January 2018

Dear members of the MIT community,

Over the last several months, I’ve asked you to join a dialogue with the School of Engineering via this monthly newsletter. The depth of thinking in your responses has been truly remarkable.

Your emails have informed our strategic priorities, and left me with vivid observations and stories about education, innovation, and creativity on campus. I look forward to the reading and the touchstone. You never fail to remind me of what makes MIT special.

Last month, I asked, “How did the MIT environment inspire you to think creatively?” I heard primarily from alumni of classes dating back to the early 1950s, describing long careers and lives that have taken unexpected turns. The accomplishments range in style: surprising, brilliant, world-changing, and sometimes, quiet, private, and deep. They include the contributions of a lifelong artist (Course 10), a community builder for governments worldwide (Course 16), and a consultant at a global executive search firm (Course 2).

All the replies I received share a common thread. They describe lives marked by ways of thinking fostered at MIT: flexibility of mind, a spirit of adventure, and a creative mindset. In the words of alumni: “I learned the tools and techniques to address almost any problem and come up with creative solutions.” “I learned that creativity is a team sport.” “I learned to create my life.”

This month is Independent Activities Period at MIT. Students, faculty, staff, and alums are organizing and engaging in all kinds of inventive sessions. There are how-to lessons (build a skateboard; use a ham radio); forums, films, and lectures; tours, recitals, and contests (including one on puzzle-solving). IAP is another touchstone, a vibrant reminder that creative risk-taking is at the heart of MIT culture.

A professor emeritus responded to last month’s question by describing the creative efforts among faculty to address the broader cultural implications of the rapid global development of artificial intelligence. This vital issue inspires my next question to you: “What positive role do you believe MIT can play in the AI revolution?”


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Anantha P. Chandrakasan

Dean, MIT School of Engineering

Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

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Operating rooms on the go

Mechanical engineering student ups the design of portable SurgiBox.

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Inside the mind of a neural network

Inner workings of artificial-intelligence systems revealed.

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No more needles

A stream of medicine as thin as a strand of hair is delivered by jet injection.


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Glow in the dark

Could these plants replace desk lamps and streetlights? That's the vision.

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Engineers 3-D print a "living tattoo"

New kind of ink is made from genetically programmed cells.

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Next-generation tough material

MIT scientists create nanofibers stronger than Kevlar.

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New head of MIT's largest academic department

Asu Ozdaglar is leading the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

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Step out of your comfort zone

Daring and fun winter sessions are back again.