Campus Life tech transfers

Nir Shavit

Immigrant members of the MIT community

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Nir Shavit, Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Jackson.

America is now my home, but unlike many people who “immigrate” and then go through the process of building a life in their new country, I gradually built a life to the point where I can now say that I have indeed “immigrated.”

I was born in Israel to academic parents, and at age six, I moved with them to LA. I remember my first moments in the US: the big sun rising at the end of a wide avenue, the endless food shelves in the super market, the Gemini spacecraft docking in space on TV, and the absolutely enormous size of the cars.

I returned to the US at age 15 for one year to get a taste of 31 flavors, ice-skating, and high school graduation. America was enchanting, but I left it eagerly to go back to Israel, the army, and university. At age 24, I came to intern in LA for a summer and discovered a new America, an America seen through an adult’s eyes.

At age 27, I met an American girl (surprised?) and followed her to live in Cambridge. A couple of years later, I went to postdoc at Stanford and then at MIT, but then moved back with the girl to Israel, where I started my academic career at Tel-Aviv University.

But my wife loved America, and so we compromised, spending the next 20 years moving back and forth every few years, maintaining homes and academic careers in both countries. Gradually, as with anything you invest time in, America became familiar, and I fell in love with it: with the streets, the coffee shops, the snow and the rain and the Charles on a sunny day. I raised my children here and grew to see America through their eyes: a large, hugging land of opportunity where most of the time you have no idea how to correctly pronounce a person’s name.

In 2011, I joined MIT and found a thrilling academic home. I had, in all aspects of my life, finally immigrated.

Nir Shavit is a Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Editor's note: Tech Transfers is a photo series by Professor Daniel Jackson that features immigrant members of MIT.