Letter from the Dean

Dear Friends,

The landmark detection of gravitational waves stands as a marvelous achievement for science. We are incredibly proud that MIT scientists played a key role, from Professor Emeritus Rai Weiss’s original idea 50 years ago to the LIGO project today that includes the participation of many current MIT faculty, students, and research scientists. The advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is currently being tuned up for even greater sensitivity, and we are all waiting eagerly for it to resume work later this year. Scientists expect that this new window into the universe will reveal a treasure trove of new data and discoveries. In this issue of Science@MIT, you can read the story of the first efforts to detect gravitational waves in the 1960s along with the significance of the detection and what the future holds.

In January, the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science held a day-long symposium entitled “MIT on Climate: Science + Action.” There were a series of presentations describing the severity of the global climate change threat, the wide variety of related impacts on human society and economies, and actions that might be most effective in minimizing the damage. You might also be interested in an article by Joseph Azzarelli, a fifth-year graduate student in the laboratory of Tim Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry, who won $13,000 at MIT’s Accelerate Pitch Competition. You will find out how the new company formed is using this technology to improve lung cancer diagnosis. 

On page 7, I am delighted to introduce you to my friends and colleagues, Tom Leighton and Bonnie Berger. Together with Tom’s father, David Leighton, the families made a major contribution to the renovation of Building 2, the home of the Math Department, now called the Simons Building. In addition to their teaching— Bonnie and Tom are both Professors of Mathematics—Tom is the CEO of Akamai, one of the largest content delivery networks
in the world. We are deeply appreciative of all the donors who made this renovation possible and look forward to celebrating the dedication scheduled for October 6-7, 2016. In addition to providing additional needed space and updated systems, the renovation created new vistas with more light than ever before. If you cannot come to campus to visit in person, check out the photos on page 16.

On May 7, MIT launched the biggest comprehensive fundraising campaign in our history. Since its founding, MIT people have been solving hard problems and answering big questions, and we have left our mark on society. We see global challenges as invitations to action. As faculty and students in the School of Science strive to meet the challenges we face, we seek allies who share our sense of mission. I invite you to join us in creating the future. This is the MIT Campaign for a Better World.