Campus Culture

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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Ice shells become strong and artful objects.

Ice shells become strong and artful objects.

When MIT students are out in freezing weather making things, anything can happen. During Independent Activities Period (IAP), they made structurally complex objects using the power of frozen water-soaked fabric. Watch the video Forces Frozen: Structures made from frozen fabrics.

The three-day workshop drew students from many disciplines.

The three-day workshop drew students from many disciplines.

The IAP workshop, titled Forces Frozen, pushed the boundaries of ice shells through design, experimentation, and fabrication. Led by Assistant Professor Caitlin Mueller ’07, SM ’14, PhD ’14 and post-doc Corentin Fivet, the workshop invited 30 students to research and design ice/fabric forms and the methods for making them on the first day and then spend the second day building formwork and rigging systems.  On the final day, they constructed an outdoor landscape of frozen structures and shared the work in a public exhibition.

The projects focus “on thin shell structures that get their strength not from the materials they are using or a thickness of material, but from the form they are using, just like an eggshell,” says Mueller. “The shells that we are designing are inspired by a twentieth-century Swiss structural designer, Heinz Isler…he was really inspired by nature and the forms that come out naturally through the forces of gravity. This is a really fun opportunity to combine physics, mechanics, and science with creating something that is almost artistic.”

Learn more on the Forces Frozen tumblr and a BetaBoston article.

You can try this at home.

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How do you transition from being an engineering graduate student at MIT to training individuals  to survive in the wild with very limited gear? That’s a question that Cliff Hodges ’02, MEng ’04, survival expert on gets all the time. “It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I would often wonder how I would survive outdoors if I didn’t have all my gear,” Hodges explains. But that’s not the whole story.

Hodges (in the red jacket) leading a 2003 IAP course on wilderness survival.

Hodges (in the red jacket) leading a 2003 IAP course on wilderness survival.

While at MIT, Hodges used his breaks to attend survival training camps and even taught a survivalist class during IAP 2003. “We built shelters and started fire by friction right in front of the dome,” he remembers. After Hodges graduated from MIT, he took a tech job in California, but quickly changed his mind about his career path. “It was just a bad starter job for me,” he says. And, at that job, Hodges began wondering what it would be like to work in his passion.

After a few months in the tech world, Hodges set out to launch his company, Adventure Out in Santa Cruz, CA, where he offers survivalist classes and training. In the early days of his business, Hodges says it was hard to fill the survival training classes.  But in recent years as survival shows like Man vs. Wild and Naked and Afraid, have become popular, his business started booming. “It’s hard to say which came first. I think the shows are increasing demand, but that demand may be increasing interest in the shows,” he explains.

DeadlyDessert_023_RemoteSurvivor

Hodges is a survival expert for Remote Survival. Photo: NatGeo

Hodges recently joined the fray of survival shows after NatGeo asked him to be a survival expert for their new show Remote Survival. On the show, untrained campers are dropped into the wild with limited gear. Hodges helps these campers survive by offering them instructions through radio communication.  The job is especially difficult , he says, because the campers are constantly on the move, the worst option for survival. “Unless you’re in imminent danger, you stay put,” he explains.

These difficult situations are when Hodges makes use of his MIT background. “A degree in engineering is a degree in problem solving,” he says. “I can take these situations that seem insurmountable and break them down piece by piece.”

Remote Survival’s first mini season is on NatGeo now.  Hodges is hoping to be renewed for a full season.

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Update: Watch the archived broadcast.

Noam Chomsky interview webcast MIT

MIT alumni can ask live questions during the Jan. 20 webcast.

On January 20, 2015, at noon EST, Institute Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky—the longtime political activist and founder the field of modern linguistics—discussed his career and took live questions from the MIT community in a Faculty Forum Online webcast. Chomsky also discussed the Chomsky Archive, an MIT Libraries project to preserve and digitize the lectures, personal papers, and materials he has donated to the Institute Archives and Special Collections.

Known as the “father of modern linguistics,” Chomsky shaped the linguistics field around the profound question, “What does language reveal about the nature of knowledge?” One of the world’s most-cited living scholars, he has authored more than 100 books and his political commentaries have sparked controversy and conversation for more than 50 years.

About Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky interview webcast MIT

Noam Chomsky

Known as the “father of modern linguistics,” Institute Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky shaped the linguistics field around the profound question, “What does language reveal about the nature of knowledge?” Chomsky joined the MIT faculty in 1955 and was appointed Institute Professor in 1976.

Chomsky has authored more than 100 books on language and politics and is one of the world’s most-cited living scholars.

His well-known political beliefs have made him a significant figure in public activism, particularly on issues like capitalism and foreign policy.

Chomsky in the Press

The Chomsky Videos, YouTube
Noam Chomsky Official Website
The Chomsky Archives, MIT Libraries
MIT Libraries receive papers of distinguished linguist, philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky,” MIT News
Unboxing the Chomsky Archive,” MIT News
Chomsky on Russia: ‘The worst-case scenario, of course, would be a nuclear war,’” Salon
Interview with Noam Chomsky on the Crisis in Central America and Mexico,” The Nation
@chomsky_quotes, a collection of Noam Chomsky quotes on Twitter

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The April 9, 9, 1968 front page of The Tech.

The April 9, 1968 front page of The Tech.

On February 4, 2015, MIT will host its 41st annual Martin Luther King Celebration Luncheon, an MIT community event that celebrates King’s legacy and the Institute’s commitment to diversity.

Past luncheons have featured a traditional silent march that travels from Lobby 7 to Kresge Auditorium and past speakers have included King’s widow Coretta Scott King, who delivered the keynote address at the luncheon’s 20th anniversary celebration in 1994.

While King may have never made a public appearance at MIT, he was a common visitor to Cambridge from the 1950s—when he was a doctoral student at Boston University—until the mid-1960s.

According to a January 2013 article in the Harvard Gazette, King took philosophy courses at Harvard in 1952 and 1953 and he was a guest preacher at Harvard’s Memorial Church in 1959 and 1960. He delivered a lecture titled “The Future of Integration” at Harvard Law School in 1962 and spoke at Memorial Church and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School on the same day in January 1965.

Tech_March_23_1965

A Tech article from March 23, 1965. Click for larger image.

King’s name appears regularly in issues of The Tech in the 1960s, including:

After his assassination on April 4, 1968, the front pages of The Tech’s preceding two issues were dedicated to King and articles included “Faculty, students consider role of MIT in race problems” and  “(Professor Harold) Isaacs cites racism in murder.”

The archives at the King Center museum also include two letters to King from the MIT/Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies that discuss the center’s Social Statistics in the City conference that took place in June 1967.

According to a video by MIT Productions, King’s death directly led to, among other endeavors, the formation of the MIT Black Students’ Union and the creation of Interphase (now Interphase EDGE),  a seven-week summer program that prepared incoming students for the rigors of MIT.

For more information on King’s legacy at MIT, which includes the MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars Program, the MLK-Inspired IAP Design Seminar, and the MLK Leadership Award, visit diversity.mit.edu.

The 41st annual Martin Luther King Celebration Luncheon takes place Wednesday, February 4, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. in Walker Memorial. The event is open to the MIT community and features a keynote address from author and activist Rinku Sen. Find out more information and how to register.

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Guest blogger: Zach Church, MIT Sloan

The NHL last month named energy company Constellation the official preferred energy provider of the league, a deal that will find Constellation providing energy efficiency analysis for the league and offsetting the carbon footprint of its 2014-2015 season.

The 2014 NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich. Photo: Dave Sanford, Getty Images

The 2014 NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich. Photo: Dave Sanford, Getty Images

The Dec. 18 announcement was a big one for the hockey league, which since 2010 has been touting its NHL Green initiative and which in July released a massive sustainability report chronicling the environmental impact of its games, its arenas, its corporate partners, and even the travel of its fans.

The report is the work of Omar Mitchell MBA ’12, who joined the NHL in 2012 as director of sustainability. Add in accompanying projects like a push to introduce energy- and heat-saving LED lighting in hockey arenas, and Mitchell has had a busy three years.

The sustainability report—a “tome,” Mitchell only half-jokes—was never a given. Though all of North America’s major sports leagues have some type of sustainability initiative, none has taken on such a hefty task, especially one not required of them. By voluntarily reporting its carbon footprint, the NHL is putting a stake in the ground and publically challenging itself to improve, Mitchell said.

For a sport whose greatest players learned the game on frozen ponds, there is an existential element to the threat of climate change. The report notes that NHL fans are more likely to recycle, support environmental causes, and buy eco-friendly products than the average U.S. adult….

Producing such an extensive report and using it to identify and drive sustainability initiatives required significant buy-in and partnership not only at the league offices in New York City, but among its 30 teams. Mitchell gained that support with the help of only one full-time staffer and an intern. To develop the report, he worked with the National Resources Defense Council, a climate change advocacy group and NHL Green’s primary advisor….

“We think of the report as ‘This is where we are,’” Mitchell said. “And then, once we know where we are, both quantitatively and qualitatively, where do we want to go?”

Jason Jay, a senior lecturer and the director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, said corporate sustainability leaders like Mitchell must demonstrate the value of sustainability work to the business at large.

“The biggest challenge is one of translation of sustainability into the language, values, and goals of the people you need to engage,” Jay said. “People don’t understand terms like C02e or disability-adjusted life years, and they certainly haven’t been incentivized to improve them.”

Read the complete story for details.

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