MIT News - Theater MIT News is dedicated to communicating to the media and the public the news and achievements of the students, faculty, staff and the greater MIT community. en Tue, 24 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Computing and artificial intelligence: Humanistic perspectives from MIT How the humanities, arts, and social science fields can help shape the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing — and benefit from advanced computing. Tue, 24 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p><em>The MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing </em><em>(SCC) </em><em>will reorient the Institute to bring the power of computing and artificial intelligence to all fields at MIT, and to allow the future of computing and AI to be shaped by all MIT disciplines.</em></p> <p><em>To support ongoing planning for the new college, Dean Melissa Nobles invited faculty from all 14 of MIT’s humanistic disciplines in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences to respond to two questions:&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>1) What domain knowledge, perspectives, and methods from your field should be integrated into the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, and why? </em><br /> <br /> <em>2) What are some of the meaningful opportunities that advanced computing makes possible in your field?&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>As Nobles says in her foreword to the series, “Together, the following responses to these two questions offer something of a guidebook to the myriad, productive ways that technical, humanistic, and scientific fields can join forces at MIT, and elsewhere, to further human and planetary well-being.” </em></p> <p><em>The following excerpts highlight faculty responses, with links to full commentaries. The excerpts are sequenced by fields in the following order: the humanities, arts, and social sciences. </em></p> <p><strong>Foreword by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science and the Kenan Sahin Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences </strong></p> <p>“The advent of artificial intelligence presents our species with an historic opportunity — disguised as an existential challenge: Can we stay human in the age of AI?&nbsp; In fact, can we grow in humanity, can we shape a more humane, more just, and sustainable world? With a sense of promise and urgency, we are embarked at MIT on an accelerated effort to more fully integrate the technical and humanistic forms of discovery in our curriculum and research, and in our habits of mind and action.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Comparative Media Studies: William Uricchio, professor of comparative media studies</strong></p> <p>“Given our research and practice focus, the CMS perspective can be key for understanding the implications of computation for knowledge and representation, as well as computation’s relationship to the critical process of how knowledge works in culture — the way it is formed, shared, and validated.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Bring media and computer scholars together to explore issues that require both areas of expertise: text-generating algorithms (that force us to ask what it means to be human); the nature of computational gatekeepers (that compels us to reflect on implicit cultural priorities); and personalized filters and texts (that require us to consider the shape of our own biases).” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Global Languages: Emma J. Teng, the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations</strong></p> <p>“Language and culture learning are gateways to international experiences and an important means to develop cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity. Such understanding is essential to addressing the social and ethical implications of the expanding array of technology affecting everyday life across the globe.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “We aim to create a 21st-century language center to provide a convening space for cross-cultural communication, collaboration, action research, and global classrooms. We also plan to keep the intimate size and human experience of MIT’s language classes, which only increase in value as technology saturates the world.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>History: Jeffrey Ravel, professor of history and head of MIT History </strong></p> <p>“Emerging innovations in computational methods will continue to improve our access to the past and the tools through which we interpret evidence. But the field of history will continue to be served by older methods of scholarship as well; critical thinking by human beings is fundamental to our endeavors in the humanities.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Call on the nuanced debates in which historians engage about causality to provide a useful frame of reference for considering the issues that will inevitably emerge from new computing technologies. This methodology of the history field is a powerful way to help imagine our way out of today’s existential threats.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Linguistics: Faculty of MIT Linguistics</strong></p> <p>“Perhaps the most obvious opportunities for computational and linguistics research concern the interrelation between specific hypotheses about the formal properties of language and their computational implementation in the form of systems that learn, parse, and produce human language.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Critically, transformative new tools have come from researchers at institutions where linguists work side-by-side with computational researchers who are able to translate back and forth between computational properties of linguistic grammars and of other systems.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Literature: Shankar Raman, with Mary C. Fuller, professors of literature</strong></p> <p>“In the age of AI, we could invent new tools for reading. Making the expert reading skills we teach MIT students even partially available to readers outside the academy would widen access to our materials in profound ways.”</p> <p>Recommended action: At least three priorities of current literary engagement with the digital should be integrated into the SCC’s research and curriculum: democratization of knowledge; new modes of and possibilities for knowledge production; and critical analysis of the social conditions governing what can be known and who can know it.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Philosophy: Alex Byrne, professor of philosophy and head of MIT Philosophy; and Tamar Schapiro, associate professor of philosophy</strong></p> <p>“Computing and AI pose many ethical problems related to: privacy (e.g., data systems design), discrimination (e.g., bias in machine learning), policing (e.g., surveillance), democracy (e.g., the&nbsp;Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal), remote warfare, intellectual property, political regulation, and corporate responsibility.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “The SCC presents an opportunity for MIT to be an intellectual leader in the ethics of technology. The ethics lab we propose could turn this opportunity into reality.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Science, Technology, and Society: Eden Medina and Dwaipayan Banerjee, associate professors of science, technology, and society</strong></p> <p>“A more global view of computing would demonstrate a broader range of possibilities than one centered on the American experience, while also illuminating how computer systems can reflect and respond to different needs and systems. Such experiences can prove generative for thinking about the future of computing writ large.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Adopt a global approach to the research and teaching in the SCC, an approach that views the U.S. experience as one among many.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Women's and Gender Studies: Ruth Perry, the Ann Friedlaender Professor of Literature; with Sally Haslanger, the Ford Professor of Philosophy, and Elizabeth Wood, professor of history</strong></p> <p>“The SCC presents MIT with a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in addressing some of most pressing challenges that have emerged from the role computing technologies play in our society — including how these technologies are reinforcing social inequalities.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Ensure that women’s voices are heard and that coursework and research is designed with a keen awareness of the difference that gender makes. This is the single-most powerful way that MIT can address the inequities in the computing fields.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Writing: Tom Levenson, professor of science writing </strong></p> <p>“Computation and its applications in fields that directly affect society cannot be an unexamined good. Professional science and technology writers are a crucial resource for the mission of new college of computing, and they need to be embedded within its research apparatus.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Intertwine writing and the ideas in coursework to provide conceptual depth that purely technical mastery cannot offer.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Music: Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology</strong></p> <p>“Creating tomorrow’s music systems responsibly will require a truly multidisciplinary education, one that covers everything from scientific models and engineering challenges to artistic practice and societal implications. The new music technology will be accompanied by difficult questions. Who owns the output of generative music algorithms that are trained on human compositions? How do we ensure that music, an art form intrinsic to all humans, does not become controlled by only a few?”</p> <p>Recommended action: Through the SCC, our responsibility will be not only to develop the new technologies of music creation, distribution, and interaction, but also to study their cultural implications and define the parameters of a harmonious outcome for all.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Theater Arts: Sara Brown, assistant professor of theater arts and MIT Theater Arts director of design</strong></p> <p>“As a subject, AI problematizes what is means to be human. There are an unending series of questions posed by the presence of an intelligent machine. The theater, as a synthetic art form that values and exploits liveness, is an ideal place to explore the complex and layered problems posed by AI and advanced computing.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “There are myriad opportunities for advanced computing to be integrated into theater, both as a tool and as a subject of exploration. As a tool, advanced computing can be used to develop performance systems that respond directly to a live performer in real time, or to integrate virtual reality as a previsualization tool for designers.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Anthropology: Heather Paxson, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Anthropology</strong></p> <p>“The methods used in anthropology —&nbsp;a field that systematically studies human cultural beliefs and practices — are uniquely suited to studying the effects of automation and digital technologies in social life. For anthropologists, ‘Can artificial intelligence be ethical?’ is an empirical, not a hypothetical, question. Ethical for what? To whom? Under what circumstances?”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Incorporate anthropological thinking into the new college to prepare students to live and work effectively and responsibly in a world of technological, demographic, and cultural exchanges. We envision an ethnography lab that will provide digital and computing tools tailored to anthropological research and projects.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Economics: Nancy L. Rose, the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics and head of the Department of Economics; and David Autor, the Ford Professor of Economics and co-director of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future</strong></p> <p>“The intellectual affinity between economics and computer science traces back almost a century, to the founding of game theory in 1928. Today, the practical synergies between economics and computer science are flourishing. We outline some of the many opportunities for the two disciplines to engage more deeply through the new SCC.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Research that engages the tools and expertise of economics on matters of fairness, expertise, and cognitive biases in machine-supported and machine-delegated decision-making; and on market design, industrial organization, and the future of work. Scholarship at the intersection of data science, econometrics, and causal inference. Cultivate depth in network science, algorithmic game theory and mechanism design, and online learning. Develop tools for rapid, cost-effective, and ongoing education and retraining for workers.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Political Science: Faculty of the Department of Political Science</strong></p> <p>“The advance of computation gives rise to a number of conceptual and normative questions that are political, rather than ethical in character. Political science and theory have a significant role in addressing such questions as: How do major players in the technology sector seek to legitimate their authority to make decisions that affect us all? And where should that authority actually reside in a democratic polity?”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Incorporate the research and perspectives of political science in SCC research and education to help ensure that computational research is socially aware, especially with issues involving governing institutions, the relations between nations, and human rights.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Series prepared by SHASS Communications<br /> Series Editor and Designer: Emily Hiestand<br /> Series Co-Editor: Kathryn O’Neill</em></span></p> Image: Christine Daniloff, MITEducation, teaching, academics, Humanities, Arts, Social sciences, Computer science and technology, Artificial intelligence, Technology and society, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Anthropology, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Economics, Global Studies and Languages, History, Linguistics, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political science, Program in STS, Theater, Music and theater arts, Women's and Gender Studies The music of the spheres MIT hosts &quot;Songs from Extrasolar Spaces,&quot; a musical melding of art and science inspired by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Fri, 09 Aug 2019 13:25:01 -0400 Ken Shulman | Arts at MIT <p>Space has long fascinated poets, physicists, astronomers, and science fiction writers. Musicians, too, have often found beauty and meaning in the skies above. At MIT’s Kresge Auditorium, a group of composers and musicians manifested their fascination with space in a concert titled “Songs from Extrasolar Spaces.” Featuring the Lorelei Ensemble — a Boston, Massachusetts-based women’s choir — the concert included premieres by MIT composers John Harbison and Elena Ruehr, along with compositions by Meredith Monk and Molly Herron. All the music was inspired by discoveries in astronomy.</p> <p>“Songs from Extrasolar Spaces,” part of an MIT conference on TESS — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April 2018. TESS is an MIT-led NASA mission that scans the skies for evidence of exoplanets: bodies ranging from dwarf planets to giant planets that orbit stars other than our sun. During its two-year mission, TESS and its four highly-sensitive cameras survey 85 percent of the sky, monitoring more than 200,000 stars for the temporary dips in brightness that might signal a transit — the passage of a planetary body across that star.</p> <p>“There is a feeling you get when you look at these images from TESS,” says Ruehr, an award-winning MIT lecturer in the Music and Theater Arts Section and former Guggenheim Fellow. “A sense of vastness, of infinity. This is the sensation I tried to capture and transpose into vocal music.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Supported by the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology’s Fay Chandler Creativity Grant; MIT Music and Theater Arts; and aerospace and technology giant Northrop Grumman, which also built the TESS satellite, the July 30 concert was conceived by MIT Research Associate Natalia Guerrero. Both the conference and concert marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing — another milestone in the quest to chart the universe and Earth’s place in it.</p> <p>A 2014 MIT graduate, Guerrero manages the team finding planet candidates in the TESS images at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and is also the lead for the MIT branch of the mission’s communications team. “I wanted to include an event that could make the TESS mission accessible to people who aren’t astronomers or physicists,” says Guerrero. “But I also wanted that same event to inspire astronomers and physicists to look at their work in a new way.”</p> <p>Guerrero majored in physics and creative writing at MIT, and after graduating she deejayed a radio show called “Voice Box” on the MIT radio station WMBR. That transmission showcased contemporary vocal music and exposed her to composers including Harbison and Ruehr. Last year, in early summer, Guerrero contacted Ruehr to gauge her interest in composing music for a still-hypothetical concert that might complement the 2019 TESS conference.</p> <p>Ruehr was keen on the idea. She was also a perfect fit for the project. The composer had often drawn inspiration from visual images and other art forms for her music. “Sky Above Clouds,” an orchestral piece she composed in 1989, is inspired by the Georgia O’Keefe paintings she viewed as a child at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ruehr had also created music inspired by David Mitchell’s visionary novel “Cloud Atlas” and Anne Patchett’s “Bel Canto.” “It’s a question of reinterpreting language, capturing its rhythms and volumes and channeling them into music,” says Ruehr. “The source language can be fiction, or painting, or in this case these dazzling images of the universe.”</p> <p>In addition, Ruehr had long been fascinated by space and stars. “My father was a mathematician who studied fast Fourier transform analysis,” says Ruehr, who is currently composing an opera set in space. “As a young girl, I’d listen to him talking about infinity with his colleagues on the telephone. I would imagine my father existing in infinity, on the edge of space.”</p> <p>Drawing inspiration from the images TESS beams back to Earth, Ruehr composed two pieces for “Songs from Extrasolar Spaces.” The first, titled “Not from the Stars,” takes its name and lyrics from a Shakespeare sonnet. For the second, “Exoplanets,” Ruehr used a text that Guerrero extrapolated from the titles of the first group of scientific papers published from TESS data. “I’m used to working from images,” explains Ruehr. “First, I study them. Then, I sit down at the piano and try to create a single sound that captures their essence and resonance. Then, I start playing with that sound.”</p> <p>Ruehr was particularly pleased to compose music about space for the Lorelei Ensemble. “There’s a certain quality in a women’s choir, especially the Lorelei Ensemble, that is perfectly suited for this project,” says Ruehr. “They have an ethereal sound and wonderful harmonic structures that make us feel as if we’re perceiving a small dab of brightness in an envelope of darkness.”</p> <p>At the 2019 MIT TESS conference, experts from across the globe shared results from the first year of observation in the sky above the Southern Hemisphere, and discussed plans for the second-year trek above the Northern Hemisphere. The composers and musicians hope “Songs from Extrasolar Spaces” brought attention to the TESS missions, offers a new perspective on space exploration, and will perhaps spark further collaborations between scientists and artists. George Ricker, TESS principal investigator; Sara Seager, TESS deputy director of science; and Guerrero presented a pre-concert lecture. “Music has the power to generate incredibly powerful emotions,” says Ruehr. “So do these images from TESS. In many ways, they are more beautiful than any stars we might ever imagine.”</p> <p>TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by Goddard Spaceflight Center. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. More than a dozen universities, research institutes, and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.</p> The Lorelei Ensemble performs in "Songs from Extrasolar Spaces: Music Inspired by TESS" on July 30 in MIT's Kresge Auditorium.Photo: Danny GoldfieldArts, Center for Art, Science and Technology, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Kavli Institute, Astronomy, NASA, TESS, Music, Faculty, School of Engineering, Satellites, Exoplanets, Theater, Special events and guest speakers, Technology and society, Space, astronomy and planetary science, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Alumni/ae 3 Questions: Ken Urban on theater, science, and tech The MIT Playwrights Lab founder discusses the varied connections between the sciences, technology, and the arts. Mon, 04 Feb 2019 12:30:00 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p><em>Ken Urban, a senior lecturer in MIT’s Music and Theater Arts Program (MTA) is a screenwriter, director, musician, and highly acclaimed playwright, whose work has been performed in New York, London, Boston, and Washington. He joined the faculty in 2017 and now leads MIT’s playwriting program. Recently, he launched the MTA Playwrights Lab, a groundbreaking collaboration between MIT students and professional theater artists. </em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> You began college studying chemical engineering but instead became a world-class playwright. In what ways does your affinity for math and science inform your writing or your approach to theater-making? More broadly, do you see fruitful connections between the sciences, technology, and the arts?</p> <p><strong>A. </strong>In terms of how the engineer in me helps my playwriting, it comes down to a question of structure. The thing I loved about studying math and science was how it helped reveal the hidden structure of the universe, and answered questions about how things functioned. When I write a play, I am telling a story and I need to find the best structure to tell that story. When I was in Catholic grammar school, I loved to diagram sentences. We would take a complex sentence and break it down into the parts of speech, then represent that structure in a compact, orderly diagram. What I loved was how it combined my love of language with my love of problem solving. I do the same thing, in a way, when I write a play. I break down the story into scenes, into beats, trying to figure the best, most exciting way to reveal a character or the plot. That feels to me like the work of an engineer.</p> <p>The larger connection between theater making, and science and technology is a little trickier. As a playwright invested in psychology, I love the unadorned quality of plays, of actors on a set being in a believable and emotionally-rich scenario. I admire the work of the Wooster Group, Reza Abdoh&nbsp;— I’m helping organize a retrospective of his work here on campus in February —&nbsp;and others in the experimental scene, who use technology as an integral part of their aesthetic. I just don’t tend to create work like that. Plays about science are especially hard. The amount of material you need to cover for a general audience to understand the science itself can make those plays feel exposition-heavy. That’s never a good thing. It might be why great plays on science are few and far between. But that isn’t stopping me from trying. I am currently working on a new play inspired by Henrietta Lacks and the ethical dilemmas regarding her immortal cells, which are used in labs across the globe.</p> <p>That play will be workshopped here at MIT at our new theater building W97 in March. “The Immortals” is a dangerous comedy that uses the science as a springboard for a larger investigation of ethics. I am looking forward to my students seeing how a new play is developed in rehearsal, and no doubt, they will help the actors, the director, and me understand more about biomedical ethics.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What have you learned as a playwright and dramatic writer that might help individuals and societies better navigate this complex time in history?</p> <p><strong>A. </strong>The best writing advice I ever got was from playwright Erik Ehn. He told me you need to feel the breath of your characters on your neck. I took that to mean you need to know them intimately. They cannot be held at a distance. I got that advice at a crucial moment. I was working on Sense of an Ending, a play about the Rwandan genocide, and I was frustrated because I couldn’t understand the two nuns in my play. I was basing these characters on two actual nuns who were convicted of “crimes against humanity” for their perceived role in a church massacre during the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutu majority. But Erik’s advice helped me realize that I couldn’t look at these women from the outside. To make these characters work as dramatic engines, to make the play successful as an evening of theater, I had to understand why Sister Justina and Sister Alice did what they did. To see myself in them. To have empathy or at least understanding why these women did not help.</p> <p>Understanding others is crucial right now. Remember, of course, that understanding is not the same as forgiving or ignoring conflict. But not to sit in a place of judgment: That is the goal. And that’s what being a playwright has taught me. Not to get too personal, but my father is a climate change denier. It enrages me. But what I have come to understand is that he is motivated by fear. To acknowledge the reality of global climate change is terrifying because it means we have to do something. And it means we are leaving a damaged world to the generations after us. Realizing this facet of my father helped me find ways to challenge him without dismissing him as a person. I ask my writers here at MIT to read an article about a 43-year-old female steelworker who is asked to train the Mexican workers who are replacing her when the American plant is shut down and the company moves. I chose this article because I know this is an experience far removed from my students’ lives, but I want them to do the hard work of finding themselves inside her experience and use that as a springboard for their new play. You cannot write convincingly until you care about people who are different from you.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> President Reif has said that the solutions to today’s challenges depend on pairing advanced technical and scientific capabilities with a broad understanding of the world’s political, cultural, and economic realities. What do you view as the main deterrent to such collaborative, multi-disciplinary problem-solving and how can we resolve it?</p> <p><strong>A.</strong> In key ways, knowledge has become more and more bifurcated. We have specialties and the solution to these global problems requires a multi-faceted approach. One of the joys of a career in the arts is that I am constantly being asked to go outside my comfort zone and to explore subject matter that is beyond my expertise. My PhdD is in English literature and my dissertation was focused on nihilism and 1990s British theater. I was trained to know a lot about Nietzsche and Sarah Kane. But what do I know about Henrietta Lacks and biomedical research? The Rwandan genocide? Being gay in Uganda?</p> <p>Writing plays has helped me gain a broader understanding of our world. I don't know how to solve this vast problem [of siloed research], but I do hope that teaching dramatic writing at MIT helps in some small way. Perhaps, teaching students about the collaborations that foster new writing in the theater, also helps to catalyze new ideas and models for how collaborations might work in their own fields and areas of expertise.</p> <p><em>Interview prepared by MIT SHASS Communicaitons<br /> Series Editor: Emily Hiestand<br /> Consulting Editor: Elizabeth Karagianis</em></p> "Understanding others is crucial right now," Ken Urban says. "You cannot write convincingly until you care about people who are different from you. That’s what being a playwright has taught me."Photo: Kevin Thomas Garcia School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Arts, Faculty, 3 Questions, Collaboration, Music and theater arts, Theater, Technology and society, Science communications Champion figure skater thrives at MIT Computer science major Kevin Shum, a two-time U.S. national champion in figure skating, says competing on the ice helped him grow in and out of the classroom. Sun, 27 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0500 Kailey Tse-Harlow | Division of Student Life <p>“Representing the Skating Club of Boston, please welcome now, <a href="" target="_blank">Kevin Shum</a>!” says the announcer at the 2018 U.S. Collegiate National Championship in Adrian, Michigan. Shum, wearing a sparkly dark-blue-and-black jumpsuit, begins his free skate performance to “The Sound of Silence” by Disturbed.</p> <p>According to Shum, an MIT senior majoring in computer science with a concentration in theater arts, life is about discovering and pursuing passions. Shum is a two-time collegiate champion figure skater and has traveled across the nation and around the world with Team USA’s world junior team. Despite competitive figure skating’s intense environment, the freedom of skating without restrictions or boundaries has sustained Shum’s passion for the sport and has even contributed to his success at MIT.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>Shum grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and first got involved with figure skating at age 6. What started as a hobby quickly evolved into a passion. At age 10, Shum performed in his first skating competition. “I love the big arenas. I love the bright lights. I love the big audience,” Shum says. “It’s a pretty surreal feeling.”</p> <p>Shum is also passionate about his work at MIT. Here, Shum has participated in an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) through the MIT Media Lab. In addition, Shum is an active <a href="" target="_blank">student blogger for the Office of Admissions</a>, where he writes freely about his MIT experience, internships, projects, travels, and skating. He especially enjoyed writing posts about the time he spent in Germany while participating in the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives Global Teaching Labs (<a href="" target="_blank">MISTI GTL</a>) during Independent Activities Period (IAP) in 2018. While there, Shum taught computer science to high school students, and shortly thereafter traveled to Zurich, Switzerland, for the inaugural <a href="" target="_blank">exchange program</a> between ETH Zurich and the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.</p> <p>Recently, Shum worked on a project for the class 6.810 (Engineering Interactive Technologies). He and a partner applied concepts related to adaptive sports to the process of learning to ride a skateboard. Shum’s skateboard detects a rider’s skill level by monitoring how often the board wobbles, and it shrinks or expands in length to fit the rider’s abilities.</p> <p>Each semester, Shum trains at the Cronin Skating Rink in Revere, Massachusetts, up to six days a week for two hours a day. Training includes both on- and off-ice preparation: practicing jumps and footwork on the ice, body conditioning and strengthening at the gym, physical therapy, and a lot of stretching. This Independent Activities Period, Shum is competing in the <a href="" target="_blank">2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships</a> in Detroit, Michigan, skating to Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Luck Be a Lady” from the musical “Guys and Dolls.”</p> <p>His extraordinary commitment to skating has taught Shum to manage and prioritize his time working in the classroom, doing research, and completing projects; applying learning from one passion to another. “If there’s something I want to accomplish, I know I just need to put in the work, put in those hours. Work smart, work hard, and get it done,” he says. “I know I only have 24 hours in a day. It has really forced me to really be intentional about what I spend my time on.”</p> Kevin Shum, MIT senior and two-time U.S. Collegiate National ChampionPhoto: Stephanie Tran/DSL CommunicationsProfile, Students, Undergraduate, Student life, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), MISTI, Theater, Independent Activities Period, Clubs and activities, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, School of Engineering Sound and technology unlock innovation at MIT Cross-disciplinary projects at MIT probe the technological and aesthetic limits of sound. Wed, 26 Dec 2018 14:35:01 -0500 Ken Shulman | Arts at MIT <p>Sound is a powerfully evocative medium, capable of conjuring authentic emotions and unlocking new experiences. This fall, several cross-disciplinary projects at MIT probed the technological and aesthetic limits of sound, resulting in new innovations and perspectives, from motion-sensing headphones that enable joggers to maintain a steady pace, virtual reality technology that enables blind people to experience comic book action, as well as projects that challenge our very relationship with technology.</p> <p><strong>Sound as political participation</strong></p> <p>“Sound is by nature a democratic medium,” says Ian Condry, an anthropologist and professor in MIT’s Department of Global Studies and Languages, adding that “sound lets us listen around the margins and to follow multiple voices coming from multiple directions.”</p> <p>That concept informed this year’s <a href="" target="_blank">Hacking Arts</a> Hackathon Signature Hack, which Condry helped coordinate. The multi-channel audio installation sampled and abstracted audio excerpts from recent presidential inaugural addresses, then blended them with breathing sounds that the team recorded from a live audience. Building on this soundtrack, two team members acted as event DJs, instructing the audience to hum and breathe in unison, while their phones — controlled by an app created for the hackathon — played additional breathing and humming sounds.</p> <p>“We wanted to play with multiple streams of speech and audio,” says Adam Haar Horowitz, a second-year master’s student at the MIT Media Lab, and member of the winning team. “Not just the words, which can be divisive, but the texture and pauses between the words.”</p> <p><strong>A guy walks into a library…</strong></p> <p>What happens when artificial intelligence decides what’s funny? Sound and democracy played prominently in "<a href="">The Laughing Room</a>," an installation conceived by a team including author, illustrator, and MIT PhD candidate Jonny Sun and Stephanie Frampton, MIT associate professor of literature, as part of her project called ARTificial Intelligence, a collaboration between MIT Libraries and the Cambridge Public Library.</p> <p>Funded in part by a Fay Chandler Faculty Creativity Seed Grant from the <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST)</a>, "The Laughing Room" invited public library visitors into a set that evoked a television sitcom living room, where they told stories or jokes that were analyzed by the room’s AI. If the algorithm determined a story was funny, it played a recorded laugh track. "The Laughing Room" — as well as the AI’s algorithmic calculations — were then broadcast on screens in "The Control Room," a companion installation at MIT’s Hayden Library.</p> <p>While fun for the public, the project also mined more serious issues. “There is a tension in society around technology,” says Sun, “between the things technology allows you to do, like having an algorithm tell you your joke is funny, and the price we pay for that technology, which is usually our privacy.”</p> <p><strong>Using sound to keep the pace</strong></p> <p>How can audio augmented reality enhance our quality of life? That challenge was explored by more than 70 students from multiple disciplines who competed in the Bose MIT Challenge in October. The competition, organized by Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology and an MIT graduate who co-founded Harmonix, the company that developed iconic video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band, encourages students to invent real-life applications for Bose AR, a new audio augmented reality technology and platform.</p> <p>This year’s winning entry adapted the Bose’s motion-sensing AR headphones to enable runners to stay on pace as they train. When the runner accelerates, the music is heard behind them. When their place slows, the music sounds as if it’s ahead of them.</p> <p>“I’d joined hackathons at my home university,” said Dominic Co, a one-year exchange student in architecture from the University of Hong Kong and member of the three-person winning team. “But there’s such a strong culture of making things here at MIT. And so many opportunities to learn from other people.”</p> <p><strong>Creating a fuller picture with sound</strong></p> <p>Sound — and the technology that delivers it — has the capacity to enhance everyone’s quality of life, especially for the 8.4 million Americans without sight. That was the target audience of Project Daredevil, which won the <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Creative Arts Competition</a> last April.</p> <p>Daniel Levine, a master’s candidate at the MIT Media Lab, teamed with Matthew Shifrin, a sophomore at the New England Conservatory of Music, to create a virtual-reality system for the blind. The system’s wearable vestibular-stimulating helmet enables the sightless to experience sensations like flying, falling, and acceleration as they listen to an accompanying soundtrack.</p> <p>Shifrin approached Levine two years ago for help in developing an immersive 3-D experience around the Daredevil comic books — a series whose superhero, like Shifrin, is blind. As a child, Shifrin’s father read Daredevil to him aloud, carefully describing the action in every pane. Project Daredevil has advanced that childhood experience using technology.</p> <p>“Because of Dan and his engineering expertise, this project has expanded far beyond our initial plan,” says Shifrin. “It’s not just a thing for blind people. Anyone who is into virtual reality and gaming can wear the device.”</p> <p><strong>A beautiful marriage of art and technology</strong></p> <p>Another cross-disciplinary partnership in sound and technology that resulted in elegant outcomes this fall is the ongoing partnership between <a href="" target="_blank">CAST Visiting Artist Jacob Collier</a> and MIT PhD candidate Ben Bloomberg.</p> <p>Bloomberg, who completed his undergraduate and master’s studies at MIT, studied music and performance design with Tod Machover, the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media and director of the Media Lab’s Opera of the Future group. Bloomberg discovered Collier’s music videos online about four years ago; he then wrote the artist to ask whether he needed any help in adapting his video performances to the stage. Fortunately, the answer was yes.</p> <p>Working closely with Collier, Bloomberg developed a computerized audio/visual performance platform that enables the charismatic composer and performer to move seamlessly from instrument to instrument on stage and sing multiple parts simultaneously. The duo continues to develop and perfect the technology in performance. “It’s like a technological prosthesis,” says Bloomberg, who has worked with dozens of artists, including Bjork and Ariana Grande.</p> <p>While technology has opened the door to richer sound explorations, Bloomberg firmly places it in an artistic realm. “None of this would make any sense were it not for Jacob’s amazing talent. He pushes me to develop new technologies, or to find new ways to apply existing technology. The goal here isn’t to integrate technology just because we can, but to support the music and further its meaning.”</p> <p>Explorations in sound continue into 2019 with the innovative annual performance series <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Sounding</a>. Highlights of the 2018-2019 season include a collaboration with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project in honor of MIT Institute Professor John Harbison’s 80th birthday, the American premiere of the Spider’s Canvas, a virtual 3-D reconstruction of a spider’s web with each strand tuned to a different note, and residencies by two divergent musicians: the Haitian singer and rapper BIC and the innovative American pianist Joel Fan performing works by MIT composers.</p> MIT student Ben Bloomberg stands behind the soundboard at a Jacob Collier concert, December 2018.Photo: Justin Knight PhotographyArts, Technology and society, Music, Center for Art, Science and Technology, Music technology, Special events and guest speakers, Theater, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Augmented and virtual reality, Artificial intelligence Andrew Schneider’s &quot;NERVOUS/SYSTEM&quot; boldly launches MIT Performing Production kicks off MIT Performing series promoting a research-based artistic practice that aims to serve as a new platform for contemporary performance. Wed, 19 Dec 2018 17:10:01 -0500 Michael Hoban | Arts at MIT <p>Albert Einstein once said of his teaching style, “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” That quote essentially describes how OBIE award-winning performer, writer, and interactive-electronics artist Andrew Schneider came to launch the inaugural season of the MIT Performing series, presented by the <a href="">MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology</a> (CAST), with the premiere of his work, "NERVOUS/SYSTEM."</p> <p>The idea to bring Schneider to MIT originated with Josh Higgason, technical instructor in music and theater arts at MIT. His goal was to find artists who were “making some of the most interesting work out in the world, and bring it right to our student’s doorsteps.” Schneider’s theater work met that high mark.</p> <p>The initial plan was to bring Schneider and his collaborators to MIT to present a piece from their repertoire; the proposal later evolved, bringing Schneider to MIT as a CAST visiting artist to present a new work in Building W97, MIT’s new, state-of-the-art theater arts facility. The piece launched MIT Performing, the new prototyping and presenting series curated by Jay Scheib, professor of Theater at MIT, which aims to promote research based artistic practices and serve as a new platform for contemporary performance.</p> <p><strong>The Premiere</strong></p> <p>The modern black box theater saw the premiere of "NERVOUS/SYSTEM" Nov. 9-11. The piece is the final part of a triptych that builds on two previous works from Schneider's "YOUARENOWHERE," which explored parallel universes, and "AFTER,"<em> </em>a theatrical examination of shared consciousness.</p> <p>To augment his independent research, Schneider spoke with MIT faculty and staff across departments, including mechanical engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, and philosophy. These discussions gave him a clearer understanding of space, time, and perception — ideas that would inform the structure and concepts in "NERVOUS/SYSTEM."</p> <p>Schneider returned for a two-week residency at Building W97 in July, 2018, working closely with his recurring collaborators. The group continued to finesse the theatrical design and technical logistics for "NERVOUS/SYSTEM," using infrared video tracking and computer-controlled programming to stage complete blackouts, as well as to devise blocking schemes that create seamless scene changes, which play a critical role in "NERVOUS/SYSTEM."</p> <p>Described as “synaptic theater” by one experimental theater devotee in the audience, "NERVOUS/SYSTEM"<em> </em>examines the way humans connect — or, more often, disconnect — through a series of seemingly random vignettes. Some scenes are literally seconds long before abruptly going black and quickly juxtaposing to an entirely different combination of performers in a new setting. These rapid scene changes often reflect the relentless bombardment of information that informs our technology-driven modern life.</p> <p><strong>Telling stories in new ways</strong></p> <p>While the technical effects were nothing short of astonishing, more striking is the ability of Schneider’s performers, who are called on to handle the constant movement of props and backstage logistics. In this way, "NERVOUS/SYSTEM" is more of an impressionist movement piece than it is theater, as the actors seamlessly execute complex scene changes while communicating emotionally complex storylines, often with few words. Their ability to focus gives the play its visceral power.</p> <p>“With our theater, it may look very hyper-technical — and it is hyper-technical–but that is all in service of telling these stories in new ways,” says Schneider. “We’re trying to work on your brain, so instead of latching onto a narrative about this person who’s failing to achieve success in their life ... we try to work on you in a different way.”</p> <p>Recurrent scenarios thread throughout the piece, such as the frustration the main character encounters when trying to engage their therapist or friends in meaningful conversation, or their repeated attempts to survey busy people in the street, with varying degrees of success. These misfired connections run through the heart of "NERVOUS/SYSTEM." “That’s what a lot of the work is about,” says Schneider. “The difficulty of communicating with other people in the world, and (how) that is leading to many of the problems that we have as human beings. And that’s what I think our work is trying to explore.”</p> <p>Schneider says his experiences at MIT changed his concept of art, science, and technology and the ways in which those disciplines intersect. While much of that shift in thinking came from his one-on-one conversations, it’s also something he sees as “just in the air” at MIT.</p> <p>“Everyone feels it — the whole cast and crew. Being here feels like more of a research laboratory than being in a warehouse space in Brooklyn. So we’re thinking about things differently here.”</p> <p>"NERVOUS/SYSTEM" is presented by &nbsp;the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology, with support from the Council for the Arts at MIT. The work is having a New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this month.</p> "NERVOUS/SYSTEM" by Andrew Schneider and company: (left to right) Ashley Marie Ortiz, Antonio Irizarry, Peter Musante, Lindsay Head, Jamie Roach, T.L. Thompson and Kedian Keohan. Photo: Sham SthankiyaArts, Music and theater arts, Technology and society, Theater, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Times Higher Education ranks MIT No.1 in business and economics, No.2 in arts and humanities Worldwide honors for 2019 span three MIT schools. Thu, 15 Nov 2018 13:25:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>MIT has taken the top spot in the Business and Economics subject category in the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings and, for the second year in a row, the No. 2 spot worldwide for Arts and Humanities.<br /> <br /> The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings by&nbsp;<em>Times Higher Education,</em> a leading British education magazine. The rankings use a set of 13 rigorous performance indicators to evaluate schools both overall and within individual fields. Criteria include teaching and learning environment, research volume and influence, and international outlook.</p> <p><strong>Business and Economics</strong></p> <p>The No. 1 ranking for Business and Economics is based on an evaluation of both the MIT Department of Economics — housed in the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences — and of the MIT Sloan School of Management.</p> <p>“We are always delighted when the high quality of work going on in our school and across MIT is recognized, and warmly congratulate our colleagues in MIT Sloan with whom we share this honor,” said Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS).</p> <p>The Business and Economics ranking evaluated 585 universities for their excellence in business, management, accounting, finance, economics, and econometrics subjects. In this category, MIT was followed by Stanford University and Oxford University.</p> <p>“Being recognized as first in business and management is gratifying and we are thrilled to share the honors with our colleagues in the MIT Department of Economics and MIT SHASS,” said David Schmittlein, dean of MIT Sloan.</p> <p>MIT has long been a powerhouse in economics. For over a century, the Department of Economics at MIT has played a leading role in economics education, research, and public service and the department’s faculty have won a total of nine Nobel Prizes over the years. MIT Sloan faculty have also won two Nobels, and the school is known as a driving force behind MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem: Companies started by MIT alumni have created millions of jobs and generate nearly $2 trillion a year in revenue.</p> <p><strong>Arts and Humanities</strong></p> <p>The Arts and Humanities ranking evaluated 506 universities that lead in art, performing arts, design, languages, literature, linguistics, history, philosophy, theology, architecture, and archaeology subjects. MIT was rated just below Stanford and above Harvard University in this category. MIT’s high ranking reflects the strength of both the humanities disciplines and performing arts located in MIT SHASS and the design fields and humanistic work located in MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P).</p> <p>At MIT, outstanding humanities and arts programs in SHASS — including literature; history; music and theater arts; linguistics; philosophy; comparative media studies; writing; languages; science, technology and society; and women’s and gender studies — sit alongside equally strong initiatives within SA+P in the arts; architecture; design; urbanism; and history, theory, and criticism. SA+P is also home to the Media Lab, which focuses on unconventional research in technology, media, science, art, and design.</p> <p>“The recognition from <em>Times Higher Education</em> confirms the importance of creativity and human values in the advancement of science and technology,” said Hashim Sarkis, dean of SA+P. “It also rewards MIT’s longstanding commitment to “The Arts” — words that are carved in the Lobby 7 dome signifying one of the main areas for the application of technology.”</p> <p>Receiving awards in multiple categories and in categories that span multiple schools at MIT is a recognition of the success MIT has had in fostering cross-disciplinary thinking, said Dean Nobles.</p> <p>“It’s a testament to the strength of MIT’s model that these areas of scholarship and pedagogy are deeply seeded in multiple administrative areas,” Nobles said. “At MIT, we know that solving challenging problems requires the combined insight and knowledge from many fields. The world’s complex issues are not only scientific and technological problems; they are as much human and ethical problems.”</p> “At MIT, we know that solving challenging problems requires the combined knowledge and insight from many fields. The world’s complex issues are not only scientific and technological problems; they are as much human and ethical problems,” says Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.Photo: Madcoverboy/Wikimedia CommonsAwards, honors and fellowships, Arts, Architecture, Business and management, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Economics, Global Studies and Languages, Humanities, History, Literature, Linguistics, Management, Music, Philosophy, Theater, Urban studies and planning, Rankings, Media Lab, School of Architecture and Planning, Sloan School of Management, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences “Schoenberg in Hollywood,” the opera New work by Tod Machover of the Media Lab&#039;s Opera of the Future group examines ideas of heritage, politics, and artistic integrity. Wed, 14 Nov 2018 16:50:00 -0500 Janine Liberty | MIT Media Lab <p>Today the Boston Lyric Opera presents the world premiere of “<a href="" target="_blank">Schoenberg in Hollywood</a>,” a new opera by Tod Machover, the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media and director of the MIT Media Lab's Opera of the Future group. Performances will run through Nov.&nbsp;18.</p> <p>“Schoenberg in Hollywood” is inspired by the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg after he fled Hitler’s Europe in the 1930s. After moving first to Boston and then to Los Angeles, Schoenberg sought connection with his new culture through music. He forged a friendship with famous comedian Harpo Marx, who introduced him to MGM’s Irving Thalberg, who in turn offered him the opportunity to compose a score for the film “The Good Earth.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Schoenberg ultimately turned down the commission, rejecting the lure of more money and greater fame in favor of his artistic integrity (and after proposing highly unrealistic artistic and financial terms). In doing so, Schoenberg chose a path of fidelity to his heritage and his musical identity — a decision that pitted change against tradition, art against entertainment, and personal struggle against public action.</p> <p>Machover’s opera is bookended by the Thalberg meeting, after which the fictional Schoenberg goes off to make a film about his own life. This imagined creation follows the narrative of Schoenberg’s historical journey up to a point, then diverges in a wild fantasy to imagine a different path had Schoenberg been able to reconcile opposing forces. Drawing on inspirations ranging from Jewish liturgical music to Bach and a World War I soundscape to contemporary 20th century music, Machover illustrates Schoenberg’s personal evolution through a synthesis of shifting influences.</p> <p>“I immersed myself in Schoenberg’s world through his extensive — and incredible — writings, his music, his paintings, through visiting his amazing archives in Vienna, and by speaking with many people who knew him,” Machover explains. “But I grew up with Schoenberg’s music, so have been thinking about this for a very long time. It is part of me.”</p> <p>Machover also drew on his own experience as a composer in a rapidly changing world to inform his interpretation of Schoenberg’s musical and personal journey.</p> <p>“The work explores one man's journey to move millions to social and political action while remaining deeply thoughtful and thoroughly ethical,” Machover says. “The underlying artistic, activist, and ethical questions raised in this opera are ones that we ask every day at the Media Lab.”</p> <p>The opera is also uniquely informed by Machover’s dual roles as artist and technologist. The opera blends reality and fantasy, combining live singers and actors with diverse media, and acoustic sound, with complex electronics spread throughout the theater, while incorporating physical stage effects that modify perspective and perception in unusual ways.</p> <p>“The Media Lab is the only environment I know where the forms and technologies of this opera could have been imagined and developed,” Machover says.</p> <p>A polymath and inventor, Schoenberg never earned a degree from any academic or musical institution, but became the top composition professor at the renowned Berlin Conservatory of Music (before being expelled immediately upon Hitler’s rise to power). His depth of knowledge informed but never limited his own musical explorations. His invention of 12-tone technique, which Schoenberg described as “a method of composing with 12 tones which are related only with one another," changed the face of Western music in the 20th century and beyond.</p> <p>“He invented not only music but all kinds of unusual things, like a new notation system for tennis games (designed to annotate his son’s expert playing), contraptions to draw his own customized music manuscript paper, a curriculum to train movie composers in a purely sonic art, a painting technique to allow him to depict his inner mental state rather than outside physical features in a series of self-portraits,” says Machover. “As an intellect and creator, Schoenberg would have fit right into the Media Lab.”</p> <p>In celebration not only of the opera’s premiere but also of the Media Lab’s informal adoption of Schoenberg, the lab is now hosting an <a href="" target="_blank">exhibition</a> on “Schoenberg in Hollywood” in the lobby gallery of Building E14. Videos and archival materials trace Schoenberg’s journey, including materials on loan from the Schoenberg Center in Vienna, most of which have never before been shown in the Boston area. The exhibition also serves as a companion to the opera, offering a listening station, a video trailer of one of the opera’s climactic moments, some of Machover’s own musical sketches, and an illustrated timeline juxtaposing events in Schoenberg’s life with scenes and sounds from Machover’s opera.</p> <p>“The exhibition is a resonant companion to the opera, useful whether experienced before or after a performance,” explains Machover. “But is also meant to stand alone to introduce the art and life of this remarkable creator to the MIT community and beyond, and to tell at least a bit of the story about why this unusual new opera grew out of inspiration from Arnold Schoenberg ... and the MIT Media Lab itself.”</p> <p>“Schoenberg in Hollywood”<em> </em>runs Nov.&nbsp;14-18 at the Emerson Paramount Theater in Boston. The Media Lab’s exhibition is currently open to the public and will run through April 30.</p> Singer Omar Ebrahim as Arnold Schoenberg as Humphrey Bogart, from "Schoenberg in Hollywood"Photo: Peter TorpeyMusic, School of Architecture and Planning, Media Lab, History, Theater, Arts, Technology and society In profile: Jamshied Sharifi ’83, Tony Award winner Composer, musician, and former MIT visiting artist received a 2018 Tony Award for best orchestrations on “The Band&#039;s Visit.” Fri, 15 Jun 2018 16:30:01 -0400 Matthew Robinson | Arts at MIT <p>While MIT may be best known for its Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur “Geniuses,” on June 10, a Tony Award was added to the mix, thanks to composer Jamshied Sharifi ’83, who orchestrated the music for the record-breaking Broadway hit “<a href="">The Band’s Visit</a><em>.</em>”</p> <p>Though he admits that some may see an MIT alumnus winning a Tony as “a bit of an oddity,” Sharifi also hopes that it will demonstrate “the breadth of the student body.”</p> <p>“MIT people excel at math and science,” he observes, following what may be the most common preconception, “but they’re often broad in their interests and abilities. Every time I come to MIT to take part in a musical event I’m amazed at the level of musicianship, musical intelligence, and passion.”</p> <p>Sharifi credits composer David Yazbek, who wrote the score to “The Band's Visit,” with being his “overall musical guru.”</p> <p>“I think he wrote a score that perfectly straddles the worlds of Arabic music and Broadway,” Sharifi says, noting that, as orchestrator, he was responsible for arranging Yazbek’s songs for an ensemble, as he has done at MIT and elsewhere.</p> <p>Despite his demure attitude, Sharifi still sees why he was a good fit for the project.</p> <p>“As I had a great deal of experience with Middle Eastern music,” he reasons, “it was a natural fit, and the instruments used in the show were and are intimately familiar to me.”</p> <p>That said, Sharifi sees it as a “huge honor, both to be nominated and to be selected” and expresses appreciation for the many who have stood by and supported the show.</p> <p>“Although it was clear from nearly the beginning that 'The Band’s Visit' had a lot of critical love,” observes, Sharifi “that doesn’t necessarily translate into awards. So, for the show to be so recognized, especially for an unusual, quiet, understated show such as this one, is very sweet. &nbsp;For me personally, well, it’s still pretty unreal!”</p> <p><strong>Jazzy Jayhawk</strong></p> <p>Born in Topeka, Kansas, Sharifi was exposed at an early age to a wide range of international musical forms and styles, thanks to his American-born mother and Iranian-born father.</p> <p>“I grew up in Kansas City,” Sharifi explains, citing the birthplace of such legends as Charlie Parker, Count Basie, and Pat Metheny as his hometown. “I was able to find good teachers and a community of musicians my age who were interested in jazz and improvised music.”</p> <p>Sharifi began taking piano lessons with his keyboard-playing mother at the age of 5 and then branched out into guitar and drums at 9 and added flute at 10.</p> <p>“She always encouraged me,” Sharifi says of his mother, “and also pushed me to study other instruments.”</p> <p>His ever-expanding repertoire of instruments have helped Sharifi succeed in various parts of the music industry, from composing to conducting and to scoring musicals and films.</p> <p><strong>From KC to MIT</strong></p> <p>As his father is a chemist (and also a “huge music fan”), Sharifi was not only “jazz aware” but science aware — and aware, in particular, of a certain school in Massachusetts.</p> <p>“MIT was on my radar,” he recalls. “I don’t know where I first heard of it, but it was a legendary place where one could get deep into those subjects.”</p> <p>Though he admits to preferring music to matriculation when he graduated from high school, Sharifi deferred acceptance to MIT and did not enroll until he was urged by high school friend (and eventual fellow MIT student) Shlomo Vile '83, '84.</p> <p>“Shlomo…had gone ahead,” Sharifi recalls, “and he came home that summer and said I had to go.”</p> <p><strong>Arts at the Institute</strong></p> <p>While at MIT, Sharifi was able to pursue his proclivities in both science and the arts and came to see both as great strengths at the school. However, he maintains, the arts programs have continued to expand since he graduated.</p> <p>“The arts at MIT have become a much bigger part of campus life since I was a student,” he maintains, “and I think now there are many more opportunities for students to find artistic expression than when I attended.”</p> <p>During his time as a student, Sharifi became involved with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble and got to know its legendary leader Herb Pomeroy.</p> <p>“I met Herb as a freshman,” he recalls of the former sideman for fellow Sunflower State son Charlie Parker. And while he was not admitted to the ensemble until his junior year, Pomeroy had apparently seen something special in Sharifi. So much so that, upon his retirement, Pomeroy asked Sharifi to take over as conductor of the ensemble. In this capacity, Sharifi continued to compose and perform and helped the band win top honors at the prestigious Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz festival in 1991.</p> <p>“I think from that point on I’ve been pretty deeply connected to music at MIT,” Sharifi says. He also thanks the current MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble Director Fred Harris, who called upon Sharifi to compose a work in honor of Pomeroy’s 75th birthday, for encouraging the ongoing relationship; a relationship that has seen Sharifi return to arrange for 2017 Grammy-winner Jacob Collier and MIT musicians and to compose for MIT’s Great Clarinet Summit.</p> <p>“I have the greatest respect for him as a person and musician,” says Harris, calling Sharifi “absolutely first-rate in every regard and a true consummate professional. ... I’m not surprised at all that he won a Tony!”</p> <p><strong>Keeping score</strong></p> <p>When he graduated from MIT with a degree in humanities in 1983, Sharifi went across the river to the Berklee College of Music, where he studied jazz piano and composition. It was at Berklee that Sharifi began to show an interest in film scoring.</p> <p>“I had always felt a draw to film music and the relationship between film and music,” Sharifi says, citing Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” as an early inspiration. Working at Berklee with such scoring stars as Michael Gibbs only encouraged this passion. In a few short years, Sharifi had scored three films and 15 hour-long televisions shows. Among his more notable scores are those for “<a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">Muppets From Space</a>,” the Nickelodeon film “<a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">Harriet the Spy</a>,” “<a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">The Rugrats Movie</a>,” and the 1999 remake of “<a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">The Thomas Crown Affair</a>.” This experience also allowed Sharifi to meet other collaborators, eventually leading him to the team that scored “The Band's Visit.”</p> <p>“My dear friend and frequent collaborator Rob Mathes was the music director of Sting’s 'The Last Ship,'” Sharifi explains, recalling how a scheduling issue encouraged Mathes to call him for help. “On that show I met Dean Sharenow, who … is a longtime friend of 'Band'<em> </em>music supervisor David Yazbek, and he recommended me as an orchestrator.”</p> <p><strong>Spring “Awakening”</strong></p> <p>While his Berklee experience emphasized his love for Jazz, Sharifi’s Middle Eastern influences continued to shine through, giving his scores a distinctive sound and feel; one that is enhanced by technological advances he developed at MIT, including a breath-controlled pitch bender on his synthesizer which allows Sharifi to play it like an acoustic instrument.</p> <p>“I did a lot of listening and transcription of very old — nearly a century old — Arabic recordings,” Sharifi recalls. “This led to a set of original melodies that I drew on.”</p> <p>The Middle Eastern influences on Sharifi’s life and music came to fullest fruition in 2013, when he was asked by MIT Wind Ensemble Music Director Fred Harris to compose music about the Arab Spring for a concert that was filmed by MIT Video Productions and broadcast by Boston’s PBS affiliate WGBH. The documentary about Sharifi’s composition, “<a href="" target="_self">Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring Through Music</a>,” won a New England Emmy Award.</p> <p>“It was a terrific synergistic collaboration between the performing arts and media arts at MIT,” noted MIT Video Production Senior Director Lawrence Gallagher.</p> <p>As the accolades continue to pour in for “Band,” Sharifi is already working on the orchestrations for the musical version of “Monsoon Wedding”<em> </em>by Mira Nair (who, Sharifi notes, studied film at MIT while attending another school down the river) and producing records for Pharaoh’s Daughter and Mirabai Ceiba.</p> <p>“I’m [also] trying to keep up with my kids Kai and Layla,” he says.</p> Jamshied Sharifi, winner of the Tony Award for Best Orchestrations for “The Band's Visit”Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards ProductionsAwards, honors and fellowships, Alumni/ae, Music, Theater, Arts, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Profile CS+HASS SuperUROP debuts with nine research projects In yearlong program, MIT students apply computer science to humanities, arts, and social science research. Tue, 15 May 2018 16:10:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>Trade policy, government transparency, and music composition systems were among the humanities, arts, and social science (HASS) research areas explored this year by students in MIT’s Advanced Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, better known as the SuperUROP.<br /> <br /> These and similar HASS-related research projects materialized because the SuperUROP — which launched in 2012 in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) — was extended to support research projects in MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Thanks to a generous grant from an anonymous donor, nine students <a href="">participated in the yearlong program</a> as CS+HASS Undergraduate Research and Innovation Scholars.</p> <p>“The cool thing about CS+HASS is that a lot of computer science is not yet applied to the social science and humanities fields,” says Samir Dutta, a junior in computer science with a minor in economics. “You are combining two fields that haven’t been combined that much in the past, so it’s a great opportunity to find new things. You’re pioneering a new type of analysis.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Pioneering students </strong></p> <p>Dutta’s SuperUROP project involved applying machine learning and big data analysis to a dataset of more than 10 billion tariff rate observations with the goal of better understanding the economic and political determinants of tariffs. “His research advances our understanding of the interaction between political institutions and product-level polices,” says In Song Kim, an assistant professor of political science and one of Samir’s SuperUROP advisors.</p> <p>Mikayla Murphy, a senior in civil and environmental engineering who is minoring in computer science, says that using computer science to advance political science research “felt different” from anything she had done before. For her SuperUROP, Murphy worked on a MIT GOV/LAB’s project examining local U.S. government websites and rating them for transparency. Her task was to automate the data analysis system to produce useful fact sheets for government officials and the public.<br /> <br /> “Being able to do this cross-disciplinary project applying CS to political science has definitely been very interesting,” she says. “I had seen how science labs operate, but in a political science lab it’s different. Seeing how my advisor [F. Daniel Hidalgo, the Cecil and Ida Green Associate Professor of Political Science] approaches problems and wants to release all this information to the public — which is not always the goal of scientific research — has been cool.”<br /> <br /> <strong>A deep dive for undergraduates</strong></p> <p>The SuperUROP program consists of a two-semester course, 6.UAR (Seminar in Undergraduate Advanced Research), and at least 10 hours a week in the lab — making it a deep dive into research that is a new experience for many undergraduates.<br /> <br /> “This is my first super-real-serious research endeavor, so it’s been a crazy learning experience,” says Jacob Higgins, a junior in comparative media studies who did his SuperUROP with Professor D. Fox Harrell, who has appointments in both Comparative Media Studies and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “Being able to interact with people much further along on their journey as researchers is so valuable to me just starting out.”<br /> <br /> For his project, Higgins worked on a tool for applications such as Chimeria Grayscale, a video game intended to spark reflection on topics like sexism in the workplace. The tool is designed to automate the work of developers by ensuring interactive narratives take different paths in response to user inputs.<br /> <br /> “It’s a lot of human-computer interaction,” Higgins says, noting that the work called for a truly interdisciplinary skillset. “I did a lot of coding and computational thinking, including applying the fundamentals of software construction I learned in 6.031 to implement the tool. And, from the humanities side, the critical analysis I’ve done in Comparative Media Studies prepared me to think of stakeholders and evaluate tools using metrics that are correct for this kind of interdisciplinary, human-computer interaction field.”<br /> <br /> The first nine CS+HASS SuperUROP research projects are: "Does Democracy Cause Free Trade?" by <a href="" target="_blank">Emma Bingham</a>; "Eye-Tracking Experiment on Reading Patterns of Non-Natives" by <a href="" target="_blank">Run Chen</a>; "Spectacles: Assisting Speculative Analysis in Active Archives" by <a href="" target="_blank">Peter Downs</a>; "Linking the Political and Economic Determinants of International Trade with Tariff Rate Data" by <a href="" target="_blank">Samir Dutta</a>; "Dynamic Background Music for Action Adventure Video Games" by <a href="" target="_blank">Patrick Egbuchlam</a>; "Video Games for Social Issues" by <a href="" target="_blank">Jacob Higgins</a>; "Digital Governance: Using Big Data to Measure Government Transparency Online" by <a href="" target="_blank">Mikayla Murphy</a>; "Theatryc: A New Theater-Arts Communication Platform" by <a href="" target="_blank">Nitah Nyang'ate Onsongo</a>; and "Real-Time Audio Synchronization" by <a href="" target="_blank">Smriti Pramanick</a>.</p> <h5><em>Story prepared by SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Senior Writer: Kathryn O'Neill</em></h5> “Realizing that I could leverage my technical background in computer science to drive innovation in the theater arts motivated me to be part of the CS+HASS-SuperUROP,” says Nitah Nyang’ate Onsongo. “I hope to gain a better understanding of the scope of the communication breakdown within the theater field and help revolutionize how theater is received by society.”Photo: Gretchen Ertl Classes and programs, Arts, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Computer science and technology, Economics, Humanities, Political science, Social sciences, Students, Research, SuperUROP, Theater, Global Studies and Languages, Video games, School of Engineering, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs) Playwrights Lab gives young writers a professional experience MIT Music and Theater Arts lab provides students with a chance to workshop scripts with seasoned actors and directors in a professional setting. Mon, 23 Apr 2018 13:00:01 -0400 Amelia Mason | Arts at MIT <p>On a recent Friday evening, six people gathered around a table in a mostly-empty studio in MIT’s new theater arts building on the western edge of campus. In a few hours time, the group — local actors Marge Buckley and Sarah Bedard, the Brooklyn-based director Adam Greenfield, and MIT undergrads Kollin Wasserlein and Robert Thorpe — would stage a live reading of Wasserlein’s new play, “Sand.” They had never been in a room together before then.</p> <p>The group made quick work of introductions and launched enthusiastically into the script. “Sand” is a short play about two working-class teenagers trying to escape the oppressions and frustrations of small-town life. It is based in part on Wasserlein’s childhood in Utah. Although it has a timeless, otherworldly feel, the playwright’s lyrical language propels his protagonists through a set of darkly absurd obstacles with alacrity and wit. The rehearsal in April was the first time Wasserlein, a junior, had ever heard professional actors read his work out loud.</p> <p>And that, in a nutshell, was the whole point. “Sand” was one of eight student plays performed by working actors in readings directed by professional directors throughout the weekend of April 5-7 in MIT’s first&nbsp; Music and Theater Arts (MTA) Playwrights Lab. The lab’s playwrights were all students in MIT’s Playwrights’ Workshop, taught by Senior Lecturer Ken Urban, who joined the MIT faculty last fall.</p> <p>The three-day festival was Urban’s idea. “I think hearing a professional actor read your words teaches you so much about language,” Urban said in an interview that night. “What you learn is how much you can do with little, how certain choices about how a line is delivered has ramifications on the story you’re telling.”</p> <p>With the MTA Playwrights’ Lab, Urban hoped to give his students something invaluable: a chance to workshop their scripts with seasoned actors and directors in a professional setting. While it is common in theater arts programs for student plays to be staged by student companies, with the occasional director brought in from outside, Urban’s model is unique. “It becomes the writer's educational experience and not the group's educational experience in this setting,” said Greenfield, who serves as the associate artistic director of Playwrights Horizons theater in New York City. “Which I think is very valuable for writers.”</p> <p>The eight student plays had been workshopped in class during the first half of the semester, and after the readings, the writers had a chance to hone a final draft for submission at the end of the term. Their first drafts were written in response to a collection of prompts provided by Urban, including an article about Russian interference in the election and an essay by the musician David Byrne about the isolating impact of technology on modern life. The plays run the gamut, from a Game of Thrones-like fantasy piece to a present-day sociopolitical dama to a sci-fi caper. But Urban saw some common threads. <strong>“</strong>There ended up being a lot of death in these plays, and I don't think that's an accident. I think plays are always kind of records of our time, and I think young people going out into the world, they want to change the world because they think it's in pretty bad shape,” he said. “There's a real concern about technology and the future and what world my generation is handing off to young people.”</p> <p>Rachel Yang, a senior at MIT, was one of those students whose plays tackled looming questions about technology. Her play, “Tactless,” takes place in something like a bionic future, in which most of humanity has been implanted with brain-computer interfaces. Yang’s protagonist, however, never received implants, and her position as an outsider in her own world brings up knotty questions of difference and belonging, privilege and oppression — issues that resonate with the current moment.</p> <p>For Yang, the process of workshopping her piece was invaluable. “You learn a lot from hearing what other writings are working on: ‘Oh, they’re using that sort of device, cool, I should use that in mine,’” she said. “Playwriting, at the end of the day, it's one author, but it can be a really cool collaborative work.”</p> <p>Yang’s group finished its rehearsal, breaking for dinner before the reading. Though her play had yet to be read publicly, Yang was already thrilled with the weekend’s results. “This is going to be one of my best memories at MIT.”</p> Left to right: Ayomide Fatunde, Jordan Clark, and Cody Sloan take part in the MIT Playwrights Lab.Photo: Sarah WagnerClasses and programs, Arts, Music and theater arts, Theater, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Literature, languages and writing Featured video: Celebrating the arts at MIT A mercurial snapshot of the myriad ways in which MIT community members can express themselves through the arts Thu, 05 Apr 2018 10:50:00 -0400 MIT News Office <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>What makes the arts such a vital part of MIT? A creative culture where experimentation and innovation cross all disciplines and break all boundaries. More than half of all undergraduates expand their horizons by enrolling in arts classes each year, on a campus that features more than 3,500 noted works of contemporary art and landmark buildings designed by legendary architects like Frank Gehry and I.M. Pei.</p> <p>Since the 1960s, MIT has been forging connections between the fields of science and engineering and the worlds of visual and performing arts. From the founding of the <a href="" target="_blank">Center for Art, Science and Technology</a> (CAST) to the <a href="" target="_blank">opening of a new performance space</a> for our preeminent prominent music and theater program to the planned relocation and expansion of the MIT Museum, investment in the arts at MIT has never been stronger.</p> <p>The arts have been an essential part of the MIT culture from the start. Our <a href="" target="_blank">School of Architecture and Planning</a>, founded in 1865, was the first architecture program in the United States and remains at the forefront of design innovation today. In 1967, Bauhaus artist György Kepes created the Center for Advanced Visual Studies to bring together artists, scientists, and engineers and to pioneer the use of new technology as an artistic medium. The legacy of those collaborations continues through the Media Lab, Program in Art, Culture and Technology, Comparative Media Studies and CAST. The List Visual Arts Center, founded in 1985, is one of the region’s most esteemed venues for cutting-edge contemporary art exhibitions. In the performing arts, two professors of music hold the highest honor awarded to MIT faculty, Institute Professor; the award-winning faculty in the <a href="" target="_blank">School of Humanties, Arts, and Social Sciences</a> provide conservatory-level training and compose, commission, and perform classical, contemporary, and world music.</p> <p>With over 25 majors, minors and degree programs; hands-on classes; makerspaces; and 100-plus concerts and exhibitions open to the public each year, there are more ways than ever for the campus community to express itself through the arts at MIT.</p> <p><em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;">Submitted by: Arts at MIT </span></em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;">| </span><em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;">Video by: Arts at MIT and Trillium Studios </span></em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;">|</span><em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;"> 1 min, 49 sec</span></em></p> A video from Arts at MIT provides a mercurial snapshot of the myriad ways in which MIT community members can express themselves through the arts.Photo: Arts at MITArts, Featured video, Center for Art, Science and Technology, MIT Museum, Architecture, Music, Theater, Media Lab, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, School of Architecture and Planning, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Technology and society, List Visual Arts Center SHASS Research Fund names 10 recipients for 2018 Wed, 03 Jan 2018 08:35:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The annual SHASS Research Fund supports MIT research&nbsp;in the humanities, arts, and&nbsp;social sciences that shows promise of making an important contribution to the proposed area of activity. The 10 recipients for 2018 are:</p> <p><a href="">Nikhil Agarwal</a><strong>,</strong>&nbsp;assistant professor of economics:<strong>&nbsp;</strong>The near-universal coverage of dialysis treatments under Medicare, including for people under age 65, is unique in the U.S. health care system.&nbsp;Agarwal plans to use his SHASS research funding to analyze previously collected data to explore whether and how Medicare reimbursement rates affect the quiality of dialysis care and patient outcomes.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Charlotte Brathwaite</a>, assistant professor of&nbsp;music and theater arts:<strong>&nbsp;</strong>SHASS research funding will support "Forgotten Paradise: Grazettes Sun," a film project by director Brathwaite. Inspired by being united with her estranged brother for the first time, Brathwaite plans to take a small crew on a research trip to the Gold Coast (Ghana, Benin, and Togo) to excavate the jigsaw puzzle of history and memory&nbsp;and to identify locations significant to her own ancestry and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Sarah Brown</a>, director of design for music and theater arts:&nbsp;SHASS research funding will allow Brown to join the production of&nbsp;Gregory Spears’ opera, "Fellow Travelers," which dramatizes the lives of Americans whose careers were ended and lives were transformed during the "Lavender Scare," a period in the Cold War when LGBTQ people were expelled&nbsp;from the federal government because of their sexual identities.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Lerna Ekmekcioglu</a>, associate professor of&nbsp;history: Ekmekcioglu's funding will support her ongoing book and digital humanities project, "Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology and a Digital Archive." With Melissa Bilal, a visiting scholar with MIT History, Ekmekcioglu traces the development of Armenian feminist thought&nbsp;from the 1860s to the 1960s.&nbsp;It will be the first collection in English on the topic.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Malick Ghachem</a>, associate professor of history:&nbsp;Ghachem's book on the rise of plantation capitalism in Haiti during the 1720s, "The Old Regime and the Haitian Revolution," will be translated into French with the support of SHASS research funding, making the work available to Francophone scholars in France and elsewhere in the French-speaking world. Funding will also allow&nbsp;Ghachem&nbsp;to present his research in France upon its publication by Éditions Karthala and the Centre international de recherches sur les esclavages.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Frederick Harris, Jr.</a>, director of&nbsp;wind and jazz ensembles for music and theater arts: With the support of SHASS research funding, Harris plans to begin researching the life and musical career of Herb Pomeroy (1930-2007) toward a biography with the&nbsp;working title of "It’s the Note You Don’t Play: The musical life of Herb Pomeroy." In addition to portraying Pomeroy's personal life, this book will analyze the three major areas of his musicianship: trumpeter, director/conductor, and educator.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Mark Harvey</a>, senior lecturer in music and theater arts: SHASS Research Fund support will enable the recording and production of a new album of original compositions by Harvey, all performed with the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra. The centerpiece will be “Swamp-a-Rama,” a composition at turns satirical and serious that responds to the current sociopolitical climate in the United States.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="">Sabine Iatridou</a>, professor of linguistics:&nbsp;In Dutch and German, question words such as “what”&nbsp;are identical to existential words such as “something." Why does a single word have these two different meanings? Which meaning came first in the development of the language?&nbsp;What does that tell us about the development of language more generally?&nbsp;Iatridou will explore these questions with the support of SHASS research funding in coordination with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Seth Mnookin</a>, professor of comparative media studies/writing: Funding will support a new book focused on the cultural, historical, and scientific underpinnings of how we age, as well as on research efforts designed to extend both lifespan and healthspan.&nbsp;In addition to providing a detailed overview of research that could reframe how we think about aging, the book will offer readers a guide to what age-related issues can be mitigated by changes to lifestyle, medical interventions, or pharmacological interventions — and which paths to avoid.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Ariel White</a>, assistant professor of political science:&nbsp;With an unprecedented amount of material, White and her colleagues will use a textual analysis tool to analyze the language used to report on crime, asking whether and to what extent&nbsp;local media outlets focus mostly on crimes committed by nonwhite suspects. They will also analyze the relationship between reporting trends and actual crime statistics to see whether these publications accurately reflect the level and type of crime.</p> <p>MIT's&nbsp;School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is home to research that has a global impact, and to graduate programs recognized as among the finest in the world. The school's research portfolio includes international studies, linguistics, economics, poverty alleviation, history, literature, anthropology, digital humanities, philosophy, global studies and languages, music and theater, writing, political science, security studies, women's and gender studies, and comparative media studies. MIT's SHASS&nbsp;research helps alleviate poverty; safeguard elections; steer economies; understand the past and present; assess the impact of new technologies; understand human language; create new forms at the juncture of art and science; and inform policy and cultural mores on issues including justice, healthcare, energy, climate, education, work and manufacturing, inclusion, and economic equity.</p> The SHASS Research Fund supports MIT research that shows promise of making an important contribution in the humanities, arts, or social sciences. Image: SHASS Communications SHASS, Faculty, Awards, honors and fellowships, Economics, Music, Theater, History, Linguistics, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Science writing, Political science, Research, Grants, Funding New chapter for theater at MIT opens with “Everybody,” a morality play for our time Starting with inaugural performance in new facility, students immerse themselves in all aspects of making theater. Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>“Everybody,” the inaugural performance in MIT’s new theater building, is a 2017 play based on “Everyman,” the venerable 15th century English morality play. As performed last week at MIT, “Everybody” at once updates a masterwork from the distant past, and represents the future — the great range of new arts opportunities that the new Building W97 is making possible at MIT.</p> <p>Speaking at a preview performance of “Everybody,” Institute Professor Marcus Thompson said, “It’s hard to describe the thrill of the MIT performing arts now having our own ‘lab’ where we can experiment, rehearse, collaborate, create — and share our work with the MIT community and the wider culture.”</p> <p>The first MIT theater production to be designed, rehearsed, built, and staged in W97’s purpose-built space enabled MIT students to be far more immersed in creating and making. From building sets, to problem-solving light and sound installations, to gaining experience in stagecraft and narrative, the students’ activities epitomize the Institute’s maker culture.</p> <p>”Everybody” showcases not only the production values the new space affords, but also reflects the Institute’s priority to engage students in developing new and deepened perspectives on the world. “The MIT mission is to serve humanity,” said Thompson, “and the arts are a powerful way for our students to grow in knowledge and understanding of the human condition.”</p> <p>Standing in the new blackbox theater, illuminated by a spotlight, President L. Rafael Reif said: “The arts are critical to the MIT experience.They give our students tools they need to succeed — not simply as scientists, engineers, and scholars, but as informed contributors to society — as citizens.”</p> <p><strong>A home for innovation and experimentation</strong><br /> <br /> In fulfilling this aspect of their mission, the MIT Theater Arts faculty plan to bring more diverse voices and new plays like “Everybody” to campus, another ambition the ingeniously designed W97 facility makes possible. “There is a great focus at MIT on innovation and experimentation in all the technical and scientific areas, and our students also want and need to know about the comparable range of exciting innovation, research, and experimentation in the arts,” says Anna Kohler, the noted artist and senior lecturer in MIT Theater Arts who directed “Everybody.”</p> <p>The demand is great. Student enrollment in theater arts has doubled since 2012, and Course 21M (Music and Theater Arts, or MTA) currently has the fifth largest enrollment of any course at MIT. In 2015, MIT added a BS in theater to give the most engaged students a broad foundation in theoretical and practical studies as well as intensive practice in performance and design.</p> <p>Kohler adds that as MIT Theater Arts is “transforming more and more into a research program, it is more valuable than ever to bring the voices of experimental playwrights and theater-makers to the MIT student body.”</p> <p>“Everybody” more than fits this criteria because playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins reimagines the original text to give ample space for social critique and technical experimentation. One of the actors, Natalia Guerrero ’14, who majored in physics with a writing minor, says the production showed her that a play is “so much bigger than the text. There’s movement, action, light, sound, music, video — all these tools breathe life into the pages of dialogue, making them into something real and vital.”</p> <p><strong>A feast and a journey</strong></p> <p>The show opens with a medieval banquet on the steps of Salzburg Cathedral, where Hugo von Hoffmannsthal’s 1911 play “Jedermann” is being performed. Kohler included this prelude for historical context. “Jedermann,” like “Everybody,” follows the same basic plot as its source, “Everyman.” The protagonist, Everyman, is on top, until he isn’t. He learns that he is dying and must account for his choices. He journeys toward life’s end unconsoled by friends, family, or material wealth. Only one companion, Good Deeds (or, in the Jacobs-Jenkins version, Love), accompanies him to the grave.</p> <p>When the opening “Jedermann” scene ends, the set is reconfigured. The massive banquet table becomes the stage for “Everybody.” Both actors and audience sit around it — a reminder that everyone partakes equally of this feast. The theater becomes a techno-fiesta adorned with brightly colored Dia de los Muertos decor, mariachi music, and dancing skeletons, all of which lend levity to the sober subject.</p> <p>On this multimedia production, Kohler, an early member of the Wooster Group, a theater company highly regarded for combining live audio and video in surprising ways, collaborated with Joshua Higgason, a technical instructor, and Sara Brown, director of design for MTA. The associate designer, Brandon Sanchez, a senior in electrical engineering and computer science, created several key elements for the set, and students in MTA’s stagecraft class are running the show each night.</p> <p>With its allegorical characters, video interludes, and nontraditional staging, “Everybody” affords the 13 student actors in the ensemble ample opportunities to deepen and expand their performance skills. For many of the students, the show is also their first immersion in all the facets of a full-scale production, from acting, voice, and movement work, to lights, sets, costumes, and props.</p> <p><strong>Creative identity </strong></p> <p>“I don’t love how my body keeps changing,” Everybody laments as she plods to the grave. It’s a moment of awareness anyone might have. We can see ourselves in “Everybody,” which led Kohler to select it for the students. “It’s a profoundly human show … about humans being human together. Given the level of isolation we all experience, particularly around fearful events in life, the need for connecting is very important,” she says.</p> <p>Grace Kuffner, a sophomore double majoring in biology and theater arts, is one of multiple actors who portray Everybody. (The cast draws straws during each performance to determine who will play the lead.) Kuffner observes that while most roles allow an actor to embody “someone entirely different,” Everybody presents a special challenge, because “my character isn't different from me at all. Just like Everybody, I am going to die, and I worry about how, when, why, and with whom. Everybody talks like me, thinks like me, and has some of my own flaws.”</p> <p>Herng Yi Cheng, a senior majoring in mathematics with a concentration in theater arts, says, “In my role as Love, my relationship with Everybody changes depending on who plays that role each night, because different people bring different emotions and acting styles to the character.” For this show, Cheng says he worked “to say every line as if for the first time,” without relying on the “‘muscle memory’ of well-practiced intonation and gestures.”</p> <p>Such skills will serve these actors beyond this production, and beyond the theater. Natalia Guerrero ’14, a research associate at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, says that for her and her castmates, reconciling creative aspirations with the drive to excel in a STEM field is a question of identity: “We’re all searching for a way to do what seems impossible, to develop fully all the aspects of our creative and our intellectual identity. It’s really affirming, therefore, that in rehearsal, Anna is clear that she’s working with us as actors, as people who have this creative work as part of our identity.”</p> <p>In Kohler’s view, producing plays like “Everybody” at MIT benefits not only those students involved in theater arts, but also the whole student body, who just might need to experience a morality play that addresses some of their anxieties. One student in the audience said it best after the opening performance: “I’m a lot less worried about my p-sets now. This play kind of puts everything in perspective.”</p> <p><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications</em></p> <p><em>Editorial Team: Sharon Lacey, Emily Hiestand</em></p> For the MIT production of the 2017 play “Everybody,” the medieval banquet scene from Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s 1911 play “Jedermann” was performed as a prelude — to show the historical roots of the themes in “Everybody.” Both plays are based on the 15th century English morality play “Everyman."Photo: Jonathan Sachs, MIT SHASS CommunicationsArts, Theater, Faculty, Students, Campus buildings and architecture, SHASS, Clubs and activities, Classes and programs, Student life Audra McDonald receives 2018 McDermott Award The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT includes a $100,000 prize, artist residency, gala, and public program at the Institute. Thu, 26 Oct 2017 10:01:00 -0400 Leah Talatinian | Arts at MIT <p>Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning singer and actress Audra McDonald has been named the&nbsp;recipient of the 2018 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. The $100,000 cash prize, to be awarded at a gala in her honor on April 14, 2018, also includes an artist residency, during which McDonald will present a public talk at MIT (also on April 14) about her performances in musical theater, film and television.</p> <p>The announcement follows what has been a banner year for the singer and actress. Over the summer, she made her debut in London’s West End playing Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and&nbsp;Grill" — the role that netted her a record sixth Tony Award during its 2014 Broadway run — and in the spring she graced movie screens worldwide as Madame Garderobe in Disney’s live-action "Beauty and the Beast." This coming spring, McDonald will join&nbsp;the cast of "The Good Fight"<em> </em>on CBS All Access and embark&nbsp;on a North American concert tour.&nbsp;</p> <p>McDonald says&nbsp;that art “is not just something beautiful that we experience in a theater or a museum.”</p> <p>“Art can also be painful or make us feel vulnerable, but in that discomfort it has the power to be illuminating, transformative, and revelatory,” she says. “As in life, art must relish the joys while also embracing the suffering and struggle — a paradox that epitomizes the human experience. My greatest hope is that art helps us as a society to find common ground, to create dialogue, and to understand each other in new and meaningful ways. I am therefore so humbled and honored to receive the McDermott Award in the Arts and look forward to exploring these topics during my residency at MIT, an institution that embodies innovation, creativity, and, above all, humanity.”</p> <p>The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT celebrates individuals who continue to achieve the highest distinction in their fields and who will produce inspiring work for many years to come. The $100,000 cash prize represents an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement. Past recipients include David Adjaye, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Lepage, Gustavo Dudamel, Bill Viola, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Santiago Calatrava, among others.</p> <p>“We are delighted to celebrate the phenomenal actress and singer Audra McDonald as we embark on a new era of the performing arts at MIT and soon will inaugurate our first dedicated performing arts space,” says&nbsp;MIT Associate Provost&nbsp;and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury.&nbsp;“Our new theater arts building will address the increasing demand by students for theater training and allow the outstanding artists on our faculty to present their work on campus in addition to stages around the world. We look forward to having Ms. McDonald work with our faculty and students during her residency. Her incomparable range across multiple genres of performance will enrich our performing arts community.”</p> <p>A distinctive feature of the award is a short residency at MIT, which includes a public presentation of the artist’s work, substantial interaction with students and faculty, and a gala that convenes national and international leaders in the arts. The goal of the residency is to provide the recipient with unparalleled access to the creative energy and cutting-edge research at the Institute and to develop mutually enlightening relationships with MIT students and faculty.</p> <p>The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT was established in 1974 by the Council for the Arts at MIT. The selection process reflects MIT’s commitment to risk taking, problem solving, and the idea of connecting creative minds across disciplines. The award honors Eugene McDermott, the co-founder of Texas Instruments and longtime friend and benefactor of the Institute.</p> <p>The Council for the Arts at MIT is a volunteer group of alumni and friends who support the arts at the Institute. Since its founding in 1972 by MIT President Jerome B. Wiesner, the council&nbsp;has bestowed the award on 36 individuals who work in the performing, visual, and media arts, as well as authors, art historians, and patrons of the arts. Appointed by the President of MIT to three-year terms, council members serve its&nbsp;mission “to foster the arts at MIT and to act as a catalyst for the development of a broadly based, highly participatory program in the arts.”</p> <p>For more information on the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, visit the <a href="">award program site</a>.</p> Singer and actress Audra McDonald, the 2018 recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, has won six Tony Awards.Photo: Autumn de WildeSHASS, Arts, Awards, honors and fellowships, Music, Theater Bridging the science-policy divide For MIT senior Talia Weiss, physics and theater have provided a springboard for new interests in political science. Tue, 17 Oct 2017 23:59:59 -0400 Fatima Husain | MIT News correspondent <p>In the eighth grade, in response to being asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Talia Weiss critically examined her aspirations and gathered them into one succinct statement: “I wanted to be a writer, dancer, and an astrophysicist,” she recalls. Weiss, now an MIT senior majoring in physics, can comfortably say she’s stuck to her goals, save for a little variation.</p> <p>During her time at MIT, Weiss’ diverse interests — in physics, political science, and theater — have ultimately converged; she is now on mission to help close the gap between scientific and political thinkers, including scientists and policymakers in&nbsp;government.</p> <p>Before arriving at MIT, where her interest in political science developed, Weiss spent her teenage years pursuing a passion for physics. “I found diaries from 7th grade where I asked a whole stream of questions about the universe and the ‘edge of the universe’ and its expansion,” she says.</p> <p>She also looked for answers, spending time on Wikipedia researching black holes, the physical world, and the nature of the universe. Her curiosity led her to spend her high school summers at Northwestern University, where she conduced astrophysics research for three years on an anomalous type of galaxy.</p> <p>“The fact that my research project was so fun was further&nbsp;indication that I should keep pursuing physics for a while,” she says.</p> <p><strong>Theoretically assertive</strong></p> <p>Indeed, she continued with physics at MIT even before her freshman classes began. At PhysPOP, a freshman preorientation program run by physics undergraduate students, Weiss attended a talk by David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and professor of physics.</p> <p>Though freshmen didn’t usually pursue theoretical physics research projects through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) until they had taken a few classes, Weiss was determined to get involved immediately in the research Kaiser described. “Not only was his research exciting, but he was so personable and so passionate and so able to explain the material that I was taken by it. I went up and asked him for a UROP right afterward,” she says.</p> <p>She likens her experiences as a freshman undertaking a UROP in quantum mechanics to drinking from the firehose, a common expression used to describe academics and activities at MIT. Luckily, as she puts it, she had support from her research advisors including Kaiser and Joseph Formaggio, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and the Laboratory for Nuclear Science, as well as from the graduate students and postdocs in her lab.</p> <p>With 18 months of quantum mechanics and particle physics research under her belt by junior year, Weiss enrolled in Junior Lab, a two-semester experimental physics sequence in which students recreate historical physics experiments each month. At the end of the optional second course in the sequence, students design an experimental apparatus to test a topic of their choice. Weiss and her partner focused in on parity, which refers to a transformation that flips the right- or left-handedness of a coordinate system in quantum mechanics.</p> <p>“We were working on putting together an experiment that had originally been conducted in the late ’50s, including by someone who is a professor emeritus at MIT,” says Weiss, referring to nuclear physicist Lee Grodzins.</p> <p>When Grodzins heard Weiss and her partner were recreating his experiment, he visited them at the Junior Lab. “When he heard we were recreating his study, he was so enthusiastic that he graciously visited to&nbsp;assist us with our theoretical and experimental questions,” she says. “That’s a very MIT-like&nbsp;experience — one you can’t find in many other places.”</p> <p>While visiting the students in the lab, Grodzins also recounted tales of his career. “He also would tell us about what it was like being at Brookhaven [National Laboratory] during the Cold War era. It sounded like a really exciting time to be doing physics,” Weiss says.</p> <p><strong>Performing on and off stage</strong></p> <p>Though her research community remains her “home base,” Weiss has also been active in MIT’s theater scene and its Jewish community, through MIT Hillel.</p> <p>From Dramashop, to the Musical Theater Guild, to the Shakespeare Ensemble, “I’ve been engaged with almost all the different theater communities at some point,” she says.</p> <p>After Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder, the senior Jewish educator at MIT Hillel, reached out to students for ideas that could lead to Jewish engagement in the arts on campus, Weiss proposed a Jewish theater discussion group.</p> <p>“Since junior year, I haven’t been acting in plays anymore, but I have been able to combine my connection with the theater community with my connection with the Jewish community, because I now have developed and led a Jewish theater discussion group through the Hillel,” she says, “We meet a few times throughout the semester and read a play or an excerpt from a play that deals with issues related to Jewish history, identity, politics, issues of assimilation — a whole range of topics.”</p> <p>She curates the selection of plays and excerpts herself. Because some of the students involved in the discussion group have theater backgrounds, they sometimes act out the excerpts. For Weiss, leading the discussion group is “a fun way for me to get to be engaged in two communities at once.”</p> <p><strong>Politically aware</strong></p> <p>In her junior year, Weiss enrolled in Course 17.30 (Making Public Policy), a class in the political science department. “I just remember, I was always so excited to go to a 9:30 a.m. class, to an unusual extent, and to talk with [Professor Andrea Campbell] after class, and to do all of the assignments and to write the papers. That was definitely telling for me.”</p> <p>“Political science was so totally engaging for me right away,” says Weiss. So much so, that Weiss decided to minor in it.</p> <p>The summer before her senior year, Weiss interned at the MIT Washington Office. She reported on Congressional hearings by day and helped analyze how science impacted federal policymaking. The experience gave her a firsthand account of the divide between the scientific and political worlds, which she now hopes to address in the future.</p> <p>“Scientific thinkers aren’t necessarily expected to consider moral and ideological and political questions in detail, and the same is true the other way around,” she says.</p> <p>Weiss is optimistic that her experiences conducting research, leading discussions, and interacting with policymakers have given her the background necessary to tackle the issues she identified in Washington. She hopes to continue studying policy and political science after MIT, and wants to actively address the current disconnect between scientists and policymakers in her future work.</p> <p>“I think that this cultural divide has to be addressed by not only by building relationships between policymakers and scientists, but also from the ground up, educating in a way that enables people to understand those who think differently than them,” she says.</p> “I found diaries from 7th grade where I asked a whole stream of questions about the universe and the ‘edge of the universe’ and its expansion,” says senior Talia Weiss. Photo: Ian MacLellan Profile, Students, Undergraduate, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Urban studies and planning, STEM education, Political science, Policy, Physics, Theater, School of Science, SHASS, Laboratory for Nuclear Science Times Higher Education names MIT No. 2 university worldwide for the arts and humanities Schools of Architecture and Planning; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and several centers are home to the arts and humanities at MIT. Mon, 18 Sep 2017 14:05:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The Times Higher Education 2018 World University Rankings has named MIT the No. 2 university in the world for arts and humanities. The two top&nbsp;ranked universities — Stanford University and MIT — are closely aligned in the evaluation metrics, which assess the arts and humanities at research-intensive universities across core missions, including research, teaching, and international outlook.</p> <p>The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings by <em>Times Higher Education, </em>a leading British education magazine. This ranking of MIT’s global role in the arts and humanities follows other recent recognition for the Institute’s contributions to individual fields and disciplines. The 2018 QS World University rankings, for example, name MIT as the world’s top university for architecture, economics, engineering, linguistics, and natural sciences, as well as the No. 1 university in the world overall.</p> <p>Of the <em>Times Higher Education</em> ranking, MIT President L. Rafael Reif said, “Perhaps because 'TECHNOLOGY' is carved in stone above MIT's front door, outsiders are not always prepared for the caliber of our research and education in the humanities and the arts. But it is the wisdom of the remarkable scholars in these fields, and lessons from their disciplines, that help our students develop fully into the creative citizens and inspired leaders they seek to become.”</p> <p>“The arts and humanities are deeply embedded at MIT, throughout our schools and departments and across the curriculum,” said Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “I am delighted to see this broad strength recognized not only for its importance to MIT but for what it offers to the world.”<br /> <br /> Outstanding programs in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences — including linguistics, history, philosophy, music and theater arts, literature, global studies and languages, media studies, and writing — sit alongside equally strong initiatives within the School of Architecture and Planning in the visual arts, architecture, design, and history, theory, and criticism. These disciplines are complemented by the Center for Art, Society and Technology (CAST), the office of the Arts at MIT, the MIT LIST Visual Arts Center, and the MIT Museum.</p> <p>“At MIT, we view the humanities and arts as essential for advancing knowledge, for educating young students, and for solving global issues,” said Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “The world’s problems are so complex they’re not only scientific and technological problems. They are as much human and moral problems.”</p> "100 percent of MIT undergraduates study the arts and humanities, joining our faculty in addressing some of the largest, most consequential human questions of our time," notes Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.Photo: Madcoverboy/Wikimedia CommonsAwards, honors and fellowships, Rankings, Architecture, Arts, Design, Education, teaching, academics, Global Studies and Languages, History, Humanities, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Literature, Linguistics, Philosophy, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Theater, Music, SHASS, School of Architecture and Planning, Program in HTC Imagination off the charts New documentary chronicles Jacob Collier&#039;s collaborations at MIT. Wed, 06 Sep 2017 12:30:00 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>“Being at MIT consistently reminds me of how wonderful it is when people think beyond the surface level — up and down to other realms of things,” Jacob Collier said from the Kresge Auditorium stage on December 10, 2016.</p> <p>The occasion was a three-hour concert and culmination of the multi-Grammy-winning musician’s residency with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble. It was produced by the MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology (CAST) and with MIT Music and Theater Arts. The project began in the early fall of 2016 and grew to include a feature-length documentary.</p> <p>“It was a kind of ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances and creative collaborations,” says Dr. Frederick Harris, MIT’s Director of Wind and Jazz Ensembles. “What happens when an extremely gifted musician connects with a brilliant music technology graduate student? They begin to build a unique instrument never before heard and tour the world with an innovative performance platform. And what happens when they collaborate with MIT musicians?”</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p><strong>A second home at MIT</strong></p> <p>Ben Bloomberg, a PhD student in the MIT Media Lab, met Collier in 2015. The two became fast friends and artistic collaborators. In addition to building Collier’s Vocal Harmoniser at MIT and creating his one-man-band performance vehicle, Bloomberg served as the balance engineer for "In My Room," Collier’s Grammy-winning 2016 debut recording.</p> <p>Over the course of their collaboration, Collier’s appreciation for the Institute grew. “MIT feels like a second home to me now,” he says.</p> <p>When Harris learned of their relationship, he began to craft a residency project that would allow MIT music students to engage directly with Collier and Bloomberg. To this end, Harris invited Jamshied Sharifi '83, an acclaimed composer-arranger-producer, to arrange some of Collier’s original music for jazz ensemble, choir, and full orchestra.</p> <p>The fruits of that labor were on display at the December concert, which featured the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble with an orchestra and chorus of musicians from MIT, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, Boston Arts Academy, and the University of New Hampshire.</p> <p>“It was an historic evening at MIT,” said Sharifi about the performance. “I’ve heard or have been a part of concerts in Kresge for 37 years, and that night tops them all.”</p> <p><strong>The power of art</strong></p> <p>The story of the collaboration is told by director/editor Jean Dunoyer ’87 in a new documentary film, "Imagination Off the Charts: Jacob Collier Comes to MIT." The film chronicles Collier's artistic collaboration with MIT featuring rehearsals, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the artists, and portions of the live concert performance. It shares insights into Collier’s music, his work with MIT students, and a system — developed by Bloomberg, Peter Torpey, and Brian Mayton — that offers real-time improvisational direction to musicians through the use of phones.</p> <p>“While making this film,” says Dunoyer, an editor-producer for MIT Video Productions, “I witnessed many immensely gifted people with a range of artistic skill sets bring enormous enthusiasm to this ambitious project. It was a testament to the power of art for bringing people together toward a positive and uplifting outcome.”</p> <p>“Jacob is one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of people who changes the way you look at things,” says Jeff Moran, a postdoc associate in MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, and a bassist featured in the documentary film.</p> <p>Produced by MIT Video Productions, the film was made possible due to the generous support of Jane and Neil Pappalardo '64.</p> “I’ve heard or have been a part of concerts in Kresge for 37 years," said composer Jamshied Sharifi '83, "and that night tops them all.”Photo: L. Barry HetheringtonSHASS, Music, Music technology, Theater, Arts, MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), Special events and guest speakers, Collaboration MIT Theater Arts: The next act Performing arts building ushers in a new era of theater at the Institute. Tue, 05 Sep 2017 23:59:59 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>In 1597, when the Lord Chamberlain’s Men’s lease expired on their theater building in&nbsp;Shoreditch, then still a&nbsp;suburb outside the City of London, the company dismantled the structure, timber by timber, and moved it across the Thames to Bankside — where they rebuilt it into London’s renowned Globe Theatre.</p> <p>While theater practitioners rarely have to take building construction into their own hands quite so literally, there are advantages when they have an active role in creating their performance spaces.</p> <p>The recently completed MIT theater and performing arts building (W97), which enters into full operation this fall, benefited greatly from a close creative relationship between the architects (designLAB), the MIT Facilities team, and the MIT Theater Arts faculty, notably Norton Award-winning director of design Sara Brown, and Obie-winning director Jay Scheib, a professor of theater known for his genre-defying productions. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A free, vast, and variable space</strong></p> <p>Of transforming an aging warehouse at 345 Vassar Street into an ingenious 25,000-square-foot performing arts building, Brown says, “We were inspired by spaces that prioritize and expose the activities of making theater over spaces that camouflage, decorate, or hide those works.”</p> <p>Scheib adds, “The form of our new building has entirely followed its function.” For example, the team designed the main theater as an unadorned, tech-friendly black box that can accommodate diverse productions and styles of stagecraft, an approach that recalls architect and theatre designer Adolphe Appia’s vision for “a free, vast, and variable space.”</p> <p>Commenting on the building, MIT President L. Rafael Reif says, “Like the main group buildings at the heart of campus, W97 embodies and encourages MIT’s signature openness, flexibility, and boldness. With a focus on making and creating, on fearless exploration and hands-on problem solving, the students and faculty of MIT's Theater Arts community pursue their aspirations with mind, hand, heart, body, and soul. I am delighted that at last they have a space that lives up to the quality of their creativity.”</p> <p><strong>Exponential growth</strong></p> <p>The urgent need for a new, purpose-built theater space became clear when MIT Theater’s home in the 19th century Rinaldi tile factory had to be demolished as the Kendall Square redevelopment began in 2016. “Rinaldi had become a space that we could use to prototype new works and push forward the development of MIT’s theater program,” Scheib says. Other functions of the theater program were scattered around campus — in Kresge Auditorium, the Walker Memorial, and Buildings 4 and 10.</p> <p>W97 both replaces the Rinaldi facilities and consolidates all the other theater activities under one roof. Like earlier arts buildings on campus, including the Wiesner Building, Kresge, and the Media Lab, W97 signifies the Institute’s strong commitment to the arts as an integral mode of exploration and discovery.</p> <p>The building also arrives at a time when MIT Theater Arts is experiencing exponential growth in stature, scope, and student engagement. Student enrollment has doubled since 2012, with more than 800 undergrads now taking theater classes each academic year. An SB in theater was added in 2015 to give the most engaged students a broad foundation in theoretical and practical studies as well as intensive practice in performance and design. “The program has grown into a magnet for talent and innovation, whose reputation extends far beyond the campus,” Scheib says.</p> <p>MIT students value theater for many reasons, not least for its incomparable lens on the human world, and for its time-honored ability to help students discover their own voices and views, and how to express them well. MIT Theater is also renowned for experiences that develop skills in creative collaboration and risk-taking that are valuable in any field.</p> <p>This current flourishing rests on a solid legacy that began with student-driven performances in the early days of the Institute and continued to expand throughout the 20th century. By the 1990s, word of MIT’s enterprising theatrical work had made its way to the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose leadership saw MIT Theater as a <a href="">lab for formulating plays</a> dealing with science and cultural transformation.</p> <p>Similarly, MIT’s theater faculty — all practicing artists in demand around the globe — engage their students in the process of developing new works to be performed on the world’s leading stages. Of the program’s burgeoning range and popularity, senior lecturer Anna Kohler says: “It’s very exciting — and it’s a huge responsibility. We really needed this building to lift MIT Theater into the 21st century.”</p> <p><strong>A building for makers </strong></p> <p>The new building contains a 180-seat, two-story blackbox performance space, rehearsal spaces, costume and scene design shops, dressing rooms, and spaces for study, offices, and exhibitions. Studios are fitted with lighting grids and ample power for technical classes and to enable experiments with theater technologies. “The new facility gives students access to more industry-standard situations,” Scheib says. “Now when they take our design classes and our tech classes, it will be hands-on and at scale.”</p> <p>Brown adds, “Many theaters are built from the audience perspective, but this building is also built from the maker perspective. For example, the scene shop has natural light, the costume shop has natural light — even the green room has natural light. The act of making is considered and highlighted throughout the building.”</p> <p>MIT’s maker culture is also reflected in the building’s sturdy, serviceable materials, which convey a nothing-is-precious character that is conducive to experimenting. Sacrificial floors and layers of plywood on the walls can be peeled away with wear and tear.</p> <p><strong>Form follows philosophy</strong></p> <p>The space also speaks to the Theater Arts faculty’s priorities and vision for the program. “There’s a distinct performance philosophy behind this building’s flexibility,” says Scheib, who is known for integrating design and performance. “I tend to believe that all the elements in a performance need to operate as equals. Choreography, spoken text, music, scenery — each thing on stage needs to be as important as the performer in order to create a complete image or experience.”</p> <p>For instance, rather than an enclosed technical booth, there is a gallery above the stage, which puts the crew in the same space with the main action. Brown observes, “That reflects our approach to theater. We don’t want the technicians tucked away; to adequately run sound, you have to hear it live.”</p> <p>Kohler, who will direct the inaugural production in W97 — a performance of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “Everybody,” based on the medieval morality play “Everyman” — says the new building’s flexible space is essential, given the theater faculty’s adventurous and diverse approaches to performance. “The space is multipurpose because we encompass many kinds of theater ideas.”</p> <p><strong>The continuous studio&nbsp; </strong></p> <p>While affording students greater access to space and equipment, W97 will also enable more collaborations and professional engagements. With a generous endowment from alumna Nancy Lukitsh that supports visiting theater artists and productions, MIT can now invite leading theater figures to campus to share their works and teach master classes.<br /> <br /> MIT’s own theater faculty will also be able to develop more of their works on campus, involving MIT students in the process. The flexible facility allows for more theater research focused on experimental work, as well as providing the campus with new space for debates, exhibitions, conferences, and installations.</p> <p>Beyond even these many new capacities, W97 is something more. The building is a manifestation of the MIT theater community’s belief in a large and animating idea that they call the continuous studio — a studio that supports the full spectrum of theater experience including theory, experimentation, innovation, and a sustained, creative practice. As Kohler puts it, “Beyond being a space where we can teach, experiment, and produce, this new building has given us a home for an idea — an idea of what theater can be.”</p> <p><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial Team: Sharon Lacey and Emily Hiestand</em></p> Of the new building MIT President L. Rafael Reif says, "Like the main group buildings at the heart of campus, W97 embodies and encourages MIT’s signature openness, flexibility, and boldness."Photo: Jonathan SachsArts, Theater, SHASS, Campus buildings and architecture, Classes and programs, Clubs and activities, Facilities, Cambridge, Boston and region A.R. Gurney, acclaimed playwright, author, and longtime MIT professor, dies at 86 An MIT humanities and literature faculty member for 36 years, Gurney was known as an outstanding teacher and inspiring mentor. Wed, 12 Jul 2017 12:40:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>A.R. "Pete" Gurney Jr., an internationally acclaimed playwright and author who served on the MIT faculty for 36 years, died June 13 at his home in New York City. He was 86.</p> <p>The author of such well-known plays as “The Middle Ages,” “The Dining Room,” and “The Cocktail Hour,” Gurney was named a finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play "Love Letters." His Broadway debut, in 1987, was with "Sweet Sue" starring Mary Tyler Moore. He was also the author of three novels. A <a href="" target="_blank">complete list of Gurney's works</a> is available on his website.<br /> <br /> Gurney joined the faculty of the Department of Humanities — a predecessor to the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) — in 1960. He earned tenure in 1968, was promoted to full professor in 1972, and retired in 1996, moving to New York City to focus more completely on the theater.<br /> <br /> In 1994, MIT honored Gurney with the <a href="" target="_blank">McDermott Award</a> for his contribution to the arts. Among many other honors and awards, he was named to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006.<br /> <br /> Deborah Fitzgerald, the Cutten Professor of the History of Technology, and a former dean of SHASS, recalls Gurney as a "legend at the Institute. We have had many enormously distinguished faculty in SHASS over the years," she said, "and he was one of the most remarkable from the humanities and arts."<br /> <br /> "Gurney was a wonderful mentor to young faculty in the MIT Humanities and an outstanding teacher," says Philip Khoury, associate provost and the Ford International Professor of History. "His many students continue to remember him with fondness and appreciation. One of America’s leading playwrights, Pete Gurney was forever conscious of what MIT meant for his professional career. And he contributed enormously to making the MIT humanities so vital.”<br /> <br /> "I remember Gurney sitting in on an American literature class when I was an undergraduate at MIT," recalls Duane Boning, now the Clarence J. LeBel Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "He wasn't the lecturer — Gurney was there out of love for the subject, and to hear what young students were thinking about these books. I thought that was pretty cool. Even when he wasn't teaching, he was inspiring."<br /> <br /> In <a href="" target="_blank">an extensive tribute</a> to the life and works of A.R. Gurney, <em>The New York Times</em> reports on the driving force of his writing: “'What seems to obsess me,' he once said, 'is the contrast between the world and the values I was immersed in when I was young, and the nature of the contemporary world.' Early on, he said, 'I sensed the comforts of civilization — but also its discontents, what you give up. The emotions are carefully trained, ultimately honed, tamped down.' He devoted his life to bringing those feelings to the surface."</p> <h5><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Senior Writer: Kathryn O'Neill </em></h5> Longtime MIT professor of humanities A.R. "Pete" GurneyFaculty, Books and authors, Literature, Theater, Humanities, Obituaries, Arts, SHASS Featured video: Bringing “Einstein’s Dreams” to life An MIT student in engineering and theater arts melds her dual passions to bring physics to the stage. Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:12:00 -0400 MIT News Office <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>“Einstein’s Dreams,”&nbsp;a novel written by&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Alan Lightman</a>, physicist and professor of the practice of the humanities in MIT Comparative Media Studies / Writing, is a collection of dreams, or “thought experiments,” exploring the boundaries of space and time.&nbsp;What if time wraps back on itself?&nbsp;What if time slows down as we speed up?&nbsp;Such questions trace Einstein’s journey toward the discovery of special relativity. &nbsp;</p> <p>This spring, <a href="" target="_self">Neerja Aggarwal</a> ’17, a recent graduate in electrical engineering and theater arts, directed MIT Theater Arts’ production of&nbsp;“Einstein’s Dreams,”&nbsp;inspired by a theatrical adaptation of the book by Wes Savick, as her senior theater thesis project. The performance, which ran in MIT’s Kresge Little Theater, was created by a team of over 30 actors, designers, and technicians, and featured original music and choreography.</p> <p>From the beginning, Aggarwal’s thesis committee encouraged her to experiment — and to be bold. During her preparations, she shed her preconceptions about “what a final theater piece should look like,” she says. Aggarwal embraced new ways to express the concepts and questions that absorbed her and discovered new ways to work with actors, composers, and designers. By daring to let go of what she knew, and embracing the unknown, Aggarwal and her company created a powerful theatrical experience.</p> <p>“‘Einstein’s Dreams’ is about the cost of creativity, the struggles, the frustrations, the obsessions of the creative process,” she explains. “This is something I feel that we all at MIT can relate to.”</p> <p>Aggarwal&nbsp;is currently a master’s student in electrical engineering working on Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy of in vitro skin tissue models in the Research Laboratory of Electronics’ Physical Optics and Electronics Group. She is especially interested in exploring concepts in science through the lens of performance and feels that being in theater has helped her to excel as an engineer — and vice versa. In her mind, there are only two places where magic can happen: in physics and on stage.</p> <p><em>Submitted by: MIT Music and Theater Arts | Video by: Meg Rosenburg/MIT Video Productions | 4 mins, 8 sec</em></p> MIT student Neerja Aggarwal directed "Einstein's Dreams" on stage in the spring of 2017.Photo: Meg Rosenburg/MIT Video ProductionsArts, Theater, Featured video, Students, Alumni/ae, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Humanities, SHASS, School of Engineering, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Physics Channeling Gilbert and Sullivan A passionate community comes together at MIT to deliver timeless tales through song, dance, and Victorian-era humor. Mon, 08 May 2017 17:45:01 -0400 Meg Murphy | School of Engineering <p>When graduate student Phil Arevalo wants a diversion from his research on gene transfer and population structure, he turns to the comic operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.</p> <p>“These plays are very silly, and I really appreciate that,” says Arevalo of the 14 operas produced by librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan in the late 1800s. “If you’re a real musical nerd, you can’t help but fall in love.”</p> <p>At present, the <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players</a>, a student club led by Arevalo, are offering a modern exploration of the classic “The Yeomen of the Guard.” Every show draws in a volunteer cast and crew of about five dozen people, and currently more than half of the longstanding actors and musicians hail from off campus.</p> <p>“We are always eager to get more students at MIT connected with our group,” says Sara Haugland, a member of the club’s executive board. A few years ago, Haugland moved from Sacramento, California, to Boston looking for work as a singer, and learned that MIT is home to one of the most welcoming theater groups in the area. “I discovered this passionate Gilbert and Sullivan community at MIT — a place where you wouldn’t expect to find a really prolific musical group. I loved the surprise of that,” she says.</p> <p>She and Arevalo, along with fellow executive board member Emma Brown, an Emerson College graduate, are squeezed together in a cramped room in the MIT student center. Haugland motions to the racks of costumes behind her, “We have a lot of fun.”</p> <p><strong>Getting it right</strong></p> <p>On a recent April night, the cast of “The Yeomen of the Guard” ran through Act One. People divided into small clusters where, aside from singing, they acted out various parts: A man fell to the ground in death throes, a woman fainted, and various actors delivered dramatic shoves.</p> <p>As the final scene wrapped up with signature comic absurdity, stage director Cailin Doran, a graduate of the Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music, yelled: “Everyone take a moment to think about how that could have gone better for you.” She is an upbeat and demanding director, often shouting things like: “Keep up that energy! Think about making some bold choices! I’m loving what I’m seeing in that cluster!”</p> <p>Walking away from the rehearsal grid for a five-minute break, Doran said: “This is a nerdy niche that requires a decent grasp of language and music. The work of Gilbert and Sullivan is funny and smart. I think MIT students love it.”</p> <p>Doran directed her actors back into position, and the tempo picked up. They began to run around the stage in complicated patterns, at times colliding. A young man stepped forward to catch a young woman, and something went awry. “I’m used to catching a guy!” he shouted, after miscalculating the placement of his hands. He blushed and muttered, “It’s so different.” Doran patiently demonstrated how to correctly catch a woman. Then the players were back at it again.</p> <p>As Doran encouraged “environmental noises,” which involved whooping, squealing, and other antics, music director Lorraine Fitzmaurice, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, resident who also discovered the club by word-of-mouth, reminded the cast to keep their singing on pace. “You have a half note for the word in this line,” she said. “Take a breath earlier because the orchestra won’t wait.” Opening night was less than a week away.</p> <p><strong>A personal repertoire</strong></p> <p>Stage manager Kathryn Jiang, a first-year MIT student, is in charge of running rehearsals and maintaining “The Book,” the master score with all of the cues, entrances, exits, and edits. Not an opera singer herself, she loves to witness the music come alive. “My favorite moment so far was during our sing-through,” she says, referring to the first time the cast convened to sight-read the score. “It was magical.”</p> <p>Concertmaster Rossana Chung, a technical associate at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, says that people who join the MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players get the chance to learn about singing, dancing, set design, costuming, and more. “And if you’re an instrumentalist, you learn how to play in a pit and work with singers,” says Chung, also a member of the executive board. “Gilbert and Sullivan is light opera. It’s accessible to modern audiences, and it’s a lot of fun. There is no reason to be intimidated.”</p> <p>With enough exposure, the quirky operettas will charm you, says club president Arevalo. “I wasn’t sure I’d like it when I started, but the more I listened and performed, the more the Gilbert and Sullivan humor really grew on me,” he says.</p> <p>Now Arevalo finds the world made possible by Gilbert and Sullivan more comforting that he could have imagined. “It’s a set repertoire,” he says, listing off just a few of the perennial favorites, “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” and&nbsp;“The Mikado.”</p> <p>“You can sort of just know the whole cannon. And that’s a really neat thing,” he says. “It’s always there to go back to.”</p> “If you’re a real musical nerd, you can’t help but fall in love,” says MIT grad student Phil Arevalo, leader of the MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players.Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of EngineeringArts, Student life, Clubs and activities, Theater The world as we think the world should be Assistant Professor Charlotte Brathwaite believes theater brings people together in a positive way. Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:45:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>At MIT, it’s amazingly easy to find an engineering student preparing for a role in a Shakespeare play, a history student writing a script, or a young computer scientist crafting a high tech theater set. Assistant professor of theater Charlotte Brathwaite says that during her first two years on the MIT faculty, she has noticed certain characteristics that theater and the STEM fields have in common.<br /> <br /> "In theater, as in the STEM disciplines, we imagine the impossible and try to make that possible," says Brathwaite, an independent director of texts, operas, dance, multimedia and site-specific installations, and concerts. "We not only imagine, but create the world as we think the world should be."<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>Addressing major issues</strong><br /> <br /> As a result, theater can be a vehicle for addressing major societal issues, from street violence to climate change, she says. "People can speak their truth in the theater and whether you like it or not, you can let it sit with you. In a democracy, it's important for people to be able to tell their points of view."<br /> <br /> Untold stories are of particular interest to Brathwaite, who says she's fascinated by "people in the crevices and cracks who are ignored by society." Her projects often address issues of race, sex, and power, "opening up the conversation" about topics that cause pain or trauma with an eye toward building ties within and across communities.<br /> <strong>&nbsp;<br /> Building community</strong><br /> <br /> Community-building is a central goal for Brathwaite — someone who, more than most, is a citizen of the world. Born in England to parents from Barbados, Brathwaite was raised in Canada before moving to the United States at 15 to join the New York theater company La MaMa E.T.C’s Great Jones Repertory. For a few years, she traveled the world performing, then she went on to get her undergraduate degree in the Netherlands and her graduate degree from Yale University. Before coming to MIT in 2014, she had also lived in Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin.<br /> <br /> "One of the things that draws me to the arts is the large community you can build," she says. "My coming to MIT connects to that; it's branching out into a larger community than I had had before, connecting to scholars, researchers, and students of science, technology, urban planning, finance, etc."<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>Focusing on the human factor</strong><br /> <br /> At MIT, Brathwaite teaches many students whose career ambitions lie outside the arts, yet theater remains an important discipline for them, she says, because it plumbs the depths of human experience.</p> <p>"That focus on human needs, human interaction — strengthening and enlarging what those are — that's one of the really important things about doing theater at MIT,” she says. "At the end of whatever research and experiments our students do, there is a human being."<br /> <br /> Institute Professor Marcus Thompson, one of Brathwaite's colleagues in MIT Music and Theater Arts, agrees. “The MIT mission is to serve humanity, he says, “and the arts provide&nbsp;a powerful way for our students to grow in knowledge and&nbsp;understanding of the human condition.” &nbsp;<br /> <br /> Already, Brathwaite says she has been impressed by the growth she's seen among students in such classes as 21M.600 (Introduction to Acting), in which she teaches students to "exercise their creative muscles" and share their ideas. Such skills will be important to students in whatever careers they choose, she says.</p> <p>"At some point you're going to need to stand in front of a group of people and explain what you want to do or what plan you have. To be able to stand with confidence behind your own ideas is a really important skill across the board," Brathwaite says.</p> <p><strong>New areas of exploration</strong></p> <p>While Brathwaite is helping MIT students to explore new avenues of thought and expression, she says that MIT is also opening up new areas of exploration for her. Notably, she is currently collaborating on a project with composer Guillermo E. Brown that blends concern for the degradation of the environment — exemplified by the loss of bee colonies — with a look at the degradation of human society, as illustrated by street violence and the failure of the criminal justice system.</p> <p>"This project, I don't know if it would exist if I wasn't at MIT. This is a whole new strain of thinking for me," she says, adding that she hopes to enlist partners from science and engineering to collaborate on the work.</p> <p>In addition, Brathwaite is currently engaged in a variety of other projects. She just completed directing Meshell Ndegochello’s "Can I Get a Witness," a multidisciplinary theatrical work inspired by the work of James Baldwin — which opened in New York City in December to glowing reviews.</p> <p>Forthcoming projects include directing Shasta Geaux Pop as part of the Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater in New York; "Dolphins and Sharks," a new play by James Anthony Tyler at Labyrinth Theater in New York; and a new choral music and rap piece "(BE)LONGING," composed by Byron Au Yong and written by Aaron Jafferis that will premiere at Virginia Tech in March.</p> <p>"It's a unique time to be a black director," Brathwaite observes, noting that in searching for ways to articulate her response to today's culture of violence she has been hugely inspired by James Baldwin's message of universal love. "Baldwin says, ‘If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you do not see.'"</p> <p>Ultimately, Brathwaite believes that theater brings people together — in a way that makes a difference in the world. "In our struggles, all of us have more things in common than not," she muses. "I think we're more connected than we realize."<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h5><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial Team: Kathryn O'Neill and Emily Hiestand</em></h5> "In theater, we imagine the impossible and try to make that possible," says Charlotte Brathwaite, an MIT assistant professor of theater arts, and an independent director of classical and unconventional texts, operas, dance, multimedia and site-specific installations, and concerts. "We not only imagine, but create the world as we think the world should be."Photo: Richard GreeneArts, Theater, Profile, Faculty, Humanities, Collaboration, Technology and society, Diversity and inclusion, SHASS, Community, Education, teaching, academics Creating “big, beautiful things” Senior Garrett Parrish combines art and technology, with dramatic effects. Fri, 13 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500 Kate Telma | MIT News correspondent <p>Garrett Parrish grew up singing and dancing as a theater kid, influenced by his older siblings, one of whom is an actor and the other a stage manager. But by the time he reached high school, Parrish had branched out significantly, drumming in his school’s jazz ensemble and helping to build a state-championship-winning robot.</p> <p>MIT was the first place Parrish felt he was able to work meaningfully at the nexus of art and technology. “Being a part of the MIT culture, and having the resources that are available here, are what really what opened my mind to that intersection,” the MIT senior says. “That’s always been my goal from the beginning: to be as emotionally educated as I am technically educated.”</p> <p>Parrish, who is majoring in mechanical engineering, has collaborated on a dizzying array of projects ranging from app-building, to assistant directing, to collaborating on a robotic opera. Driving his work is an interest in shaping technology to serve others.</p> <p>“The whole goal of my life is to fix all the people problems. I sincerely think that the biggest problems we have are how we deal with each other, and how we treat each other. [We need to be] promoting empathy and understanding, and technology is an enormous power to influence that in a good way,” he says.</p> <p><strong>Technology for doing good</strong></p> <p>Parrish began his academic career at Harvard University and transferred to MIT after his first year. Frustrated at how little power individuals often have in society, Parrish joined <a href="">DoneGood</a> co-founders Scott Jacobsen and Cullen Schwartz, and became the startup’s chief technology officer his sophomore year. “We kind of distilled our frustrations about the way things are into, ‘How do you actionably use people’s existing power to create real change?’” Parrish says.</p> <p>The DoneGood app and Chrome extension help consumers find businesses that share their priorities and values, such as paying a living wage, or using organic ingredients. The extension monitors a user’s online shopping and recommends alternatives. The mobile app offers a directory of local options and national brands that users can filter according to their values. “The two things that everyday people have at their disposal to create change is how they spend their time and how they spend their money. We direct money away from brands that aren’t sustainable, therefore creating an actionable incentive for them to become more sustainable,” Parrish says.</p> <p>DoneGood has raised its first round of funding, and became a finalist in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition last May. The company now has five full-time employees, and Parrish continues to work as CTO part-time. “It’s been a really amazing experience to be in such an important leadership role. And to take something from the ground up, and really figure out what is the best way to actually create the change you want,” Parrish says. “Where technology meets cultural influence is very interesting, and it’s a space that requires a lot of responsibility and perspective.”</p> <p><strong>Robotic spectaculars </strong></p> <p>Parrish also loves building physical objects, and his mechanical engineering major has provided a path to many of his creative projects. “Part of my enjoyment comes from building things with [my] hands and being able to actually work in the physical world, and by studying mechanical engineering you get an invaluable understanding of how the physical world works,” he says. “I also believe strongly in the powers of computers to do things, so combining the two of [these areas] — basically programming mechanical things — is where I think I can get the most enjoyment.”</p> <p>Even before he joined MIT, Parrish was part of the Opera of the Future Group at the Media Lab. As a freshman, he worked on the “<a href="">Death and the Powers</a>” global interactive simulcast, performed at the Dallas Winspear Opera House. The scale of the show — performed live for a weekend in Dallas but broadcast to cities around the world — was immense. Six actors and a Greek chorus of robots moved across the stage, each controlled by “an undergrad with an Xbox controller.” The voices of performers were used to generate light projections on the walls of the set and theater.</p> <p>Parrish built a mobile app companion for the show, which distant viewers could use to give inputs and influence the performance. “If you were in the house, in the show, you would see all this lighting change, and you would feel the presence of all these other audiences that were around the world,” Parrish says. This was the type of work he had always dreamed of doing: using technological means of connecting people who care about the same thing.</p> <p>While delighted with MIT’s diverse resources, Parrish says he sometimes struggled to find a place that he could just go and draw at MIT — until he found the MIT Museum Studio, which he describes as “not really a makerspace, but an art and technology space at MIT.” He has become an advocate for the space, and used it to create a floor panel that reacts, with light, as users walk across it. Dubbed “<a href="">Luminescence</a>,” the system is one of the first projects that he conceived, designed, programmed, and constructed on his own.</p> <p>“Luminescence” was inspired by the bioluminescence of the James Cameron film “Avatar” and funded by the MIT ProjX Grant. Parrish is using the MIT Museum Studio to design his senior show, likely a nighttime spectacular. “I did the floor panel project in that space, and that has kind of been my companion to the Media Lab. I kind of generally sleep in both places,” says Parrish, smiling.</p> <p><strong>Great engineering challenges</strong></p> <p>Parrish is quick to admit that his path through undergrad — particularly his constant creative expression at a technology school — has been atypical. But he has used each project and collaboration to further his lifelong dream of working as a Walt Disney Imagineer who helps create the Disney theme parks and other attractions.</p> <p>His connection to Disney began as a child. His family life was difficult, but every few years his mother and siblings would drive to Disney World. “You can escape and be around people who are always nice to you, and who are happy, and have fun and forget the rest of the world,” Parrish says. He would look at rides and shows, and know that he someday wanted to create his own. “I [knew I would] need to know how to build things, and how to understand art, and how to use art to impact people in a positive way. So I am studying music, studying creative design, studying drawing, studying mechanical engineering, computers, mechanical stuff, everything someone needs to know in order to be able to do that,” Parrish says.</p> <p>Last summer Parrish interned at Walt Disney Imagineering, where he worked on show control systems for new lands and attractions. “[Shows] have to be able to run reliably 18 hours a day, for 365 days a year, for 30 years straight. So, building systems that are that robust and still have creative intent is incredibly difficult,” Parrish says. “It was unreal to be able to see how you can build something at that scale and still actually achieve something meaningful and enjoyable, and fun and immersive.”</p> <p>Parrish added a theater concentration this fall, and has begun to formally study composition, arrangement, and directing.</p> <p>“I truly feel like I actually have the tools now to actually go out in the world and do stuff, build things, create change, create big beautiful things for people to enjoy, whatever kind of manifestation that takes,” Parrish says.</p> <p>No matter what type of work he’ll be doing at Disney or elsewhere, he says that his technical education — and the opportunities he has had to apply it — will be invaluable. “I am not going from problem sets to building rides; I’m going from robotic operas to [theme park] rides and shows. I can at least have a sense of ‘OK, this is how it’s kind of supposed to work.’”</p> “The whole goal of my life is to fix all the people problems. I sincerely think that the biggest problems we have are how we deal with each other, and how we treat each other. [We need to be] promoting empathy and understanding, and technology is an enormous power to influence that in a good way,” senior Garrett Parrish says. Photo: Ian MacLellan Students, Profile, Undergraduate, Student life, Mechanical engineering, School of Engineering, Arts, Computer science and technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Media Lab, Music technology, Theater, Startups, Technology and society, School of Architecture and Planning “Uniting through Voice and Song” event celebrates values that connect the MIT community Tue, 22 Nov 2016 14:00:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>On the evening of Nov. 17, MIT faculty, staff, and students came together to affirm — through words and music — the enduring values and purposes that unite the community. Some 150 people gathered in Lobby 10 for a program of music from many traditions, interwoven with reflections from faculty and students. Against the backdrop of a changing political landscape, themes of mutual respect, inclusivity, and dedication to making a better world echoed through the evening.</p> <p>Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, whose office sponsored the event, opened the evening saying, “At this time of change, it is important that we lift up and celebrate our commitment at MIT to our ongoing values of discovery, freedom of expression and thought, and respect for all people.”</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88, the next of six speakers, said, “We are actively uniting around our determination to educate, advocate, and care for every member of our community so that together we can continue our urgent work of making a better world.”</p> <p>“At MIT,” she added, “we respect and celebrate our diversity. We seek the facts, believe in science, and roll up our sleeves to solve hard problems. We are open minded, inclusive, and kind. We listen intently and we speak up for what is right. We embrace our responsibility to invent a brighter future for all of humanity. These are MIT’s values and MIT’s path. They always have been — and I can promise you that nothing will change our course.”</p> <p>Many students in the audience welcomed these statements of solidarity around MIT’s guiding values. “I have people in my life who currently don’t feel safe and don’t feel wanted,” said Riley Clubb, a second-year graduate student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “That makes me sad, and I’m hoping that people will stand up [to protect others.]”</p> <p><strong>Listening</strong></p> <p>The musical program began with a performance of the majestic “Andante Festivo,” a single-movement hymnic work by Jean Sibelius. The tone poem, composed to give his country moral support, was performed with flowing, melodic nuance by members of the MIT Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Adam Boyles.</p> <p>Members of the MIT Chamber Chorus and Concert Choir, under the direction of William Cutter, performed “The Reason Why the World,” composed by Professor Peter Child for MIT’s 150th anniversary, with text from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature.” “I chose the passage,” Child said, “because it extols the virtue of combining a sense of spirituality with scientific exploration, and says that each is incomplete without the other, that humans cannot be ‘naturalists,’ until we satisfy ‘all the demands of the spirit.’”</p> <p>The MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble, coached by Liz Tobias, performed “Thou Shalt,” by composer Naomi Crellin, a mesmerizing a cappella work of sustained vocal harmonies that were, by turns, hushed and full, with clear sweet sounds over a deep resonant rumbling.</p> <p>Between the musical performances, students reflected upon the strengths of the MIT community and on how valuable it is to listen to one another in a spirit of mutual respect.</p> <p>“Students of every historically oppressed group are scared and face outspoken threats,” said Billy Torres, sophomore in&nbsp;electrical engineering and computer science and head of Spanish House. "And yet at MIT, I see people smart enough to acknowledge the issues, and strong enough to overcome the fears facing them.”</p> <p>Jonathan Hurowitz, a junior in earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences and president of MITGOP, noted that “Some students are afraid to even voice their opinions without fear of discrimination.” To bridge ideological divides, Hurowitz urged everyone to “find one or two people with different political or social views than yourself and listen to them. Commit to an honest discussion and work to understand your peers.”</p> <p>First-year graduate student Amro Alshareef also expressed confidence in the strength of the community's bond. "We here at MIT are a family of innovators, and that’s not going to change just because some of us voted one way or another," he said. "We will still remain humans; we will still remain collaborators; and we will still remain MIT."</p> <p>Caroline H. Mak, a junior in electrical engineering and computer science and a member of MIT Democrats, offered a unique take on the Institute’s core values, speaking as if MIT itself were applying to attend the Institute. Responding to actual Admissions Office essay prompts such as "Which program or major appeals to you?" and "What personality attribute you are most proud of?,”&nbsp;Mak’s “MIT” replies were: “I am now 145 years old and I want to major in diversity. I want to continue making history in ways I can’t even imagine right now.”</p> <p><strong>Harmonizing</strong></p> <p>Introducing the Turkish-American, Grammy-nominated composer and performer Mehmet Ali Sanlikol and his duo partner Beth Bahia Cohen, Nobles observed that “MIT values immigrant voices, and, in fact, all the music we hear tonight comes out of a merging of one tradition or another into what we think of as American music. As we know, the Boston area and the MIT community are extremely rich in multicultural traditions, and we're fortunate to have a wonderful example of that with us here tonight, with our guests."</p> <p>For the gathering, Mehmet, whose compositions merge Turkish themes, jazz, and classical music, transported the audience with a soaring performance from the meditative Turkish Sufi Mevlevi tradition. Afterwards, Mehmet noted that the reverberant Lobby 10 space helped produce the immersive listening experience this rich, moving musical tradition can generate. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mark Harvey of&nbsp;MIT Music&nbsp;introduced the final musical performance, by the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, led by Fred Harris, with guest musician Evan Ziporyn, MIT professor of music. The ensemble delivered Harvey’s composition “No Walls,” an anthem to inclusiveness inspired by Duke Ellington’s credo of living and making music “beyond category.” In “No Walls,” Harvey fuses musical acumen from South Africa, New Orleans, the classic American songbook, and some points unknown, into an original voice. The composition, he said, “seeks to inspire all of us toward what Ellington fervently hoped for: A new sound of harmony, common respect, and consideration for the dignity and freedom of all people.”</p> <p>Abdie Dirie ’16, a master's candidate in computer science and electrical engineering, said the “No Walls” performance was one highlight of the evening for him. “It was pointed, with a very good message,” he said. Dirie said he had received a lot of heartfelt calls recently from family and friends who are Muslim. While feeling “anxious for himself and people I know,” Dirie said he was reassured by the evening’s messages, and found “every bit of the event beneficial.”</p> <p>Helen Elaine Lee, professor of writing and head of the MIT Women’s and Gender Studies Program, brought the evening to a close. “I want to say something to you today about love and struggle,” she said, “about resilience, and the power of art to heal.” With readings from three American writers — James Baldwin, Denise Levertov, and Toni Morrison — Lee encouraged the audience to “love and change the world.”</p> <p>And what is love? Lee invoked Baldwin, “who reminds us that love is a matter of commitment, grueling self-interrogation, discomfort, hard and ongoing work. And that’s what we must do now,” she said, “Do your transformative work, make and seek out art, and fight for the values you believe in.”</p> <p>“Uniting through Voice and Song” was sponsored by the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Dean's Office and MIT Music and Theater Arts, with support from the Office of the Chancellor and MIT Events. The event was organized and shaped by Fred Harris Jr., Agustin Rayo, Evan Ziporyn, Clarise Snyder, and Joe Coen, in collaboration with Adam Boyles, Gayle Gallagher, Mark Harvey, Lianne Scott, Meredith Sibley, the MIT Campus Activities Complex, and MIT SHASS Communications.</p> On Nov. 17, the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble, led by Fred Harris, delivered Mark Harvey’s composition “No Walls,” an anthem to inclusiveness inspired by Duke Ellington’s credo of living and making music “beyond category.” Photo: Jon Sachs/MIT SHASS CommunicationsSpecial events and guest speakers, Community, Arts, Faculty, Students, Staff, Humanities, Political science, Music, Theater, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, SHASS, Diversity and inclusion, Diversity New faculty in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences SHASS welcomes eight new faculty members for 2016. Wed, 02 Nov 2016 18:15:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) has announced the newest members of its faculty. They come to MIT with diverse backgrounds and vast knowledge in their areas of research, which include: public policy and labor markets; social inequality and technology; stochastic choice; media; ethical theory; and voting rights.</p> <p>The new members of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences are:</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Alberto Abadie</a>, professor of economics, is an econometrician and empirical microeconomist, with broad disciplinary interests that span economics, political science, and statistics. He received his MIT Economics PhD in 1999. Upon graduating, he joined the faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was promoted to full tenured professor in 2005. He joined the MIT Department of Economics and Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) in the fall of 2016. His research areas are econometrics, statistics, causal inference, and program evaluation. Abadie’s methodological research focuses on statistical methods to estimate causal effects and, in particular, the effects of public policies, such as labor market, education, and health policy interventions.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Isaiah Andrews</a> is an assistant professor in the Department of Economics&nbsp;and a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows from 2014 to 2016 and received his PhD in economics from MIT in 2014. He specializes in econometrics, and his research develops robust methods for inference on causal or structural relationships using economic data. In particular, much of Andrews’ work focuses on making efficient use of information in contexts where the data is relatively uninformative about economic relationships of interest.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Dwaipayan Banerjee</a> joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS). He earned his PhD in anthropology at New York University and was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College. Banerjee's research is guided by a central theme: how do different kinds of social inequity shape medical, scientific, and technological practices? In turn, how do scientific and medical practice ease or sharpen such inequities? At present, Banerjee is working on a book manuscript on the medical, legal, and political life of cancer in contemporary North India.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Claire Conceison</a> is the Quanta Professor of Chinese Culture and Professor of Theater Arts. Her areas of research and teaching are contemporary Chinese theater, cross-cultural exchange and performance, Asian American theatre, translation, and sport as performance. She earned her MA in regional studies, East Asia from Harvard University and her PhD in theatre studies from Cornell University. Conceison is author of two&nbsp;books, "Significant Other: Staging the American in China" (University of Hawaii, 2004), which examines representations of Americans on the Chinese stage from 1987 to 2002, and "Voices Carry: Behind Bars and Backstage During China's Revolution and Reform" (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009), an autobiography of the late Chinese actor and cultural diplomat Ying Ruocheng.&nbsp;As a director, she has staged student productions of contemporary Chinese and Asian American plays at several American universities.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Drew Fudenberg</a>, the Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics, received an BA in applied mathematics from Harvard University in 1978, and a PhD in economics from MIT in 1981. Fudenberg’s work on game theory ranges from foundational work on learning and equilibrium to the analysis of repeated games and reputation effects to the study of particular games, competition between firms, and other topics in theoretical industrial organization. More recently he has worked on topics in behavioral economics and decision theory such as self-control and stochastic choice. He is the author of four books: "Dynamic Models of Oligopoly" (1986) with Jean Tirole; "Game Theory" (1991) with Jean Tirole; "The Theory of Learning in Games" (1998) with David K. Levine; and "A Long-Run Collaboration on Long-Run Games" (2008) with David K. Levine.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Paul Roquet</a>, assistant professor in Global Studies and Languages, joins received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley and comes to MIT after completing postdocs at Stanford University and Brown University. Roquet’s work focuses on the intersection of affect, environment, and subjectivity, and the use of media like music, video, and literature to reconfigure these relationships. Earlier this year he published "Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self" (Minnesota, 2016), an exploration of how various media came to be used as tools of mood regulation and environmental design in postwar and contemporary Japan. His current project extends this work to think about the stakes of more recent digital tools for reconfiguring the perceptual environment.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Tamar Schapiro</a>, associate professor of philosophy, joined the department in 2016 from Stanford University. Prior to teaching at Stanford, she earned her PhD from Harvard University and received a junior fellowship from the Harvard Society of Fellows. Schapiro's primary areas of interest&nbsp;are in ethical theory, history of ethics, practical reasoning, and human agency. Her early articles, published in <em>Ethics, Noûs,</em> and <em>The Journal of Philosophy,</em> focus on the moral status of children and the more general problem of how to make principled exceptions to moral rules. More recently she has published a series of articles on motivation and action. She is currently working on a book on this topic, tentatively titled, "Inclination and the Will: A Kantian Conception of Passion and its Role in Action."</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Ariel White</a>, assistant professor of political science, received her PhD from Harvard University, where she was a doctoral fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy and at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her recent work investigates how potential voters react to experiences with punitive government policies, such as incarceration and immigration enforcement. Other research interests include voting rights, media effects, and political inequality.</p> First Row: (left to right) Alberto Abadie, Isaiah Andrews, Dwaipayan Banerjee, Claire Conceison. Second Row: (left to right) Drew Fudenberg, Paul Roquet, Tamar Schapiro, Ariel White. SHASS, Economics, Global Studies and Languages, Philosophy, Political science, Theater, Program in STS 3 Questions: Jeffrey Ravel on bringing data to cultural history MIT conference stems from data-rich historical project on French theater. Wed, 18 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p><em>A couple of centuries from now, will anyone remember the hit Broadway show “Hamilton?” Will they know how popular it was? As it happens, historians do know a great deal about Enlightenment-era French theater, and they continue to learn more — thanks in part to the Comédie Française Registers Project (CFRP), an ongoing effort led by Jeffrey Ravel, head of the MIT History faculty. Ravel and his colleagues have digitized over 100 years of theater records to learn more about the intersection of popular culture, politics, and social life during the 17th and 18th centuries. Now MIT is co-hosting (along with Harvard University’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures) a global conference on the subject, being held May 19-21. Ravel sat down to talk with MIT News.</em></p> <p><strong>Q.</strong> What is the Comédie Française Registers Project?</p> <p><strong>A.</strong> The Comédie Française Registers Project is based on archival documents from the late 17th and 18th centuries. The Comédie Française was and still is the primary state-funded theater troupe in France. It was founded by Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” in 1680; took a brief hiatus [from 1793-1799] during the French Revolution; was reconstituted by Napoleon; and continues to exist today. Our project covers the troupe’s nightly box-office receipt records from 1680 until 1793 — over 34,000 performances. We have created high-resolution digital images of each page, extracted the box office data from the registers, compiled it in a searchable database, and created search and visualization tools to interrogate the data. These tools allow us to see what kinds of trends emerge about the popularity of plays, playwrights, contemporary political themes, and various aspects of the repertory.</p> <p>The Paris theater records were absolutely unique in this time. London had a very vibrant theater scene, but the English did not keep these kinds of detailed box-office records until late in the 18th century. In France, the Roman Catholic church insisted that the actors in Paris, who enjoyed a privilege [permission] from the king to perform the plays, pay a sort of sin tax, which amounted to about one-sixth of every evening’s proceeds. This share of the nightly receipts went to charitable organizations. Because the church had the crown levy this penalty, the government forced the actors to keep very precise records, which is a good thing for us! &nbsp;</p> <p>The Comédie Française was also an incredibly democratic organization in a divine-right monarchy where there were few egalitarian institutions. By this I mean that the troupe was run jointly by its members, each of whom received a full share of each evening’s proceeds, a half share, or a quarter share, depending on seniority and celebrity status. A subcommittee of the actors was responsible for accepting new plays into the repertory and scheduling performances. There were no artistic directors or general managers, although the king assigned members of his court to oversee the troupe’s activities.</p> <p><strong>Q.</strong> What have you learned from the project so far?</p> <p><strong>A.</strong> Even at this early stage, a few insights have emerged. While some literary scholars have settled on a few key names as being representative of theatrical production in the 17th and 18th centuries — Moliere, Pierre Corneille, Racine, Voltaire — the Comédie Française repertory consisted of more than 1,200 plays, authored by more than 300 playwrights. Now, some of those plays were probably not very good and deserved to fall into oblivion, but others were both financially and aesthetically successful and still have ways of speaking to us today. So not only have historians and theater studies specialists and literature scholars been interested in the project, but people who are performing plays in the Francophone world today have been intrigued to learn there are more plays that might be worth reviving.</p> <p>The common assumption is that the theater became more politicized on the eve of the French Revolution, and the classic example is Beaumarchais’ “The Marriage of Figaro,” which premiered at the Comédie Française in 1784 and had the longest first run of any play in the century. It contains some highly politicized scenes. But light comedies also did well throughout the period, as did a new generation of sentimental dramas in the period before 1789. Theater, like many human activities, is multifaceted. Some people went to the theater because the playhouse provided a public forum for discussing the new ideas of the Enlightenment and concepts that would influence the revolutionaries after 1789. But other people went to the theater just to blow off steam and enjoy themselves. &nbsp;</p> <p>We are still trying to understand the economics of theater-going over the course of these 113 years. For example, we have limited records about the casting of plays, but we have already recognized that when new actors or actresses debuted, there would be spikes in attendance. Some of my colleagues are interested in adding the data from [the post-1799 period] when the troupe was reconstituted by Napoleon.</p> <p><strong>Q.</strong> How does the conference relate to the Comédie Française Registers Project?&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A.</strong> We will devote about 1 ½ days to traditional academic presentations and discussions of papers based on analysis of the database. We’re also going to be pairing the scholars with database developers, so they can work together to build tools that respond to scholarly or pedagogical needs. &nbsp;</p> <p>With the MIT Press, we are generating a prototype for an online text of the conference proceedings that will allow scholars to publish their papers online and to embed the search and visualization tools we’ve developed on the website. I think intellectual and cultural historians who are willing to consider quantitative approaches have a great deal to learn from projects such as this one. Having said that, I see the digital humanities and quantitative approaches as being one methodology among many that historians have for years, or in some cases decades, been using profitably. These analytical tools give us insights we can situate in the context of what we know. We’re not going to discard the work that has been done, but technology can enhance traditional humanities methods in ways that lead to new conclusions — and new questions.&nbsp;</p> “We are still trying to understand the economics of theater-going over the course of these 113 years. For example, we have limited records about the casting of plays, but we have already recognized that when new actors or actresses debuted, there would be spikes in attendance,” Jeff Ravel says.Image: Jon Sachs/SHASS and the Comédie Française Registers ProjectHistory, Digital humanities, Theater, France, Global Studies and Languages, Data, SHASS, 3 Questions, Special events and guest speakers 3 Questions: Alan Brody on “Small Infinities” As part of MIT 2016 celebration, play about Isaac Newton debuts in U.S. Thu, 07 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p><em>You may have read books about Isaac Newton. But have you ever seen a play about him? Now is your chance. The MIT 2016 celebrations, commemorating the Institute’s 100th year in Cambridge, include the U.S. debut of “Small Infinities,” a work by MIT professor of theater Alan Brody. The play explores the “life and paradox” of Newton and is among many produced works written by Brody, who has won awards for plays such as “Invention for Fathers and Sons” and “The Company of Angels,” among others. “Small Infinities” will be performed at the Kresge Little Theater, April 7-9 and 14-16, at 7:30 pm. MIT News recently talked to Brody about the play. </em></p> <p><strong>Q.</strong> What is “Small Infinities” about?</p> <p><strong>A.</strong> It’s about Isaac Newton. And one of the things that always fascinated me about him was that he had an absolutely medieval mind. At the same time, he was the father of modern science. And that juxtaposition seemed to me to be really interesting. That’s what I started to explore as I wrote the play. There are so many contradictions in his mind. He was also a very, very difficult person.</p> <p>One of the difficulties of writing a play like this is to go back into the mindset of an entire culture. And the culture of the 17th century was very, very different. The questions about God particularly had a different power in the 17th century than they do today. And I think that “my” Newton, and I have to call him that, not only believed in God deeply but believed he was doing God’s work and that he was God’s chosen [servant] to do his work. His mathematical mind was God-given and he had to serve God with it. Yet what he did was engender doubt about God in the first place.</p> <p><strong>Q.</strong> What are some of the ideas you’d like the audience to be thinking about as they walk out of the play?</p> <p><strong>A.</strong> I think the big thing is that we create heroes and dehumanize them. And one of my interests is to take historical figures, who have been canonized in one way or another, and begin to examine them as human beings, and see what emerges when that happens. And I think the contradictions I was talking about before are among them. There are other surprising things that [I have] imagined [about Newton] — not out of thin air, but that [others have] speculated about — in his personal relationships, and those are very much part of the play too.</p> <p><strong>Q.</strong> This is the U.S. debut of the play (which was once performed in India). Why is it being staged here?</p> <p><strong>A.</strong> This play and the first reading of it was really part of the beginning of the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT. And that’s the collaboration between MIT and the Underground Railway Theater and the Nora Theater Company — which are both part of the Central Square Theater. The idea is that we find the best possible plays or theater pieces about science, and make them available, not just to MIT but to the entire community, Cambridge and Boston. The movement toward plays about science is very important to us. Cambridge is just an ideal place for this event to be happening.</p> “Small Infinities,” written by professor Alan Brody (pictured) will be performed at the Kresge Little Theater, April 7-9 and 14-16, at 7:30 pm. Courtesy of Alan BrodyFaculty, SHASS, Theater, 3 Questions, Arts, Century in Cambridge, Special events and guest speakers, History, Science communications, Science writing April 12 symposium: Take an immersive, intellectual journey across campus Beyond 2016: MIT’s Frontiers of the Future event offers a playful introduction to research at MIT. Tue, 05 Apr 2016 12:50:01 -0400 MIT Institute Events <p>When MIT moved from Boston to Cambridge in 1916, it built a new campus designed to foster collaboration across disparate disciplines. As the Institute celebrates the centennial of that historic move, more than a dozen faculty from multiple departments across all five schools will gather for a symposium in Kresge Auditorium on Tuesday, April 12, to present short, exciting talks on their groundbreaking research — tied together by an immersive, multimedia campus tour by foot, drone, and skateboard. Come explore!</p> <p>President L. Rafael Reif will open the symposium session at 1:30 p.m., preceded by lunch and a graduate student poster session starting at noon. The faculty talks and multimedia tour run two hours (1:30-3:30 p.m.) and will be followed by a reception in Kresge Lobby from 3:30 to 5 p.m. <a href="" target="_blank">Registration</a>, including lunch and reception, is free for MIT staff, faculty, and students, and $20 for other attendees. Advance registration is encouraged and will be available until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 7. After the deadline, registration will be available onsite on April 12. Contact <a href="">MIT Conference Services</a> with questions.</p> <p><strong>Symposium program (1:30-3:30 p.m.)</strong></p> <p>Welcome<br /> L. Rafael Reif, MIT president<br /> &nbsp;<br /> "Emerging Markets Drive Global Solutions"<br /> Amos Winter, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering</p> <p>"Fluid Dynamics of Infectious Disease Transmission"<br /> Lydia Bourouiba, Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering</p> <p>"Exploring Quantum Behavior in Flatland"<br /> Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor of Physics<br /> &nbsp;<br /> "Uncovering Photosynthesis at the Nanoscale"<br /> Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry</p> <p>"What Inventions Are We Missing?"<br /> Heidi Williams, Class of 1957 Career Development Assistant Professor, Economics</p> <p>"Mobile Technologies and Financial Inclusion in Africa"<br /> Tavneet Suri, Maurice J. Strong Career Development Associate Professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management</p> <p>"Rethinking China’s Growth Model"<br /> Yasheng Huang, International Program Professor in Chinese Economy and Business and associate dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management</p> <p>"From Nature-inspired Design to Design-inspired Nature"<br /> Neri Oxman, Sony Corporation Career Development Associate Professor in the MIT Media Lab<br /> &nbsp;<br /> "Using Biology for Chemistry’s Sake"<br /> Kristala Prather, Theodore T. Miller Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering</p> <p>"Wireless Systems that Extend Our Senses"<br /> Dina Katabi, Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science</p> <p>"Where the Wild Things Will Be (in 100 Years)"<br /> Katharina Ribbeck, Eugene Bell Career Development Professor of Tissue Engineering in the Department of Biological Engineering</p> <p>"Is There Music at MIT?"<br /> Marcus Thompson, Institute Professor and Robert R. Taylor Professor of Music</p> <p>"Cities of a New Future"<br /> John Fernandez, associate professor in the Department of Architecture</p> <p>Closing Remarks<br /> Rebecca Saxe, symposium cochair and professor of cognitive neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences</p> <p>John Ochsendorf, chair of the MIT2016 Steering Committee, symposium cochair, and Class of 1942 Professor in the departments of Architecture and Civil and Environmental Engineering<br /> &nbsp;<br /> The symposium is part of <a href="" target="_blank">MIT2016: Celebrating a Century in Cambridge</a>, a program running Feb. 29 to June 4 as MIT commemorates 100 years at its “new” campus.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> Graphic: Tim Blackburn. Photos: Christopher HartingSpecial events and guest speakers, Faculty, Research, Century in Cambridge, Architecture, Arts, Biological engineering, Brain and cognitive sciences, Chemistry, Chemical engineering, Civil and environmental engineering, Economics, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Mechanical engineering, Media Lab, Music, Theater, Physics, School of Architecture and Planning, School of Engineering, SHASS, School of Science, Sloan School of Management Learning to think like an engineer Neerja Aggarwal reflects on her love for theater, ultimate Frisbee, and electrical engineering. Wed, 09 Mar 2016 18:20:01 -0500 Mijal Tenenbaum | Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science <p>Since she was a little girl launching air-pressure rockets in her back yard in Houston, Texas, Neerja Aggarwal knew that she loved math and science. “I was always up to something,” the electrical engineering major recalls.</p> <p>Aggarwal, now a senior at MIT, is still constantly up to something. She is the founder and leader of <a href="" target="_self">Voltage</a>, an undergraduate electrical engineering club, part of the first group of students to graduate with a major in theater arts, and a member of <a href="" target="_blank">sMITe</a>, MIT’s Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team. This summer, she will start working on her MEng at MIT.</p> <p><strong>Engineering mindset</strong></p> <p>Aggarwal’s path to electrical engineering included a few stops along the way, as she discovered new disciplines and ways of approaching problems.</p> <p>“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned at MIT is that you really don’t know what you don’t know,” she says. “I had no idea what else was out there.”</p> <p>In high school, Aggarwal enrolled in a magnet program focused on medicine because she thought she wanted to be a doctor. Through the program she did rotations at Houston’s Anderson Cancer Center, and realized that she didn’t want to be a doctor — she wanted to build devices that doctors could use.</p> <p>Going into the fall of her sophomore year, Aggarwal was ready to declare her major in materials science and engineering. She had done research in a chemistry lab at Rice University during high school, and loved the solid state chemistry class she took during her freshman year.</p> <p>However, she kept thinking about an introductory electrical engineering and computer science class she had taken as a freshman. “I got to program a robot to navigate though a maze, and it was the first time that I thought about systems thinking, and how you can control a system,” she remembers. “And that’s what engineering is: It’s a way of thinking, it’s a mindset.”</p> <p><strong>Founding Voltage</strong></p> <p>The experience prompted her to declare electrical engineering as her major. Aggarwal is one of a growing number of students opting to study in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) — enrollment in the department has roughly doubled since 2010-2011 from 637 students to 1,204 students in the current academic year.</p> <p>Aggarwal was happy with her decision to change majors, but missed some of the benefits of a small academic department she had experienced in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I really liked the small major feeling of materials science, and I wanted to bring that to electrical engineering,” she says. Aggarwal decided to start Voltage, a club for undergraduate electrical engineers.</p> <p>Voltage aims to bring students, alumni, and faculty together for interactions around research and coursework. A subcommittee of the MIT IEEE/ACM Club, Voltage started with study breaks where students could meet, find out who was in their classes, and learn about courses. Since then they have planned bigger events, including two research expos where faculty showcased their work to help students find research opportunities.</p> <p>Aggarwal and Voltage have also been working to inspire more students to study electrical engineering. In the fall of 2015 they hosted the Electrical Engineering Expo with EECS, which connected students with electrical engineering internships and research opportunities.</p> <p><strong>Practical knowledge</strong></p> <p>The summer before her senior year, Aggarwal worked at FormLabs, an MIT spinout in Somerville specializing in 3-D printing. “The definition of my job was ‘fix things that are broken and make things work better,’” she explains.</p> <p>In September 2015, FormLabs launched Form 2, the printer that Aggarwal worked on. Much of her internship focused on troubleshooting. “My biggest contribution was actually that I used what I learned in a lot of my signals and systems courses at MIT to program the heater for the printer,” she says.</p> <p>During her junior year, Aggarwal worked on a research project through <a href="" target="_blank">EECS’s SuperUROP program</a> with Rajeev Ram, professor of electrical engineering, in his Physical Optics and Electronics Group. The project she worked on was aimed at building a wearable optical health monitor.</p> <p>Aggarwal says that that her work at FormLabs and her research with Ram’s group helped her grow into a more confident engineer. She remembers she went into her SuperUROP without knowing anything about how to build a high-power wearable laser, the focus of her research project. However, with Ram’s encouragement, she quickly realized that learning how to solve new problems was the point of SuperUROP and research itself.</p> <p>Both of these experiences showed her the importance of being ready to learn and figure out new ways to think. “Throughout my SuperUROP experience and during my time at FormLabs, I had to learn everything on the job. And that’s what I realized engineering is. It’s being able to learn what you need to, to get the job done.”</p> <p><strong>Rediscovering theater</strong></p> <p>Another thing that Aggarwal learned from her SuperUROP is the importance of diverse interests. “I do theater, I do electrical engineering, I do design, I do sports. I really appreciated that Professor Ram always encouraged me to keep pursuing all of my interests, and never told&nbsp;me to limit myself to one thing.”</p> <p>Aggarwal grew up acting in school plays, but had stopped during high school to focus on science. At MIT, she discovered the student theater community and immediately decided to get involved.</p> <p>She directed Oscar Wilde’s "The Importance of Being Earnest" with the Dramashop during her junior fall. A year later Aggarwal directed "Now Then Again," her first full-length production, with <a href="" target="_blank">The Experimental Theater Company</a>, MIT’s newest student-run theater group.</p> <p>She describes this experience as “the hardest thing I’ve ever done at MIT.” She still loves acting, but she loves directing even more. “I have a passion for it, just like I have a passion for science,” she says — a fact that speaks to her decision to add a second major, in MIT’s Music and Theater Arts Section.</p> <p>Aggarwal enjoyed her SuperUROP research so much that she has decided to stay at MIT next year to pursue her MEng with Ram’s group. She will simultaneously be working on a theater arts thesis.</p> <p>Aggarwal says, with no hesitation, that her favorite part of MIT is the people. “You don’t get to find such a group of people anywhere else in the world. Everybody here is so passionate about something, and it’s very obvious on their faces, and in how they talk about things. That really is the best part.”&nbsp;</p> Neerja AggarwalPhoto: Audrey ResutekProfile, Students, Undergraduate, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), SuperUROP, Theater, School of Engineering, SHASS Four professors named 2016 MacVicar Faculty Fellows Devadas, Grossman, Sipser, and Tang awarded MIT’s highest undergraduate teaching award. Mon, 07 Mar 2016 09:00:00 -0500 <p>Each year, the <a href="" target="_blank">MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program</a> recognizes professors who exhibit exceptional undergraduate teaching, educational innovation, and mentoring. The awardees this year are Srinivas Devadas, the Edwin Sibley Webster Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Jeffrey Grossman, professor of materials science and engineering; Michael Sipser, dean of the School of Science and professor of mathematics; and Patricia Tang, an associate professor of music and theater arts.</p> <p>Founded in 1992, the program was created to honor the legacy of Margaret MacVicar, an MIT alumna and professor of physical science who served as the Institute’s first dean for undergraduate education, from 1985 to 1990. MacVicar is credited with numerous far-reaching educational initiatives, including the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Established in 1969 — when MacVicar was just 26 and in her first year on the MIT faculty — UROP has since been emulated worldwide.</p> <p>The nomination process for the MacVicar awards is rigorous, requiring supporting letters and extensive documentation from several sources, including department heads, faculty, current students, and course evaluations. Provost Martin A. Schmidt selected the fellows, with input from an advisory committee of faculty and students chaired by Dean for Undergraduate Education Dennis M. Freeman. Fellows receive $10,000 annually for 10 years to support their undergraduate teaching. With the addition of the 2016 fellows, the program now sponsors 43 professors.</p> <p>The Institute will honor the fellows and celebrate excellence in undergraduate education on <a href="" target="_blank">MacVicar Day</a>, Friday, March 11, with a symposium titled “From Hand to Mind: Advances in Evidence-based Teaching.” Freeman will introduce the 2016 fellows and moderate the panel. Speakers include Martin Culpepper, professor of mechanical engineering; Michael Cuthbert, associate professor of music; David Darmofal, professor of aeronautics and astronautics; Catherine Drennan, professor of biology; Robert Miller, professor of electrical engineering and computer science; and Janet Rankin, interim director of the Teaching and Learning Laboratory.</p> <p>The symposium will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. in Bartos Theater (<a href="" target="_blank">Room E15-070</a>), followed by a reception honoring the new MacVicar Fellows from 4 to 5 p.m. in Bartos Lobby. The symposium and reception are open to the entire MIT community.</p> <p><strong>Srinivas Devadas</strong></p> <p>Devadas completed a BTech degree in electronics at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India, and earned his MS and PhD in electrical engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. Devadas joined the MIT faculty in 1988, received tenure in 1995, and was promoted to full professor in 1999. He has also served in several leadership roles in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), including associate head and interim head. In 2012, Devadas was named the Edwin Sibley Webster Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.</p> <p>“I’m deeply honored to be selected as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow,” Devadas says. “I thank the EECS leadership over my 28 years at MIT for giving me great freedom in choosing my teaching duties and providing me opportunities to teach with, and learn from, literally dozens of my talented colleagues. I am deeply grateful to all my colleagues who I have partnered with in teaching our wonderful students.”</p> <p>Devadas’ colleagues appreciate partnering with him, as well. “Srini not only was amazing in class, he also was a great mentor to us,” according to one nomination. “His enthusiasm for teaching was inspiring and contagious. He instilled in us and indeed, in all the teaching staff, the idea that one should tirelessly work to improve the material.”</p> <p>Another colleague cited the many ways Devadas demonstrated “extreme” dedication in a new subject, 6.S04 (Fundamentals of Programming): personally proctoring make-up exams; meeting after hours with undergraduate lab assistants; helping students debug their code in laboratory sessions — “even though we have lab assistants for that!” — and changing his sabbatical plans so he could teach the new subject next year. “And I couldn’t omit the custom 6.S04 frisbees that he had printed, with guinea pigs on them to symbolize the pilot status of the subject, thrown to students who answer questions in lecture!”</p> <p>Students perceive Devadas as a caring instructor with an inspiring sense of optimism. One noted that Devadas gave him some sage advice before he left MIT for graduate school, “advice that continues to guide me to this day: the best ideas come from a willingness to approach each problem with an enthusiastic outlook. Simply stated, Prof. Devadas is an incredibly positive person and his attitude resonates throughout his teaching every day.”</p> <p>Another student was struck by the respect Devadas has for students’ needs, such as granting extensions for unforeseen circumstances like illnesses. Devadas’s response, the student wrote, would be “assuaging the student’s concerns and assuring them that they could finish the assignment at their convenience. At a school that is as high-pressure as MIT, such sensitivity goes a long way in ensuring that students don’t get overwhelmed by classwork.”</p> <p><strong>Jeffrey Grossman</strong></p> <p>After earning a BA in physics at Johns Hopkins University, Grossman completed his MS and PhD, also in physics, at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He was appointed assistant professor at MIT in 2009, associate professor with tenure in 2011, and full professor in 2014.</p> <p>“It’s an incredible honor to be selected as a MacVicar Fellow — and it’s also a daily privilege to teach MIT’s outstanding undergraduate students,” Grossman says. “The students I’ve taught bring such intellect and curiosity to the classroom, and I believe it’s their passion for learning that makes MIT flourish.</p> <p>“I love developing new ways for students to touch and feel the key learning concepts, whether it’s a class on thermodynamics, materials for energy, or introductory chemistry. By complimenting core lecture material with hands-on experiences, students think about, remember, and connect the concepts in different ways. It’s really exciting to me to see these connections form and watch our students thrive at the chance to explore the material in the true spirit of ‘mens et manus.’”</p> <p>This passion for striving to make abstract concepts more concrete is a common theme among Grossman’s nominators. “His dedication to inspiring his students to truly learn fundamental principles is noteworthy and exceptional,” wrote one colleague. “One of the ways he accomplishes this goal is by creating hands-on demonstrations that connect with the utmost clarity to the underlying science and engineering being taught in the classroom. For example, in 3.012 [Fundamentals of Materials Science and Engineering] … he systematically designed, tested, and refined a series of thermo demonstrations that illustrate clearly key concepts explored in the classroom. By doing so, he has transformed highly esoteric subject matter into a series of intuitive demonstrations that allows students to connect directly with the underlying science.”</p> <p>A student nominator described how Grossman helped him when he was struggling to understand the implications of the wave function. “One of his most effective tools is his ability to connect the abstract to its tangible manifestation in the real world … Professor Grossman saw that I needed to take a step back from the board and look at the big picture, so to speak. Upon observing the macroscope, he showed me that the wave function is the link between probability distributions and the behavior of electrons in molecules. The pieces of the puzzle finally fell into place.”</p> <p>Another student summed up his appreciation for Grossman in this way: “There is nothing better as a student than a professor who conveys passion and excitement about what they are teaching, and Professor Grossman does that better than anyone else I have met at MIT.”</p> <p>“Srini and Jeff are dynamic and energetic professors,” says Ian Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering. “They are gifted educators who think deeply and strategically about education, and they have exceptional abilities to transfer their enthusiasm for their fields to their students. They are also world-class researchers. I am delighted to see their contributions to education recognized by appointment as MacVicar Fellows.”</p> <p><strong>Michael Sipser</strong></p> <p>Sipser is dean of the School of Science and the Donner Professor of Mathematics. He graduated from Cornell University with a BA in mathematics and then completed his PhD in engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. He began his career at MIT in 1979 as a research associate and joined the faculty as assistant professor of applied mathematics. Sipser was promoted to associate professor in 1983 and full professor in 1989. Before his appointment as dean of science in 2014, Sipser served as head of the Department of Mathematics from 2004 to 2014 and interim dean of science from 2013 to 2014.</p> <p>“I’m honored and grateful to be recognized as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow,” Sipser says. “I’ve always loved explaining things to anyone willing to listen, but teaching MIT students is such a pleasure and a privilege because they are all so wonderfully interesting and enthusiastic.”</p> <p>Sipser’s colleagues admire what one nominator called his “masterful” teaching style. “He always speaks efficiently but with sentences pregnant with content,” one colleague wrote. “He never tries to impress the audience with technical brilliance (though he could); rather, he brings the audience along for a wonderful ride, drawing attention to the important scenery, without letting technical overgrowth obscure the view.”</p> <p>Another colleague described Sipser’s courses as “a timeless work of art. Several of us have taught versions of his courses years later, and they retain their power, even when taught by mere mortals. It is a breathtaking experience to watch students’ faces as they learn the material that Mike collected and presented in his course notes and books.”</p> <p>Sipser’s students related how much he genuinely cares about their learning. “Frequently, when explaining difficult material, Professor Sipser will pause, worried that only a few people are following, and ask for questions or re-explain what just happened at a more conceptual level until he is convinced that everyone in the room understands … These qualities make 18.404 [Theory of Computation] one of the most enjoyable classes I have had the pleasure of taking at MIT.”</p> <p>The MacVicar award is “long overdue,” according to Tomasz Mrowka, head of the Department of Mathematics and the Singer Professor in Mathematics. “Mike Sipser has been a star teacher at MIT since his arrival. One of the founders of modern complexity theory, his introductory course is nothing short of legendary. He is known for an uncanny knack of finding simple and enlightening ways of explaining&nbsp;complicated content. He has over his years at MIT also applied his skill to teaching calculus with similarly spectral results.”</p> <p><strong>Patricia Tang</strong></p> <p>Tang received a BA in music from Brown University and a PhD in music from Harvard University. She joined the MIT faculty in 2001 as assistant professor of music and theater arts, was promoted to associate professor in 2005, and received tenure in 2008.</p> <p>“It is a tremendous honor to be selected as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow … I am truly humbled,” Tang says. “As an ethnomusicologist, I love many aspects of my job, but my true love has always been teaching. There is nothing more gratifying than sharing my passion for African music with MIT students while hopefully giving them the tools to better understand music and its broader cultural contexts; but in the classroom, I am constantly learning from my students as well — it is this mutual exchange of knowledge and ideas that makes teaching MIT students so rewarding.”</p> <p>In addition to her teaching excellence, Tang is lauded by her colleagues for the breadth of her contributions to the Music and Theater Arts Section within the School of Humanitites, Arts, and Social Sciences. One nominator wrote, “Patty has been particularly effective as chair of the music curriculum committee, a role that her intelligence, tact, caring, and attentiveness particularly suit her for. In that role, Patty has led the section through what [Professor Emeritus] Ellen Harris calls a ‘quiet revolution’ in its curriculum, ‘completely overhauling the requirements of the music major.’”</p> <p>“It is in Patty’s nature to truly care about her students,” wrote one former student. “She endeavors to create well-rounded experiences through a number of engaging opportunities that allow participants to be exposed to the potential depth of their exploration, while also defining their own unique perspective and approach. Her excitement is consistently contagious.”</p> <p>Another student described Tang’s impact outside of the classroom, as co-director of the student ensemble Rambax. “I can say without hesitation that I owe more to this woman than I can hope to grasp in one lifetime … For me, and many other students caught in the tech-school-shuffle, Rambax became a never-ending quest for knowledge of deep rhythmic roots at the foundation of musical creation; an oasis of community in the midst of academic storms; a gust of motivation in an otherwise confusing and competitive environment.”</p> <p>“I am thrilled Patricia has been selected for a MacVicar Fellow award,” says Melissa Nobles, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “She brings a great deal of knowledge and enthusiasm to her teaching. Her classes on World Music celebrate the richness of musical and cultural expression across the globe, reminding us that music is truly a universal language.”</p> 2016 MacVicar Faculty Fellows: (clockwise from top left) Patty Tang, Jeffrey Grossman, Michael Sipser, and Srinivas DevadasAwards, honors and fellowships, MacVicar fellows, Community, Education, teaching, academics, Faculty, Mentoring, Staff, Undergraduate, School of Engineering, School of Science, SHASS, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Materials Science and Engineering, Mathematics, Music and theater arts, Music, Theater, DMSE MIT senior takes on double major in brain and cognitive sciences plus theater arts Abra Shen pursues medicine and theater, and someday hopes to combine the two. Fri, 19 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500 Catherine Curro Caruso | MIT News correspondent <p>Abra Shen didn’t expect to graduate from MIT with a theater degree, but she couldn’t resist adding theater arts to her major in brain and cognitive sciences when the opportunity presented itself. In fact, while the theater program at MIT has existed for a number of years, she will be MIT’s first official theater arts major.</p> <p>During the past four years, Shen has pursued both science and theater in equal parts, and whether she is helping cancer patients transition to life after treatment or directing a musical, she does not hesitate to throw herself completely into whatever she is doing.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Exploring neuroscience and medicine </strong></p> <p>Shen, who grew up in Toronto, Ontario, was in middle school when she came across a book called <em>Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind</em> that jump-started her interest in neuroscience. In particular, she was fascinated by neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran’s descriptions of how he cared for patients with neurological diseases.</p> <p>“I thought wow, science is really interesting, neuroscience is really great, and medicine has this creative component to it,” she says.&nbsp;</p> <p>Shen followed her interest in neuroscience to MIT, where she spent her first two years conducting Alzheimer’s research with Li-Huei Tsai, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience. The Tsai lab uses mouse models to explore the memory areas of the brain, and in one study, her team employed a technique known as <a href="">optogenetics</a> to inject a light-sensitive virus into neurons in different brain regions of mice including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Once the virus was injected, the neurons could be activated or deactivated by turning a light on or off, resulting in either an improved memory or severe memory loss.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The experience allowed Shen to appreciate the many opportunities MIT undergraduates have to participate in cutting-edge research and technology.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I think that's a huge benefit of going to a place like MIT,” Shen says. “Professors have great connections and great resources, and are involved at the forefront of what's going on.”</p> <p>Shen also spent two summers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. There, she worked with patients in the Survivorship Centre, which helps cancer patients transition from active treatment to follow-up care. Patients often struggle with this transition, particularly because many of them lack information about what to expect in the coming months.</p> <p>“We worked on a project to understand the specific needs of testicular and endometrial cancer survivors: what sort of information they were looking for, what information they weren't getting, and what they needed as support to be able to transition into follow-up care and return to their regular lives,” Shen explains.</p> <p>Shen’s team developed personalized documents called Survivorship Care Plans that patients fill out with their oncologists or nurses so they have an accessible, organized record of all the information they might need.</p> <p>While Shen appreciates the broad scope of laboratory research, she enjoyed working in a clinical setting where she could directly improve the lives of her patients and have contact with them every day.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I think it adds a personal touch to what you're doing, and it's a lot more encouraging and motivating when you're able to help the people that you're working with,” she explains. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Discovering a new passion</strong></p> <p>While at MIT, Shen has also developed a deep commitment to theater arts. Shen was first exposed to MIT’s theater program when, as a high school senior visiting for Campus Preview Weekend, she saw a musical performed by the theater group Next Act.</p> <p>“I thought it was a great program and that the show was beautiful,” she recalls. “I fell in love and have been involved ever since.”</p> <p>Shen joined Next Act as a freshman, but it was a directing class during her sophomore year that really changed her perspective on theater. The class, a three-hour workshop, was her first theater class at MIT, and it forced her to challenge herself in new ways.&nbsp;</p> <p>“That's a period of time where I really grew as an artist, as a person,” she explains. “I became more open, more confident about sharing my own ideas, because I realized, in theater, there's not really a bad idea. Everything can be spun to be seen as really interesting, or really creative, or really different.”</p> <p>The class motivated Shen to join Dramashop, another theater group on campus, and to pursue theater as her concentration for MIT’s Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) requirement. Her concentration expanded into a minor, which eventually became a full-blown theater arts major.</p> <p>For Shen, the decision was an obvious one. “I realized that I just wanted to take theater classes forever,” she says. “Theater has been one of the most&nbsp;influential&nbsp;and important experiences that I've had at MIT.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Experiencing the world beyond MIT </strong></p> <p>Shen has also had the opportunity to experience different cultures during her time at MIT, through the MIT Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) program. As a junior, she spent three weeks over winter break living with a host family in Germany and teaching biology, physics, and chemistry to German high school students. The following summer Shen, who is fluent in French, worked at a cancer center in France, where she shadowed oncologists and conducted research.</p> <p>“Just being immersed in this totally different environment where people think differently, communicate differently, and the culture and the customs are very different ... it helps you learn about yourself and what is important to you,” Shen says.</p> <p>After graduating this May, Shen will pursue a degree in medicine, and she hopes to continue working with cancer patients. Shen sees a lot of overlap between medicine and theater, both of which she views as extremely personal fields that focus on understanding people. She also thinks that the communication skills she has developed through theater will help her interact more successfully with her patients and colleagues.</p> <p>“I think that the&nbsp;approach&nbsp;that you should take to theater and medicine should be similar in that you are&nbsp;there engaging in that activity because it's meaningful to you and because you are emotionally attached to what you're working on,” she explains.</p> <p>Shen’s ultimate goal is to merge her two interests by exploring how theater therapy can be used to help patients.</p> <p>“I would love to study how being involved in theater through vocal expression and physical gestures at the same time can affect your self-confidence, your well-being, your motivation, and desire to get out again,” she says.</p> <p>Right now, however, Shen is focused on the task at hand — directing “The Little Mermaid,” Next Act’s spring musical. She is currently reading through the script and music to prepare for auditions, while grappling with the artistic challenges of staging a play that takes place largely underwater. She is not sure exactly how the play will turn out, but she is excited to see what happens.</p> <p>“In theater if you're doing what has been done before, that's boring,” she explains. “You always want to be trying new things.”</p> Abra Shen Image: Ian MacLellanStudents, Arts, Theater, Undergraduate, Brain and cognitive sciences, Medicine, Cancer, SHASS, School of Science, Profile, MISTI Hundreds of MIT students explore fields at the 2015 TOUR de SHASS Academic expo connects students with MIT-SHASS faculty and courses. Wed, 16 Sep 2015 17:31:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>On Sept. 10, several hundred MIT undergraduates attended the annual TOUR de SHASS, an academic expo that gives students a chance to discover the range and depth of MIT courses in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (MIT-SHASS).<br /> <br /> Kendrick Manyueles, a junior in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the TOUR made him feel especially fortunate to be a student at MIT today:&nbsp;“There are so many opportunities in addition to the sciences. I’m very grateful for the breadth of the fields available to me here at the Institute.”<br /> <br /> An MIT education combines the STEM and SHASS fields — not least because generating solutions for the world's great challenges requires both technical/scientific creativity and an understanding of the world’s human complexities in the political, cultural, and economic realms. Alongside their STEM classes, all MIT undergraduates take a minimum of eight SHASS classes (nearly 25 percent of total class time). Many students go deeper to major or minor in one of the MIT-SHASS fields.</p> <p>At the TOUR this year some 400 students visited information stations staffed by faculty and undergraduate academic administrators from all 13 MIT-SHASS fields: anthropology; economics; political science; global studies and languages; history; linguistics; literature; comparative media studies/writing; music; theater arts; philosophy; science, technology, and society; and women’s and gender studies.<br /> <br /> With all the MIT-SHASS fields represented, at one time, in one room, the event is a convenient and efficient way for students to gather information, talk informally with faculty, and explore possibilities.<br /> <br /> “It’s great to have all the SHASS areas here in one place, especially for a freshman like myself, so I can ask questions about the courses," said freshman Matias Hanco.&nbsp;“I’m really interested in video game development and in Comparative Media Studies. The two should complement each other really well.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Exploring fields</strong><br /> <br /> Students at the event were pleased to discover the wide range of fields in MIT-SHASS, and many were glad for a chance to get input and guidance directly from the faculty.<br /> <br /> “It was great to get recommendations by talking to the faculty,” said freshman Lily Jordan.&nbsp;“I’m enrolled in an intro linguistics class right now. After taking the TOUR, I’m also going to look into classes in literature and writing.”<br /> <br /> “I just think it’s so important to get perspectives from both STEM and HASS,” said freshman Nick Pape.&nbsp;“I’m interested in philosophy and linguistics, and I might&nbsp;like to major in one.”</p> <p><br /> <strong>Meeting global challenges</strong><br /> <br /> Luisa Kenausis, a junior majoring in nuclear science and engineering and political science, explained that her interest in HASS courses is related both to her work in the sciences, and her desire to help&nbsp;solve the world's biggest challenges.<br /> <br /> “There’s lots of overlap between my nuclear coursework and political science, in terms of nuclear energy policy, the climate, and nuclear weapons," she says. "But I’m also really interested in issues related to race and social justice, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to study those issues independent of my science field.”<br /> <br /> That observation was a common refrain among students at the TOUR, and it is a view that echoes the perspective of the Institute's leadership. As MIT Presdent L. Rafael Reif said recently, “To tackle our global challenges — from water and food scarcity and climate change to digital learning, innovation, and human health — we need ambitious new answers from science and engineering. But because these challenges are rooted in culture, economics, and politics, meaningful solutions must reflect the wisdom of these domains too.”</p> <h5><br /> <em>Story by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editor and Design Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Staff Writer: Daniel Evans Pritchard<br /> Photography: Jon Sachs</em></h5> MIT students at the 2015 TOUR de SHASS.Jon Sachs/MIT SHASS CommunicationsStudents, Undergraduate, SHASS, Humanities, Arts, Social sciences, Anthropology, Economics, Political science, Global Studies and Languages, History, Linguistics, Literature, languages and writing, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Music, Theater, Philosophy, Technology and society, Women's and Gender Studies, Special events and guest speakers Announcing MIT-SHASS new faculty for fall 2015 The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences welcomes a new group of standout scholars. Mon, 14 Sep 2015 13:13:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences has announced the newest members of their faculty. They come with diverse backgrounds and vast knowledge in their areas of research:&nbsp;ecology and globalization; trade reforms in India; post-Cold War Cuba; a humanistic account of the global diabetes crisis; and the political&nbsp;history of Mexico’s rural training schools for teachers.</p> <p><strong>David Atkin</strong> |<strong> Economics</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">David Atkin</a> joins MIT's Economics faculty in the fall of 2015&nbsp;as an Assistant Professor. He received his PhD from Princeton University and served most recently as an affiliate of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Atkin's research focuses on the impacts&nbsp;of trade liberalization on the poor in the developing world. His recent work has studied the role of regional taste differences in altering the impacts of trade reforms in India, educational responses to the rise of export-oriented manufacturing in Mexico, the costs of moving goods within Africa, barriers to technology adoption in Pakistan, exporting and productivity among rug-makers in Egypt, and the welfare effects of retail globalization in Mexico.</p> <p><strong>William Deringer</strong> | <strong>Program in Science, Technology, and Society</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">William Deringer</a> joins MIT as an assistant professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society. He earned his MA (2009) and PhD&nbsp;(2012) in the history of science from Princeton University. A historian by training, he studies how practices of technical knowledge, particularly calculations, have worked in political and economic settings, from the early-modern period to the present. He is particularly interested in the history of the social sciences, in historical and social studies of finance, and in the role of numbers in politics and public discourse.</p> <p><strong>Paloma Duong</strong> |<strong> Global Studies and Languages</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Paloma Duong</a> joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of Latin American studies in Global Studies and Languages, having received her PhD from Columbia University in 2014. Duong's research focuses on the intersection of culture and politics in 20th and 21st century Latin America. She is currently writing about democratic imaginaries, new media, and participatory forms of culture in post-Cold War Cuba, including blogs, performances, and music. Her work and her teaching draw from cultural studies, political philosophy, and literary and media theory to examine the aesthetic dimensions of citizenship, and the history and reception of Marxism, in Latin America.</p> <p><strong>Caley Horan</strong><strong> </strong>| <strong>History</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Caley Horan</a> joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of history. She received her PhD from the University of Minnesota&nbsp;in 2011, and comes to MIT from Princeton University. Horan's research and teaching interests include business history and the history of capitalism, cold war culture, risk and prediction, and the history of gender and sexuality. She&nbsp;is currently working on a book manuscript, "Actuarial Age," which explores the cultural life of insurance and the role of risk-based thinking in shaping American institutions and daily life during the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p><strong>Amy Moran-Thomas </strong>| <strong>Anthropology</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Amy Moran-Thomas</a> joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of anthropology.&nbsp;She received her PhD in anthropology from Princeton University in 2012, and held postdoctoral fellowships at Princeton and Brown University before coming to MIT. Moran-Thomas's research bridges the anthropology of health and environment&nbsp;with ethnographic studies of science and technology. Her current book project, blending non-fiction stories and science writing with ethnographic and historical analyses, offers a humanistic account of the global diabetes epidemic.</p> <p><strong>Tanalís Padilla</strong><strong> </strong>| <strong>History</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Tanalís Padilla</a> joins the MIT faculty as associate professor of history.&nbsp;She received her PhD&nbsp;from the University of California at San Diego in 2001. Padilla's first book, "Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata: The Jaramillista Movement and the Myth of the Pax Priísta, 1940-1962" (Duke University Press, 2008) recounts the history of an agrarian movement that turned to armed struggle. Her current book manuscript, "The Unintended Lessons of Revolution: School Teachers in the Mexican Countryside, 1940-1980,” traces the history of Mexico’s rural training schools for teachers, and analyzes the process by which rural school teachers went from agents of state consolidation to activists against a government that increasingly abandoned its commitment to social justice.</p> <p><strong>Robin Scheffler</strong><strong> </strong>| <strong>Program in Science, Technology, and Society</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Robin Scheffler</a> joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor in Science, Technology, and Society. He earned his PhD in the history of science and medicine from Yale University. Scheffler is a historian of the modern biological and biomedical sciences and their intersections with developments in American history. He is currently working on a project that follows the history of cancer virus research in the 20th century from legislature to laboratory, documenting its origins and impact on the modern biological sciences. Other projects include the history of biotechnology industry and a chemical biography of dioxins.</p> <p><strong>Frank Schilbach</strong><strong> </strong>|<strong> Economics</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Frank Schilbach</a> joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of economics. He earned his PhD in economics from Harvard University in 2015. His recent publications include “Alcohol and Self-Control: A Field Experiment in India” and, along with with Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer, and Jon Robinson, “Technology Diffusion and Appropriate Use: Evidence from Western Kenya.”</p> <p><strong>Bettina Stoetzer</strong><strong> </strong>|<strong> Global Studies and Languages</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Bettina Stoetzer</a> joins the MIT faculty as assistant professor in Global Studies and Languages. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2011, and holds an MA in sociology, anthropology and media studies from the University of Goettingen in Germany. Before coming to MIT, she was a Harper Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. Stoetzer’s research focuses on the intersections of ecology, globalization, and urban social justice. Her current book project, "Ruderal City: Ecologies of Migration and Urban Life," illustrates that human-environment relations have become a key register through which urban citizenship is articulated in contemporary Europe.</p> <p><strong>Leslie Tilley</strong><strong> </strong>| <strong>Music and Theater Arts</strong></p> <p>Leslie Tilley joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of music and theater arts.&nbsp;She earned her PhD in ethno-musicology from the University of British Columbia in 2013. Tilley's current research and recent publication focuses on the analysis of group-improvised music forms from Bali, Indonesia. Through recording, transcription, analysis, and ethnographic research, she attempts to uncover inherent rules governing improvisation.</p> New MIT-SHASS Faculty for 2015: David Atkin, William Deringer, Paloma Duong; Caley Horan, Amy Moran-Thomas, Tanalís Padilla, Robin Scheffler; Frank Schilbach, Bettina Stoetzer, Leslie TilleyFaculty, SHASS, Anthropology, Economics, Technology and society, Global Studies and Languages, History, Theater Physicist and novelist Alan Lightman looks back on a decade of science on stage Tue, 28 Apr 2015 14:49:01 -0400 Nicole Estvanik Taylor | MIT Spectrum <div> <p>For a decade,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Catalyst Collaborative at MIT</a>&nbsp;(CC@MIT) has convened scientists and theater artists searching for common ground and, in a partnership between MIT and nearby&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Central Square Theater</a>&nbsp;(CST), has brought those conversations to life for the wider community. Resident CST troupes Underground Railway Theater and the Nora Theatre Company have produced at least one play per season on a scientific theme, some of which have been commissioned by CC@MIT. The productions frequently include opportunities for the audience to engage directly with scientists, artists, and prominent local thinkers.&nbsp;</p> <p>This spring, CC@MIT caps off its 10th anniversary celebration with an adaptation by director/playwright&nbsp;Wesley Savick&nbsp;of&nbsp;Alan Lightman’s 2012 novel<em> "</em>Mr g," which imagines the creation of the universe from the creator’s perspective. One of CC@MIT’s co-directors, Lightman is both a <a href="" target="_blank">physicist and professor of the practice</a> of the humanities in MIT’s&nbsp;Comparative Media Studies/Writing program. He is no stranger to the stage; his international bestseller "Einstein’s Dreams" has received no fewer than two-dozen theatrical and musical adaptations (including a CC@MIT outing, with Savick, in 2007).</p> <p>"Mr g" <a href="" target="_blank">runs at Central Square Theater</a><a href="" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; text-decoration: none; font-size: 1em; outline: none; color: rgb(89, 102, 155); border: none;">&nbsp;</a>April 23 - May 24, and was included on the schedule of the sprawling&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Cambridge Science Festival</a>. Participants in the accompanying discussions include such MIT faculty members as planetary scientist&nbsp;Sara Seager, Nobel-winning physicist&nbsp;Wolfgang Ketterle, and Lightman himself, as well as MIT-trained theoretical astrophysicist&nbsp;Priyamvada Natarajan ’90, ’91, SM ’11.</p> <p><em>MIT Spectrum</em>&nbsp;asked Lightman to look back at the group’s genesis and ahead to its future.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>How was Catalyst Collaborative at MIT first hatched?&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>A little more than 10 years ago, [theater arts faculty member]&nbsp;Alan Brody&nbsp;and I started a monthly salon called “<a href="" target="_blank">Science on Stage</a>” for MIT scientists and playwrights from all over the Boston area. Our first meeting included physicists&nbsp;George Benedek,&nbsp;Jerry Friedman,&nbsp;Alan Guth, and&nbsp;Bob Jaffe. A biologist,&nbsp;Nancy Hopkins, was in the group, and an ophthalmologist,&nbsp;David Miller. The theater people included&nbsp;Debra Wise, artistic director of Underground Railway Theater;&nbsp;Kate Snodgrass, artistic director of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre; and&nbsp;Jon Lipsky, a Boston University professor who has since passed away. Our idea was that we would have freewheeling discussions about the intersection of the sciences and the arts.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>And is that what happened?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>We had wine and cheese, and we would go around the table and talk about what we were thinking about, what we were reading, what plays we were seeing. And then after about 20 minutes we would magically focus on some particular topic of conversation. We never knew in advance exactly what it would be and we never had any homework, which was one of the reasons why it worked.</p> <p>About two years after we started the salon, the idea of the Catalyst Collaborative emerged as a more formal association between MIT and the Underground Railway Theater. The playwrights were getting good ideas about plays that involved science and the scientists were learning how theater people think about the world. There was a very fruitful exchange of ideas that probably would not have occurred in chance meetings in the hallway.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>A decade later, you have a large advisory committee of MIT faculty from several disciplines. What is their involvement?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>We can only commission one or two plays a year and perform a couple a year, so we meet for short play readings and the advisory committee shares its opinions. Another big part of what the faculty does is participate in the post-performance discussions with scientists and artists about the themes of the play. These are particularly appropriate for our audience. There’s no area in the world, certainly not in the United States, that has the assemblage of intellectuals that the Boston/Cambridge area does. We’ve also held performances and talk-backs at various high schools.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>Are there certain topics audiences seem especially eager to discuss?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>People are very interested in ethical issues raised by or dealt with by science, and in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">science and religion</a>.</p> <p>And I think the public’s interested in understanding scientists as human beings. Scientists are generally regarded in our culture as being robots, as being from another planet. They have this arcane knowledge which can cause great good and also great destruction. And not many people know the language of science — it’s a kind of a priesthood. Who are these people in the lab coats? Anything we can do to help the public understand scientists as human beings is worthwhile, because science and technology, in addition to religion, are the most powerful forces shaping our world and our society.</p> <p>Alan Brody’s play&nbsp;Operation Epsilon&nbsp;is a good example. It shows German atomic scientists at the end of WWII, debating the ethics of developing the bomb and questioning their own careers and self-identities. That’s one of the plays, by the way, that emerged from the Science on Stage salons, which continued until a couple of years ago.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>Having worked with Wesley Savick previously on "Einstein’s Dreams," were you excited to explore particular aspects of your book, "Mr g," with him?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>My view about a collaboration of that nature is that I don’t want to get in the way of the playwright. I’m very pleased that "Mr g" and "Einstein’s Dreams" inspired Wesley to adapt for the stage. At that point, it’s Wesley’s own creative imagination that takes over. He’s made a number of artistic decisions which depart from the book. For example, he’s made&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Mr g, who is the God character</a>, a teenage boy.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What was your reaction to that?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>Well, I was a little startled. After thinking about it a little bit, I could understand the reason behind it, because in the book "Mr g" is a playful, curious character, eager to do experiments. He has a lot of youthful enthusiasm and even naiveté, if you can imagine naiveté in God. Wesley apparently decided that casting a teenage boy would distill all of that. I was more startled when he chose a girl to play Belhor — who is the Satan-like character in the book — and implied a slight romantic flirtation with Mr g. But again, that’s a different artist, following his own star.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What goals do you have for the next decade of Catalyst Collaborative?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>I would like to see us have a national impact, for some of the plays that we commission to travel beyond the precincts of Boston and Cambridge, and to have talk-back sessions around the country — basically to export what we’ve developed here.</p> <p>We’d also like to commission more plays where we bring scientists and playwrights together from the beginning. We need money to do that, though we’ve been operating on a pretty low budget and getting a big bang for our buck. And when we commission new plays, I’d like us to be able to draw from an even richer pool of playwrights around the country.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>There seems to be a growing interest among playwrights in engaging with these kinds of topics, especially through programs like the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s science play commissions.</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>In fact, one of the developments that inspired us to start the Science on Stage salons back in 2003 was the Sloan Foundation’s commissioning program in New York, which I think was just starting around that time, as well as the success of "Copenhagen" by&nbsp;Michael Frayn&nbsp;[about a meeting between physicists&nbsp;Niels Bohr&nbsp;and&nbsp;Werner Heisenberg] and "Arcadia" by Tom Stoppard [whose characters grapple with the mathematical and scientific laws that govern the universe].</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>You straddle the humanities and the sciences in a way most people don’t. Is it difficult to find scientists who want to be involved in a project like this?&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>It’s true that it’s a minority of scientists who want to do this kind of thing. And of course, it would be nice to have a national rather than just a local net to catch these people. But all of the scientists who came to the salon — and they were just from MIT — are very interested in this. You can find scientists who are interested in the arts and want to participate.</p> </div> CC@MIT production of "Einstein's Dreams"Elizabeth Stewart/Libberding PhotographyArts, Faculty, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Theater, Humanities, Technology and society, Science writing, SHASS, Special events and guest speakers Jay Scheib named new housemaster for Senior House Committee recommends music and theater arts professor for MIT’s oldest residential community. Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:56:01 -0500 Division of Student Life <p>Throughout his theater career, <a href="" target="_blank">Jay Scheib</a> has played many roles — playwright, producer, director, designer, and performer, to name just a few. Now he takes on a singular role as the newly appointed housemaster for the Senior House undergraduate community.</p> <p>Scheib has been a member of the MIT Music and Theater Arts faculty since 2003, with the occasional visit as guest professor for acting and directing at international conservatories such as the Norwegian Theater Academy in Oslo, Norway, and the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. During that time he has received numerous honors and awards, including MIT’s Edgerton Award for Faculty Achievement in 2008, a prestigious 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, and an OBIE Award for best direction. He was also named one of 25 “Artists who will define the next 25 years of American Theater” by <em>American Theater Magazine</em> in April 2009.</p> <p>With credits ranging from plays to ballet to television to opera, what drew Scheib to becoming a housemaster at Senior House?</p> <p>“I have always been drawn to Senior House,” he says. “I certainly would have lived there myself had I applied to MIT for university — not that I would have gotten in! The creativity of the community, in step with its tremendous focus, curiosity, rigor, and discipline, is profoundly inspiring. I share very deeply their independent spirit, their daring inventiveness, and especially their social values. It’s an honor and a privilege to be welcomed into the community.”</p> <p>“Senior House is a small, eclectic community, and the housemaster plays an important role in shaping the residents’ experience,” says Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo. “Jay shares the innovative and creative energy that brings Senior House’s character to life. Combined with his ability to connect with students, Jay’s appointment is a great result for Senior House residents now and in the future.”</p> <p>John Essigmann, the William R. (1956) and Betsy P. Leitch Professor in Residence of Chemistry, professor of toxicology and biological engineering, and housemaster of Simmons Hall, chaired the search committee, which consisted of another housemaster, faculty, and staff. “Senior House prides itself as a haven for artists on campus,” Essigmann said. “Jay and the students seemed to be on the same wavelength at every stage of the process, which led the committee to the conclusion that he is a good match for this position.”</p> <p>Scheib replaces Agustín Rayo PhD ’01, associate professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, and Carmen Saracho, a novelist and restaurant critic. They had been the Senior House housemasters since May 2010.</p> <p>In addition to Essigmann, the search committee included Rodrigo Lopez Uricoechea ’16 and Adrianna Rodriguez ’16 from Senior House; housemaster Nina Davis-Millis from MIT Librarie; Dean of Engineering Ian Waitz; Professor Robert Redwine; graduate resident tutor Margaret K. Delano; and Division of Student Life staff members Henry Humphreys, Michael Barcelo, and Camille Romney.</p> <p>MIT housemasters are faculty who reside in the undergraduate and graduate residential halls and fill an important role in each house’s community. Part advisor and advocate, part mentor and neighbor, housemasters work closely with their area director, graduate resident tutors, their house’s student government, and the Division of Student Life to advise students, provide leadership for the house, and foster community life at the Institute.</p> <p>Opened in 1918, Senior House is the oldest undergraduate residence hall at MIT. According to a <a href="" target="_blank">history</a> published on its website, Senior House was MIT’s first dormitory and has been home to several communities including MIT’s first on-campus fraternity, undergraduates, graduate students, and even served as military housing during World War II.</p> MIT Senior HouseMIT Division of Student LifeStudent life, Residential life, Faculty, Music, Theater, SHASS, Community SHASS announces 12 research fund recipients for 2015 Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:04:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) <a href="" target="_blank">Research Fund</a> supports MIT research in the&nbsp;humanities, arts, or social sciences that shows promise&nbsp;of making an important contribution to the proposed&nbsp;area of activity. The projects funded in the&nbsp;2015 cycle include&nbsp;research on&nbsp;patient/doctor decision models; language technology for distance learning; U.S. class inequality; political violence; electronic music archives; gender and history; identity and power; new music and theater works;&nbsp;and housing.</p> <p>Congratulations to the 2015 recipients:<br /> <br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Takako Aikawa</a>, senior lecturer in Japanese, to support the design of an effective curriculum to support the JaJan distance-language-learning tool, a collaboration between MIT and Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. The aim is to assess the effectiveness of technology on language learning and to identify the most effective practices in the use of JaJan, which can provide a basis for the development of programs to teach all languages.<br /> <br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Fotini Christia</a>, associate professor of political science, to support exploratory research into political attitudes toward sectarian violence and United States foreign policy in southern Iraq. By surveying pilgrims to Shiite religious sites in that region, Christia hopes to gain unique insight into the political and economic views held by Shiites from both Iraq and Iran.<br /> <br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Michael Cuthbert</a>, the Homer Burnell Career Development Professor and an associate professor of music, to support the completion of the Electronic Medieval Musical Score Archive Project, which encodes the entire repertory of polyphonic music from 1300-1420 into computer-searchable formats.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Lerna Ekmekcioglu</a>, the McMillan-Stewart Career Development Assistant Professor of History, to support archival research associated with a monograph, tentatively titled "Suffering Remnants of an Ancient Christian Nation: A Gendered Reading of Modern Armenian History," which investigates gendered representations of the nascent state of Armenia in the aftermath of World War I.<br /> <br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Robert Fogelson</a>, professor of history and urban studies, to support travel and research toward a book project that explores the rapid decline of non-profit cooperative housing in New York City. The research will focus on the United Housing Foundation, a consortium of labor unions at the forefront of the non-profit housing movement, and Co-op City, the largest housing cooperative in the country.<br /> <br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Eric J. Goldberg</a>, associate professor of history, to support research toward a book project, tentatively titled "With Practice, Skill, and Cunning: Hunting and Identity in Frankish Europe, AD 312–987." The project will explore the changing mores of hunting in post-Roman Europe and its relationship to secular manhood, Frankish identity, and aristocratic power.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Frederick Harris Jr.</a>, director of the MIT Wind and Jazz Ensembles, to support the production of a documentary film on the life of contemporary conductor and composer Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, entitled, "Through Music I Commune With the Universe: Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, A Life in Music."</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Anna Kohler</a>, senior lecturer in music and theater arts, to support the conversion of seminal theater performances from the past 35 years, currently on deteriorating videotape, to digital formats. The digital archive will then be available as a resource for MIT students and faculty.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Elena Ruehr</a>, lecturer in music, to support the final production and release of an album of six new original works for violin, viola, cello, and piano. These pieces — including "Lift," a composition for solo cello dedicated to 2014 Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient Malala Yousafzai — were written over the past 17 years at MIT.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Jay Scheib</a>, director of theater arts, to support the development of a new interdisciplinary performance project, which uses the 18th-century "Sturm und Drang" movement as a point of departure to remix Goethe’s classic bildungsroman of unrequited love, "The Sorrows of Young Werther."</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Paulo Somaini</a>, assistant professor of economics, to support research that attempts to establish a model of patient/surgeon decision-making in order to analyze the benefits of cadaveric kidney transplants. This new empirically-based model will be used to construct and evaluate various alternatives to the existing market.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Christine Walley</a>, associate professor of anthropology, to support the final stage of the Exit Zero Project, a collaborative transmedia history project undertaken in partnership with the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. Exit Zero leverages personal narratives and archival materials from a former steel mill community in Southeast Chicago to document the impacts of deindustrialization and expanding class inequalities in the United States.<br /> <br /> MIT SHASS is engaged in generating ideas to help meet the world's great&nbsp;challenges, and is home to research that has a global impact. With 13 academic fields, the school's research portfolio includes&nbsp;international studies; history; poverty alleviation;&nbsp;science,&nbsp;technology and society;&nbsp;literature;&nbsp;anthropology;&nbsp;digital humanities; linguistics;&nbsp;philosophy;&nbsp;global studies and languages;&nbsp;music and theater;&nbsp;political science; writing;&nbsp;security studies; comparative&nbsp;media;&nbsp;and economics.</p> MIT SHASS Research FundAwards, honors and fellowships, SHASS, Faculty, Research, Music, Theater, Political science, Social sciences, Arts, History, Economics, Anthropology SHASS welcomes 10 new faculty members Wed, 08 Oct 2014 18:33:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is very pleased to present the newest members of the MIT SHASS faculty. They come to MIT&nbsp;with diverse backgrounds and vast knowledge in their areas of research:&nbsp;empirics of matching markets; 19th- and 20th-century representations of childhood and the history of children's literature; international political economy and formal and quantitative methodology; the intersection of philosophy and linguistics; causes and consequences of ethnic conflict; intersection of science, technology, and urban politics in U.S. history; the meaning of natural language expressions; moral philosophy; and game theory, microeconomic theory, and political economy.</p> <p>Please join us in welcoming these excellent scholars into the MIT&nbsp;community. &nbsp;</p> <div> <p><strong>Nikhil Agarwal,&nbsp;Economics</strong></p> <p>Nikhil Agarwal joins MIT's Department of Economics faculty in the fall of 2014 as an assistant professor. He received his PhD from Harvard University and was a postdoc at the Cowles Foundation at Yale University.</p> <p>He studies the empirics of matching markets, or markets where prices do not clear the market. The applications he studies include medical residency markets, kidney donation, and public school choice. His current research focuses on developing methods to analyze data from these markets in order to answer questions about the effects of design on outcomes. &nbsp;<br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Profile at MIT SHASS Department of Economics</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Charlotte Brathwaite,&nbsp;Music and Theater Arts</strong></p> <p>Charlotte Brathwaite joins MIT as an assistant professor of theater arts. Prior to coming to MIT, she was a visiting professor of theater and dance at Amherst College. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the Amsterdam School for the Arts in the Netherlands and a Master of Fine Arts in directing from the Yale School of Drama.</p> <p>Brathwaite is co-founder of the Berlin-based performance group Naturaleza Humana. She has assistant-directed for Yale Repertory Theater, Lincoln Center, Yale Opera, Richard Foreman, Robert Wilson, Francesca Zambello, and Christian Rath. She has shadowed director Joel Zwick on set at Disney Studios in Los Angeles. This summer she assisted director Peter Sellars’s production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Stratford Festival in Canada. She is recipient of a Princess Grace Foundation George C. Wolfe Award and the Julian Milton Kaufman Prize for Directing Yale University.&nbsp;<br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Profile at MIT SHASS Music and Theater Arts Section</a></p> <p><strong>Marah Gubar,&nbsp;Literature</strong></p> <p>Marah Gubar joins the Literature at MIT's faculty in fall, 2014 as an associate professor. Previously, she was an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where she directed the nationally recognized Children’s Literature Program. She earned her PhD in English from Princeton University and did her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she received a BA in English and a BFA in musical theatre.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Gubar teaches and writes about children’s literature from a variety of periods, but she is especially interested in 19th- and 20th-century representations of childhood and the history of children’s theatre. Her book, "Artful Dodgers: Reconceiving the Golden Age of Children’s Literature," was published by Oxford University Press&nbsp;in 2009 and won the Children’s Literature Association’s Book Award. She has also received several teaching prizes, including the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni Teaching Award and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award — the highest teaching honor given to faculty at Pitt. &nbsp;<br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Profile at MIT SHASS Literature at MIT</a><br /> <br /> <strong>In Song Kim,&nbsp;Political Science</strong></p> <p>In Song Kim joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of political science. He received his PhD from the Department of Politics at Princeton University, and was awarded the Harold W. Dodds Fellowship for 2012 to 2013 academic year.</p> <p>His research interests include international political economy and formal and quantitative methodology. His dissertation examines firm-level political incentives to lobby for trade liberalization. Kim is also interested in “big data” analysis of international trade. He is developing methods for dimension reduction and visualization to investigate how the structure of international trade around the globe has evolved over time. &nbsp;<br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Profile at MIT SHASS Department of Political Science</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Justin Khoo,&nbsp;Linguistics and Philosophy</strong></p> <p>Justin Khoo joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of philosophy. He earned his PhD from Yale in 2013, and he was a postdoc in MIT's Department of Philosophy last year. His research interests are in philosophy of language, philosophical logic, and metaphysics.<br /> <br /> Khoo is currently working on topics at the border between philosophy and linguistics. He has papers on the meaning and conversational pragmatics of conditionals ("if ... then"), modals ("may," "must"), and their interactions. More broadly, he is interested in the nature of language and communication. &nbsp;<br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Profile at MIT SHASS Department of Linguistics and Philosophy</a></p> <p><strong>Evan Lieberman,&nbsp;Political Science</strong></p> <p>Evan Lieberman joins MIT as the Total Professor of Political Science and Contemporary Africa. Previously, Lieberman was a member of the faculty at Princeton University for 12 years, and a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Scholar at Yale University. He received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley and his BA from Princeton.</p> <p>Lieberman’s research is concerned with understanding the causes and consequences of ethnic conflict, and the determinants of good governance and policy-making, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. He also writes and teaches on research methods for comparative analysis. Lieberman is the author of two scholarly books, "Race and Regionalism in the Politics of Taxation" (Cambridge, 2003) and "Boundaries of Contagion: How Ethnic Politics Have Shaped Government Responses to AIDS" (Princeton, 2009), as well as numerous scholarly articles. He received the David Collier Mid-Career Achievement Award at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. &nbsp;<br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Profile at MIT SHASS Department of Political Science</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Jennifer Light,&nbsp;Program in Science, Technology, and Society</strong></p> <p>Jennifer Light joins the MIT faculty as a professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society and as a professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (by courtesy). Previously, Light was at Northwestern University, where she was a professor of communication, history, and sociology. She holds degrees from Harvard and the University of Cambridge.</p> <p>Light is fascinated by technocratic thinking and its uses in programs of social reform and social control. Light has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study and received the Catherine Bauer Wurster Prize from the Society for American City and Regional Planning History. Her latest book, "From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in a Digital Age," co-edited with Danielle Allen, is forthcoming from University of Chicago Press in the spring of 2015. &nbsp;<br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Profile at MIT SHASS Program in Science, Technology and Society</a></p> <p><strong>Roger Schwarzschild,&nbsp;Linguistics and Philosophy</strong></p> <p>Roger Schwarzschild joins the MIT faculty in the fall of 2014 as a professor of linguistics. His work addresses the meaning of natural language expressions. His research foci include plurality, comparatives, measure phrases, and intonational focus. He has taught at Rutgers University, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and at Bar-Ilan University.<br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Profile at MIT SHASS Department of Linguistics and Philosophy</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Kieran Setiya,&nbsp;Linguistics and Philosophy</strong></p> <p>Kieran Setiya joins the MIT faculty as a professor of philosophy. He holds a PhD from Princeton University along with a BA in philosophy from the University of Cambridge; he taught previously at the University of Pittsburgh.</p> <p>Setiya's primary interests are in moral philosophy and its intersections with metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind. He is the author of two books, "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton University Press, 2007) and "Knowing Right From Wrong" (Oxford University Press, 2012). His current work is on the place of love in moral philosophy, the ethics of procreation, and the midlife crisis.<br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Kieran Setiya&nbsp;website</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Alex Wolitzky,&nbsp;Economics</strong></p> <p>Alex Wolitzky joins the MIT faculty as an assistant professor of economics. Previously, he was an assistant professor of economics at Stanford University, and before that a postdoc at Microsoft Research. He earned his PhD in economics from MIT and did his undergraduate work at Harvard University, where he received a BA in economics and mathematics.</p> <p>His main areas of research are game theory, microeconomic theory, and political economy. In game theory, Wolitzky is interested in robust behavior in games and in models of bargaining, repeated games, reputation-formation, and networks. In political economy, he is interested in models of conflict and institutions and their implications for economic outcomes. Wolitzky's current research projects include a model for comparing centralized and decentralized enforcement of social norms, and a model of optimal taxation and redistribution under the threat of political reform. His research has been published in journals including&nbsp;<em>Econometrica,</em>&nbsp;<em>American Economic Review,</em> and&nbsp;<em>Review of Economic Studies.</em><br /> <a href="" style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);" target="_blank">Profile at MIT SHASS Department of Economics</a></p> </div> New SHASS facultyFaculty, SHASS, Economics, Linguistics, Philosophy, Technology and society, Political science, Literature, languages and writing, Music, Theater MIT energizes theater arts professor Multifaceted Associate Professor Jay Scheib named director of the Theater Arts Department Wed, 05 Jun 2013 15:37:11 -0400 Leda Zimmerman | MIT Spectrvm <i>This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of</i> <a href="" target="_blank">Spectrvm</a>.<br /><br />Jay Scheib just staged Beethoven’s “Fidelio” in Saarbrucken, Germany, put on a ballet in Hong Kong and brought home an Obie (off-Broadway’s highest honor) for a production in New York that lit up critics’ radar screens. So why, with a burgeoning international reputation and simultaneous projects writing, designing and directing, has Scheib decided to call MIT home?<br /> <br />“There was a time,” Scheib admits, “when I thought, ‘What? There’s a theater program at MIT?’” But today this associate professor and newly appointed director of the Theater Arts Department regards his move to Cambridge from Berlin nine years ago as “one of the great decisions of my life — the start of an incredibly fruitful relationship.”<br /> <br />Scheib, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, vaulted onto the global stage in his early 20s, directing, designing, writing plays and adapting screenplays. Along the way, he picked up video and film production, and earned an MFA at Columbia University. Recently named Best New York Theater Director by <i>Time Out New York</i>, Scheib says he brings the “challenges of the field, and the experience of grappling with them” into his undergraduate studio classes. “Building on those kinds of journeys hand in hand with students, as a day-to-day artistic practice, has been enriching,” he says. The benefits flow both ways, since these students collaborate with Scheib, contributing ideas at the earliest stages and later becoming directly involved in productions.<br /> <br />The kinds of questions that fascinate Scheib, discussed in the classroom and made manifest in his productions, connect to work emerging from MIT’s science and engineering departments. He attends talks by MIT colleagues on such topics as robotics and advanced prostheses. “Their language makes its way into my thinking,” Scheib believes. “It’s important for me to take science and technology as central considerations in whatever I do, whether operas, plays or ballets.”<br /><br /><strong>Other worlds</strong><br /> <br />He finds the notion of human exploration of other worlds, whether in outer space or digital, particularly resonant. “Untitled Mars,” the first drama of a three-part trilogy, was sparked by a proposal from Joseph Gavin, Jr. — an MIT aero/astro graduate and a lead in U.S. lunar exploration — that astronauts should travel to Mars with the understanding that they would never return. “The idea for me was hugely shocking, but when I asked my class if they would go on a one-way mission, they all said yes,” Scheib says. “I totally get that adventurous spirit.”<br /> <br />Scheib is also “very engaged in finding ways to incorporate different technologies, whether video, or sensors or microphones, into live performance.” These are not intended as whiz-bang fillips to a production, but as strategies for “reflecting on the world we live in.” Scheib’s off-Broadway theater piece, “World of Wires,” was conceived at MIT, and tells the story of a scientist who is surprised to find himself living inside the computer simulation he is designing. To convey this complex duality, Scheib includes a live, uncut video view of the action (he mans the camera himself for the single 90-minute shot during performances). “I want to find ways to work with these tools such that they are deeply embedded in the action,” he says.<br /> <br />After a brief vacation at his childhood farm in Iowa — “I plan to drive around in a pickup truck” — Scheib will take on a packed agenda, which includes helping to reshape MIT’s theater arts curriculum. While undergraduates frequently choose theater as a “companion piece” to a course of study in architecture or physics, says Scheib, he hopes MIT “will emerge as a destination for students seeking to concentrate in performance and scenography.”<br /> <br />The ultimate multiplexer, Scheib will also be developing a production for the New York City Opera, and designing a Chekhov performance as a live, drive-in movie sited next door to the Pinwheel House, a winner of MIT’s $1K House initiative — an effort to bring supremely affordable and sustainable homes to the world’s poor. “I’m happy to be doing a lot all the time,” he says.  Plus, there is a “pitch and energy to MIT that I find energizing.”Jay Scheib was recently named Best New York Theater Director by Time Out New York. Photos: Len RubensteinArts, Faculty, Humanities, Music, Spectrum, Theater MIT music documentary pays tribute to the Arab Spring WGBH Boston/Channel 2 airs &#039;Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring Through Music&#039; Thu, 30 May 2013 15:12:33 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The PBS affiliate WGBH Boston/Channel 2 aired the MIT music documentary "Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring Through Music" on May 31. Several firsts were involved in this event: the broadcast marked the first time PBS has shown an MIT music documentary; this was the first work that MIT Video Productions has produced specifically for broadcast television; and the 30-minute program featured the world premiere of "Awakening," by composer and MIT alumnus Jamshied Sharifi. The work debuted in March 2012, performed by the MIT Wind Ensemble led by Dr. Frederick E. Harris, director of wind and jazz ensembles for MIT Music and Theater Arts.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <div class="video_captions"><iframe frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="560"></iframe></div> <p><br /> <strong>Music to connect with the world </strong><br /> <br /> The music, and ultimately the documentary film, were set in motion by conductor Harris' vision for engaging his MIT music students with the momentous events of the Arab Spring. To encourage his students to contemplate and understand the historical context for the Arab Spring, Harris proposed to Sharifi that he compose a piece that related to the movement sweeping Egypt and other Arab countries.<br /> <br /> Harris knew Sharifi to be uniquely qualified to undertake the project: born to an Iranian father and American mother, Sharifi had studied and taught at MIT, serving as director of the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble from 1985-1992. Reflecting on what the commission meant to him, Sharifi says, “For those of us with Persian heritage who watched the earlier political protests in Iran, initially with hope and then with bitter disappointment, the success of the civil movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were especially gratifying. The labor of developing effective and responsive political systems in those three countries still remains. But something in the Middle East has undeniably changed. And I tried to honor that shift in this piece.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Inspiring the future </strong><br /> <br /> “'Awakening' is in three movements,” Sharifi explains. “The first, 'Maghreb/Bouazizi/The Uprisings;' second, 'Reflection: Let Each One Hear Her Own Thoughts;' and third, 'Ahead: The Real Transformation Has Barely Begun.'<br /> <br /> The first movement gives us a sense of place, utilizing maqam Hijaz (a mode often associated with the deep desert), and continues in a somewhat programmatic fashion, touching on the tragic event that ignited the protests, and continuing into the propagation of the revolutions. The second movement is a respite, a chance to contemplate what has happened. And the third hopes to energize and inspire the work that is to come.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Collaboration </strong><br /> <br /> Philip S. Khoury, MIT associate provost and Ford International Professor of History, who gave a special lecture on the Arab Spring during Sharifi’s 2012 residency as a Visiting Artist in the MIT Music and Theater Arts section, describes the collaboration between the MIT Wind Ensemble and Sharifi as "stunning."<br /> <br /> “It captures in musical form the great optimism and the great uncertainty unleashed by the Arab Spring, itself the most monumental series of political upheavals since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc regimes more than two decades ago,” he says.</p> <div class="video_captions"><img border="0" src="/newsoffice/sites/" /><br /> <span class="image_caption">The MIT Wind Ensemble performed "Awakening" on March 2012 in Kresge Auditorium.</span></div> <p><br /> <strong>Impact </strong><br /> <br /> The remarkable collaboration between Sharifi and MIT's Wind Ensemble has had a meaningful and long-lasting affect on all those involved in the project. “Having the opportunity to work with Jamshied really enhanced the process of rehearsing and premiering 'Awakening,'” notes Emily Jackson '12, an MIT Wind Ensemble flautist who majored in chemical-biological engineering with a minor in music. “This piece particularly touched me: it intensely conveys emotion and prompts reflection as it tells a story.”<br /> <br /> Sharifi, who has a successful international career as a composer-arranger, producer and keyboardist, describes the project as a career highlight. "Working with Fred Harris and the MIT Wind Ensemble on 'Awakening' was one of the most rewarding artistic experiences of my life. Fred and the musicians in the group were committed, passionate, and unfailingly musical in bringing the piece to life."<br /> <br /> "The word 'awakening' conjures this idea that you're coming forth with something, but yet it might not be fully realized," Harris says. "This power of reflection and contemplation is so needed today and I think that 'Awakening' in its own way provides a vehicle for that."<br /> <br /> "Awakening" was commissioned by MIT via the Institute’s Visiting Artists Program with additional support from MIT’s Music and Theater Arts Section. The film production was made possible through the combined vision and talents of Executive Producer, Lawrence Gallagher; Documentary Director Chris Boebel; Film Editor Jean Dunoyer; Technical Director Craig Milanesi; and Music Performance Director Bob Comiskey.<br /> <br /> Chris Boebel and Jean Dunoyer have each had distinguished careers in documentary and film production before joining the staff at MIT Video Productions, led by Lawrence Gallagher. The production of this program was supported in part through a generous gift by A. Neil (MIT '64) and Jane Pappalardo, long-time friends and supporters of education and the arts at MIT.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <strong>About the MIT Wind Ensemble </strong><br /> <br /> Founded in 1999 by Dr. Frederick Harris, Jr., the MIT Wind Ensemble (MITWE) is comprised of outstanding MIT undergraduate and graduate student musicians studying a wide range of disciplines. Since 2001, MITWE has commissioned 35 original works for wind ensemble and has worked with Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, Michael Colgrass, Don Byron, and many other prominent composers. MITWE has recorded for Albany and Innova Records, and it has been featured on NPR. Gramophone Magazine called its first CD “an exhilarating range of approaches to the modern wind ensemble.”</p> <hr /> <p class="shass">Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications and Arts at MIT</p> Tahir Square in Cairo, Egypt, during the demonstrations of the Arab SpringArts, Faculty, Humanities, Music, Special events and guest speakers, Staff, Students, Theater, Arab Spring, Middle East, Film and Television Jay Scheib receives MAP Fund grant Wed, 17 Apr 2013 14:16:21 -0400 Music and Theater Arts Writer, director, designer of plays, operas and installations and winner of a 2012 Obie, Jay Scheib, an associate professor of theater arts, has been awarded a <a href="" target="_blank">MAP Fund</a> grant to support a production of "Platonov, or the "Disinherited." This site-specific motion-portrait of a society on the brink of foreclosure will be staged in two unique environments: An outdoor presentation in a vacant lot converted into a makeshift drive-in movie theater in partnership with La Jolla Playhouse in fall 2013, and an indoor theater performance event at The Kitchen in January 2014.<br /><br />"Platonov, or the Disinherited" is Jay Scheib and Company’s remix of the traditions of Shakespeare-in-the-park, the ribald nostalgia of the drive-in movie and recent design experiments in environmentally sustainable and affordable housing to present a live-cinema performance based on Anton Chekhov's unfinished, first full-length play.<br /><br />The MAP Fund is founded on the principle that experimentation drives human progress, no less in art than in science or medicine. MAP supports artists, ensembles, producers and presenters whose work in the disciplines of contemporary performance embodies this spirit of exploration and deep inquiry. MAP is particularly interested in supporting work that examines notions of cultural difference or "the other," be that in class, gender, generation, race, religion, sexual orientation or other aspects of diversity.<br />Jay ScheibPhoto: Naomi WhiteArts, Awards, honors and fellowships, Faculty, Music, Theater Music and Theater Arts celebrates the 50th anniversary of Jazz at MIT Chick Corea composing a work for the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble. Wed, 06 Feb 2013 08:15:00 -0500 Music and Theater Arts <div class="video_captions"><iframe frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"></iframe> <br /><br /></div> MIT Music and Theater Arts is celebrating the golden anniversary of its jazz program this spring with an exhibit in the Lewis Music Library, panel discussions with jazz artists and alumni, and a gala concert. <br /><br />MIT's jazz program was founded in 1963, but from the 1920s up until 1963, student-led jazz groups and student-produced concerts abounded on the MIT campus. The student-led jazz groups during those early decades included the MIT Dance Orchestra, the MIT Techtonians and the MIT Jazz Society. On-campus performances were frequently presented by MIT student ensembles as well as by professional artists such as Stan Getz, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane and others. The one thing these efforts lacked was the leadership of a professional jazz educator to mentor and direct the students and their activities.<br /><br /><strong>Pomeroy at MIT</strong><br /><br />It was clear to Klaus Liepmann, the Institute's first director of music, that MIT's young jazz musicians deserved the leadership of a professional music educator and director. In 1963, Liepmann made the pivotal decision to hire local musician Herb Pomeroy to lead the Techtonians. <br /><br />Under Pomeroy's leadership, the jazz program at MIT flourished. The Festival Jazz Ensemble (as it was later renamed) rose to national prominence with its participation at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and in the Notre Dame and Villanova Jazz Festivals. Herb Pomeroy also further developed the jazz program by bringing Everett Longstreth in 1968 to lead a second jazz band at MIT, a post Longstreth would hold for 27 years. Pomeroy retired from MIT in 1985 after leading the Festival Jazz Band for 22 years. <br /><br /><strong>Corea premiere to salute Pomeroy's legacy </strong><br /><br />In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the MIT jazz program, Chick Corea, recipient of 18 Grammy awards, composer and keyboard virtuoso, is composing a work for the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble (directed by Frederick Harris, Jr.). The commissioned piece, which was funded by the <a href="" target="_blank">Council for the Arts at MIT</a>, will be premiered on April 27 at Kresge Auditorium in a Gala Concert that will also feature Steve Kuhn, one of the most lyrical and affecting pianists in jazz. <br /><br />Corea, a native of Chelsea, Mass., has strong ties to MIT, where as a high school junior he rehearsed and played trumpet and piano in a jazz sextet that he formed with Joel Karp '62 and Rich Orr '62, trombones; MIT graduate students Ed Kane and Roger Eiss, on trumpet and bass; and Boston resident Lennie Nelson on drums. This was one of Corea's first bands. According to Corea, the MIT-rich group gave him the opportunity to write some of his earliest arrangements. "It was a lot of fun," he said.<br /><br /><strong>Jazz mentors</strong><br /><br />Just as Corea has influenced many young musicians during his illustrious career, he was himself inspired by the founder of the MIT Jazz program — Herb Pomeroy. Through his teaching, playing and band leading, Pomeroy touched and greatly influenced the lives of several generations of musicians.<br /><br /> "Herb Pomeroy and his band and the musicians he collected around him provided the first really deep, professional, great live jazz playing for me," Corea said in a recent interview. "Herb and his band provided a lot of inspiration to me. So I thank him for that." <br /><br />It was Pomeroy who offered him his first professional club date as the opening act for the Herb Pomeroy Big Band at the Stables club on Huntington Avenue in Boston. "I think it was on a Sunday," Corea recounted, "and that was my first big gig in a jazz club. It was great."<br /><br /><strong>Institute of jazz</strong><br /><br />Pomeroy was among the finest jazz artists and educators of the last 50 years, and his influence continues to enhance the jazz program at MIT to this day. His music library, recordings and personal papers are part of the MIT Institute Archives, and his legacy includes the line of distinguished jazz leaders who have succeeded him: Jamshied Sharifi, James O'Dell and current director Harris, who has directed the Festival Jazz Ensemble since 1999. <br /><br />Under their direction, the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble has performed with such distinguished guest musicians as Charlie Mariano, Ray Santisi, Phil Woods, Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Don Byron, Steve Turre, Terence Blanchard, Dominique Eade and Guillermo Klein, among others. In addition, many notable jazz composers including Magali Souriau, Guillermo Klein, Sharifi, Kenny Werner, George Schuller, Mark Harvey and Corea have written music for the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble.<br /><br />Today, in addition to the Festival Jazz Ensemble, MIT's popular Jazz program also includes three jazz combos, coached by bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa, the MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble, led by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and MIT Institute Professor John Harbison, and subjects in jazz history, harmony, arranging, composition and improvisation, taught by composer and trumpeter, Mark Harvey, lecturer and founding director of the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra.<br /><br />Admission to the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble gala concert on April 27 is free in advance, and $5 at the door. Tickets available at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. See the <a href="" target="_blank">complete schedule of all the 50th Jazz Anniversary events</a>.Arts, Faculty, Music, Staff, Students, Theater, Jazz, Special events and guest speakers Knowing the score At MIT, composer Keeril Makan has found a home for his innovative works. Thu, 29 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0500 Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office <div class="video_captions"><img src="/newsoffice/sites/" border="0" alt="Keeril Makan" /><br /><strong>Keeril Makan<br /></strong><i>Photo: Dominick Reuter</i><strong><br /></strong></div> <br />When he was in high school, Keeril Makan visited MIT as a prospective student. The trip still stands out in his memory: Touring campus, Makan saw MIT’s own <a href="" target="_blank">Harold “Doc” Edgerton</a>, the famous pioneering photographer, walking by. But when it came time to fill out college applications, Makan, though a good student in science and math, gave MIT a pass. Even as a teenager, he wanted to spend as much time as possible composing music — and Makan did not realize there was a flourishing music program at MIT.<br /><br />As fate would have it, though, Makan, now a highly regarded contemporary composer, has returned to MIT — where he is writing music on a more ambitious scale than ever before. Known for inventive pieces that blend cutting-edge and classical elements, Makan has a string quartet set that premiered in October; has recently written the score for his first opera; and continues to create a variety of shorter pieces.<br /><br />It is a not a circumstance Makan would have envisioned a decade ago. But then, the composer, who recently earned tenure in MIT’s <a href="" target="_blank">Program in Music</a>, has learned to embrace unpredictability, in his career and his work.<br /><br />“To be alive is to be aware of change, and I try to let it be reflected in the music I write,” Makan says. “I never know what the piece is going to be until I get into the process of composing. It just reflects where I am in my life and what is happening at that moment.” <br /><br /><strong>No more fiddling around</strong><br /><br />Makan grew up in New Jersey, with parents who appreciated music but did not expect him to create it. “There was certainly music in the house, but not music making,” he says. <br /><br />That changed when Makan took up the violin, in the fourth grade. “I was inspired, I’m embarrassed to say, by an episode of ‘The Muppet Show’ where the Charlie Daniels Band was on,” Makan says; the group performed “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a pop hit with a distinctive fiddle riff. “I liked the fiddling,” Makan admits. <br /><br />After also trying the oboe for a while, Makan stuck with the violin, as a performer. He first started writing music during a couple of summers in high school when he attended music camp at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. Eventually Makan chose to attend Oberlin College, where he double-majored in music composition and religious studies — and soon stopped playing the violin.<br /><br />“I didn’t like performing that much,” he says. “I liked playing violin, but I found it very nerve-wracking to actually play solos.” By his mid-20s, Makan went back to playing, but in the meantime he focused even more on composition, earning his PhD in the field from the University of California at Berkeley. Among the composers whose work engaged him the most, he says, were Gyorgy Ligeti, of Hungary, the late Frenchman Gerard Grisey, and Salvatore Sciarrino, a contemporary Italian composer. <br /><br />Before long, Makan had started attracting attention with distinctive pieces such as “2,” a 1998 composition — written while studying briefly with MIT’s <a href="" target="_blank">John Harbison</a> — created for violin and percussion only. “It’s an unusual combination of instruments,” Makan concedes. “It [represented] a stripping down of influences. I had these influences of contemporary music, classical music, new music, folk music, and this was the first piece that brought them together.” <br /><br />Makan had another productive spell in Helsinki, thanks to a Fulbright grant, where he wrote a piece commissioned by the Bang on a Can All-Stars — the first time he worked with MIT composer and performer <a href="" target="_blank">Evan Ziporyn</a>. An ensuing string quartet written for the Kronos Quartet, “The Noise Between Thoughts,” corresponded with Makan’s return to playing violin in a serious way. “That changed the types of sounds I was attracted to,” Makan says. <br /><br />Soon after, in 2006, Makan arrived at MIT and finished a new string quartet, “<a href="" target="_blank">Washed by Fire,</a>” which he says marked the beginning of a new phase in his career. Previously, Makan says, he felt that “lyricism, classical music, was part of the past, and not something to be a part of music making in the present.” But instead of keeping his music strictly within an avant-garde mode, Makan “discovered a new openness to all the different interests I had,” and began to “explore timbre, melodic writing, complex writings, in [my] own language.”<br /><br /><strong>The professor’s persona</strong><br /><br />At MIT, Makan has also refined his teaching methods. His goal with students, he says, is simply to “get them working creatively with music in a way they find satisfying.” Most of his students are juggling music with other academic priorities, although some have chosen a path similar to Makan’s. One of his former undergraduate students, Nina Young, was a double major in ocean engineering and music who now is pursuing a PhD in music composition at Columbia University.<br /><br />In this new career phase, Makan has also diversified the types of compositions he is attempting, while returning to some familiar forms as well. His latest string quartet <a href="" target="_blank">premiered at Pickman Hall</a> in Cambridge in October, performed by the Pacifica Quartet, as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston. <br /><br />The opera for which Makan has written the score is an interpretation of “Persona,” the 1966 film by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman; the libretto is by <a href="" target="_blank">Jay Scheib</a>, an associate professor in MIT’s <a href="" target="_blank">Theater Arts</a> program. The opera, like the film, is about “the fact that our identity is constructed,” Makan says. “There are masks that we wear throughout our lives that change, they are not permanent.” <br /><br />Makan is also beginning work on an hourlong concert piece, commissioned by the group Either/Or, which he expects to finish next summer. The composition “is in the dreaming state” right now, Makan says. <br /><br />Thematically, Makan adds, the recurrence of certain motifs in the new quartet represents “a balance between the illusion that events repeat themselves and the reality that nothing ever returns unaltered.” It is an idea that has run through Makan’s mind when he “physically returns to places I have visited before in my life, [while] visiting them under different circumstances.” <br /><br />Sounds like a notion well-suited to a onetime prospective MIT student who has returned to the Institute as a full-fledged composer.Keeril MakanPhoto: Dominick ReuterArts, Composers, Faculty, Music, Theater Leadership class injects muppets, Star Wars into &#039;Antigone&#039; Fri, 05 Oct 2012 18:51:23 -0400 Alice Waugh | Leaders for Global Operations While studying leadership recently, MIT Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) first-year students did some role-playing (complete with costumes) from a classic work on the subject: Sophocles' <i>Antigone</i>.<br /><br />The 48 students in the MIT LGO Class of 2014, who started their studies at MIT in June, were asked to produce their own version of the Greek tragedy as a capstone to their summer 2012 leadership unit taught by MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Leigh Hafrey. In devising the summer segment, he turned to the humanities tradition in which he trained.<br /><br />"Antigone is one of the oldest documents in the Western canon on leadership, authority, and the importance of speaking truth to power," Hafrey said.<br /><br />In the play, King Kreon of Thebes issues an order banning the burial of Polyneices, who he believes was a traitor to the city. Polyneices' sister Antigone, the daughter/half-sister of Oedipus, former king of Thebes, defies Kreon and gives her brother a proper burial, so Kreon condemns Antigone to death. The soothsayer Tiresias warns Kreon that he is defying the gods and Kreon recants, but Antigone has already killed herself, as has Kreon's son, Haemon, who was betrothed to Antigone and had counseled his father against his edict. In another blow, Kreon's wife, Eurydice, kills herself when she hears she has lost her son, leaving Kreon to contemplate the consequences of his rule.<br /><br />Andreas Christogiannis (LGO '14) explained the plot in business-speak: "The CEO (Kreon) enforces his ruling and disregards advice from his subordinates (his niece and his son) and from the experts (the oracle)."<br /><br />"My first reaction when our leadership professor gave us an acting assignment was skepticism — what would this have to do with leadership?" said Paul Meggs (LGO '14). "In the end, I realized the connection: to be a good leader, I need to step out of my comfort zone and work with my teams to accomplish our goals."<br /><br />The students had the entire summer to prepare the performance however they chose. "I only stipulated that all 48 of them appear on stage at some point, which made the performance into an ancient Greek exercise in operations management, even as it got the group to think about leadership in the most immediate way, both off- and on-stage," Hafrey said.<br /><br />The students decided to divide the play so that each study group had its own scene. Predictably, the teams' approaches varied widely.<br /><br />"Our audience saw the stars of 'The Muppet Show' followed by the main characters of 'Star Wars,'" Christogiannis said. "Some actors chose to wear togas and sandals while others came on stage in business attire as if they were holding a corporate meeting. One part was done in ancient Greek, and we even had a Rastafarian debating with a Southern preacher on what is right and what is wrong."<br /><br />Despite (or perhaps because of) the decentralized nature of the production, "it wasn't odd to see so many different styles and eras mixed together. And this proves the lasting value of Sophocles' view towards leadership," Christogiannis said. "Transferring this view to modern business practice, we concluded that leadership takes more than just deciding and ordering. It takes a context where people are free to offer opinions, and leaders are willing to listen and challenge their assumptions and are able to leverage their teams' skills and knowledge."<br /><br />Earlier in the summer, Hafrey's humanities-based leadership curriculum had the students discussing an Academy Award-winning Japanese film, "Shall We Dance?" as a way to grasp the concept of distributed leadership. There was also a three-hour session on leaders who've written about leadership, including Niccolo Machiavelli, James Madison, Martin Luther King, Jr., Vaclav Havel, and Aung San Suu Kyi.<br /><br />"I've never tried acting, and while I'm not going to quit my day job, it was definitely a fun and worthwhile experience. LGO surprises me at every turn; every day I get the chance to try something new," Meggs said.<br />In the MIT LGO student production of "Antigone" for a class on leadership, Rastafarian Brian Chang and Southern preacher Robbie Harris debate ethics and leadership with Kreon (Jeremy Giese, far right).Leaders for Global Operations (LGO), Leadership, Students, Theater Inaugural concert celebrates President Reif and Music at MIT Council for the Arts at MIT sponsors inaugural concert including the Caracas Brass Tue, 18 Sep 2012 12:29:03 -0400 Arts at MIT The inauguration of L. Rafael Reif as MIT’s 17th president presents the Institute with a splendid occasion to showcase its long-standing and highly creative engagement with music in its many forms. To begin, a concert by the Caracas Brass, an offshoot of the famous Simón Bolívar Orchestra of Venezuela, will sound a brilliant fanfare for the larger celebration.<br /><br />“More and more people are realizing that MIT is a hub of the arts,” says Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music at MIT. Music is thoroughly woven into the fabric of the Institute, in ways that may be surprising to some. Ziporyn notes that people expect to find advanced computer music and high-tech experiments as well as classical music, and certainly those are fields in which the MIT community excels. What they don’t expect is the dynamic range of jazz, hip-hop, classical composition, musical theatre and world music that emanates from all corners of the Institute.<br /><br />In part, this musical effusion simply reflects the student body. An astonishing 68 percent of current MIT undergraduates have advanced musical aptitude, and a full third of undergraduates participate in some kind of musical endeavor, whether it is private lessons or performance in groups that range from a capella trios to Balinese gamelan to the MIT Symphony Orchestra and the Festival Jazz Ensemble. MITHAS, the MIT group dedicated to the Heritage of the Arts of South Asia, has become a lead presenter of South-Asian performing arts in the Boston area, according to Ziporyn.<br /><br />The breadth and depth of music at MIT will be on full display for the inauguration itself, all coordinated by Frederick Harris Jr., who is music director of the MIT Wind Ensemble and Festival Jazz Ensemble among many other responsibilities. Music will be performed by several groups, including the MIT Ceremonial Brass, Rambax MIT and the MIT Chorallaries, in addition, Institute Professor John Harbison will lead students, faculty and staff in a work he composed in honor of L. Rafael Reif. As Frederick Harris puts it, “A lot of creativity and imagination has gone into the creation of music for the events; new musical partnerships are being formed and everyone involved is stretching themselves. Even before a note has been officially played or sung, we're all feeling a sense of esprit de corps. The name of the music faculty jazz combo that is performing at the gala dinner is Strength in Numbers. That says it all.”<br /><br />Deborah Fitzgerald, Kenan Sahin Dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, notes that the Institute’s commitment to music and other arts also “reflects our understanding that generating practical solutions for great challenges requires deep creativity, and an understanding of the world’s complexities — political, economic and cultural.  Experience in the arts and humanities empowers young engineers and scientists with cultural and historical perspective, creative capacities, and critical thinking skills for navigating the contexts in which they will work — so their vital innovations can succeed.”<br /><br />MIT is outstanding among institutions of higher learning, especially institutes of science and technology, in its excellent faculty composers and performers and support of musical study and performance. The competitive Emerson Scholarship/Fellowship Program offers free private lessons to 50 exceptional students every year. MIT’s new Center for Art, Technology &amp; Science (CAST), supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is dedicated to increasing the integration of arts into curricula and research endeavors, not only at the Institute but globally. And the MIT Council for the Arts, founded in 1972 by then-president Jerome Wiesner, harnesses a volunteer group of alumni and friends to encourage art and music participation at every level of the Institute and to raise funds for grants, awards, and programming.<br /><br />The Council’s commitment to fostering leadership in the integration of art and music into society, learning, and research was never more visible than when, in 2010, it awarded its highest honor, the prestigious Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, to conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who is currently music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony in Sweden, and artistic director of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra of Venezuela. The McDermott Award brought Maestro Dudamel to campus in April of 2010 for an exciting residency, during which he conducted an open rehearsal with the MIT Symphony Orchestra and participated in a panel discussion with two award-winning MIT professor/composers, John Harbison and Tod Machover, moderated by PBS journalist Maria Hinojosa.<br /><br />The remarkable career of the 31-year-old Dudamel, who brings infectious enthusiasm, brilliant musicianship, and an unruly mop of hair to every endeavor in which he takes part, had its inception in El Sistema, Venezuela’s path-breaking youth music program. The brainchild of economist and musician José Antonio Abreu, El Sistema was founded in 1975 with a single youth orchestra; over time the mission and reach of El Sistema, also called Social Action for Music, have expanded dramatically to comprise 31 regional symphony orchestras, supporting the instruction of more than 300,000 children at any given time. Its mission is not just to bring musical training to any Venezuelan child who expresses interest, regardless of location or income — though it does so — but to create citizens. In an interview with author Tricia Tunstall, who wrote <i>Changing Lives</i> (2012) about Dudamel and El Sistema, Abreu said of his first, tentative youth ensemble in Caracas, “I realized that the orchestra was actually a model of community, because it taught both solidarity and social discipline ... To me, an orchestra is first and foremost a way to encourage better human development within children.” Dudamel, the son of a trombonist and a voice teacher, joined El Sistema in his home city of Barquisimeto as a small child and began occasional conducting stints in the youth orchestra at age 11.<br /><br />Dudamel may be the Sistema’s most meteoric success, but the program’s benefits have been most visible among the less affluent villages and urban neighborhoods where the program helps young people find purpose, discipline, and hope — and sometimes a career in music or instrument-making — instead of discouragement and delinquency. Tunstall quotes Maestro Abreu: “Poverty is not just a lack of a roof or bread. It is also a spiritual lack—a loneliness and lack of recognition. The vicious cycle of poverty can be broken when a child poor in material possessions acquires spiritual wealth through music.”<br /><br />The crown jewel of El Sistema is the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, of which Mr. Dudamel was appointed music director in 1999, at the age of 18. Ten young members of that orchestra have formed the Caracas Brass, an ensemble of horns and percussion that has toured internationally to great acclaim. Its young members warmly endorse the tenets of El Sistema.<br /><br />Roman Granda, a Cuban-born trumpet player in the ensemble who joined a “nucleo” of El Sistema in 1996, commented, “All of us, as beneficiaries of El Sistema, have been very blessed. We have had the opportunity to attend lessons with some of the A-list musicians of the previous and our generation not only from our own country, but from all over the world, a great input for our education. To have the opportunity to perform in some of the most relevant venues all over the world implies a great commitment with your art and your country, and all of these translate into a better individual, a more mature musician and a more developed human being.”<br /><br />Performing, teaching, and outreach work in tandem in El Sistema, as they do at MIT. Alejandro Diaz, a Caracas Brass trombonist who joined the “nucleo” in his native city of San Cristobal at age 9, observes, “Whenever we perform, either with the orchestra or with an ensemble, the adrenaline is always rushing, the excitement is always there and that’s what keeps us carrying on with the mission of bringing more and more children and young people to the program, showing the world that we love what we do.”<br /><br />On Sept. 20, the Caracas Brass will be giving a celebratory concert in honor of the inauguration of L. Rafael Reif as MIT’s 17th president, sponsored by the Council for the Arts at MIT. The ensemble will present a sophisticated program of classical and contemporary works, including works by Vivaldi, Bach, Mendelssohn and trumpet-maestro Enrique Crespo. The concert at Kresge Auditorium begins at 8 p.m.. It is free and open to the MIT community, but tickets must be reserved in advance. For further information and to register, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>President L. Rafael Reif returns to his seat in Kresge Auditorium after receiving an honor delivered by the Caracas Brass, who performed a special concert in honor of Reif's inauguration.Photo: Dominick ReuterArts, Inauguration, Music, President L. Rafael Reif, Special events and guest speakers, Theater Said and Done for September 2012 Digest of MIT humanities, arts, and social sciences. Mon, 17 Sep 2012 14:17:07 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p><i>Said and Done</i> is the monthly, photo-rich publication from MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, integrating feature articles with news, research and events to give you a distilled overview of the school's endeavors. For the complete edition, visit <i><a href="" target="_blank">Said and Done</a></i>. A few of this month's highlights include:<br /> <br /> <strong>HONORS AND AWARDS </strong><br /> <br /> <i>David Pesetsky elected a fellow of the Linguistics Society of America</i><br /> Pesetsky, a professor of linguistics, has been elected a fellow of the Linguistic Society of America. The induction ceremony for the 2013 class of fellows will take place on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, at the LSA Annual Meeting in Boston.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">More</a><br /> <br /> <i>Economist Parag Pathak receives a Presidential Early Career Award</i><br /> President Barack Obama has named Parag Pathak, associate professor of economics, as a recipient of an Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers. Pathak, who was nominated by the National Science Foundation, was honored for innovative and challenging research in market design, education and housing and for work with local school administrators throughout the United States that has resulted in more fair and efficient ways to assign children to magnet schools.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Profile of Parag Pathak</a> | <a href="" target="_blank">White House Web Story</a><br /> <br /> <i>Seth Mnookin wins 2012 Science in Society Award for his book </i>The Panic Virus<br /> Mnookin, assistant professor of science writing and co-director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing, has been awarded the 2012 Science in Society Journalism Award for his book <i>The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy.</i> Tom Levenson, professor of science writing notes, "This is one of the very top awards in our field. It reflects the judgment of the leading science writing association in the world and it is an honor that only comes to superlative work."<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Full Story</a><br /> <br /> <strong>FORTHCOMING EVENTS </strong><br /> <br /> <i>Sept. 21-22, 7:30 p.m., Institute of Contemporary Art | ICA Boston </i><br /> "World of Wires" by Jay Scheib<br /> Based on the 1973 film <i>Welt am Draht</i> by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, World of Wires is a high-energy, thrill-ride performance. With video, live action, and tightly choreographed movements, this Obie award-winning play by Associate Professor of Theater Jay Scheib, explores the contemporary challenges of defining identity.<br /> <a href=";id=f38ce80075&amp;e=2ed433489c" target="_blank">More at the ICA website</a><br /> <br /> <i>Sept. 24, 5 p.m., MIT Faculty Club, E52</i><br /> Writing for a Wider Audience: shaping scholarship into general literature<br /> Distinguished panelists discuss shaping scholarship into books for a general audience. Panelists include Caroline Zimmerman, literary agent, Kneerim &amp; Williams; Alane Salierno Mason, VP and executive editor, W.W. Norton &amp; Company; James Marcus, deputy editor, <i>Harper's Magazine,</i> and Stephen Heuser, editor, Ideas Section, <i>The Boston Globe. </i><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">More</a><br /> <br /> <i>Sept. 27, 7:30 pm, MIT Stata Center, 32-123 </i><br /> Reading by Junot Díaz<br /> The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor of writing reads from his new book, <i>This is How You Lose Her</i>. The event is free, with a reception following.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">More</a><br /> <br /> <i>Additional Events </i><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">MIT SHASS Calendar</a> | <a href="" target="_blank">Arts at MIT Calendar</a> | <a href="" target="_blank">Music &amp; Theater Arts Calendar</a><br /> <br /> <strong>RESEARCH </strong><br /> <br /> <i>Research Portfolio </i><br /> Research is the engine for the school's capacity to help meet the world's great challenges. To name just a few areas of impact, MIT SHASS research helps alleviate poverty, safeguard elections, steer economies, understand the past and present, inform health policy, articulate morality, assess the impact of new technologies, understand human language, and create new forms at the juncture of art and science.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Research Portfolio</a><br /> <br /> <i>Bookshelf</i><br /> The research of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences appears principally in the form of books and publications, and music and theater productions. These gems of the school provide new knowledge and analysis, innovation and insight, guidance for policy, and nourishment for lives.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Take a look</a><br /> <br /> <i>Understanding gambling addiction </i><br /> Anthropologist Natasha Schüll, an associate professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, is publishing research about the impact of the immersive technology of new gambling games; designed to increase industry profits by keeping players "in the zone," the new games prove highly addictive for some people.<br /> <a href="/newsoffice/2012/understanding-gambling-addiction-0904.html" target="_blank">Story at MIT News</a> | <a href="" target="_blank">Video: Schüll on 60 Minutes</a><br /> <br /> <i>Want to cut drug spending? Air pollution rules might help.</i><br /> A working paper, co-authored by MIT economist Michael Greenstone, concludes that a U.S. government program set up in 2003 to reduce smog-forming compounds in certain regions both saved lives and led to lower spending on pharmaceuticals — particularly heart and respiratory medications.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Article at the Washington Post | Wonkblog</a><br /> <br /> <strong>COMMUNITY</strong><br /> <br /> <i>Faculty promotions</i><br /> The MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is very pleased to announce the following faculty promotions, effective July 1, 2012: Helen Elaine Lee (CMS/Writing) and Ben Olken (Economics) have been promoted to full professor. Martin Hackl (Linguistics) and Keeril Makan (Music), have been promoted to associate professor with tenure.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">More</a><br /> <br /> <i>Profile | Saluting Susan Mannett</i><br /> On the occasion of her retirement, the community salutes Sue Mannett, the longtime SHASS director of human resources extraordinaire.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Salute to Sue</a> | <a href="" target="_blank">Photogallery</a><br /> <br /> <i>Author Ta-Nehisi Coates is 2012-13 MLK Visiting Scholar</i><br /> Acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates will join the school community for the 2012-13 academic year in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing Program.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">More</a><br /> <br /> <i>Dirksen, Panko and Szablewicz are Mellon Felllows for 2012-2014 </i><br /> This fellowship supports promising young scholars who work in more than one specialty within the humanities, or whose work bridges from the humanities to science, technology or architecture. We are delighted to welcome our three new Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows for 2012-2014 — Rebecca Dirksen, Julia Panko and Marcella Szablewicz — and to welcome back the Mellon Fellows for 2011-2013 and 2010-2012.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">More </a><br /> <br /> <i>New Faculty | Fall 2012</i><br /> The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is pleased to present the newest members of the faculty. Please join us in welcoming these excellent scholars to the School community: Devin Caughey(Instructor, Political Science); Stephanie Frampton (Assistant Professor, Literature); Heather Hendershot (Professor of Film and Media, CMS); Daniel Hidalgo (Assistant Professor, Political Science); Seth Mnookin (Assistant Professor, CMS/Science Writing); Emily Richmond Pollock (Assistant Professor, Music); Alp Simsek (Assistant Professor, Economics); Paolo Somaini (Assistant Professor, Economics); T.L. Taylor (Associate Professor, CMS/Writing); Christopher Warshaw (Assistant Professor, Political Science).<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Biographical Notes and Photographs</a><br /> <br /> <i>Edward Schiappa is Visiting Professor | Three from Taiwan-USA Alliance are Visiting Scholars</i><br /> Edward Schiappa is a Visiting Professor in Comparative Media Studies for 2012-2013; three members of the Taiwan-USA Sister Relations Alliance (TUSA) will join the School as Visiting Scholars for 2012-2013.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Biographical Notes and Photographs</a><br /> <br /> <i>Three new Administrative Officers join the School </i><br /> Elouise Evee-Jones, Sarah Smith, and Amberly Steward have been chosen to serve as the Administrative Officers for Foreign Languages and Literatures, Comparative Media Studies, and Anthropology, respectively.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Biographical Notes and Photographs</a><br /> <br /> <strong>NEWS</strong><br /> <br /> <i>Deveau lauded for performance and leadership | Boston Musical Intelligencer </i><br /> Boston Musical Intelligencer acclaims David Deveau, MIT senior lecturer in music, as a pianist and as the artistic director of Rockport Music.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Full story</a><br /> <br /> <i>John Harbison at the 2012 Aspen Music Festival l Interview + Performance </i><br /> MIT's Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Institute Professor John Harbison talks about his jazz roots and performs delicious jazz selections on piano.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Audio Interview</a><br /> <br /> <i>On Jellyfish Blooms</i><br /> Feature article by MIT graduate student Fangfei Shen, in <i>Scope Magazine</i>, publication of the MIT SHASS Graduate Program in Science Writing<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Story at <i>Scope Magazine</i></a><br /> <br /> <i>Becoming a Science Writer | Tom Levenson interview in Scientific American </i><br /> Levenson, MIT Professor of Science Writing, and award-winning author and film producer, shares his insights about the field, and how to succeed as a science writer. <a href="" target="_blank">Interview at Scientific American</a><br /> <br /> <i>Interview with Junot Díaz | </i>New York Times<i> Sunday Book Review</i><br /> Q: What's the last truly great book you read?<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Interview at <i>The New York Times</i></a><i> </i><br /> <br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Said and Done | September 2012 | complete edition online</a></p> <hr /> <p><br /> For more connection and information, visit:<br /> <br /> Facebook<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Welcome to the MIT SHASS social media community</a><br /> <br /> Twitter<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Follow</a><br /> <br /> Subscribe<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">RSS News</a> | <a href="" target="_blank">RSS Multimedia</a><br /> <br /> Great Ideas Exhibit<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Take a look</a></p> Moon Jellyfish, from story by Fangfei Shan, Graduate Program in Science Writing.Photo: Luc ViatourArts, Awards, honors and fellowships, Books and authors, Economics, Faculty, Humanities, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Linguistics, Music, Policy, Political science, Politics, Social sciences, Technology and society, Theater, Writing Theater Arts Associate Professor Jay Scheib wins Obie Award Honored for his production of &lt;i&gt;World of Wires&lt;/i&gt; Wed, 23 May 2012 14:54:19 -0400 Music and Theater Arts MIT Theater Arts Associate Professor Jay Scheib, a <a href="/newsoffice/2011/scheib-guggenheim-fellowship.html" target="_self">2011 Guggenheim Fellow</a>, received a coveted 2012 Obie Award — off-broadway's highest honor for his production of <i>World of Wires</i>. The Obies, or Off-Broadway Theater Awards, are annual awards given by <i>The Village Voice</i> to selected theatre artists and productions worthy of distinction. <br /> <br /> Scheib — a director, designer and author of plays, operas and installations — is internationally known for works of daring physicality, genre-defying performances and deep integration of new technologies.<br /><br /> <i>World of Wires</i> is the final installment of the multidisciplinary <i>Simulated Cities / Simulated System</i> performance trilogy he developed at MIT. The trilogy is centered on collaborations with disciplines outside of traditional performing arts idioms such as civil engineering and urban planning, computer science and artificial intelligence, aerospace and astronautics. <br /><br /> The first work, <i>Untitled Mars (This Title May Change),</i> simulated Mars on Earth, coupling material from the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah with the science-fiction visions of Philip K. Dick, Stanislaw Lem and Kurd Lasewitz. The second work, <i>Bellona, Destroyer of Cities</i>, simulates a world that has become stuck in a loop of civil upheaval through Samuel R. Delany's monumental novel <i>Dhalgren</i>. The final work, <i>World of Wires</i>, models one Earth inside of another Earth by borrowing heavily from the fictional backbone of computer science and artificial intelligence. It is a performance about the unveiling of a computer simulation so powerful that it is capable of simulating the world and everything in it. <i>W.O.W</i> was adapted by Scheib after the film <i>Welt am Draht</i> by Rainer Werner Fassbinder; the screenplay is based on the novel <i>Simulacron-3</i> by American science fiction writer Daniel F. Galouye.<br /> <ul> <li>Video: <a href="" target="_blank">Watch a clip of <i>World of Wires</i></a></li> </ul> Reeling from the reality of people living their lives inside of machines, the play is an all-bets-are-off homage to the startling possibility that you too might be ones and zeroes in someone else's programmed world. <i>World of Wires</i> is also inspired by the works of Oxford University Professor Nick Bostrom, including his compelling paper, "Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?"<br /><br /> Directed by Scheib, the sold-out three-week engagement in January 2012 at the Kitchen in New York featured Sarita Choudhury, Mikéah Ernest Jennings, Rosalie Lowe, Jon Morris, Ayesha Ngaujah, Laine Rettmer and Tanya Selvaratnam. The scenic design was by Sara Brown (a lecturer in theater arts at MIT), the costumes by Alba Clemente, the sound design by Anouschka Trocker, lighting and video by Josh Higgason, and camera by Jay Scheib. The stage manager was MIT alumna Susan Wilson '08. Kasper Sejersen and Laine Rettmer were the assistant directors, and Tanya Selvaratnam was the producer.<br /> <br /> <i>World of Wires</i> garnered an array of rave and insightful reviews, interviews and preview articles including: David Cote's review in <i>Time Out New York</i>; AndrewAndrew's insta-review Papermag; Ben Brantley's review in <i>The New York Times</i>; Alex Zafiris' interview in <a href="" target="_blank">BOMB</a>; Scott Macauly's interview in <i>Filmmaker Magazine</i>; and Carmen García Durazo's review in <a href="" target="_blank">Guernica</a>, among others.<br />The production of World of Wires Photo courtesy of Jay ScheibArts, Awards, honors and fellowships, Faculty, Music, Theater, Alumni/ae, Staff Robert Lepage dazzles MIT community during spectacular campus residency April 24-26, 2012 Robert Lepage dazzles MIT community during spectacular campus residency April 24-26. Wed, 02 May 2012 14:52:23 -0400 Arts at MIT Robert Lepage brought his talent and unique multidisciplinary perspective to MIT during his residency from April 24-26. His time on campus was full from morning to night as he met with and collaborated with MIT students, faculty and staff, participated in two public programs and received the 2012 Eugene McDermott MIT Award in the Arts at MIT during a gala held in his honor. <br /><br />Students were given exclusive access to Lepage during a special question and answer session on moderated by Teresa Neff, lecturer from Music and Theater Arts section at MIT. During this session, he spoke about the inspiration for the technologically dazzling set, dubbed “The Machine,” he created for the Metropolitan Opera’s new <i>Der Ring des Nibelungen</i> and showed clips from <i>Das Rheingold</i> and <i>Wagner’s Dream</i>, a documentary about the making of the <i>Ring</i> cycle for the Met.<br /><br />Lepage also collaborated with students in a performance practicum, a special theater class that he launched with a workshop when he first came to campus in February. He discussed the creative process used at his production company, Ex Machina, and introduced playing cards as the catalyst or “resource” for the semester. Students from MIT, Harvard and Emerson had developed scenes during the past three months, and presented for Lepage seven vignettes, complete with lighting, set and sound design.  Lepage was particularly impressed by the depth and range of character development in the students’ work and engaged in a lively conversation with them about what he had seen.<strong><br /><br /></strong>Two free public programs provided the public and the MIT community the opportunity to see and hear Lepage in person: <i>The Science of Illusion</i> and <i>Technology in Stagecraft and Storytelling</i>. <br /><br />The first program was co-presented by the Arts at MIT and the MIT Museum as part of the Cambridge Science Festival, on the topic of science, illusion and culture. John Durant, Director of the MIT Museum and Adjunct Professor in the Science, Technology and Society Program opened the panel and introduced the other panelists, whose work and research provided a range of perspectives on illusion and magic. In addition to Mr. Lepage, other panelists were Professor George Barbastathis, Singapore Research Professor of Optics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Assistant Professor Graham Jones, Anthropology; and Seth Riskin, Manager, Emerging Technologies and Holography/Spatial Imaging Initiative at the MIT Museum. <br /><br />The panelists held a lively discussion about the relationship of illusion to human perception and offered insights into how magical thinking drives technological innovation and the human imagination. Panelists discussed everything from holograms to invisibility cloaking -- techniques to make objects vanish by bending light to fool the eye -- and the audience was treated to some magic tricks by Graham Jones--including a book that burst into flames.<br /><br />The second program offered a fascinating glimpse into Lepage’s thinking, as he discussed his work  with Peter Gelb, General Manager, Metropolitan Opera.  The 90-minute program, Technology in Stagecraft and Storytelling, began with a discussion of Lepage’s new production of the <i>Ring</i> cycle for the Metropolitan Opera but spanned Lepage’s extraordinary body of work --  from film to one-man performances, Shakespeare to Peter Gabriel concerts, Cirque du Soleil productions to spectacular architectural projections. The talk included a multimedia presentation showcasing the sophisticated sets for the <i>Ring</i> cycle as well as many other productions, including <i>The Image Mill</i>, an outdoor illumination in the Québec harbor that used the surface of the Bunge grain elevators as a giant screen. The discussion of Lepage’s diverse career as a multidisciplinary performance and media artist highlighted his versatility in a full range of theater craft: from directing to acting, to filmmaking and writing plays. Philip Khoury, Associate Provost and Ford International Professor of History, introduced the panelists and moderated questions from the audience.<br /><br />Lepage and members of his company Ex Machina met extensively with members of the Media Lab and Theater Arts to exchange ideas about emerging research and new technologies. They attended the MIT Media Lab’s open house and viewed demonstrations of current projects in many areas, including Tod Machover and graduate students in the Opera of the Future lab, and Deb Roy and the Cognitive Machines group. A visit to Global Shakespeare with Professors Peter Donaldson, Diana Henderson, and Shankar Raman revealed new digital tools for Ex Machina to draw upon for future presentations of Shakespeare. <br /><br />The residency culminated when Lepage was presented with the 2012 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts by President Hockfield and Peter Wender, chair of the McDermott Selection Committee, at a gala held in his honor. This private event had a distinguished list of Honorary Hosts, which included Canadian diplomats and creative arts leaders from both Boston and Canada. Members of the Council for the Arts at MIT and the MIT Corporation were sponsors of the gala, which was attended by their guests, MIT faculty, and Mary McDermott Cook, the daughter of Margaret and Eugene McDermott, who traveled from Texas for the event.<br /><br />The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT was established in 1974 by the Council for the Arts at MIT to be bestowed upon individuals whose artistic trajectory and body of work indicate that they will achieve the highest distinction in their fields. The award, which recognizes Eugene McDermott, cofounder of Texas Instruments and longtime friend and benefactor of MIT, reflects MIT’s commitment to risk-taking, problem-solving, and the idea of connecting creative minds across disciplines. The Award is considered an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement. At $80,000, it is one of the most generous cultural prizes and includes a campus residency. Past recipients have included Gustavo Dudamel, I.M. Pei, Junot Diaz, Bill Viola, and Santiago Calatrava.<br />Robert Lepage accepts The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT during a gala held in his honor.Photo: L. Barry HetheringtonArts, Awards, honors and fellowships, McDermott Award, Media Lab, MIT Museum, MIT presidency, Music, Special events and guest speakers, Theater McDermott Award recipient Robert Lepage collaborates and converses with students during campus residency Thu, 26 Apr 2012 15:14:48 -0400 Leah Talatinian | Arts at MIT Students were given exclusive access on Tuesday, April 24, to Robert Lepage, the recipient of the 2012 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, when he came to campus for a day that included two special events.<br /><br />During the afternoon of April 24, Lepage participated in a student-only question and answer program. Students from across the Institute filled Killian Hall eager to learn from the distinguished artist and ask him about his creative process. In the evening, Lepage revisited the Performance Practicum that was launched in February with a small group of students to continue their collaboration. Students performed and discussed the progress of their work for Lepage and members of the Council for the Arts at MIT.<br /><br />The afternoon’s Q&amp;A event was a lively conversation between the renowned multidisciplinary performance and media artist Lepage and students from MIT. Moderated by Teresa Neff, lecturer from the Music and Theater Arts Section at MIT, the program included video excerpts from Lepage’s work on Wagner’s <i>Ring</i> cycle staged at the Metropolitan Opera.<br /><br />Robert Lepage discussed his attraction to opera as the meeting of all art forms, from architecture to music, dance to visual art, theater to literature. In such a grand art form there is the opportunity to innovate on a great scale: the orchestra, sets, voices and choreography are all scaled up. This is particularly true for Lepage’s staging of Wagner’s <i>Ring</i> cycle at the Metropolitan Opera house, the largest in the world and the site for his most ambitious project.<br /><br />Students were especially interested to learn about the technical challenges of staging the <i>Ring</i> cycle. Lepage explained the technology behind the massive moving set required not only precisely calibrated technology, but also 24 stagehands to physically maneuver the 45-ton machine. His vision for creating the set drew upon his knowledge of Wagner’s opera, tectonic plates, visits to Iceland, and from his education in geology prior to working in theater. He went on to show the 3-D technology used to create stunning scenes that followed the movement of the set without the need for 3-D glasses.<br /><br />One student asked how the singers were able to climb up the steep stage and later slide down so effortlessly. Lepage replied that he learned about special fabrics and techniques from his work with Cirque du Soleil and used specially designed shoes and wires that allow opera singers to move about the stage and execute choreography on the complex set.<br /><br />Music students were also very curious about Lepage’s interpretation of Wagner. Lepage was enthusiastic in his reply “he [Wagner] would love it! ... I don’t know if he would have approved of everything, but he would have been excited.”<br /><br />Following the Q&amp;A, a reception was held outside Killian Hall where students conversed informally with Lepage and learned more about his projects with his production company Ex Machina while he signed posters and posed for photo-ops.<br /><br />That evening, Lepage met with students who had attended a workshop in February that kicked off a semester of experimentation in performance. Lecturer Sara Brown provided an introduction to the program of vignettes and thanked MIT Music and Theater Arts, the Arts at MIT, and the Council for the Arts at MIT for ongoing support for the project.<br /><br />The series of performances opened with a playing card hanging from the ceiling that was literally transformed into a speaker. The card narrated a story of first love while on summer vacation that was acted out with shadow play. The seven vignettes ranged from humorous to heartbreaking as themes such as grandparents, abandonment, and gambling were explored. The performances were sophisticated in their staging, with clever lighting effects, sound, two-way mirrors and sets. Students then engaged in a discussion with Mr. Lepage, who was particularly impressed by the development of characters that were present throughout the performances.<br /><br />The students were a diverse group of both graduate and undergraduates, coming together from MIT, Emerson, and Harvard, including Alexandra Allwine, Noah Arbesfeld, Ben Bloomberg, Yarinda Bunnag, Gershon Dublon, Madelynne Hays, Devorah Kengmana, Bex Kwan, Elizabeth Mak, Stefan Martin and Edwina Portocarrero.<br /><br />Sara Brown, director of design for Music and Theater Arts at MIT was the course instructor. Co-instructors for the course were Anna Kohler senior lecturer, Music and Theater Arts, and Alan Brody, professor of theater arts. Guest lecturers included Michael Ouellette - senior lecturer, Music and Theater Arts (retired); Graham Jones, assistant professor of anthropology and Shankar Raman, associate professor of literature. Additional collaboration was with ACT.<br /><br />Robert Lepage is in residency at MIT from April 24-26. During his time at MIT, he will participate in two free public programs:<br /> <ul> <li><a href="" target="_blank">The Science of Illusion: Panel Discussion</a>, took place Wednesday, April 25, at the MIT Museum</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Technology in Stagecraft and Storytelling</a>: Robert Lepage in dialogue with Peter Gelb, General Manager, Metropolitan Opera will take place today, Thursday, April 26, at 5 p.m. in MIT Kresge Auditorium</li> </ul> More information about the McDermott Award and Robert Lepage's residency at MIT is available at <a href="" target="_blank"></a><br />Robert Lepage with a student after the QandA sessionPhoto: L. Barry HetheringtonArts, Awards, honors and fellowships, McDermott Award, Special events and guest speakers, Theater Four from MIT win prestigious Guggenheim fellowships Doeleman, Hughes, Makan and Yablo among 181 recipients for 2012. Tue, 17 Apr 2012 17:52:45 -0400 News Office Four MIT researchers are among 181 scholars, artists and scientists recently awarded 2012 fellowships by the <a href="" target="_blank">John Simon Guggenheim Foundation</a>.<br /><br />Guggenheim fellowships are intended for those who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. In this year's competition — the 88th in the Guggenheim Foundation's history — nearly 3,000 applicants vied for fellowships.<br /><br />This year's recipients from MIT, and their projects, are:<br /> <ul> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Sheperd S. Doeleman</a>, principal research scientist and assistant director of MIT’s Haystack Observatory, for “building an event horizon telescope.”</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Scott A. Hughes</a>, associate professor of physics, for studying “the astrophysics of ultra-strong gravity.”</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Keeril Makan</a>, composer and associate professor in the Music and Theater Arts Section for “music composition.”</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Stephen Yablo</a>, professor of linguistics and philosophy, for “subject matter, seeing-As, and semantics.”</li> </ul> <a href="" target="_blank">See the full list of winners</a><br /><br />U.S. Sen. Simon Guggenheim and his wife established the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1925 as a memorial to their son. The Foundation offers fellowships to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color or creed.Arts, Awards, honors and fellowships, Faculty, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Space, astronomy and planetary science, Staff, Theater