ENGINEERING IN ACTION

  • Entering the Animal World

    Entering the Animal World

    On a field trip, Harriet Ritvo and her MIT students went to look at preserved animals on public display, or stored as lab specimens, in collections housed at Harvard University. They encountered hundreds of species, some up close: touching the wings of a pickled bat, the silky fur of a mink, and the sharp claws of a lynx and a lion. They were part of a 14-person seminar on history and anthropology known as People and Other Animals. The class explores topics like how ideas about animal intelligence and agency have shifted over time, the human moral obligations to animals, and the limits imposed on the use of animals.
  • Genuine Enthusiasm for AI

    Genuine Enthusiasm for AI

    Welcome to “Introduction to Machine Learning,” a course in understanding how to give computers the ability to learn things without being explicitly programmed to do so. The popularity of 6.036, as it is also known, grew steadily after it was first offered, from 138 in 2013 to 302 students in 2016. This year 700 students registered for the course — so many that professors had to find ways to winnow the class down to about 500, a size that could fit in one of MIT’s largest lecture halls.
  • Putting Data in the Hands of Doctors

    Putting Data in the Hands of Doctors

    Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, Regina Barzilay soon learned that good data about the disease is hard to find. Now Barzilay is working with MIT students and medical doctors in an ambitious bid to revolutionize cancer care. She is relying on a tool largely unrecognized in the oncology world but deeply familiar to hers: machine learning.
  • Solid-State Learning

    Solid-State Learning

    When Jeffrey Grossman teaches solid-state chemistry, he keeps it moving. His shoes click across the front of the lecture hall floor with the cadence and energy of a tap dance. He spins toward the chalkboard and rapidly jots down equations. He pauses to hold up a large 3-D model of the atoms in a crystal structure, passes it into the sea of 400 students in the room, then resumes his lecture — without once breaking his rhythm.
  • Fighting ALS with Mind, Hand, and Heart

    Fighting ALS with Mind, Hand, and Heart

    On a recent evening, Pison Technology gathered to advance a novel idea that, if successful, will help people with ALS engage with the world around them. Kneeling by Bobby Forster’s wheelchair, David Cipoletta, a robotics engineer, placed electrodes along his right arm, counted to three, and told him to flex. Forster’s arm remained motionless — but on a nearby laptop, waves on the screen tracked electrical signals in his muscles. When he thought about raising his forearm, the waves shot upward.

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