A letter from the department head

  • Message from the Head

A letter from the department head

by 

Jim DiCarlo

2016 has been a roller coaster year for the department — amidst the high thrills of science discovery and developing new scientists, we have the heartbreaking news of the passing of longtime colleagues. Indeed, as I write this letter, I have just received news that in addition to the passing of longtime professors Suzanne Corkin and Whitman Richards, who you will learn more about in this newsletter, former professor and department head Richard Held has also passed away. Their dedication and service to MIT and to science is something that I aim to emulate everyday. As a faculty member and educator, I consider it my privilege to pass on their dedication to the next generation of MIT brain and cognitive scientists. We should all aspire to similar heights.

As difficult as it has been, this year has also had moments of beauty and excitement. In this edition of the newsletter, you will learn about BCS graduate student Cailtin Vander Weele and her drive to see art in the science she completes at the microscope every day. Her perspective on finding the beauty in things that may not always go to plan is inspirational.

You will also meet new BCS Associate Professor Roger Levy. Levy joins us from the University of California San Diego’s linguistics department, where he spent the last nine years as a faculty member leading the field of computational psycholinguistics — the model-based, experimentally grounded study of natural language processing and acquisition. We are very excited to welcome him to the department.

Last, as I am sure that many of you have heard, MIT launched a major campaign— The MIT Campaign for a Better World—emphasizing basic science as one of the Institute’s priorities. Basic science is at the heart of the department’s mission. We are motivated to answer fundamental questions of how the brain works because we know that this will surely impact the world with dramatic advances in science, medicine, technology, education, and government policies. While great progress has been made, our most important work is still ahead of us. I am confident that with the support our friends and alumni like you, we will continue to be a leader in innovative brain and cognitive sciences research. If you are interested in learning more about the campaign and the department’s funding priorities, I encourage you to visit our website at bcs.mit.edu/giving.