PLAN 64: Article
Frank Moss Appointed New Head Of Media Laboratory

Alumnus/Executive/Entrepreneur was CEO of Tivoli Systems

Frank Moss, a well-known entrepreneur and high-tech executive, has been named the new director of the Media Laboratory, a pioneering research lab within the School of Architecture + Planning known worldwide for redefining life in the digital age.

Moss, who has spent the last 25 years building a diverse set of companies – from startups to large public companies, from high tech to biotech – aims to focus the Media Lab’s research agenda on fields that will have broad societal impact in the coming decades.

“I believe the changes that have resulted from technologic advances in the last 20 years are small compared to what we will experience in the next 20,” says Moss. “Today’s computers and networks – as much as they have changed our lifestyle – are really just sophisticated tools. Tomorrow’s technologies will be truly helpful partners, relating to people in human terms. They will integrate mind, machine and physical world, and will impact every aspect of daily life as we now know it: from how we learn, to how we express ourselves creatively, to how we age.”

In announcing Moss’s appointment in February, Dean Adèle Naudé Santos said, "Frank Moss's high energy and contagious enthusiasm, combined with his impressive experience in bringing innovative technology to market, are a perfect fit for the Lab's mission over the coming decade”.

MIT President Susan Hockfield said that Moss's experience meshes well with the mission of the Lab. "He brings a deep intellect, great creativity and an outstanding record of leadership in research and industrial settings to his new role. Moreover, his interests in computer and life sciences, and in technological enhancement of human capability, align beautifully with the Lab's vision and with the growing collaborations among the life sciences and engineering at MIT.”

Moss succeeds Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the Media Lab, who stepped down as Lab chairman this past February to devote his time to One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a non-profit group he founded to develop and distribute low-cost computers for educational use throughout the world – an initiative recently endorsed by the United Nations. Walter Bender, who served as the Lab’s interim director for the past five years, is taking a two-year leave from MIT to serve as OLPC’s president for software and content development.

Moss began his career at IBM's scientific center in Haifa, Israel, where he also taught at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. At IBM's Yorktown Heights (NY) Research Center, he led a number of R+D projects in networking and distributed computing, then later ran the engineering department at Apollo Computer and headed Lotus Development’s first consulting services group.

But it was as CEO of Tivoli Systems, a pioneer in the distributed systems management field, that he made his mark, marketing the company's products and lifting revenues from zero to $50 million in just three years. After the firm was acquired by IBM in 1996, he stayed on as general manager and ultimately built a business combining Tivoli and IBM products that topped $1 billion in revenues in 1998.

Moss has also been a co-founder of numerous other companies, including Stellar Computer, a developer of graphic supercomputers; Bowstreet, a pioneer in the emerging field of Web services; and Infinity Pharmaceuticals, an early-stage cancer drug discovery company.

As director of the Lab, which includes the academic program in Media Arts and Sciences, Moss will seek to ensure the Lab’s continued relevance in changing times. “The Lab must remain the place that defines how creative people do creative research; where design, science, art and engineering are integrated; where people learn to build and build to learn,” says Moss.

He plans to work closely with existing Lab sponsors and reach out to new sponsors; to work with MIT to break ground on the new Media Lab expansion, designed by Fumihiko Maki; and to forge closer ties with other laboratories and departments throughout MIT.

Moss will hold the Jerome B. Wiesner Chair in Media Technology and has been named Professor of the Practice in media arts and science, a faculty position reserved for distinguished practitioners. He received a BSE in aerospace and mechanical engineering from Princeton in 1971 and a master's and PhD in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT in 1977.