More stories

  • in

    Three MIT students selected as inaugural MIT-Pillar AI Collective Fellows

    MIT-Pillar AI Collective has announced three inaugural fellows for the fall 2023 semester. With support from the program, the graduate students, who are in their final year of a master’s or PhD program, will conduct research in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science with the aim of commercializing their innovations.

    Launched by MIT’s School of Engineering and Pillar VC in 2022, the MIT-Pillar AI Collective supports faculty, postdocs, and students conducting research on AI, machine learning, and data science. Supported by a gift from Pillar VC and administered by the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, the mission of the program is to advance research toward commercialization.

    The fall 2023 MIT-Pillar AI Collective Fellows are:

    Alexander Andonian SM ’21 is a PhD candidate in electrical engineering and computer science whose research interests lie in computer vision, deep learning, and artificial intelligence. More specifically, he is focused on building a generalist, multimodal AI scientist driven by generative vision-language model agents capable of proposing scientific hypotheses, running computational experiments, evaluating supporting evidence, and verifying conclusions in the same way as a human researcher or reviewer. Such an agent could be trained to optimally distill and communicate its findings for human consumption and comprehension. Andonian’s work holds the promise of creating a concrete foundation for rigorously building and holistically testing the next-generation autonomous AI agent for science. In addition to his research, Andonian is the CEO and co-founder of Reelize, a startup that offers a generative AI video tool that effortlessly turns long videos into short clips — and originated from his business coursework and was supported by MIT Sandbox. Andonian is also a founding AI researcher at Poly AI, an early-stage YC-backed startup building AI design tools. Andonian earned an SM from MIT and a BS in neuroscience, physics, and mathematics from Bates College.

    Daniel Magley is a PhD candidate in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology who is passionate about making a healthy, fully functioning mind and body a reality for all. His leading-edge research is focused on developing a swallowable wireless thermal imaging capsule that could be used in treating and monitoring inflammatory bowel diseases and their manifestations, such as Crohn’s disease. Providing increased sensitivity and eliminating the need for bowel preparation, the capsule has the potential to vastly improve treatment efficacy and overall patient experience in routine monitoring. The capsule has completed animal studies and is entering human studies at Mass General Brigham, where Magley leads a team of engineers in the hospital’s largest translational research lab, the Tearney Lab. Following the human pilot studies, the largest technological and regulatory risks will be cleared for translation. Magley will then begin focusing on a multi-site study to get the device into clinics, with the promise of benefiting patients across the country. Magley earned a BS in electrical engineering from Caltech.

    Madhumitha Ravichandra is a PhD candidate interested in advancing heat transfer and surface engineering techniques to enhance the safety and performance of nuclear energy systems and reduce their environmental impacts. Leveraging her deep knowledge of the integration of explainable AI with high-throughput autonomous experimentation, she seeks to transform the development of radiation-hardened (rad-hard) sensors, which could potentially withstand and function amidst radiation levels that would render conventional sensors useless. By integrating explainable AI with high-throughput autonomous experimentation, she aims to rapidly iterate designs, test under varied conditions, and ensure that the final product is both robust and transparent in its operations. Her work in this space could shift the paradigm in rad-hard sensor development, addressing a glaring void in the market and redefining standards, ensuring that nuclear and space applications are safer, more efficient, and at the cutting edge of technological progress. Ravichandran earned a BTech in mechanical engineering from SASTRA University, India. More

  • in

    Rewarding excellence in open data

    The second annual MIT Prize for Open Data, which included a $2,500 cash prize, was recently awarded to 10 individual and group research projects. Presented jointly by the School of Science and the MIT Libraries, the prize highlights the value of open data — research data that is openly accessible and reusable — at the Institute. The prize winners and 12 honorable mention recipients were honored at the Open Data @ MIT event held Oct. 24 at Hayden Library. 

    Conceived by Chris Bourg, director of MIT Libraries, and Rebecca Saxe, associate dean of the School of Science and the John W. Jarve (1978) Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the prize program was launched in 2022. It recognizes MIT-affiliated researchers who use or share open data, create infrastructure for open data sharing, or theorize about open data. Nominations were solicited from across the Institute, with a focus on trainees: undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and research staff. 

    “The prize is explicitly aimed at early-career researchers,” says Bourg. “Supporting and encouraging the next generation of researchers will help ensure that the future of scholarship is characterized by a norm of open sharing.”

    The 2023 awards were presented at a celebratory event held during International Open Access Week. Winners gave five-minute presentations on their projects and the role that open data plays in their research. The program also included remarks from Bourg and Anne White, School of Engineering Distinguished Professor of Engineering, vice provost, and associate vice president for research administration. White reflected on the ways in which MIT has demonstrated its values with the open sharing of research and scholarship and acknowledged the efforts of the honorees and advocates gathered at the event: “Thank you for the active role you’re all playing in building a culture of openness in research,” she said. “It benefits us all.” 

    Winners were chosen from more than 80 nominees, representing all five MIT schools, the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, and several research centers across the Institute. A committee composed of faculty, staff, and graduate students made the selections:

    Hammaad Adam, graduate student in the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, accepted on behalf of the team behind Organ Retrieval and Collection of Health Information for Donation (ORCHID), the first ever multi-center dataset dedicated to the organ procurement process. ORCHID provides the first opportunity to quantitatively analyze organ procurement organization decisions and identify operational inefficiencies.
    Adam Atanas, postdoc in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS), and Jungsoo Kim, graduate student in BCS, created The site, allowing researchers to easily browse and download C. elegans whole-brain datasets, will be useful to C. elegans neuroscientists and theoretical/computational neuroscientists. 
    Paul Berube, research scientist in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Steven Biller, assistant professor of biological sciences at Wellesley College, won for “Unlocking Marine Microbiomes with Open Data.” Open data of genomes and metagenomes for marine ecosystems, with a focus on cyanobacteria, leverage the power of contemporaneous data from GEOTRACES and other long-standing ocean time-series programs to provide underlying information to answer questions about marine ecosystem function. 
    Jack Cavanagh, Sarah Kopper, and Diana Horvath of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) were recognized for J-PAL’s Data Publication Infrastructure, which includes a trusted repository of open-access datasets, a dedicated team of data curators, and coding tools and training materials to help other teams publish data in an efficient and ethical manner. 
    Jerome Patrick Cruz, graduate student in the Department of Political Science, won for OpenAudit, leveraging advances in natural language processing and machine learning to make data in public audit reports more usable for academics and policy researchers, as well as governance practitioners, watchdogs, and reformers. This work was done in collaboration with colleagues at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. 
    Undergraduate student Daniel Kurlander created a tool for planetary scientists to rapidly access and filter images of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The web-based tool enables searches by location and other properties, does not require a time-intensive download of a massive dataset, allows analysis of the data independent of the speed of one’s computer, and does not require installation of a complex set of programs. 
    Halie Olson, postdoc in BCS, was recognized for sharing data from a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study on language processing. The study used video clips from “Sesame Street” in which researchers manipulated the comprehensibility of the speech stream, allowing them to isolate a “language response” in the brain.
    Thomas González Roberts, graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, won for the International Telecommunication Union Compliance Assessment Monitor. This tool combats the heritage of secrecy in outer space operations by creating human- and machine-readable datasets that succinctly describe the international agreements that govern satellite operations. 
    Melissa Kline Struhl, research scientist in BCS, was recognized for Children Helping Science, a free, open-source platform for remote studies with babies and children that makes it possible for researchers at more than 100 institutions to conduct reproducible studies. 
    JS Tan, graduate student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, developed the Collective Action in Tech Archive in collaboration with Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya of the University of California at Berkeley. It is an open database of all publicly recorded collective actions taken by workers in the global tech industry. 
    A complete list of winning projects and honorable mentions, including links to the research data, is available on the MIT Libraries website. More

  • in

    2023-24 Takeda Fellows: Advancing research at the intersection of AI and health

    The School of Engineering has selected 13 new Takeda Fellows for the 2023-24 academic year. With support from Takeda, the graduate students will conduct pathbreaking research ranging from remote health monitoring for virtual clinical trials to ingestible devices for at-home, long-term diagnostics.

    Now in its fourth year, the MIT-Takeda Program, a collaboration between MIT’s School of Engineering and Takeda, fuels the development and application of artificial intelligence capabilities to benefit human health and drug development. Part of the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health, the program coalesces disparate disciplines, merges theory and practical implementation, combines algorithm and hardware innovations, and creates multidimensional collaborations between academia and industry.

    The 2023-24 Takeda Fellows are:

    Adam Gierlach

    Adam Gierlach is a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Gierlach’s work combines innovative biotechnology with machine learning to create ingestible devices for advanced diagnostics and delivery of therapeutics. In his previous work, Gierlach developed a non-invasive, ingestible device for long-term gastric recordings in free-moving patients. With the support of a Takeda Fellowship, he will build on this pathbreaking work by developing smart, energy-efficient, ingestible devices powered by application-specific integrated circuits for at-home, long-term diagnostics. These revolutionary devices — capable of identifying, characterizing, and even correcting gastrointestinal diseases — represent the leading edge of biotechnology. Gierlach’s innovative contributions will help to advance fundamental research on the enteric nervous system and help develop a better understanding of gut-brain axis dysfunctions in Parkinson’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, and other prevalent disorders and conditions.

    Vivek Gopalakrishnan

    Vivek Gopalakrishnan is a PhD candidate in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. Gopalakrishnan’s goal is to develop biomedical machine-learning methods to improve the study and treatment of human disease. Specifically, he employs computational modeling to advance new approaches for minimally invasive, image-guided neurosurgery, offering a safe alternative to open brain and spinal procedures. With the support of a Takeda Fellowship, Gopalakrishnan will develop real-time computer vision algorithms that deliver high-quality, 3D intraoperative image guidance by extracting and fusing information from multimodal neuroimaging data. These algorithms could allow surgeons to reconstruct 3D neurovasculature from X-ray angiography, thereby enhancing the precision of device deployment and enabling more accurate localization of healthy versus pathologic anatomy.

    Hao He

    Hao He is a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. His research interests lie at the intersection of generative AI, machine learning, and their applications in medicine and human health, with a particular emphasis on passive, continuous, remote health monitoring to support virtual clinical trials and health-care management. More specifically, He aims to develop trustworthy AI models that promote equitable access and deliver fair performance independent of race, gender, and age. In his past work, He has developed monitoring systems applied in clinical studies of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy. Supported by a Takeda Fellowship, He will develop a novel technology for the passive monitoring of sleep stages (using radio signaling) that seeks to address existing gaps in performance across different demographic groups. His project will tackle the problem of imbalance in available datasets and account for intrinsic differences across subpopulations, using generative AI and multi-modality/multi-domain learning, with the goal of learning robust features that are invariant to different subpopulations. He’s work holds great promise for delivering advanced, equitable health-care services to all people and could significantly impact health care and AI.

    Chengyi Long

    Chengyi Long is a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Long’s interdisciplinary research integrates the methodology of physics, mathematics, and computer science to investigate questions in ecology. Specifically, Long is developing a series of potentially groundbreaking techniques to explain and predict the temporal dynamics of ecological systems, including human microbiota, which are essential subjects in health and medical research. His current work, supported by a Takeda Fellowship, is focused on developing a conceptual, mathematical, and practical framework to understand the interplay between external perturbations and internal community dynamics in microbial systems, which may serve as a key step toward finding bio solutions to health management. A broader perspective of his research is to develop AI-assisted platforms to anticipate the changing behavior of microbial systems, which may help to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy hosts and design probiotics for the prevention and mitigation of pathogen infections. By creating novel methods to address these issues, Long’s research has the potential to offer powerful contributions to medicine and global health.

    Omar Mohd

    Omar Mohd is a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Mohd’s research is focused on developing new technologies for the spatial profiling of microRNAs, with potentially important applications in cancer research. Through innovative combinations of micro-technologies and AI-enabled image analysis to measure the spatial variations of microRNAs within tissue samples, Mohd hopes to gain new insights into drug resistance in cancer. This work, supported by a Takeda Fellowship, falls within the emerging field of spatial transcriptomics, which seeks to understand cancer and other diseases by examining the relative locations of cells and their contents within tissues. The ultimate goal of Mohd’s current project is to find multidimensional patterns in tissues that may have prognostic value for cancer patients. One valuable component of his work is an open-source AI program developed with collaborators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School to auto-detect cancer epithelial cells from other cell types in a tissue sample and to correlate their abundance with the spatial variations of microRNAs. Through his research, Mohd is making innovative contributions at the interface of microsystem technology, AI-based image analysis, and cancer treatment, which could significantly impact medicine and human health.

    Sanghyun Park

    Sanghyun Park is a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Park specializes in the integration of AI and biomedical engineering to address complex challenges in human health. Drawing on his expertise in polymer physics, drug delivery, and rheology, his research focuses on the pioneering field of in-situ forming implants (ISFIs) for drug delivery. Supported by a Takeda Fellowship, Park is currently developing an injectable formulation designed for long-term drug delivery. The primary goal of his research is to unravel the compaction mechanism of drug particles in ISFI formulations through comprehensive modeling and in-vitro characterization studies utilizing advanced AI tools. He aims to gain a thorough understanding of this unique compaction mechanism and apply it to drug microcrystals to achieve properties optimal for long-term drug delivery. Beyond these fundamental studies, Park’s research also focuses on translating this knowledge into practical applications in a clinical setting through animal studies specifically aimed at extending drug release duration and improving mechanical properties. The innovative use of AI in developing advanced drug delivery systems, coupled with Park’s valuable insights into the compaction mechanism, could contribute to improving long-term drug delivery. This work has the potential to pave the way for effective management of chronic diseases, benefiting patients, clinicians, and the pharmaceutical industry.

    Huaiyao Peng

    Huaiyao Peng is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biological Engineering. Peng’s research interests are focused on engineered tissue, microfabrication platforms, cancer metastasis, and the tumor microenvironment. Specifically, she is advancing novel AI techniques for the development of pre-cancer organoid models of high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC), an especially lethal and difficult-to-treat cancer, with the goal of gaining new insights into progression and effective treatments. Peng’s project, supported by a Takeda Fellowship, will be one of the first to use cells from serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma lesions found in the fallopian tubes of many HGSOC patients. By examining the cellular and molecular changes that occur in response to treatment with small molecule inhibitors, she hopes to identify potential biomarkers and promising therapeutic targets for HGSOC, including personalized treatment options for HGSOC patients, ultimately improving their clinical outcomes. Peng’s work has the potential to bring about important advances in cancer treatment and spur innovative new applications of AI in health care. 

    Priyanka Raghavan

    Priyanka Raghavan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Raghavan’s research interests lie at the frontier of predictive chemistry, integrating computational and experimental approaches to build powerful new predictive tools for societally important applications, including drug discovery. Specifically, Raghavan is developing novel models to predict small-molecule substrate reactivity and compatibility in regimes where little data is available (the most realistic regimes). A Takeda Fellowship will enable Raghavan to push the boundaries of her research, making innovative use of low-data and multi-task machine learning approaches, synthetic chemistry, and robotic laboratory automation, with the goal of creating an autonomous, closed-loop system for the discovery of high-yielding organic small molecules in the context of underexplored reactions. Raghavan’s work aims to identify new, versatile reactions to broaden a chemist’s synthetic toolbox with novel scaffolds and substrates that could form the basis of essential drugs. Her work has the potential for far-reaching impacts in early-stage, small-molecule discovery and could help make the lengthy drug-discovery process significantly faster and cheaper.

    Zhiye Song

    Zhiye “Zoey” Song is a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Song’s research integrates cutting-edge approaches in machine learning (ML) and hardware optimization to create next-generation, wearable medical devices. Specifically, Song is developing novel approaches for the energy-efficient implementation of ML computation in low-power medical devices, including a wearable ultrasound “patch” that captures and processes images for real-time decision-making capabilities. Her recent work, conducted in collaboration with clinicians, has centered on bladder volume monitoring; other potential applications include blood pressure monitoring, muscle diagnosis, and neuromodulation. With the support of a Takeda Fellowship, Song will build on that promising work and pursue key improvements to existing wearable device technologies, including developing low-compute and low-memory ML algorithms and low-power chips to enable ML on smart wearable devices. The technologies emerging from Song’s research could offer exciting new capabilities in health care, enabling powerful and cost-effective point-of-care diagnostics and expanding individual access to autonomous and continuous medical monitoring.

    Peiqi Wang

    Peiqi Wang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Wang’s research aims to develop machine learning methods for learning and interpretation from medical images and associated clinical data to support clinical decision-making. He is developing a multimodal representation learning approach that aligns knowledge captured in large amounts of medical image and text data to transfer this knowledge to new tasks and applications. Supported by a Takeda Fellowship, Wang will advance this promising line of work to build robust tools that interpret images, learn from sparse human feedback, and reason like doctors, with potentially major benefits to important stakeholders in health care.

    Oscar Wu

    Haoyang “Oscar” Wu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Wu’s research integrates quantum chemistry and deep learning methods to accelerate the process of small-molecule screening in the development of new drugs. By identifying and automating reliable methods for finding transition state geometries and calculating barrier heights for new reactions, Wu’s work could make it possible to conduct the high-throughput ab initio calculations of reaction rates needed to screen the reactivity of large numbers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). A Takeda Fellowship will support his current project to: (1) develop open-source software for high-throughput quantum chemistry calculations, focusing on the reactivity of drug-like molecules, and (2) develop deep learning models that can quantitatively predict the oxidative stability of APIs. The tools and insights resulting from Wu’s research could help to transform and accelerate the drug-discovery process, offering significant benefits to the pharmaceutical and medical fields and to patients.

    Soojung Yang

    Soojung Yang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Yang’s research applies cutting-edge methods in geometric deep learning and generative modeling, along with atomistic simulations, to better understand and model protein dynamics. Specifically, Yang is developing novel tools in generative AI to explore protein conformational landscapes that offer greater speed and detail than physics-based simulations at a substantially lower cost. With the support of a Takeda Fellowship, she will build upon her successful work on the reverse transformation of coarse-grained proteins to the all-atom resolution, aiming to build machine-learning models that bridge multiple size scales of protein conformation diversity (all-atom, residue-level, and domain-level). Yang’s research holds the potential to provide a powerful and widely applicable new tool for researchers who seek to understand the complex protein functions at work in human diseases and to design drugs to treat and cure those diseases.

    Yuzhe Yang

    Yuzhe Yang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Yang’s research interests lie at the intersection of machine learning and health care. In his past and current work, Yang has developed and applied innovative machine-learning models that address key challenges in disease diagnosis and tracking. His many notable achievements include the creation of one of the first machine learning-based solutions using nocturnal breathing signals to detect Parkinson’s disease (PD), estimate disease severity, and track PD progression. With the support of a Takeda Fellowship, Yang will expand this promising work to develop an AI-based diagnosis model for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) using sleep-breathing data that is significantly more reliable, flexible, and economical than current diagnostic tools. This passive, in-home, contactless monitoring system — resembling a simple home Wi-Fi router — will also enable remote disease assessment and continuous progression tracking. Yang’s groundbreaking work has the potential to advance the diagnosis and treatment of prevalent diseases like PD and AD, and it offers exciting possibilities for addressing many health challenges with reliable, affordable machine-learning tools.  More

  • in

    MIT welcomes nine MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars for 2023-24

    Established in 1990, the MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars Program at MIT welcomes outstanding scholars to the Institute for visiting appointments. MIT aspires to attract candidates who are, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “trailblazers in human, academic, scientific and religious freedom.” The program honors King’s life and legacy by expanding and extending the reach of our community. 

    The MLK Scholars Program has welcomed more than 140 professors, practitioners, and professionals at the forefront of their respective fields to MIT. They contribute to the growth and enrichment of the community through their interactions with students, staff, and faculty. They pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy of service and social justice, and they embody MIT’s values: excellence and curiosity, openness and respect, and belonging and community.  

    Each new cohort of scholars actively participates in community engagement and supports MIT’s mission of “advancing knowledge and educating students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” 

    The 2023-2024 MLK Scholars:

    Tawanna Dillahunt is an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information with a joint appointment in their electrical engineering and computer science department. She is joining MIT at the end of a one-year visiting appointment as a Harvard Radcliffe Fellow. Her faculty hosts at the Institute are Catherine D’Ignazio in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Fotini Christia in the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS). Dillahunt’s research focuses on equitable and inclusive computing. During her appointment, she will host a podcast to explore ethical and socially responsible ways to engage with communities, with a special emphasis on technology. 

    Kwabena Donkor is an assistant professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business; he is hosted by Dean Eckles, an associate professor of marketing at MIT Sloan School of Management. Donkor’s work bridges economics, psychology, and marketing. His scholarship combines insights from behavioral economics with data and field experiments to study social norms, identity, and how these constructs interact with policy in the marketplace.

    Denise Frazier joins MIT from Tulane University, where she is an assistant director in the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South. She is a researcher and performer and brings a unique interdisciplinary approach to her work at the intersection of cultural studies, environmental justice, and music. Frazier is hosted by Christine Ortiz, the Morris Cohen Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. 

    Wasalu Jaco, an accomplished performer and artist, is renewing his appointment at MIT for a second year; he is hosted jointly by Nick Montfort, a professor of digital media in the Comparative Media Studies Program/Writing, and Mary Fuller, a professor in the Literature Section and the current chair of the MIT faculty. In his second year, Jaco will work on Cyber/Cypher Rapper, a research project to develop a computational system that participates in responsive and improvisational rap.

    Morgane Konig first joined the Center for Theoretical Physics at MIT in December 2021 as a postdoc. Now a member of the 2023–24 MLK Visiting Scholars Program cohort, she will deepen her ties with scholars and research groups working in cosmology, primarily on early-universe inflation and late-universe signatures that could enable the scientific community to learn more about the mysterious nature of dark matter and dark energy. Her faculty hosts are David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and professor of physics, and Alan Guth, the Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics, both from the Department of Physics.

    The former minister of culture for Colombia and a transformational leader dedicated to environmental protection, Angelica Mayolo-Obregon joins MIT from Buenaventura, Colombia. During her time at MIT, she will serve as an advisor and guest speaker, and help MIT facilitate gatherings of environmental leaders committed to addressing climate action and conserving biodiversity across the Americas, with a special emphasis on Afro-descendant communities. Mayolo-Obregon is hosted by John Fernandez, a professor of building technology in the Department of Architecture and director of MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative, and by J. Phillip Thompson, an associate professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (and a former MLK Scholar).

    Jean-Luc Pierite is a member of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and the president of the board of directors of North American Indian Center of Boston. While at MIT, Pierite will build connections between MIT and the local Indigenous communities. His research focuses on enhancing climate resilience planning by infusing Indigenous knowledge and ecological practices into scientific and other disciplines. His faculty host is Janelle Knox-Hayes, the Lister Brothers Professor of Economic Geography and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

    Christine Taylor-Butler ’81 is a children’s book author who has written over 90 books; she is hosted by Graham Jones, an associate professor of anthropology. An advocate for literacy and STEAM education in underserved urban and rural schools, Taylor-Butler will partner with community organizations in the Boston area. She is also completing the fourth installment of her middle-grade series, “The Lost Tribe.” These books follow a team of five kids as they use science and technology to crack codes and solve mysteries.

    Angelino Viceisza, a professor of economics at Spelman College, joins MIT Sloan as an MLK Visiting Professor and the Phyllis Wallace Visiting Professor; he is hosted by Robert Gibbons, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management, and Ray Reagans, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Management, professor of organization studies, and associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at MIT Sloan. Viceisza has strong, ongoing connections with MIT. His research focuses on remittances, retirement, and household finance in low-income countries and is relevant to public finance and financial economics, as well as the development and organizational economics communities at MIT. 

    Javit Drake, Moriba Jah, and Louis Massiah, members of last year’s cohort of MLK Scholars, will remain at MIT through the end of 2023.

    There are multiple opportunities throughout the year to meet our MLK Visiting Scholars and learn more about their research projects and their social impact. 

    For more information about the MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars Program and upcoming events, visit the website. More

  • in

    Meet the 2023-24 Accenture Fellows

    The MIT and Accenture Convergence Initiative for Industry and Technology has selected five new research fellows for 2023-24. Now in its third year, the initiative underscores the ways in which industry and research can collaborate to spur technological innovation.

    Through its partnership with the School of Engineering, Accenture provides five annual fellowships awarded to graduate students with the aim of generating powerful new insights on the convergence of business and technology with the potential to transform society. The 2023-24 fellows will conduct research in areas including artificial intelligence, sustainability, and robotics.

    The 2023-24 Accenture Fellows are:

    Yiyue Luo

    Yiyue Luo is a PhD candidate who is developing innovative integrations of tactile sensing and haptics, interactive sensing and AI, digital fabrication, and smart wearables. Her work takes advantage of recent advances in digital manufacturing and AI, and the convergence in advanced sensing and actuation mechanisms, scalable digital manufacturing, and emerging computational techniques, with the goal of creating novel sensing and actuation devices that revolutionize interactions between people and their environments. In past projects, Luo has developed tactile sensing apparel including socks, gloves, and vests, as well as a workflow for computationally designing and digitally fabricating soft textiles-based pneumatic actuators. With the support of an Accenture Fellowship, she will advance her work of combining sensing and actuating devices and explore the development of haptic devices that simulate tactile cues captured by tactile sensors. Her ultimate aim is to build a scalable, textile-based, closed-loop human-machine interface. Luo’s research holds exciting potential to advance ground-breaking applications for smart textiles, health care, artificial and virtual reality, human-machine interactions, and robotics.

    Zanele Munyikwa is a PhD candidate whose research explores foundation models, a class of models that forms the basis of transformative general-purpose technologies (GPTs) such as GPT4. An Accenture Fellowship will enable Munyikwa to conduct research aimed at illuminating the current and potential impact of foundation models (including large language models) on work and tasks common to “high-skilled” knowledge workers in industries such as marketing, legal services, and medicine, in which foundation models are expected to have significant economic and social impacts. A primary goal of her project is to observe the impact of AI augmentation on tasks like copywriting and long-form writing. A second aim is to explore two primary ways that foundation models are driving the convergence of creative and technological industries, namely: reducing the cost of content generation and enabling the development of tools and platforms for education and training. Munyikwa’s work has important implications for the use of foundation models in many fields, from health care and education to legal services, business, and technology.

    Michelle Vaccaro is a PhD candidate in social engineering systems whose research explores human-AI collaboration with the goals of developing a deeper understanding of AI-based technologies (including ChatGPT and DALL-E), evaluating their performance and evolution, and steering their development toward societally beneficial applications, like climate change mitigation. An Accenture Fellowship will support Vaccaro’s current work toward two key objectives: identifying synergies between humans and AI-based software to help design human-AI systems that address persistent problems better than existing approaches; and investigating applications of human-AI collaboration for forecasting technological change, specifically for renewable energy technologies. By integrating the historically distinct domains of AI, systems engineering, and cognitive science with a wide range of industries, technical fields, and social applications, Vaccaro’s work has the potential to advance individual and collective productivity and creativity in all these areas.

    Chonghuan Wang is a PhD candidate in computational science and engineering whose research employs statistical learning, econometrics theory, and experimental design to create efficient, reliable, and sustainable field experiments in various domains. In his current work, Wang is applying statistical learning techniques such as online learning and bandit theory to test the effectiveness of new treatments, vaccinations, and health care interventions. With the support of an Accenture Fellowship, he will design experiments with the specific aim of understanding the trade-off between the loss of a patient’s welfare and the accuracy of estimating the treatment effect. The results of this research could help to save lives and contain disease outbreaks during pandemics like Covid-19. The benefits of enhanced experiment design and the collection of high-quality data extend well beyond health care; for example, these tools could help businesses optimize user engagement, test pricing impacts, and increase the usage of platforms and services. Wang’s research holds exciting potential to harness statistical learning, econometrics theory, and experimental design in support of strong businesses and the greater social good.

    Aaron Michael West Jr. is a PhD candidate whose research seeks to enhance our knowledge of human motor control and robotics. His work aims to advance rehabilitation technologies and prosthetic devices, as well as improve robot dexterity. His previous work has yielded valuable insights into the human ability to extract information solely from visual displays. Specifically, he demonstrated humans’ ability to estimate stiffness based solely on the visual observation of motion. These insights could advance the development of software applications with the same capability (e.g., using machine learning methods applied to video data) and may enable roboticists to develop enhanced motion control such that a robot’s intention is perceivable by humans. An Accenture Fellowship will enable West to continue this work, as well as new investigations into the functionality of the human hand to aid in the design of a prosthetic hand that better replicates human dexterity. By advancing understandings of human bio- and neuro-mechanics, West’s work has the potential to support major advances in robotics and rehabilitation technologies, with profound impacts on human health and well-being. More

  • in

    The tenured engineers of 2023

    In 2023, MIT granted tenure to nine faculty members across the School of Engineering. This year’s tenured engineers hold appointments in the departments of Biological Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (which reports jointly to the School of Engineering and MIT Schwarzman College of Computing), Materials Science and Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, as well as the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES).

    “I am truly inspired by this remarkable group of talented faculty members,” says Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “The work they are doing, both in the lab and in the classroom, has made a tremendous impact at MIT and in the wider world. Their important research has applications in a diverse range of fields and industries. I am thrilled to congratulate them on the milestone of receiving tenure.”

    This year’s newly tenured engineering faculty include:

    Michael Birnbaum, Class of 1956 Career Development Professor, associate professor of biological engineering, and faculty member at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, works on understanding and manipulating immune recognition in cancer and infections. By using a variety of techniques to study the antigen recognition of T cells, he and his team aim to develop the next generation of immunotherapies.  
    Tamara Broderick, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and member of the MIT Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS) and the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), works to provide fast and reliable quantification of uncertainty and robustness in modern data analysis procedures. Broderick and her research group develop data analysis tools with applications in fields, including genetics, economics, and assistive technology. 
    Tal Cohen, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and mechanical engineering, uses nonlinear solid mechanics to understand how materials behave under extreme conditions. By studying material instabilities, extreme dynamic loading conditions, growth, and chemical coupling, Cohen and her team combine theoretical models and experiments to shape our understanding of the observed phenomena and apply those insights in the design and characterization of material systems. 
    Betar Gallant, Class of 1922 Career Development Professor and associate professor of mechanical engineering, develops advanced materials and chemistries for next-generation lithium-ion and lithium primary batteries and electrochemical carbon dioxide mitigation technologies. Her group’s work could lead to higher-energy and more sustainable batteries for electric vehicles, longer-lasting implantable medical devices, and new methods of carbon capture and conversion. 
    Rafael Jaramillo, Thomas Lord Career Development Professor and associate professor of materials science and engineering, studies the synthesis, properties, and applications of electronic materials, particularly chalcogenide compound semiconductors. His work has applications in microelectronics, integrated photonics, telecommunications, and photovoltaics. 
    Benedetto Marelli, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, conducts research on the synthesis, assembly, and nanomanufacturing of structural biopolymers. He and his research team develop biomaterials for applications in agriculture, food security, and food safety. 
    Ellen Roche, Latham Family Career Development Professor, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, and a core faculty of IMES, designs and develops implantable, biomimetic therapeutic devices and soft robotics that mechanically assist and repair tissue, deliver therapies, and enable enhanced preclinical testing. Her devices have a wide range of applications in human health, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease. 
    Serguei Saavedra, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, uses systems thinking, synthesis, and mathematical modeling to study the persistence of ecological systems under changing environments. His theoretical research is used to develop hypotheses and corroborate predictions of how ecological systems respond to climate change. 
    Justin Solomon, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and member of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and MIT Center for Computational Science and Engineering, works at the intersection of geometry, large-scale optimization, computer graphics, and machine learning. His research has diverse applications in machine learning, computer graphics, and geometric data processing.  More

  • in

    MIT-Pillar AI Collective announces first seed grant recipients

    The MIT-Pillar AI Collective has announced its first six grant recipients. Students, alumni, and postdocs working on a broad range of topics in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science will receive funding and support for research projects that could translate into commercially viable products or companies. These grants are intended to help students explore commercial applications for their research, and eventually drive that commercialization through the creation of a startup.

    “These tremendous students and postdocs are working on projects that have the potential to be truly transformative across a diverse range of industries. It’s thrilling to think that the novel research these teams are conducting could lead to the founding of startups that revolutionize everything from drug delivery to video conferencing,” says Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

    Launched in September 2022, the MIT-Pillar AI Collective is a pilot program funded by a $1 million gift from Pillar VC that aims to cultivate prospective entrepreneurs and drive innovation in areas related to AI. Administered by the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, the AI Collective centers on the market discovery process, advancing projects through market research, customer discovery, and prototyping. Graduate students and postdocs supported by the program work toward the development of minimum viable products.

    “In addition to funding, the MIT-Pillar AI Collective provides grant recipients with mentorship and guidance. With the rapid advancement of AI technologies, this type of support is critical to ensure students and postdocs are able to access the resources required to move quickly in this fast-pace environment,” says Jinane Abounadi, managing director of the MIT-Pillar AI Collective.

    The six inaugural recipients will receive support in identifying key milestones and advice from experienced entrepreneurs. The AI Collective assists seed grant recipients in gathering feedback from potential end-users, as well as getting insights from early-stage investors. The program also organizes community events, including a “Founder Talks” speaker series, and other team-building activities.   

    “Each one of these grant recipients exhibits an entrepreneurial spirit. It is exciting to provide support and guidance as they start a journey that could one day see them as founders and leaders of successful companies,” adds Jamie Goldstein ’89, founder of Pillar VC.

    The first cohort of grant recipients include the following projects:

    Predictive query interface

    Abdullah Alomar SM ’21, a PhD candidate studying electrical engineering and computer science, is building a predictive query interface for time series databases to better forecast demand and financial data. This user-friendly interface can help alleviate some of the bottlenecks and issues related to unwieldy data engineering processes while providing state-of-the-art statistical accuracy. Alomar is advised by Devavrat Shah, the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor at MIT.

    Design of light-activated drugs

    Simon Axelrod, a PhD candidate studying chemical physics at Harvard University, is combining AI with physics simulations to design light-activated drugs that could reduce side effects and improve effectiveness. Patients would receive an inactive form of a drug, which is then activated by light in a specific area of the body containing diseased tissue. This localized use of photoactive drugs would minimize the side effects from drugs targeting healthy cells. Axelrod is developing novel computational models that predict properties of photoactive drugs with high speed and accuracy, allowing researchers to focus on only the highest-quality drug candidates. He is advised by Rafael Gomez-Bombarelli, the Jeffrey Cheah Career Development Chair in Engineering in the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering. 

    Low-cost 3D perception

    Arjun Balasingam, a PhD student in electrical engineering and computer science and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory’s (CSAIL) Networks and Mobile Systems group, is developing a technology, called MobiSee, that enables real-time 3D reconstruction in challenging dynamic environments. MobiSee uses self-supervised AI methods along with video and lidar to provide low-cost, state-of-the-art 3D perception on consumer mobile devices like smartphones. This technology could have far-reaching applications across mixed reality, navigation, safety, and sports streaming, in addition to unlocking opportunities for new real-time and immersive experiences. He is advised by Hari Balakrishnan, the Fujitsu Professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at MIT and member of CSAIL.

    Sleep therapeutics

    Guillermo Bernal SM ’14, PhD ’23, a recent PhD graduate in media arts and sciences, is developing a sleep therapeutic platform that would enable sleep specialists and researchers to conduct robust sleep studies and develop therapy plans remotely, while the patient is comfortable in their home. Called Fascia, the three-part system consists of a polysomnogram with a sleep mask form factor that collects data, a hub that enables researchers to provide stimulation and feedback via olfactory, auditory, and visual stimuli, and a web portal that enables researchers to read a patient’s signals in real time with machine learning analysis. Bernal was advised by Pattie Maes, professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab.

    Autonomous manufacturing assembly with human-like tactile perception

    Michael Foshey, a mechanical engineer and project manager with MIT CSAIL’s Computational Design and Fabrication Group, is developing an AI-enabled tactile perception system that can be used to give robots human-like dexterity. With this new technology platform, Foshey and his team hope to enable industry-changing applications in manufacturing. Currently, assembly tasks in manufacturing are largely done by hand and are typically repetitive and tedious. As a result, these jobs are being largely left unfilled. These labor shortages can cause supply chain shortages and increases in the cost of production. Foshey’s new technology platform aims to address this by automating assembly tasks to reduce reliance on manual labor. Foshey is supervised by Wojciech Matusik, MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science and member of CSAIL.  

    Generative AI for video conferencing

    Vibhaalakshmi Sivaraman SM ’19, a PhD candidate in electrical engineering and computer science who is a member of CSAIL’s Networking and Mobile Systems Group, is developing a generative technology, Gemino, to facilitate video conferencing in high-latency and low-bandwidth network environments. Gemino is a neural compression system for video conferencing that overcomes the robustness concerns and compute complexity challenges that limit current face-image-synthesis models. This technology could enable sustained video conferencing calls in regions and scenarios that cannot reliably support video calls today. Sivaraman is advised by Mohammad Alizadeh, MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and member of CSAIL.  More

  • in

    Novo Nordisk to support MIT postdocs working at the intersection of AI and life sciences

    MIT’s School of Engineering and global health care company Novo Nordisk has announced the launch of a multi-year program to support postdoctoral fellows conducting research at the intersection of artificial intelligence and data science with life sciences. The MIT-Novo Nordisk Artificial Intelligence Postdoctoral Fellows Program will welcome its first cohort of up to 10 postdocs for a two-year term this fall. The program will provide up to $10 million for an annual cohort of up to 10 postdoc for two-year terms.

    “The research being conducted at the intersection of AI and life sciences has the potential to transform health care as we know it,” says Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering and Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “I am thrilled that the MIT-Novo Nordisk Program will support early-career researchers who work in this space.”

    The launch of the MIT-Novo Nordisk Program coincides with the 100th anniversary celebration of Novo Nordisk. The company was founded in 1923 and treated its first patients with insulin, which had recently been discovered in March of that year.

    “The use of AI in the health care industry presents a massive opportunity to improve the lives of people living with chronic diseases,” says Thomas Senderovitz, senior vice president for data science at Novo Nordisk. “Novo Nordisk is committed to the development of new, innovative solutions, and MIT hosts some of the most outstanding researchers in the field. We are therefore excited to support postdocs working on the cutting edge of AI and life sciences.”

    The MIT-Novo Nordisk Program will support postdocs advancing the use of AI in life science and health. Postdocs will join an annual cohort that participates in frequent events and gatherings. The cohort will meet regularly to exchange ideas about their work and discuss ways to amplify their impact.

    “We are excited to welcome postdocs working on AI, data science, health, and life sciences — research areas of strategic importance across MIT,” adds Chandrakasan.

    A central focus of the program will be offering postdocs professional development and mentorship opportunities. Fellows will be invited to entrepreneurship-focused workshops that enable them to learn from company founders, venture capitalists, and other entrepreneurial leaders. Fellows will also have the opportunity to receive mentorship from experts in life sciences and data science.

    “MIT is always exploring opportunities to innovate and enhance the postdoctoral experience,” adds MIT Provost Cynthia Barnhart. “The MIT-Novo Nordisk Program has been thoughtfully designed to introduce fellows to a wealth of experiences, skill sets, and perspectives that support their professional growth while prioritizing a sense of community with their cohort.”

    Angela Belcher, head of the Department of Biological Engineering, the James Mason Crafts Professor of Biological Engineering and Materials Science, and member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and Asu Ozdaglar, deputy dean of academics for the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will serve as co-faculty leads for the program.

    The new program complements a separate postdoctoral fellowship program at MIT supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation that focuses on enabling interdisciplinary research. More