Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Guest blogger: Nicole Taylor, Continuum

Is racial color-blindness an ideology we should be instilling in kids—especially children of color?

A new study by the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Evan P. Apfelbaum and colleagues argues that race is not only an active factor in societal outcomes, but can be an important source of a child’s identity and psychological well-being. “Ignoring race, then, may well have a negative impact on those for whom it’s most salient,” notes an article about the study in New York Magazine.

The study, published this month in Social Psychology and Personality Science, sampled attitudes toward discussing race among a group of preteens from urban public elementary schools. It found that a majority of the children, regardless of their own skin color, believed that pointing out differences in race is taboo, even if mentioned in a neutral or positive context, and that “such avoidance exacted a cost to performance and nonverbal comfort.” The study builds on 2008 research by Apfelbaum and his coauthors, Kristin Pauker of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Brian Spitzer of New York University, that found this attitude less prevalent in younger children.

“There’s no easy way to solve the country’s vexing, centuries-old problems with race,” concludes the New York article, “but research like this highlights the serious problems and side effects that arise when you try to just sweep the problem under the rug.”

Apfelbaum is the W. Maurice Young (1961) Career Development Professor and an assistant professor of organizational studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Learn more from MIT News about his research isolating the effects of homogeneity and diversity.

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MIT blogger, Allan K. '17, exploring MIT's campus as a first-year student.

MIT blogger, Allan K. ’17, exploring MIT’s campus as a first-year student.

In a few days, first-year students will be on campus gearing up for the start of their first semester at MIT. Today, the Class of 2019 is busy preparing for the transition to come, hurriedly enjoying their last days of summer vacation.

With the approach of the new school year, Allan K. ’17 decided to round up some tips from MIT veterans –mixed in with some of his own—for the new students.

Allan put together a long list of advice:

  • Upperclass students know things but we’re still figuring ourselves out. We’re not THAT cool. Take what we say with grain of salt.
  • Leave space in your schedule for spontaneous things. Don’t overcommit at the beginning.
  • Say yes to things.
  • Staying in your comfort zone is easy, but you learn the most about yourself and grow as a person when you get out of your comfort zone, so take opportunities to try new things.
  • It’s okay to say no to things too.
  • Do Dance Troupe at least once. It’s really fun and even if you look like a complete fool, you’ll have tons of fun and meet a bunch of people.
  • Learn how to get lost.
  • Do laundry in the afternoon on a weekday. You will have your pick of all of the washers and all of the dryers.
  • Get a foam pad for your mattress. It makes a world of difference.
  • Take your estimate of how much time you think you’ll need to do something—and double it. That’s how long it’ll actually take. This is not a joke; I’m dead serious.

Read all of Allan’s tips.

Allan has been blogging since he started at MIT, writing his first post on September 6, 2013, just a week into his first semester. His post was about finding balance, saying “I will probably fail often, and that probably won’t stop me from continuing to try. And hopefully, I’ll get better at finding balance day by day.”

Allan2Two years later, Allan is still always working to find balance, which he has found through many different outlets at MIT, including a cappella group, the MIT/Wellesley Toons, and in his living group at East Campus.

“I’m a vastly different person than the one who applied to MIT three years ago. In my first few weeks there were so many opportunities to connect with people. Some combination of freshman excitement, a thousand kids all starting with blank slates, and the late nights of sleep-deprived conversations that coalesce into a collective vulnerability that seems to draw people together.”

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Can you write a winning essay on sustainable global development? How about in Russian? That’s what Tiffany Amariuta ’15 recently did as part of the Many Languages, One World contest (MLOW). The contest, put on by United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and the ELS Educational Service invited students from around the globe to submit essays related to the UN’s sustainable development agenda. The big catch? Essays must be written in a language that is not the students’ native tongue. Amariuta, who has a passion for foreign languages, was up for the challenge.

Amariuta presents in Russian at the United Nations.

Amariuta says her interest in language was sparked in high school.  “At home, we only spoke English. When I got to high school and saw my friends come from a non-English speaking family, I thought that I had missed an amazing opportunity to learn a foreign language,” she says. Amariuta began studying Vietnamese, Korean, and Latin, and when she got to MIT she added French and then Russian to her list of languages.

Amariuta’s Russian professor, Maria Khotimsky, urged her to participate in the MLOW contest. “She suggested that I write the essay in French, with which I have much more experience. I decided to write essays in both languages. In the end, my Russian essay was selected,” she says.

For the contest, winners selected from multiple countries are invited to the United Nations to present a final speech as a team on given topic. The students were given one day to work on their speeches as a group. Amariuta worked with Russian speakers from places like Ghana, Vietnam, and Georgia to present a speech—in Russian—on sustainable distribution of potable water and availability of sanitation. “Given the short amount of time we had to work with our team and write our speeches, I’m very happy with how everything turned out,” she says.

Amariuta continues to put her Russian to good use—she’s currently finishing an internship in Algorithmic Biology Lab at Saint Petersburg Academic University in the Russian Academy of Science.

In the fall, Amariuta will be a student at Harvard Medical School in the Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics (BIG) PhD program—a choice that she credits to a MISTI opportunity. “When I worked at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, I discovered the faculty of computational and statistical genetics and I knew that I had found the field I wanted to work in,” she says.

As far as languages, Amariuta is working to add one more to her resume—Romanian, a language that she’s learning from her dad, a native speaker.

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Assistant Professor Renée Richardson Gosline

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The 2015 MIT Alumni Leadership Conference (ALC) is one month away. ALC is the Alumni Association’s cornerstone event for volunteers and alumni who want to reconnect or stay engaged with MIT. More than 600 attended last year’s conference, and this year’s schedule is packed with even more brainstorming sessions, networking events, and volunteer training.

Whether you’re a longtime volunteer or a first-time attendee, this year’s conference has sessions personalized to your MIT interests. Plus, each year ALC culminates with the Leadership Awards Dinner, a festive cocktail reception and dinner in Walker Memorial that celebrates dedicated MIT volunteers.

Thinking about registering for ALC? Check out 10 reasons to join hundreds of fellow alumni on campus next month. Then visit the ALC website and register for the conference.

  1. Glimpse behind the Scenes. MIT leaders, including chancellors Cynthia Barnhart and Eric Grimson, MIT faculty, and the academic deans from MIT’s five schools, will discuss new academic initiatives and MIT’s future plans.
  2. Boost Your Professional Development. In the Friday morning sessions “Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader,” certified career coach Ann Guo ’98 will discuss a step-by-step approach to build your career.
  3. Strengthen Your Career Toolbox. In Saturday’s “Strengthening Your Career Advisor Toolbox,” share your own experiences with career conversations then hear an MIT career counselor discuss the best ways to solicit and receive advice.
  4. Connect with Students. Current undergraduate students will discuss present-day life on campus and current graduate students will discuss their research.
  5. Receive Entrepreneurial Guidance. In a Friday even panel discussion, successful alumni entrepreneurs will discuss the obstacles and challenges they faced after graduation from MIT.
  6. Plan Your Best Event Yet. This year’s ALC is packed with sessions on planning reunions and special events, and how get the biggest return for your club or group with the least financial investment.
  7. Expand Your Network In-Person. The two-day schedule includes a Friday evening reception with current MIT graduate students and local alumni entrepreneurs; two networking lunches; a Saturday afternoon volunteer opportunity fair; and more than 10 events hosted by alumni clubs and affinity groups.
  8. Expand Your Network Online. This year’s conference includes a customizable app—created by the MIT alum-founded startup Presdo Match—that allows you to see who is already registered and connect with attendees before, during, and after the conference.
  9. Attend on Your Schedule. Can’t attend for both days? Register at a reduced rate for Friday or Saturday only. (Saturday’s registration includes the Leadership Awards Dinner).
  10. Celebrate! Reconnect with friends throughout the weekend, then enjoy delicious food and drink the Leadership Award reception and celebration.

View the full schedule then register today. Add your thoughts before and during ALC on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #mitalc. We hope to see you on campus next month!

 

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08.24.15_Prep4GMAT

The Prep4GMAT app, created by Elad Shoushan MBA ’14

After five surgeries on one knee and two on the other, Elad Shoushan MBA ’14  hung up his high-tops, leaving his Israeli professional basketball career for computer science. Now instead of making assists on the court, he helps students score more points on standardized tests. His company, LTG Exam Prep Platform, puts test prep on students’ smartphones and tablets. With $3.2 million in venture funding and 160,000 downloads, the Prep4GMAT app is number one in Apple app store search results for GMAT and MBA in the United States, India, and China.

After walking away from the court, he earned a bachelor’s degree at the Technion in Haifa in 2008. He worked first for Intel and then for GE Healthcare for three years, connecting radiology information systems with doctors’ cell phones. Traveling for GE inspired him to consider getting an MBA in the States, but he struggled with the admission test. “I’m a pretty good student, but the GMAT was a big challenge for me. It’s not aligned with how people think,” he says.

Shoushan applied to Sloan, and then he quit his job and spent six months coding a test-prep app in his basement. “It went live to market the first day I started at Sloan,” he says. Algorithms in his patented methodology highlight keywords in test questions; LTG stands for “Label the GMAT.” Shoushan explains: “We have a tech engine that parses questions. Users click on a button—we call it an x-ray—and suddenly keywords are highlighted in many different colors, so you can see what the question is trying to test.” The app is free, but users will eventually be charged for additional questions, features, and services.

Elad Shoushan MBA ’14

Elad Shoushan MBA ’14

LTG has released Mandarin Chinese and English editions of the app. A network of 100 tutors schedule free study sessions with users in English, Mandarin, and other languages. And the GMAT is only the beginning, Shoushan says: “The goal of LTG is to become the go-to test prep platform on mobile devices for all standardized tests.” The company released an SAT version in April 2015; GRE, MCAT, and LSAT versions are also in the works.

Why did he bother with business school given that LTG was already launched when he got to Cambridge?

“At the end of the day, the exposure, the connections, and the brand name of MIT are invaluable,” he says. When LTG got its own office space, he threw a party to say good-bye to the staff at Sloan’s Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, where he had been toiling around the clock from September to May of his second year at Sloan. “It felt like they were our family,” he says. “The company would not have gotten to this stage
without me being at Sloan.”

Shoushan and his wife, Shelly, live in Kendall Square.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2015 issues of MIT Technology Review magazine.

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A twelve-spotted skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) (female) on an Echinacea stem (© Gary Blau).

A twelve-spotted skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) (female) on an Echinacea stem (© Gary Blau).

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

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MIT-Obesity-Genetics_0

Fat cells in human body. Image: shutterstock.

When it comes to understanding obesity, there are several known factors including behavioral, hormonal, and genetic influences. In addition to the most obvious—lack of exercise, poor diet, and eating habits—many have a genetic predisposition. Since 2007, researchers have been able to pinpoint a gene called FTO that is linked to obesity, but until now, not much was understood as to the cause.

How that gene works was revealed in an article published August 19 in the New England Journal of Medicine based on work led by scientists at MIT and Harvard University. This latest work found that the gene directly effects metabolism and the way energy from food is processed. The study showed that a faulty version of the gene actually causes the energy from food to be stored as fat rather than burned.

“Many studies attempted to link the FTO region with brain circuits that control appetite or propensity to exercise,” Melina Claussnitzer, a visiting professor at CSAIL and instructor in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, told MIT News. “Our results indicate that the obesity-associated region acts primarily in adipocyte progenitor cells in a brain-independent way,”

By studying the genes of both mice and humans, researchers also found that the faulty gene could be turned off, showing promise for a drug in the future that could help treat the defect. “By manipulating this new pathway, we could switch between energy storage and energy dissipation programs at both the cellular and the organismal level, providing new hope for a cure against obesity,” says Manolis Kellis ’99, MEng ’99, PhD ’03, professor of computer science at MIT.

Cellmodel

Pictured: a model of the FTO locus association with obesity, implicating a developmental shift favoring lipid-storing white adipocytes over energy-burning beige adipocytes. 

Of course, this isn’t a cure for obesity, because there are many factors at play, but it could be a big help for those with this genetic defect. Also, just because you have the faulty gene, doesn’t guarantee you will be obese. The study did show, however, that people with a faulty gene from both parents, weighed an average of seven pounds more than those without them. “Some were a lot heavier than that,” says Kellis, “and seven pounds can be the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy weight.”

Kellis and study leader Melina Claussnitzer are seeking a patent related to the work.
Read more on the MIT News site and the Boston Globe.

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An overexposed photo, left, compared to information recorded by a modulo camera, center, and the results.

An overexposed photo, left, compared to information recorded by a modulo camera, center, and the results. Courtesy: MIT Camera Culture.

MIT’s Camera Culture research group works on “making the invisible visible.” A new project restores depth and detail to bleached-out skies and other poorly exposed surfaces in digital photos using a specialized modulo camera.

This invention could improve individual photographer’s efforts by eliminating the need for fumbling with aperture size and exposure length and boost the clarity of robot vision. With current cameras, a driver-less car might be blinded by entering a tunnel that mixes a dark environment with super bright exits. With the modulo camera, it could see both tunnel and exits clearly.

A poster explains how the modulo camera works.

Click the image to see details on how the camera works.

As a project in computational photography, the modulo camera relies on high dynamic range (HDR) imaging “a method that allows both very bright and very dim light sources to be pictured in a single image with no loss in quality.” Contemporary HDR cameras rely on multiple images but the modulo camera requires only one shot, so it’s less likely to suffer from motion blurring.

The project, formally called Unbounded High Dynamic Range Photography Using a Modulo Camera, was created in a collaboration between the Media Lab’s Camera Culture group, MIT Lincoln Lab, and Singapore University of Technology and Design.

How does it work? The Camera Culture website describes it this way:

Conventional camera sensors will get full, or saturated, after receiving an excess amount of light. This is because conventional camera sensors have a limited well capacity, or a limited amount of light the sensors can take in before they overflow. The modulo camera solves the saturation problem by resetting the sensor capacitors whenever the well gets full, and it uses an inverse modulo algorithm to calculate how much light the reset sensors took in. This algorithm recovers a much larger dynamic range. For example, if a certain camera sensor can record eight bits of information, then when those eight bits are filled, the capacitor will be reset to zero. The number of resets is recovered by the algorithm, which then calculates the relative brightness of each area of the photo.

Learn more about Camera Culture research.

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MIT Technology Review TR35 MIT alumni

At least seven MIT alumni were named to this year’s list.

MIT Technology Review has named its annual list of 35 Innovators Under 35—the TR35. According to Tech Review, the list honors the most compelling and innovative young researchers whose work is making a real-world impact on society.

The list is split into five categories: Entrepreneurs, Inventors, Humanitarians, Pioneers, and Visionaries. And Similar to past years, MIT has a strong presence—More than one-third of the list has connections to the Institute, including at least seven alumni.

View the list of MIT alumni below then visit MIT News to learn more about the full list, which includes Canan Dagdeviren, a post-doctoral researcher at MIT Langer Labs.

Anikeeva_TR35

Polina Anikeeva PhD ’09


Polina Anikeeva PhD ’09
(Pioneer)
Class of 1942 Assistant Professor, MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering

“The tools we were using (to control the brain optically and investigate brain function) were too large and too bulky, and didn’t have enough capability. Since my background was nano–optoelectronics and nanofabrication, I felt that we should be able to do better.”

Lars Blackmore PhD ’07 (Visionary)
Entry, Descent and Landing Team Leader, SpaceX

“Blackmore (is) a soft-spoken Brit who leads a team at SpaceX that’s developing the onboard software necessary for a rocket to come down gently in an upright position onto a platform in the ocean.”

Patrick Collison ’10 (Entrepreneur)
Co-Founder and CEO, Stripe

“Making it so easy to participate in the online economy has a far larger effect than one might imagine. We’re enabling new business models, like crowdfunding…That enables more people in society to take advantage of these services.”

Gilad Evrony ’07 (Pioneer)
Researcher, Harvard Medical School

“From studying 300 neurons one at a time, Harvard Medical School researcher Gilad Evrony helped make a surprising discovery: brain cells sitting right next to each other don’t always have the same genetic codes.”

Connor Walsh

Connor Walsh SM ’06, PhD ’10

Conor Walsh SM ’06, PhD ’10 (Inventor)
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Biomedical Engineering, Harvard University John A. Paulson School of Engineering

“(Walsh is) working on robots that are soft, lightweight, and flexible so people can wear them to enhance their abilities…The exosuit could support soldiers as they walk, to increase their endurance. Or it could help patients who have trouble walking.”

Zhen Gu SM ’98 (Pioneer)
Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Zhen Gu, whose grandmother died from diabetes complications, is developing insulin delivery mechanisms that could be better. The most recent one is a fingernail-size patch covered in more than 100 microneedles.”

Rikky Muller ’04, MEng ’04 (Entrepreneur)
Co-Founder and CTO, Cortera Neurotechnologies, Inc.

“Rikky Muller, an Israeli-born entrepreneur and the cofounder of Cortera Neurotechnologies, is designing the implantable hardware intended to interact directly with the brain.”

Did we leave any MIT alumni off our list? And are there any alumni who deserve consideration for 2016? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Read Slice of MIT’s past coverage of MIT alumni the TR35 from 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2010.

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Since 1997, the MIT Alumni Association’s Student/Alumni Externship Program has placed thousands of MIT students in short-term alumni-sponsored internships around the globe. In 2014, the program placed more than 400 students—including 45 graduate students—at 278 companies in 16 US states and seven countries. 

More than 200 MIT alumni sponsored externships, including Carson Darling ’11 and Thomas Lipoma ’11, co-founders of Rest Devices, a Boston startup that hosted MIT externs for the third consecutive year.

“Part of the reason we love the Externship Program is because it brings people that are the highest-caliber engineers that we can find,” says Darling. “It can be a really great program in terms of getting people that are committed to a team and really productive members. I can’t recommend the Externship Program enough.”

Rest Devices is one example of the hundreds of externships offered each year. For more information on the Student/Alumni Externship Program, visit alum.mit.edu/externships.

Part two of a three-part video series. Watch part one, Coding for Humanity.

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