It was an eventful trip around the sun for MIT this year, from President Sally Kornbluth’s inauguration and Mark Rober’s Commencement address to Professor Moungi Bawendi winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2023 MIT researchers made key advances, detecting a dying star swallowing a planet, exploring the frontiers of artificial intelligence, creating clean energy solutions, inventing tools aimed at earlier detection and diagnosis of cancer, and even exploring the science of spreading kindness. Below are highlights of some of the uplifting people, breakthroughs, and ideas from MIT that made headlines in 2023.

The gift: Kindness goes viral with Steve Hartman
Steve Hartman visited Professor Anette “Peko” Hosoi to explore the science behind whether a single act of kindness can change the world.
Full story via CBS News

Trio wins Nobel Prize in chemistry for work on quantum dots, used in electronics and medical imaging
“The motivation really is the basic science. A basic understanding, the curiosity of ‘how does the world work?’” said Professor Moungi Bawendi of the inspiration for his research on quantum dots, for which he was co-awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Full story via the Associated Press

How MIT’s all-women leadership team plans to change science for the better
President Sally Kornbluth, Provost Cynthia Barnhart, and Chancellor Melissa Nobles emphasized the importance of representation for women and underrepresented groups in STEM.
Full story via Radio Boston

MIT via community college? Transfer students find a new path to a degree
Undergraduate Subin Kim shared his experience transferring from community college to MIT through the Transfer Scholars Network, which is aimed at helping community college students find a path to four-year universities.
Full story via the Christian Science Monitor

MIT president Sally Kornbluth doesn’t think we can hit the pause button on AI
President Kornbluth discussed the future of AI, ethics in science, and climate change with columnist Shirley Leung on her new “Say More” podcast. “I view [the climate crisis] as an existential issue to the extent that if we don’t take action there, all of the many, many other things that we’re working on, not that they’ll be irrelevant, but they’ll pale in comparison,” Kornbluth said.
Full story via The Boston Globe 

It’s the end of a world as we know it
Astronomers from MIT, Harvard University, Caltech and elsewhere spotted a dying star swallowing a large planet. Postdoc Kishalay De explained that: “Finding an event like this really puts all of the theories that have been out there to the most stringent tests possible. It really opens up this entire new field of research.”
Full story via The New York Times

Frontiers of AI

Hey, Alexa, what should students learn about AI?
The Day of AI is a program developed by the MIT RAISE initiative aimed at introducing and teaching K-12 students about AI. “We want students to be informed, responsible users and informed, responsible designers of these technologies,” said Professor Cynthia Breazeal, dean of digital learning at MIT.
Full story via The New York Times

AI tipping point
Four faculty members from across MIT — Professors Song Han, Simon Johnson, Yoon Kim and Rosalind Picard — described the opportunities and risks posed by the rapid advancements in the field of AI.
Full story via Curiosity Stream 

A look into the future of AI at MIT’s robotics laboratory
Professor Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, discussed the future of artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning, emphasizing the importance of balancing the development of new technologies with the need to ensure they are deployed in a way that benefits humanity.
Full story via Mashable

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Health care providers say artificial intelligence could transform medicine
Professor Regina Barzilay spoke about her work developing new AI systems that could be used to help diagnose breast and lung cancer before the cancers are detectable to the human eye.
Full story via Chronicle

Is AI coming for your job? Tech experts weigh in: “They don’t replace human labor”
Professor David Autor discussed how the rise of artificial intelligence could change the quality of jobs available.
Full story via CBS News

Big tech is bad. Big AI will be worse.
Institute Professor Daron Acemoglu and Professor Simon Johnson made the case that “rather than machine intelligence, what we need is ‘machine usefulness,’ which emphasizes the ability of computers to augment human capabilities.”
Full story via The New York Times

Engineering excitement

MIT’s 3D-printed hearts could pump new life into customized treatments
MIT engineers developed a technique for 3D printing a soft, flexible, custom-designed replica of a patient’s heart.
Full story via WBUR

Mystery of why Roman buildings have survived so long has been unraveled, scientists say
Scientists from MIT and other institutions discovered that ancient Romans used lime clasts when manufacturing concrete, giving the material self-healing properties.
Full story via CNN

The most interesting startup in America is in Massachusetts. You’ve probably never heard of it.
VulcanForms, an MIT startup, is at the “leading edge of a push to transform 3D printing from a niche technology — best known for new-product prototyping and art-class experimentation — into an industrial force.”
Full story via The Boston Globe

Catalyzing climate innovations

Can Boston’s energy innovators save the world?
Boston Magazine reporter Rowan Jacobsen spotlighted how MIT faculty, students, and alumni are leading the charge in clean energy startups. “When it comes to game-changing breakthroughs in energy, three letters keep surfacing again and again: MIT,” writes Jacobsen.
Full story via Boston Magazine

MIT research could be game changer in combating water shortages
MIT researchers discovered that a common hydrogel used in cosmetic creams, industrial coatings, and pharmaceutical capsules can absorb moisture from the atmosphere even as the temperature rises. “For a planet that’s getting hotter, this could be a game-changing discovery.”
Full story via NBC Boston

Energy-storing concrete could form foundations for solar-powered homes
MIT engineers uncovered a new way of creating an energy supercapacitor by combining cement, carbon black, and water that could one day be used to power homes or electric vehicles.
Full story via New Scientist

MIT researchers tackle key question of EV adoption: When to charge?
MIT scientists found that delayed charging and strategic placement of EV charging stations could help reduce additional energy demands caused by more widespread EV adoption.
Full story via Fast Company

Building better buildings
Professor John Fernández examined how to reduce the climate footprints of homes and office buildings, recommending creating airtight structures, switching to cleaner heating sources, using more environmentally friendly building materials, and retrofitting existing homes and offices.
Full story via The New York Times

They’re building an “ice penetrator” on a hillside in Westford
Researchers from MIT’s Haystack Observatory built an “ice penetrator,” a device designed to monitor the changing conditions of sea ice.
Full story via The Boston Globe

Healing health solutions

How Boston is beating cancer
MIT researchers are developing drug-delivery nanoparticles aimed at targeting cancer cells without disturbing healthy cells. Essentially, the nanoparticles are “engineered for selectivity,” explained Professor Paula Hammond, head of MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering.
Full story via Boston Magazine

A new antibiotic, discovered with artificial intelligence, may defeat a dangerous superbug
Using a machine-learning algorithm, researchers from MIT discovered a type of antibiotic that’s effective against a particular strain of drug-resistant bacteria.
Full story via CNN

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To detect breast cancer sooner, an MIT professor designs an ultrasound bra
MIT researchers designed a wearable ultrasound device that attaches to a bra and could be used to detect early-stage breast tumors.
Full story via STAT

The quest for a switch to turn on hunger
An ingestible pill developed by MIT scientists can raise levels of hormones to help increase appetite and decrease nausea in patients with gastroparesis.
Full story via Wired

Here’s how to use dreams for creative inspiration
MIT scientists found that the earlier stages of sleep are key to sparking creativity and that people can be guided to dream about specific topics, further boosting creativity.
Full story via Scientific American

Astounding art

An AI opera from 1987 reboots for a new generation
Professor Tod Machover discussed the restaging of his opera “VALIS” at MIT, which featured an artificial intelligence-assisted musical instrument developed by Nina Masuelli ’23.
Full story via The Boston Globe

Surfacing the stories hidden in migration data
Associate Professor Sarah Williams discussed the Civic Data Design Lab’s “Motivational Tapestry,” a large woven art piece that uses data from the United Nations World Food Program to visually represent the individual motivations of 1,624 Central Americans who have migrated to the U.S.
Full story via Metropolis

Augmented reality-infused production of Wagner’s “Parsifal” opens Bayreuth Festival
Professor Jay Scheib’s augmented reality-infused production of Richard Wagner’s “Parsifal” brought “fantastical images” to audience members.
Full story via the Associated Press

Understanding our universe

New image reveals violent events near a supermassive black hole
Scientists captured a new image of M87*, the black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy, showing the “launching point of a colossal jet of high-energy particles shooting outward into space.”
Full story via Reuters

Gravitational waves: A new universe
MIT researchers Lisa Barsotti, Deep Chatterjee, and Victoria Xu explored how advances in gravitational wave detection are enabling a better understanding of the universe.
Full story via Curiosity Stream 

Nergis Mavalvala helped detect the first gravitational wave. Her work doesn’t stop there
Professor Nergis Mavalvala, dean of the School of Science, discussed her work searching for gravitational waves, the importance of skepticism in scientific research, and why she enjoys working with young people.
Full story via Wired

Hitting the books

“The Transcendent Brain” review: Beyond ones and zeroes
In his book “The Transcendent Brain: Spirituality in the Age of Science,” Alan Lightman, a professor of the practice of humanities, displayed his gift for “distilling complex ideas and emotions to their bright essence.”
Full story via The Wall Street Journal

What happens when CEOs treat workers better? Companies (and workers) win.
Professor of the practice Zeynep Ton published a book, “The Case for Good Jobs,” and is “on a mission to change how company leaders think, and how they treat their employees.”
Full story via The Boston Globe

How to wage war on conspiracy theories
Professor Adam Berinsky’s book, “Political Rumors: Why We Accept Misinformation and How to Fight it,” examined “attitudes toward both politics and health, both of which are undermined by distrust and misinformation in ways that cause harm to both individuals and society.”
Full story via Politico

What it takes for Mexican coders to cross the cultural border with Silicon Valley
Assistant Professor Héctor Beltrán discussed his new book, “Code Work: Hacking across the U.S./México Techno-Borderlands,” which explores the culture of hackathons and entrepreneurship in Mexico.
Full story via Marketplace

Cultivating community

The Indigenous rocketeer
Nicole McGaa, a fourth-year student at MIT, discussed her work leading MIT’s all-Indigenous rocket team at the 2023 First Nations Launch National Rocket Competition.
Full story via Nature

“You totally got this,” YouTube star and former NASA engineer Mark Rober tells MIT graduates
During his Commencement address at MIT, Mark Rober urged graduates to embrace their accomplishments and boldly face any challenges they encounter.
Full story via The Boston Globe

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MIT Juggling Club going strong after half century
After almost 50 years, the MIT Juggling Club, which was founded in 1975 and then merged with a unicycle club, is the oldest drop-in juggling club in continuous operation and still welcomes any aspiring jugglers to come toss a ball (or three) into the air.
Full story via Cambridge Day

Volpe Transportation Center opens as part of $750 million deal between MIT and feds
The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Kendall Square was the first building to open in MIT’s redevelopment of the 14-acre Volpe site that will ultimately include “research labs, retail, affordable housing, and open space, with the goal of not only encouraging innovation, but also enhancing the surrounding community.”
Full story via The Boston Globe

Sparking conversation

The future of AI innovation and the role of academics in shaping it
Professor Daniela Rus emphasized the central role universities play in fostering innovation and the importance of ensuring universities have the computing resources necessary to help tackle major global challenges.
Full story via The Boston Globe

Moving the needle on supply chain sustainability
Professor Yossi Sheffi examined several strategies companies could use to help improve supply chain sustainability, including redesigning last-mile deliveries, influencing consumer choices and incentivizing returnable containers.
Full story via The Hill

Expelled from the mountain top?
Sylvester James Gates Jr. ’73, PhD ’77 made the case that “diverse learning environments expose students to a broader range of perspectives, enhance education, and inculcate creativity and innovative habits of mind.”
Full story via Science

Marketing magic of “Barbie” movie has lessons for women’s sports
MIT Sloan Lecturer Shira Springer explored how the success of the “Barbie” movie could be applied to women’s sports.
Full story via Sports Business Journal

We’re already paying for universal health care. Why don’t we have it?
Professor Amy Finkelstein asserted that the solution to health insurance reform in the U.S. is “universal coverage that is automatic, free and basic.”
Full story via The New York Times 

The internet could be so good. Really.
Professor Deb Roy described how “new kinds of social networks can be designed for constructive communication — for listening, dialogue, deliberation, and mediation — and they can actually work.”
Full story via The Atlantic

Fostering educational excellence

MIT students give legendary linear algebra professor standing ovation in last lecture
After 63 years of teaching and over 10 million views of his online lectures, Professor Gilbert Strang received a standing ovation after his last lecture on linear algebra. “I am so grateful to everyone who likes linear algebra and sees its importance. So many universities (and even high schools) now appreciate how beautiful it is and how valuable it is,” said Strang.
Full story via USA Today

“Brave Behind Bars”: Reshaping the lives of inmates through coding classes
Graduate students Martin Nisser and Marisa Gaetz co-founded Brave Behind Bars, a program designed to provide incarcerated individuals with coding and digital literacy skills to better prepare them for life after prison.
Full story via MSNBC

Melrose TikTok user “Ms. Nuclear Energy” teaching about nuclear power through social media
Graduate student Kaylee Cunningham discussed her work using social media to help educate and inform the public about nuclear energy.
Full story via CBS Boston 

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