MIT scientists are discovering the rules by which the brain works and creates the mind. We are driven to focus this basic science knowledge on brain disorders and diseases. Our potential for future impact is virtually limitless. If you share our passion and excitement, we hope you'll join us.

James DiCarlo
Department Head

Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Understanding how the brain creates the mind is one of the great mysteries facing scientists in the 21st century. The Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT is making great progress in solving this mystery. Our faculty works in collaboration to explore how the brain functions in order to understand what happens when the brain ceases to work properly. Our research laboratories will make a difference in the lives of our children and parents, our friends and our neighbors.

Current support for our research comes from a variety of sources: federal (NIH, NSF among others), grants from foundations, corporations and biotechnology firms as well as from private individuals. This support has enabled our researchers to attract graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, increase interest in various research programs, and it has enhanced collaboration among our investigators both within MIT and beyond.

MIT President and Professor of Neuroscience, Susan Hockfield with Prisca Marvin '85. Marvin, together with her husband Kim, recently seeded the 'Autism Research Fund.' Prisca shares, "It is amazing what MIT brings to the field of research-- not just ideas and methodology, but the ability to create cutting edge tools. It is only through basic research being done at MIT that we can meaningfully impact the outcome for future generations. MIT is "home" to my husband and me; we know and appreciate the ethics, standards and rigor of the Institute and can think of no better use of our philanthropic dollars."

In addition, these funds have been used to purchase equipment, support our colloquium series, and fund pilot projects on innovative approaches to help unlock the mysteries of the brain. However, there is more that can be done.

Support for the Department

The physical brain and its associated cognitive functioning arm — the mind — are together one of the last great frontiers of scientific research. The department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT was founded with an unprecedented cross-disciplinary, approach to studying both the brain and the mind. This strategy became an international model, setting the standard for institutions around the world. The Department continues to lead the way towards unlocking the mysteries of the mind and increasing our understanding of brain diseases and disorders. Your support is helping to further our research and thus we are able to achieve and reach our goals.

Support for Faculty

Because the human brain is immensely complex, the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences collectively pursues every level of inquiry — from molecules to cells to circuits to the mystery of the mind itself. The integration of methods and insights from every area of brain research is vital to studying the brain's diseases and disorders, as well as its development and daily feats, like vision, speech, movement and memory. Already known for remarkable contributions to the field, BCS faculty members continually stretch the limits of knowledge, and bring the same passion to educating exceptional students. Donor support for "Blue-Sky" projects — projects deemed too risky for traditional funding mechanisms — is already assisting our faculty to make great in-roads. Another way to support our faculty is through an endowed chair. An endowed chair is a visible way to recognize and reward outstanding researchers and educators. It is one of the most lasting and significant gifts a donor can make to MIT. Simply put, an endowed chair accomplishes two things: It provides a permanent legacy to honor scholarship, teaching, and research for the chair holders, and it reflects the benefactor's abiding commitment to MIT.

Support for Graduate Students

Above, past and current Singleton Fellows. Established in 2004, the Singleton Fellowship has funded 16 graduate students in its history.

Graduate students make up 60 percent of MIT's student population, and are one of the Institute's greatest intellectual resources. In the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, graduate students have painstakingly studied the human brain and advanced the pace of discovery. The scholars receive financial support primarily through research assistantships (RAs) and fellowships, while a minority relies upon teaching assistantships (TAs). Most of the department's traditional research assistantships have been funded by federal grants — a funding source that fluctuates given changing government priorities. Private support for fellowships ensures that the unusual diversity of expertise continues to foster an intensely creative atmosphere, which sparks startling collaborations.

Department Head James DiCarlo stresses the importance of support for students. "We're drastically shifting our attention to the interdisciplinary, to new fields at the confluence of biological science and engineering. To do that, we need a support mechanism conducive to attracting and retaining a new breed of student." The Department relies on fellowships to bring in these highly creative individuals with interests in interdisciplinary research.

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BCS Discretionary Fund (2545200) General departmental support
BCS Research Innovation Fund (2465100) Seed money for innovative research projects
BCS Graduate Fellowships Fund (2735856) Graduate student tuition and stipend support

For more information, please contact:
Elizabeth Chadis
Assistant Dean for Development
MIT School of Science
(617) 253-8903