PLAN 68:
Where Science, Art And Technology Meet

Alumnus Harry Morris (1987 EE) Gives Back to the Media Lab and UROP

When asked what influenced him most during his time at MIT, without hesitation, Harry Morris (1987 EE) will tell you “My fraternity. My UROP. The Media Lab.

He explains, “My fraternity got me through MIT. My UROP gave me great practical experience doing software engineering with expert users. The Media Lab set the stage for my expectations and comfort level of how to work together in a lab with highly skilled researchers of all ages.”

“My major was in Electrical Engineering and my minor in Visual Studies, Course 4,” said Morris describing his first experience with the newly opened Lab. “We had to take a creativity test to work in the Media Lab. Draw a picture of something--a horse, my mother, I don’t remember what, but it was really strange!”

The Media Lab helped Morris land a job with Thinking Machines, and ultimately, develop the software that formed the foundation of his company, Wide Area Information Servers, (WAIS) Inc, the first internet publishing system.

A steady supporter of MIT for many years, when Morris sold his company to America Online, he knew he could take the next step. “I had always planned to give back to MIT, when I became successful, I had more ability to give. After I realized I could spread a larger gift over a few years, it made a lot of sense to support something concrete, like a UROP.” Or, more precisely, create a UROP to support an undergraduate working at the Media Lab.

Morris attributes his professional success to the hands-on lessons he learned at MIT. “I was OK, but rarely great in my classes. So it wasn’t any piece of knowledge or class specialty that helped me, it was putting together projects and getting work done. It was learning how to prioritize–a very good skill for entrepreneurs.”

Two classes continue to have special relevance for Morris today: a class on Visual Language and Sound, and another in 3D Graphics. Together with his experiences at the Media Lab, these courses helped form the kernel of his own aesthetic, a sense that the practical can also be beautiful–particularly where science and art intersect.

“It made sense to me that the Media Lab came out of the Department of Architecture,” Morris remarked. “Architects build a building to be practical, but they have more than this as their goal. They want to build something that is practical and elevates the spirit. The Media Lab embodies this. The robotic legs being developed by the Media Lab rest at this intersection of technology, art and science, and are both beautiful and practical.”

Morris sees his gift as only the beginning of how he would like to help MIT. Why start with a UROP at the Media Lab? Simple, says Morris. “I want to help something interesting happen at the Lab and also in the life of a UROP student.”

 

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)

Since 1969 the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) has matched undergraduate students with faculty mentors across the breadth of MIT’s research enterprise. It is open to all undergraduates, with more than 80% taking advantage of the program during their time at MIT, and students can choose research projects in any field, regardless of their major.

A UROP project can last a semester, two semesters, a summer, or a whole year. Participants can choose to simply volunteer, to receive academic credit or to earn a stipend to help pay the cost of their educations (which most of them do).

Funding for a UROP project can either be expendable or endowed, and can be designated to support students working in a specific field or discipline. Funding levels for endowed, named funds are as follows:

    • One semester UROP: $50K

 

    • Two semesters UROP: $100K

 

    • Summer time UROP: $135K

 

  • Full year UROP: $235K

For more information about how to establish a UROP to support undergraduate research in SA+P, please call 617-253-8896 or email sapgiving@mit.edu.

PLAN 68
Posted September 2007