Mikhael ’13.
Courtesy of MIT News office

From MacArthur Fellowships to Marshall Scholarships, MIT students, faculty, and alumni racked up a number of impressive awards in 2013.

In March, three professors were honored for their pioneering research. Together, MIT professors Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali won the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) A.M. Turing Award for their work on encrypting and securing information transfer. The duo has collaborated on projects for over three decades since they were graduate students in 1980. The annual award, which comes with $250,000 in prize money, is frequently referred to as the “Nobel Prize in computing.”

In addition, Professor Martin Polz received the American Society for Microbiology’s (ASM’s) oldest and most prestigious award, the Eli Lilly and Company-Elanco Research Award. Polz, who studies microbial communities in nature, is also an American Academy of Microbiology Fellow.

Furthermore, MIT professor Stephen J. Lippard earned the Priestley Medal in June “for mentoring legions of scientists in the course of furthering the basic science of inorganic chemistry and paving the way for improvements in human health.” The Priestley Medal is the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) highest honor.

In July, Professor Sallie (Penny) Chisholm was selected to receive the Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology for her discovery and subsequent research on the ocean phytoplankton Prochlorococcus. The President of Catalonia awarded Chisholm the $100,000 prize at a ceremony in October. Chisholm is also a 2012 National Medal of Science recipient.

Two more professors, computer scientist Dina Katabi PhD ’03 and astrophysicist Sara Seager, were named MacArthur Fellows in September. Often called the MacArthur “Genius Grants,” the award comes with $625,000 of no-strings-attached prize money. Katabi’s research focuses on improving the speed and reliability of wireless networks, while Seager studies planets outside of our solar system in the hopes of identifying the possibility of life elsewhere.

In October, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that alumnus Robert J. Shiller PhD ’72 would share the 2013 Nobel Prize in economic sciences with University of Chicago professors Eugene F. Fama and Lars Peter Hansen. Shiller is currently a professor at Yale University. The team’s research found that while stock prices are notoriously difficult to predict in the short-term, this is not actually the case in the long-term.

On the humanities side of MIT, history professor John Dower won the American Historical Association’s (AHA) Award for Scholarly Distinction in November. According to the MIT News Office press release, the award is “one of the highest forms of career recognition in the field” and is given for lifetime achievement. Dower, who studies East Asian history, has won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for his 1999 book, “Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II.”

Professors were not the only award winners this year. Four MIT seniors won Marshall scholarships in November, and a recent alumnus won a Rhodes scholarship. Marshall winners Kirin J. Sinha ‘14, Catherine E. Koch ‘14, Grace C. Young ’14 (a Tech Arts editor), and Colleen Loynachan ’14 will study at a U.K. institution of their choice once they graduate.

The only MIT student to receive a Rhodes Scholarship this year, John G. Mikhael ’13 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. He currently researches full-time in Brain and Cognitive Sciences professor Nancy Kanwisher’s lab. Mikhael plans to eventually attain an MD/PhD after pursuing graduate studies at Oxford.