MIT community in 2023: A year in review
The year 2023 saw the turning of a new page for MIT, as the Institute welcomed its 18thpresident. MIT also saw the opening of new and renovated spaces, launched a new “Dialogues Across Difference” speaker series, and celebrated a Nobel Prize, Turing Award, National Medals of Technology and Science, and many more honors for its distinguished community members. Here are some of the key stories out of MIT this year.
In January, the MIT community welcomed Sally Kornbluth, a biologist and former provost of Duke University, as its new president. She immediately got to work engaging in a campus-wide listening tour, which yielded feedback from many in the community.
In May, as part of a multi-day celebration, Kornbluth was officially inaugurated as the Institute’s 18th president, succeeding L. Rafael Reif. Kornbluth’s inaugural address covered a range of matters while connecting them back to the idea that higher education can best realize its potential for society as a collaborative enterprise.
Not to be outdone by Institute Events, a few months later a group of incoming MIT students surprised Kornbluth with a custom-built “Barbis,” a life-sized Barbie-themed TARDIS, inside her office.
Among other administrative transitions in 2023: Maria Zuber was named presidential advisor for science and technology policy, Paula Hammond was named vice provost for faculty, Denzil Streete was named senior associate dean and director of the Office of Graduate Education, and Philip Erickson was named director of MIT Haystack Observatory. Eric Evans also stepped down as director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, John Dozier stepped down as Institute Community and Equity Officer, and John Durant stepped down as director of the MIT Museum.
Standing Together Against Hate
In November, President Kornbluth launched Standing Together Against Hate, a community-driven initiative coordinated by Chancellor Melissa Nobles. The initiative will support efforts led by MIT faculty, staff, students, and the administration to come together, MIT-style, to use problem-solving skills to address antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate.
A Nobel and other top accolades
In October, Professor Moungi Bawendi won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his influential work on quantum dots. See what his first day as a Nobel laureate looked like, and view photos from Nobel Week earlier this month.
Three MIT affiliates — James Fujimoto, Eric Swanson, and David Huang — won the Lasker Award in September for their work on optical coherence tomography. The trio was also honored, along with Subra Suresh, by President Joe Biden at this year’s National Medals of Science and Technology ceremony. And Bob Metcalfe received the Turing Award, known to many as the “Nobel of computing,” for the invention of Ethernet.
At MIT, Institute Professor Paula Hammond won this year’s Killian Award, the Institute’s highest faculty honor.
“Dialogues Across Difference”
In March, a new “Dialogues Across Difference” speaker series launched as a way to create opportunities for community members to learn how to think about taking on difficult subjects across differences of opinion, background, viewpoint, and life experience.
The first speaker in the series was John Tomasi, president of Heterodox Academy, who emphasized the importance of humility in community and intellectual life as a means of engaging with differing perspectives and difficult questions. In November, Malick Ghachem, head of MIT’s History Section, described the dynamics of universities and other complex institutions seeking to be neutral on contentious civic and global matters.
At Commencement in June, Mark Rober — engineer, inventor, and YouTuber — delighted new graduates and their loved ones with some technical whimsy, and then encouraged graduates to positively impact the world while practicing “optimism combined with dedication” and fostering relationships with others.
President Kornbluth followed with her charge to the Class of 2023, urging them to cultivate “curiosity and a sense of larger purpose” while finding their pursuits in life.
New and refreshed spaces
A number of new and refreshed spaces opened at MIT and in the surrounding community this year. Among them: The Hobby Shop and Cheney Room received makeovers, while a new materials science Breakerspace opened along the Infinite Corridor. The Student Center partially reopened after renovations and is expected to return to full operation in 2024.
In Kendall Square, the new John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center opened after nearly a decade of collaboration with the Institute. MIT designed and constructed the highly energy-efficient building as part of an agreement that will allow the Institute to develop 10 additional acres of land in Kendall Square that are no longer needed by the federal government.
Student honors and awards
Some students scored big in other ways. Justin Yu became the top Tetris player on the planet by winning the 2023 Classic Tetris World Championships. MIT students once again defended their title at the Putnam Mathematical Competition. And graduate student and former soccer star Karenna Groff ’22 was named NCAA Woman of the Year.
Remembering those we’ve lost
Among MIT community members who died this year were Peter Baddoo, George Clark, Thomas Coveney, Stephen Goldman, Priscilla King Gray, Arnoldo Hax, Frederick Hennie, Walter Hollister, Judy Hoyt, Roman Jackiw, Willard Johnson, Evelyn Fox Keller, Nelson Yuan-sheng Kiang, Mel King, Sanjoy Mitter, Mary Morrissey, Paul Parravano, Bill Pounds, Edgar Schein, Robert Solow, Dick Thornton, and Christopher Walsh.
In case you missed it:
Additional top community stories of 2023 included a roundup of new books from MIT authors, a profile of MIT’s unique all-Institute Writers’ Group, a video and profile of Barry Duncan, the Institute’s resident palindrome poet; and a series of numbers to describe the career of Gil Strang, a recently retired and much beloved professor of mathematics.