Peacock at a coffee plantation in Pedro Garcia, Dominican Republic (© Gary Blau).

Peacock at a coffee plantation in Pedro Garcia, Dominican Republic (© Gary Blau).

Gary Blau is a photographer in Cambridge, MA. View more work on his website. View other alumni photos of the week.



On the morning of March 28, 2006, a group of young men dressed as movers arrived on the Caltech campus in Pasadena, CA, armed with phony work orders and a moving van with a custom-designed logo of the nonexistant Howe & Ser Moving Company. Within hours,  the crew departed with the college’s two-ton Fleming Cannon in tow. And eight days later, the 130-year old canon—a remnant of the Franco-Prussian war—reappeared 3,000 miles away on MIT campus, with a massive 24-karat gold-plated Brass Rat on its barrel.

In this episode of the Slice of MIT podcast, you’ll hear from the MIT hackers involved in the infamous Caltech Cannon Heist, which happened 10 years ago this month. (Read excerpts from the interview.)


Caltech’s Fleming Cannon on the MIT campus. Image via

Howe & Ser, it turns out, were MIT students who had just carried out perhaps the longest-distance MIT hack of all time. The prank, which was retribution for a series of hacks Caltech had successfully carried out at MIT a year prior, received national attention and was featured in the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. And in 2014, the MIT community voted it their second-favorite hack in MIT history on the Slice of MIT blog.

You’ll hear how long it took to plan; how they convinced Caltech security that they were legitimate movers; how they moved a two-ton canon across the country; and what happened when Caltech students arrived at MIT to reclaim their canon.

Featured Guests

BalesJim Bales
Associate Director and Instructor, MIT Edgerton Center

Bales is the instructor for the center’s 6.163 Strobe Project Lab. In 2013, he gave a TEDx presentation on how to capture images of splashes.

17d3206David Barber
MIT Security and Emergency Management Office

Barber is an expert on MIT’s hacking culture and the unofficial liaison between hacking students and MIT administration.

Slice_Post_2Howe & Ser Moving Company*
Established 1861

According to its website, Howe & Ser Moving is “assertive, low-key, and willing to go the extra 3,000 miles to ensure a bang-up job.”

*—Complying with MIT’s hacking ethos, the hackers will remain anonymous.

Listen to podcast above or on the Alumni Association’s SoundCloud page. And don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes and rate the podcast and leave a review. Tweet your thoughts on this episode to @mit_alumni.

This podcast was produced in association with the Edgerton Center, a resource hub for MIT students that honors the “learning-by-doing” legacy of Professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton. Find out more at


MIT travelers visit Patagonia.

MIT travelers visit Patagonia.

Traveling to a fascinating bit of the world, with excursions and transportation skillfully managed, and add input from area experts—that’s a wonderful experience. Now boost that trip with companions who are MIT alumni and their guests and you have a brew of adventure, enrichment, intellectual stimulation, and good will. For thousands of travelers, that has been the story of their experience with the MIT Alumni Travel Program, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

“One of the major high points was the number of interesting, intelligent, and interactive people who joined us on this trip,” says Pete Von Hippel ’52, SM ’53, PhD ’56, who traveled on the 2015 Sailing the Windward Islands trip in the Caribbean. “MIT people rarely disappoint!”

Alumni and guests visit CERN in Switzerland.

Alumni and guests visit CERN in Switzerland.

Serving more than 600 travelers on some 40 trips each year, the MIT Alumni Travel Program has visited all seven continents since 1991. Travelers have explored remote places on the Silk Route, the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and on the solitude of Easter Island. They have taken active jaunts such as a bike journey across Italy, rafting and camping in the Grand Canyon, and a trek to Machu Picchu. A total of 23 MIT travelers summited Kilimanjaro on two separate treks. Some trips focus on science and technology such as a visit to the telescopes of the Magellan Project telescopes in Chile and a tour of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland.

The program offers MIT faculty-led trips, such as the 2016 Total Solar Eclipse adventure with MIT Professor of Planetary Sciences Richard Binzel and the 2015 customized Musical Heritage of Austria trip with MIT Emeritus Professor Ellen Harris.

Gray Henry MArch ’68 applauded MIT Associate Professor of Urban Design and Public Policy Brent Ryan PhD ’02, his faculty leader on the Arabian Innovation trip, which explored the spectacular new architecture and sustainable engineering of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha. “Brent was superb! Smart, compatible, kind. MIT could not have a better ambassador or leader for such a trip.”

Custom-built expeditions took travelers on a behind-the-scene tour of the $5.2 billion reconstruction of the Panama Canal and an exploration of New England’s industrial revolution including a private tour of the American Precision Museum in Vermont. Other trips included gatherings with local alumni such as cocktails at the home of a Venice-based alumnus and a private wine-tasting dinner in California hosted by an alumnus winemaker.

Visiting Burma's historic sites.

Visiting Burma’s historic sites.

MIT travelers do have a certain reputation among travel professionals, says Melissa Gresh, director of the travel program.

“Our travelers are known for being extremely knowledgeable, curious, easy-going, well-traveled folks who are always on time for each day’s activities. They want to know how things work and the travel directors and faculty speakers soon find out that they need to answer more technical questions. Alumni have spent time figuring out problem sets under a tent in the Serengeti, and, while traversing the swaying suspension bridges that overlooked the Costa Rican rainforest, several alumni compared notes on bridge mechanics and frequency, joking about their classroom days at MIT.”

Want to learn more? Explore the MIT Alumni Travel Program and try out the Hold My Spot feature that allows you to quickly reserve a place on an upcoming trip.


If you’ve ever gone sightseeing in Boston, you probably spotted a unique piece of MIT history perched above the Charles River. Not sure what is? Here’s a hint: It booms and pops and can even make music. It’s the huge Van De Graaff generator (VDG) at Boston’s Museum of Science. Though the generator has long been on exhibit at the museum, it was first used for MIT research.

The generator inside the hangar. Photo: MIT Libraries

The generator inside the hangar. Photo: MIT Libraries

Invented in 1929 by Princeton’s Robert Van De Graaff, the generator uses a metal belt to accumulate electric charge on a hollow metal globe at the top of an insulated column and was used for research in early atom smashing and high-energy X-ray experiments. The invention caught the eye of Van De Graaff’s former Princeton colleague, MIT President Karl Compton. Compton insisted that Van De Graaff and his invention come to MIT. Van De Graaff arrived at MIT in 1931, as did a version of his generator, which found a home in Eastman Laboratories. But the version of the generator that would eventually end up in the Museum of Science was yet to be built. Compton had requested the largest Van De Graaff generator ever made—40 feet tall.  To undertake such a massive project, Van De Graaff needed space, and he found it at MIT’s facility at Round Hill in, Dartmouth, MA—another often-forgotten piece of MIT history.

How MIT ended up with facilities in the tony part of Southeastern Massachusetts is a legacy from the gilded age. Colonel Ned Green, son and heir of “Witch of Wall Street” Hetty Green, built a

Photo: Aaron Sherman

The Round Hill Estate in 2000. Photo: Aaron Sherman

240-acre coastal estate in Dartmouth in 1916. With an avid interest in technology, Green complimented his estate with cutting-edge radio towers and broadcasting equipment. Green invited MIT students to use this equipment, study, and live on his estate—making it an ideal location to build the huge generator. The generator was built in an airship hangar on moveable tracks, and it was first tested in 1933. According to MIT President’s Reports, the generator was utilized in “experiments on atomic disintegration,” as well as for research into the “phenomena of lightning not heretofore investigated.”

The generator remained active in research at Round Hill for over 20 years—helping to facilitate experiments in nuclear medicine and radiography—until it was deemed obsolete and donated to the Museum of Science in 1956. The Round Hill estate, bequeathed to MIT by Green’s family in 1948, continued to be used for research until it was sold in 1964, ending the Institute’s experimentation at Round Hill.



Image: MIT Professional Education.

MIT graduates have a knack for starting companies. Full of ideas and curiosity, graduates boast a slew of successful entrepreneurial ventures, and many have launched numerous companies. Yet, it is a hazardous field. According to sources like Forbes and Bloomberg, as many as 80-90 percent of startups end in failure. Although reasons can be complex, says MIT Professor Lawrence Susskind MCP ’73, PhD ’73, one of the biggest threats to success is a leader’s limited negotiation skills.

“To get the capital they need, entrepreneurs must convince investors that their idea has merit,” says Susskind, founder of the Harvard-MIT-Tufts Program on Negotiation. “Similarly, senior engineers and product development specialists must get buy-in from upper management. Negotiation is at the heart of every effort to get others to do what you want, when you want, the way you want.”

When negotiating, many entrepreneurs make one of these six common mistakes, says Susskind:

  1. They think that the only thing they’re negotiating is price
  2. They do not take the time to investigate their counterpart’s interests
  3. They tend to under-invest in value creation
  4. They treat negotiation as a one-off interaction
  5. They fall prey to cognitive biases by allowing emotion and ego to rule
  6. They have no strategy for dealing with uncertainty

“A lot of smart people don’t know how to pursue their own interests without undermining relationships,” said Susskind. “They come unprepared to formulate winning packages that meet the other’s sides interests as well as their own.”

Of course, the MIT community has a plethora of resources to help budding business ventures, like the Media Lab’s Entrepreneurship Program, MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, MIT Enterprise Forum, and countless other programs and courses.

Susskind also started his own online course delivered via MIT Professional Education—Entrepreneurial Negotiations: The MIT Way—that offers both negotiation theory and hands-on, role-play simulations. His six-week course, which starts April 26, targets negotiation challenges that today’s professionals face and how to overcome those challenges, and will feature MIT-related entrepreneurs who have spun-off ventures of their own. Don’t forget, alums can save 30% when they enter the promo code MITALUM30 at registration.

Watch this video to hear what entrepreneurs and innovators have to say about the importance of negotiation in new ventures.


A little nudge, Laos (©Irina Medvedev).

A little nudge, Laos (©Irina Medvedev).

Irina Medvedev is a photographer in Cambridge, MA. View more work on her website. Check out her upcoming open studio May 14–15, 2016. View other alumni photos of the week.


In the early 1900s, MIT was quickly outgrowing its Back Bay campus. The leaders of the Institute wanted to make a new interconnected technology complex but there wasn’t any room to do that in the Back Bay. In search of a new location, they contemplated many options, including an island in the Charles River. “We don’t need all the space we have in the Charles, so why not put an island in the middle of it,” says Karl Haglund PhD ’97, author of Inventing the Charles River.

At the time, the land in Cambridge was undeveloped, unappealing, and industrial. “So it made some sense from a Bostonian perspective to try to extend the Boston sort of consciousness out in the water,” says MIT Professor Mark Jarzombek PhD ’86.

One argument for the island was that it could house MIT’s campus and extend Boston’s residential Back Bay area and create new, valuable real estate. The proposals were modeled after European cities with islands such as the Ile de Cite in Paris. The first two proposals were submitted by landscape architect Arthur Schurcliff 1894 and the third proposal was submitted by Ralph Adams Cram, who would later become the head of the MIT architecture department. The set of 1911 proposals, submitted by Robert Bellows, included one island sketch with a space for MIT’s new campus.

Finally, in 1913 MIT bought the Cambridge land and that put an end to the island proposals.

As it turns out, the idea of islands in the Charles was only possible because of MIT’s involvement in the development of the Charles River Basin and the damming of the Charles River. Before the dam, the river was tidal. Because of the damage that the fluctuating water levels caused to the foundation of buildings in the Back Bay and the unpleasant smell emanating from the exposed mud flats at low tide, a dam was built.

James Storrow, a Harvard graduate, spearheaded the campaign to build a dam that would stabilize the water level and two MIT alumni were key in the development. John Ripley Freeman 1876, a civil engineer who would later propose a plan for MIT’s new campus, conducted what is considered the first environmental impact report on the feasibility of damming the Charles River. His report led to the approval of the dam’s construction and Guy Lowell 1894 was the landscape architect of the dam itself. With the now-stable water level in the Charles River Basin, the idea of creating a manmade island was a legitimate possibility.

Watch this video to hear more about the island in the Charles.

Learn about ways you can celebrate MIT’s move to Cambridge in 1916, including Open House on April 23.

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Data USA can answer questions by location, economics, demographics and more – such as this chart that shows institutions with the largest share of students with degrees awarded in Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH Metro Area.

Data USA answers questions by location, economics, demographics and more; this chart shows universities with the largest share of graduating students in the Greater Boston area.

Studying numbers may not be the best way to unlock deep meaning from massive data sets.

The treasures buried in Big Data can appear faster and clearer through a growing body of visualization tools that illustrate trends, concentrations, and anomalies. MIT’s César A. Hidalgo is leading a revolution in how data can be parsed visually and his new project is Data USA, a collaboration with his Media Lab group, Deloitte, and Datawheel.

The mission of Data USA is to make the massive data more useful by creating the “most comprehensive website and visualization engine of public US Government data.” That means through this single source, executives can get new insights about customers, recent college grads can find the best locations for their interests and skills, or health professionals can pin down disease patterns across the country. And it is free and open source, so custom applications are easy to develop.

Hidalgo, an associate professor who leads the MIT Media Lab’s Macro Connections group, has an ambitious goal: to help raise living standards around the world by improving the understanding of prosperity and how it evolves. The author of Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies, Hidalgo was named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

From Picasso, shown drawing, to Elvis to Descartes, Pantheon includes influential creators of culture.

From Picasso, shown drawing, to Elvis to Descartes, Pantheon includes data on the most  influential creators of culture.

Do your own data digging in some of Macro Connection’s other projects:

The Observatory of Economic Complexity offers  international trade data for every country and product for more than fifty years.

DataViva provides data for every municipality, industry, occupation, and educational establishment in Brazil.

Immersion is a people-centric visualization of email metadata that allows users to explore their own web of interactions.

Pantheon is a data visualization engine focusing on globally famous historical characters.


Kelly Mathesius ’17 can solve four Rubik’s Cubes in under two minutes and if you are a recent MIT graduate, you can elect one of your peers to serve on the MIT Corporation in the same amount of time.

Voting is now open for the election of a recent graduate (from years ’14, ’15, ’16) to serve on the MIT Corporation, the Institute’s board of trustees. The MIT Corporation works to make sure the Institute adheres to the values and purpose of its origin along with ensuring that the integrity and financial resources are preserved for future generations at the Institute.

Voting for a recent graduate to serve on the MIT Corporation makes it possible for recent alumni to have a voice in representing the interests of MIT.

The eight candidates come from diverse backgrounds and interests and represent seven different degree programs. To learn more about them, scroll down and read about each candidate.

Remember, polls close at 11:59pm on May 1, 2016. Vote today! 

Taylor Rose ‘16

taylor roseCurrent status: Senior at MIT

Taylor Rose is a student advocate passionate about making MIT a healthier and happier home for every student.

View full profile…

Vrajesh Y. Modi ’11, SM ’15, MBA ’15


Current status: Consultant, The Boston Consulting Group

“I’m committed to improving undergraduate and graduate education and student life. It’s been a privilege to serve you before, and I’m asking you now to trust me with another opportunity to give back.”

View full profile…

Atif M. Javed ’15

javedCurrent status: IoT Product Manager at Oracle

“Let’s level-up MIT’s hacker culture with new educational tools and make MIT’s campus culture whole by amplifying the voices of students, faculty, and alumni! #FeelTheLearn #MakeMITGreatAgain”

View full profile…

Sherri L. Jackson MBA ’15

jackson Current status: President/Owner, Trophy Point Solutions, LLC

“Diversity, Commitment, Innovation, Service — I lead with passion to positively impact and represent the MIT of today and tomorrow.”

View full profile…

Derek Allen Ham PhD ’15


Current status: Assistant Professor, Department of Graphic & Industrial Design, North Carolina State University College of Design

Derek Ham is an innovative designer and educator with a passion for improving learning communities.

View full profile…

Ulric Ferner SM ’10, PhD ’14

fernerCurrent status: The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Technology and public sector focus

Former GSC President. Student advocate. Computer nerd.

View full profile…

Catherine D’Ignazio SM ’14

catherineCurrent status: Assistant Professor of Data Visualization, Emerson College; Fellow, Emerson Engagement Lab; Research Affiliate, MIT Center for Civic Media

“I will bring my expertise at the intersection of design, technology and society to help MIT lead the world in diversity, open education, and civic and global engagement.”

View full profile…

Yadid Ayzenberg SM ’12, PhD ’16


Current status: Chief Technology and Product Officer, Co-founder, The Sync Project

“I’m committed to improving the wellness of the MIT community, maintaining technological superiority and relevance of our research, and fortifying ties between young alumni and their seasoned counterparts.”
View full profile…


Kelly Mathesius ’17 solving four rubix cubes. Vote today!



MIT is inviting the public to MIT campus for an April 23 Open House.

All spring, MIT is honoring its 1916 campus move from Boston to Cambridge. The centennial festivities have included symposia, concerts, and exhibitions that celebrate the deep relationship between MIT and Cambridge.

And this Saturday, April 23, everyone is invited to celebrate! MIT will open its doors to the world with the MIT Open House: Under the Dome, a free day-long event that will enlighten, inspire, and give a glimpse into the amazing things that happen every day on MIT campus.

All MIT alumni are invited to visit the Alumni Association’s Open House Headquarters, located at Morss Hall in Walker Memorial [map]. The Alumni HQ will feature more than a dozen activities, including prizes, MIT trivia, Brass Rat and Grad Rat polishing, and even liquid nitrogen ice cream. [Register for the Open House.]

The centrally-located Alumni HQ, open from 10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., will include day-long activities where you can pose in an MIT-themed photo booth, submit a Toast for this year’s Toast to Tech, learn about the MIT Annual Fund’s 75th anniversary, and send a Greetings from Cambridge postcard to friends and classmates.

  • 10:00 a.m.– Noon: Explore activities and enjoy refreshments.
  • 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.: Share memories in MIT Alumni’s video booth.
  • 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.: Brass Rat and Grad Rat polishing.
  • Noon–3:00 p.m.: Visit the Muddy Charles Pub (age 21 and over, cash only).
  • 1:00–3:00 p.m.: Test your knowledge with MIT Alumni trivia.

More than 350 Open House events are scheduled across campus throughout the day. The activities range from scientific presentations to kid-friendly experiments, including:

Visit the Open House section of the MIT 2016 website to view all of the campus activities, where you can search by start time, department, campus location, and a slew of topics that include the history of MIT, arts and music, entrepreneurship, and athletics and recreation events.