Campus Culture

03.13.15_Pi_Day_crop

Tomorrow is Pi day and MIT offers infinite ways to celebrate. This day, observed on March 14, 2015, is actually Super Pi Day because the numeral date format represents the first five digits of the mathematical constant—3.1415.

For students applying for the Class of 2019, it is a momentous day. Some 850 will be very happy indeed with their acceptance news. Tomorrow morning at 9:26 a.m.—to continue with the next few digits of Pi—they will be able to check the results of their applications online. They also will get the news earlier than previous classes.

In recent years, MIT posted admission decisions online at 6:28 p.m., which is called Tau Time, to equally honor the rival numbers Pi and Tau. Not quite sure about the debate between Pi and Tau? Here’s the answer in a short video, Tau vs Pi Smackdown. If you are a glutton for Pi, you can peruse Numberphile’s list of Pi day videos.

In anticipation of the acceptance decisions, the Admissions Office created a fabulous video that shows a swarm of drones taking off from the Great Dome and delivering MIT acceptance tubes worldwide. In reality, though, drones were not involved. At least not this year.

If you’re looking for ways to honor this special day, here are some on-campus options:

Pi Day celebration at Ashdown House last year

The Pi Day celebration at Ashdown House last year. Photo credit: Aarthy Kannan Adityan, Ashdown House.

Students can party at the seventh-annual Pi Day event put on by the Ashdown House. This year’s event, a collaboration with Sidney-Pacific, will be held from 6:00–8:00 p.m. in the Hulsizer room and will include pie-throwing contests and a Pi recital competition.

Also Saturday night, the MIT Alumni Arts Exchange is hosting a special arts and music event for Super Pi Day from 6:00–10:00 p.m. in the Media Lab. Students will enjoy savory and sweet pies, a delicious way to celebrate the mathematical constant. Click here to register for the event.

Further afield, you can celebrate Pi Day virtually:

Pi-card-03-13-15

Pi Day e-cards

Click here to learn more about Pi Day in years past at  MIT.

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MIT2_crop

The U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings on America’s best colleges and graduate schools were first released in 1983. In that time, the rankings and comprehensive guidebooks have become an integral part of the college application process and MIT has placed high in nearly every applicable category.

The magazine’s 2016 graduate rankings were officially released on March 10 and the Institute ranked first in more than 20 categories and sub-categories, including the best engineering graduate program for the 27th consecutive year.

The first-place School of Engineering’s top-ranked graduate programs include aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineering, chemical engineering, computer engineering (tied), electrical/electronic/communications engineering (tied), materials engineering, and mechanical engineering.

MIT’s other top-ranked graduate programs and departments include:

Biological Sciences
Economics
Chemistry
Computer Science
Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics
Econometrics
Information Systems
Inorganic Chemistry
Materials Engineering
Math
Mechanical Engineering
Physics
Production/Operations
Supply Chain/Logistics

The MIT Sloan School of Management was ranked the fifth best graduate program for business and Sloan’s graduate program in entrepreneurship ranking third. Overall, more than 60 MIT programs and departments ranked in the top 10. View all of U.S. NewsMIT rankings.

In determining rank, U.S. News weighs factors such as reputation, research activity, quality of faculty, research, and students, and student selectivity to rank the top graduate engineering schools.

U.S. News released its most-recent undergraduate ranking in September 2014. MIT was ranked seventh overall among national universities and had the top-ranked undergraduate engineering program for the 25th consecutive year.

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Click the image to see the full list of MIT-connected SXSW Interactive presenters.

Click the image to see the full list of MIT-connected SXSW Interactive presenters.

The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival is the world’s largest incubator for emerging technologies, new ideas, and inspired innovations. So it’s no surprise that the MIT community has a huge presence throughout the conference.

Alumni Association research indicates that more than 100 MITers will present their research during the five-day festival, which begins on Friday, March 13. (The other SXSW festivals, film and music, take place March 13–21 and March 17–22, respectively.)

The MIT contingent includes mix of faculty, alumni, and researchers on a number of eclectic topics, including the end of disability (Associate Professor Hugh Herr SM ’93); creating innovation (2015 MIT Commencement speaker Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88); the future of connected objects (Jennifer Dunnam MArch ’12); and how robots are changing the way we prepare food (Jacquelyn Martino PhD ’06).

See the Alumni Association still-growing list on MIT-connected presenters.

For more information on MIT’s role at the festival, join the #MITAlum SXSW Preview Twitter chat on Tuesday, March 10, at noon EDT. The chat will feature four alumni SXSW presenters who will answer questions and discuss their upcoming SXSW presentations. (Bio info via SXSW Interactive.)

Denise Cheng SM ’14, “The Real Risks of ‘Keepin’ It Real’

cheng “Denise has spoken, written, and been quoted widely by NPR, Harvard Business Review, NextCity, the New Museum, and others about the sharing economy. In the past, she co-founded and structured a citizen journalism outlet that became a national model for hyperlocal and citizen journalism.

Sam Ford SM ’07, “Paid Editing of Wikipedia: Getting Past ‘Gotcha’

ford“Sam Ford is director of audience engagement with Peppercomm. Sam was named 2014 Digital Communicator of the Year and a Social Media MVP by PR News and 2011 Social Media Innovator of the Year by Bulldog Reporter.”


Geoffrey Long SM ’07
, “Storytelling with the New Screens

long“Having previously been the Lead Narrative Producer for Microsoft Studios, in a think tank under Microsoft’s Chief Experience Officer and Chief Software Architect, a researcher and Communications Director for the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, a magazine editor and a film producer, he serves as the Technical Director and a Research Fellow for USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab.”

Matt Stempeck SM ’13, “The Real Risks of ‘Keepin’ It Real’

stempeck“Matt’s a civic technologist. He’s studied and built creative technologies in advocacy, politics, startups, news media, and peer-to-peer humanitarian aid. He became a Master of Science at the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media, and is now serving as Director of Civic Technology for Microsoft in New York City.”

The Twitter chat is co-sponsored by the MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing department. Tweet your questions and follow along with the hashtag #MITAlum beginning at noon EDT.

Are you attending SXSW? Let us know on social media. Tweet your photos to @MIT_alumni and post to the Alumni Association Facebook page.

 

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Guest blogger: Professor James H. Williams, Jr.

Professor James H. Williams, Jr.

Professor James H. Williams, Jr.

In the new issue of the MIT Faculty Newsletter, Professor James H. Williams, Jr. ‘67, SM ‘68 writes about an unusual topic—this year’s fabulous football season in the context of campus culture and personal history. Professor Williams, an accomplished author as well as faculty member in MIT’s mechanical engineering department and writing and humanistic studies program, discusses the art, discipline, beauty, and management of football at MIT. This excerpt is likely to give you a taste for the longer piece titled “A Magical, Almost Perfect, Season.”

If you are a first-year undergraduate and want to study economics, linguistics, literature, political science, urban studies and planning, or writing at MIT, you must nevertheless take—or, perhaps I should say be grateful for the opportunity to take—freshman biology, calculus, chemistry, and physics alongside some of the world’s future top engineers, mathematicians, and scientists. There are no “basket-weaving” subject offerings or scholarships for jocks at MIT.

Thus, the task of finding enough students to play competitive intercollegiate football at MIT is immense. Even so, one of the distinctions of the Institute’s undergraduate population is that this body of students is also the same pool that has produced the largest number of Division III Academic All-Americans in the history of collegiate athletics. [In fact, my former research student (SB, SM, PhD) in 1979-80 became MIT’s first Academic All-American.]

I suggest that anyone who has not visited the MIT Athletics homepage do so. Whatever positive feelings you may already have for our undergraduates, your respect for them will grow after visiting the MIT Athletics homepage. You may also better understand why during my years as a student and faculty member, I have attended hundreds of intercollegiate athletic events involving MIT undergraduates and I competed on dozens of intramural athletic teams (until I broke my leg playing softball for the New West Campus Houses in 1982).

I often write about our undergraduates who need to hear more often how much the faculty and administration enjoy observing their growth and want to support them in achieving their goals. Last month, I was chatting in the corridor—where many, if not most, important conversations occur at MIT—with a colleague who was so pleased with the dedication and intellectual development of the undergraduates in a demanding disciplinary subject in mechanical engineering. Last year, I wrote the following to a senior administrator, in response to a speech he gave: “In the daily hustle and bustle of MIT, our students’ global perspectives, capabilities, and potential impacts can be easily submerged, and occasionally even lost. Thus, daring to positively change the world becomes an important message for them to hear . . . .” Our students are too sophisticated to be enamored with false compliments but, in what is too frequently MIT’s no-praise culture, they need to hear the faculty’s and administration’s applause when they have earned it.

MIT's first marching band was formed in 1978.

MIT’s first marching band was formed in 1978.

As the first housemaster of New House in the late 1970s, I witnessed several uniquely memorable events in MIT’s history.

Throughout weekends during that period, oversized—and I do mean oversized—audio speakers in Burton-Connor and elsewhere along Dorm Row bathed Briggs Field in Chuck Mangione’s “Feel So Good.”

In 1978, the MIT Football Club was founded and joined the National Club Football Conference, with the team ultimately becoming a varsity program and a member of the NCAA Division III in 1987.

The MIT Marching Band was also formed in 1978. Although I never saw more than six or seven members at any single time, I found them to be musically skillful and cleverly resourceful as I observed them practicing on Briggs Field. The band had no uniforms, and several of its members bristled at The Tech’s characterizations that they constituted a “spoof,” employed “haphazard formations,” and that their sundry shirts, shorts, and bell-bottom jeans were “random costumes.” Nevertheless, applying both Gaussian and Lévy distributions, I tried to write a manuscript using statistical analysis to describe the band’s marching formations, but my assumption of ergodicity was too constraining.

On Saturday, October 28, 1978, the MIT Football Club played, but lost, its only home game that year. (Actually, the team lost all its games that year.) The game also served as a campus-unifying Homecoming during which the MIT Marching Band performed. Another highlight of that festive day was the appearance of the reigning UMOC (Ugliest Man on Campus) who, as the Homecoming Queen, rode into Henry Steinbrenner Stadium on his “chariot” (a decaying flatbed covered with cardboard, depicting the urging “Go Tech”), waggling his “scepter” (a wooden walking cane), and bedecked in the queen’s pink cape and “crown” (part of a milk carton). I must confess: I adored him then and I have never forgotten him.

In 1978, MIT’s student body was at its sui generis best.

Read the full article in the MIT Faculty Newsletter.

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William Linder

Bill Linder SM ’65, PhD ’68 has completed more than a dozen Ironman races.

In 1962, an MIT professor visited the graduate class of Bill Linder SM ’65, PhD ’68 graduate class at the industrial design school he was attending in Germany after leaving the U.S. Army. Linder, who had already earned a degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1956, was so impressed with the professor that he transferred to MIT to study civil and environmental engineering. The decision would profoundly shape his life both personally and professionally.

At MIT, Linder and his classmates worked on solving engineering issues with computers, a very new idea at the time. “It was civil engineering, but really, they were computer projects,” he says. “That was very remarkable.”

After graduating, Linder, who grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, wanted to return home and teach at the University of South Carolina. Soon he was hired as the university’s first full-time computer science professor. After 12 years on the faculty, he went on to serve as a county treasurer, a computer consultant, and an adjunct professor before retiring in 2002, eager to pursue his new passion: Ironman competitions.

Ironman races consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. To date, Linder has completed more than a dozen Ironman races, including two Ironman World Championships, the race held annually in October in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. When he competed in it last year, he was one of just five participants 80 or older. Unfortunately, a strong headwind derailed Linder and his fellow octogenarians. None of them finished the swim and bike portions within 10 hours and 30 minutes of starting, which would have qualified them to advance to the run. The wind was so strong Linder was sometimes riding his bike in his lowest gear, going only 4 or 5 m.p.h.

Years ago, he didn’t have to worry about finishing in time; he simply exerted all his energy and usually had hours to spare. But as he has aged, his slower pace has erased those extra hours. “There’s not much slack anymore,” he says.

Linder, however, remains undeterred. Now 81, he wants to become the oldest finisher of the Ironman World Championship. To do that, he will have to complete the race as an 82-year old next fall. “No one thought this was possible, that older people could do the Ironman. I want to keep it up as long as I can,” he says.

If he’s not swimming, biking, or running, Linder is probably at home in Columbia with Lynne, his wife of 47 years, or spoiling their three grandchildren.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.

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Slice of MIT sports storiesThe number of MIT alumni involved in professional sports grows each year. Thanks to these alumni, plus events like the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (SSAC), which begins today, the Institute’s imprint on the sports landscape is increasing.

To celebrate this growing connection, the Alumni Association has spotlighted alumni working in sports fields all week. The sports-themed week was highlighted by a Twitter chat on Tuesday, Feb. 24 that featured Jyoti Agarwal ’03, a senior director at the NBA; Brian Bilello ’97, New England Revolution president; and Mike Fitzgerald ’11, Pittsburgh Pirates quantitative analyst.

To culminate the week, scan Slice‘s archive of more than 50 sports-related stories below. As you’ll read, the Slice archives feature some surprising MIT connections in some offbeat athletics, including tug of war, ballroom dancing, weightlifting, and even professional wrestling.

 

 

 

 

 

Analytics

Auto Racing

Ballroom Dancing

Baseball

Basketball

Cheerleading

Cricket

Football

Golf

Hockey

Martial Arts

Professional Wrestling

Rowing and Sailing

Running

Skydiving

Tug of War

Olympics

Weightlifting

More Sports Stories

Have we missed any MIT-related sports connections? Let us now in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Update: Dartmouth College named Linda Muri ’85 head coach of women’s rowing in August 2014. 

Linda Muri, Harvard, Dartmouth, MIT, rowing

Linda Muri ’85

Harvard rowing coach Linda Muri is the only woman to have led a Division I men’s boat to a collegiate national championship. In fact, for 15 years she was the only female coach of a Division I men’s team. But Muri’s next challenge requires a different sort of leadership. Muri cochairs the MIT Crew Alumni Association’s boathouse committee, which is conducting a feasibility study on renovating the Harold W. Pierce Boathouse because, she says, “it’s not really serving everyone well enough.”

Muri enrolled at MIT hoping to become an astronaut. An astronautics and aeronautics major, she played varsity field hockey and basketball and ran track her first year before dipping an oar in a Class Day race for her living group, pika. “I got hooked and that was that,” she says. She rowed varsity through her undergraduate years, serving as captain for the final two.

After graduating, she did design and engineering work for boat builder Composite Engineering in Concord before focusing on making the national team herself. She rowed on that team for nine years, capturing 18 national championships and three world titles. In 1994, she set a world record rowing in a lightweight fours race at the World Rowing Championships.

Muri earned a teaching degree at Harvard in 1997 and then moved to Ithaca, New York, when her husband, Mattison Crowe, started business school. Cornell was short one coach after the semester began, and she gave it a try. “I was teaching, but it was rowing! I thought it was remarkable that that could be a job,” she says. She’s now in her 13th season coaching at Harvard, and her grateful student rowers benefit from her expertise. In fact, the MIT and Radcliffe lightweight women’s crews have named their annual series the Muri Cup in her honor.

As a board member of the MIT Crew Alumni Association, Muri supports rowing by raising money, leading projects like the boathouse renovation, and more. “We make sure the opportunity is there for students to learn about rowing and complement their studies at MIT,” she says.

And she still rows in a few races a year. Last year she won the Head of the Charles in the Women’s Senior Masters division, setting a new record. She and her husband, a marketing director for a sports and rescue rope company, live in Watertown with their French bulldog, Max.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.

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While some MIT alumni transition to professional sports after they leave the Institute, they’re not getting drafted by the MLB or NBA. They are bringing critical thinking and data analysis to the world of professional sports. Alumni work in every professional sports league in America and events like the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference demonstrate the impact that MIT-style thinking now has on professional sports.

To highlight alumni working in sports we’re hosting an #MITAlum Twitter chat on Tuesday, February 24. at noon EST with off-the-field sports pros Jyoti Agarwal ‘03, Brian Bilello ’97, and Mike Fitzgerald ’11. Agarwal, Bilello, Fitzgerald will take questions on Twitter about their time at MIT, what it’s like working in sports, and the role data and analytics play in their jobs. Learn more about these alumni and bring your questions on Tuesday at noon EST. Tweet your questions and follow the conversation with #MITAlum.

Jyoti-2Jyoti Agarwal Senior Director—Marketing and Media Planning, NBA

As Course 7 major and Course 5 minor, Agarwal left MIT with plans to become a doctor. Agarwal followed a career path that that wound through PUMA sportswear, Harvard Business School, Bain Capital, eventually landing at the NBA. Agarwal says she first fell in love with sports while attending MIT and living in Boston. “I still maintain that there is no better sports city in the world,” she says.

Bilello_BrianBrian Bilello President, New England Revolution

Bilello began working for the Kraft Sports Group in 2003 and was named president of the Revolution in 2011. While at MIT, Bilello played varsity soccer and studied chemical engineering. He recently shared with Slice, “I studied chemical engineering but MIT didn’t necessarily train me to be a chemical engineer. They trained me to solve chemical engineering problems, and I can apply that perspective to my job with the Revolution.”

Mike-FitzMike Fitzgerald Quantitative Analyst, Pittsburgh Pirates

An athlete at MIT, Course 8 major Fitzgerald transitioned from playing wider-receiver for MIT football to working behind the scenes in professional baseball. After graduation Fitzgerald found he missed the team atmosphere that sports had always provided him. Fortunately, Fitzgerald soon joined the Pittsburgh Pirates as a quantitative analyst—a role that has contributed the Pirates’ first playoff appearance in 20 years.

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New robot adds two useful fingers to your hand.

New robot adds two useful fingers to your hand.

MIT is full of invention. One quick way to tap into the riches on campus is to browse the MIT Video collection, curated by the MIT News Office to bring highlights of research and campus culture into view. Whether you have just a minute—or an hour—you can learn something fun, intriguing, or maybe life changing. Here are a few suggestions:

Learn how to don the mascot costume.

Learn how to don the mascot costume.

If you browse by types, do venture into the Demonstrations section. Upwrap one of the mysteries of campus culture by watching Tim the Beaver: Putting on the Mascot Costume. First rule: do not try to put on the costume by yourself. Did you know ice packs are involved? Time: 00:03:54

Need an extra hand—or at least a couple of extra digits? Watch 7 Finger Robot, a 0:58 second spotlight on a new robotic device, worn on the wrist, that acts like two extra fingers adjacent to the pinky and thumb.

Learn how materials science is changing energy resources.

Learn how materials science is changing energy resources.

How are materials-driven advances transforming energy and economics worldwide? Watch Hey, Atoms: What Have You Done for Me Lately?: The age of materials design and how it will change the energy world. After an eight-minute introduction, hear Jeffrey C. Grossman, MIT professor of materials science and engineering, present the Wulff lecture. First, he lights things on fire, the way most energy is currently produced. And then it really gets interesting. Time: 58:12.

If you browse by channels, you can zoom in on 133 videos on mathematics including the 18.02 Tutorial Video: Partial Derivatives, which runs 11:59. Or among 261 videos on engineering, you will find Emmy-Award Winning Work on High-Speed Video Cameras by Brian Anthony SM ’98, PhD ’06, an entrepreneur who leads the MIT Medical Electronics Device Realization Center. Time: 02:51

Most visitors to Barcelona visit Antoni Gaudi’s iconic structures that join fanciful decorations with conservative structures—churches and housing. You can understand the subtleties of his work by watching an architecture and urban planning channel video titled the Creative Practices of Antoni Gaudi in Colònia Güell and Sagrada Familia. Time: 01:42:19

You can also explore channels devoted to the arts, student life, and entrepreneurship. Or click types to find history for a video on the Harnessing the Wind at MIT: Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel or the story of the telegraph and its impact in the Whole Wired World. Enjoy!

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Kira Kopacz '15

Kira Kopacz ’15

The way Kira Kopacz ’15 sees it, there are no two groups more typecast than MIT students and pageant contestants. So why not dispel stereotypes about both—at the same time?

“There are definitely misconceptions about both groups,” Kopacz says. “Pageant contestants aren’t dumb blondes. And MIT students aren’t anti-social—they’re actually pretty outgoing.”

Kopacz is one of 14 contestants who will compete for the titles of Miss Boston and Miss Cambridge on Sunday, February 8. The winners receive a $1,500 academic scholarship, a $1,995 public speaking scholarship, and are eligible to compete in the Miss Massachusetts pageant this summer.

Kopacz, a Course 9 major, entered her first pageant in high school and has competed for Miss Cambridge since 2013. She finished as third runner-up and won a STEM-related scholarship in last year’s competition.

“I get backhanded compliments all the time,” she says. “People at MIT ask, ‘Aren’t there better things for you to do?’ But it’s helped me build confidence, break stereotypes, and take a break from the MIT academia.”

Kira Kopacz (right) won the Miss Middleboro crown in 2014.

Kira Kopacz (right) won the Miss Middleboro crown in 2014.

And much like MIT, pageants competition—Kopacz was named Miss Central Massachusetts in 2013 and Miss Middleboro in 2014—can be more practice and preparation than fun and games.

“Pageant season is basically January to June,” she says. “During that time, my schedule is schoolwork until 5 p.m., rehearsal until midnight, and then I just crash. But it doesn’t feel like work—I love it.”

The Miss Boston/Miss Cambridge pageant is divided into five phases, including a talent program. Kopacz will perform the song “I What I Am” from the 1973 French musical La Cage aux Folles.

“Luckily I live in Burton Connors,” she says. “So I can use the music room to practice instead of my dorm.”

The pageant’s other phases include interviews, on-stage questions, and the evening wear and swimsuit competitions.

“The swimsuit competition is about being comfortable in your own skin,” she says. “The judges are looking for self-confidence. It’s about being able to handle any situation you’re thrown into.”

Kopacz’s journey to Miss Massachusetts isn’t unprecedented. Erika Ebbel Angle ’04 was named Miss Massachusetts in 2004 (Joanne Chang ’03 was fourth runner-up) and Jacqueline “Chacha” Durazo ’14 competed in Miss Cambridge in 2013.

Kopacz will graduate from MIT in June and plans to attend medical school. She hopes to stay involved in pageant competitions and help her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, raise awareness for the Boston chapter of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a community program that advocates for abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities.

The Miss Boston and Miss Cambridge pageant takes place on Sunday, February 8, 5:00 p.m., at Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel. Tickets are still available.

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