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Q&A: Composer Tod Machover presents “Philadelphia Voices”

Posted: 09 Apr 2018 08:59 PM PDT

Philadelphia is having an entertaining 2018. The Eagles won the Super Bowl. Villanova rolled to the men's national college basketball championship. And now, for a culture break, residents can enjoy "Philadelphia Voices," an ambitious new symphony by acclaimed MIT composer Tod Machover. The piece, which incorporates citizen contributions and the sounds and words of everyday life, is the sixth part of the "City Symphony" series by Machover, who is the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab. The symphony, having made its debut in Philadelphia from April 5-7, will also be performed at New York's Carnegie Hall on April 10. MIT News spoke with Machover about "Philadelphia Voices."

Q: What is the "City Symphony" series about, and how does "Philadelphia Voices" fit into it?

A: The City Symphonies have been an attempt to use music to make a portrait of a particular place, [by] combining what we usually think of as music — things that can be played by an orchestra — with actually listening to, recording, and then using the real sounds of the place. That could be parks, traffic, people, birds … anything that conveys the special qualities of the place. Another thing that's special about these projects has been the call to everyone to participate in making the piece. People are willing to share things through music and sound that they may not be willing to share by having a verbal argument, or a political or social discussion.

When the Philadelphia Orchestra got in touch with me about bringing the City Symphony series to the city, the conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin — who is truly remarkable; he's the conductor in Philadelphia and also the new music director at the Metropolitan Opera, one of the great vocal conductors — said, "Philadelphia has a great vocal tradition, with soloists and choirs around town of all different sorts. So it would be great if you might think about making the voice a central aspect of this piece." And I loved that idea. It's not something we had done in the other cities. [Toronto, Edinbugh, Perth, Detroit, and Lucerne.] The idea of voice suggested singing, of course, but it also suggested to me people telling stories and talking about the city. The voice is our most personal instrument.

At that moment, in 2016, with the presidential election in full swing, the division was obvious in the country, and the idea that democracy itself could be challenged was just shocking. Since Philadelphia is the birthplace of American democracy and is the place where the Constitution was written, I thought it would be interesting to have the citizens here [create] a message about democracy to other people around the country and the world. It's a message about Philadelphia, but also from Philadelphia.

Q: To what extent are you trying to capture well-known things about a city, and how open do you have to be to new ideas as well?

A: In Toronto [the first in the series], I came in with a kind of graphic score that represented what the shape of the piece might be. After Toronto, I felt I had discovered so many surprising things that I made it my goal to start from scratch in every city. But in Philadelphia, because the voice had been suggested to me, and because of this idea of examining democracy, I did come in with ideas.

It turned out to be difficult to get people to talk about democracy directly. Nobody wanted to, except the historians. I did need to develop my "libretto," so I asked people for words, texts, poems, and I got wonderful material, some through in-person discussions and some through a special mobile app that we developed at the MIT Media Lab. A poet named Jacob Winterstein said, "I think that the most democratic institution in Phildelphia is the block party, because Philadelphia is extremely local." Most people think of their neighborhood, block, and even building as their unit. When they get together to close off the block and get the permit and cook together and be outside together, that is an amazing social phenomenon, and it happens all over the city. So, he wrote a poem [about] the block party, and I wrote a musical section about what would happen if the whole city had its block parties at the same time and this has become the kind of theme song for the whole symphony. Democracy [can] grow up from the smallest unit and can then unite people in powerful ways.

Q: How does this translate to the music itself?

A: Democracy sounds very abstract, but it is also an emotion and a texture. Music is a very good way of exploring how societies feel. In an orchestra, you may have 100 people, but after all, there's a conductor there, and a composer writes the music, and it's not necessarily the most democratic idea in the world. In some ways, you can think of a traditional orchestra and score being more like a monarchy. It grew out of a European society where things are directed from the top. You could think of jazz music, which is a very American form, as a kind of freedom. Everbody has a basic text but they go their own way and come back.

But [with] 100-plus people in the orchestra and 250-plus in the chorus, you can't let everybody just do what they want. So in this piece, I've tried to explore what happens in between: The sixth movement is actually called "Democracy," and with a group of 20 singers, we asked them to come up with a way of singing the word "Philadelphia" that says something about themselves, and also says something about what they feel about Philadelphia. They start out on their own, and then they overlap, and the orchestra imitates them, and everybody has to listen to each other.

There's a moment where the conductor steps aside and lets the orchestra and the chorus follow these individual songs. And to me, it's a feeling of democracy, in a messy city like Philadelphia which is wonderfully vibrant, but where not everybody is following the same tune, and not everybody is following the conductor. You feel the individuality of each of these choruses and of the individual singers, representing the kind of democracy — and the kind of listening to each other — that is most needed right now.

Q: "Philadelphia Voices" has just received its world premiere performances in Philadelphia, and is on its way to Carnegie Hall. How did the performances go, and how did the public react?

A: It was extremely gratifying to see the many parts of this complex project — orchestra, voices, soundscapes, texts, and electronics diffused through a specially designed sound system — come together so fluidly, and it was especially striking to see such a large chorus of people from all around Philly sing together as one diverse musical community. I was also wonderfully surprised to see the audience react viscerally and vocally at each performance, responding actively to the humor, the sonic and verbal references, and also to the harsher realities presented. Many people told me that the work captured Philadelphia in an uncanny way, and the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote: "The powerful ... fifth movement, 'My house is full of black people' … is music that could change hearts and minds in Philadelphia."

And hopefully beyond. We'll see what happens when we get to Carnegie Hall!

Jasmin Joseph: “I love the idea of making an impact on global health”

Posted: 09 Apr 2018 08:59 PM PDT

During her sophomore year, biological engineering major Jasmin Joseph needed her wisdom teeth removed. Her softball coach drove Joseph to and from her appointment and left her with one instruction: Don't come to practice today.

But Joseph, a Woodland Hills, California, native who had played softball since the age of 13, was determined not to miss practice. She showed up anyway, and though not allowed to play, happily watched her teammates from the bench. Her dedication was no surprise to those who know her: Joseph, now a senior, has brought that same determination to all her activities, both academic and service-based.

During high school, Joseph developed a deep fascination with biology — specifically how it could be used to develop life-saving treatments for rare diseases. During an AP biology class, she watched "Lorenzo's Oil," a 1992 retelling of the real-life story of a family's quest to develop a treatment for their son's adrenoleukodystrophy, which causes damage to the nervous system.

"I just remember thinking that it was super cool that they could actually correct for a disease," Joseph says. She realized she wanted to help develop those types of treatments, but she wasn't sure what she'd have to study to accomplish that. Then she spoke with a teacher who had a background in genetic engineering. After learning more about synthetic biology, Joseph had found her match: biological engineering. With that goal in mind, Joseph began to look at different schools.

"The thing that drew me to [biological engineering] in the first place was being able to help people," Joseph says, "and [MIT] was the only school where I felt that goal was actually true of the curriculum."

Global researcher

During her time at MIT, Joseph has taken part in research and volunteer opportunities around the world. After her first year, Joseph worked as an undergraduate researcher at the National University of Singapore and performed vaccine delivery research through the Singapore-MIT Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Her research focused on delivering vaccines for mosquito-borne viruses.

"I would see advertisements and posters on the train for dengue studies looking for participants, and warnings not to leave standing water nearby because it attracts mosquitoes that could carry the virus," Joseph recalls. "It was a real reminder of the need this sort of research fills and how imperative it is to work toward bettering global access to vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases."

The following summer, Joseph traveled to Ghana to work as a development volunteer at MoringaConnect, a startup founded by Kwami Williams '12. The startup centers around finding efficient and sustainable ways to process the moringa plant, which has nutritional and medicinal properties, so that community members may begin to grow it, process it, and sell it themselves. Joseph helped improve methods to process the moringa leaf. While doing her research, she found time to share her vibrant personality with other volunteers and community members. "Every Monday, someone had to teach a lesson, and I taught how to juggle," Joseph recalls with a laugh.

The summer before her senior year, Joseph worked as an undergraduate researcher at the University of Cape Town, through the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) MIT-South Africa program, and worked on cancer drug development. "I hopped onto different projects while I was there and learned a lot," Joseph says.

While at MIT, Joseph has also developed her knowledge of public health. During the Independent Activities Period (IAP) of here sophomore year, Joseph taught health and biology to high school students in Puebla, Mexico, through MISTI's Global Teaching Labs.

During IAP of her senior year, Joseph took HST.434 ("Evolution of an Epidemic). The class took place in Durban, South Africa, and focused on the evolution of the AIDS epidemic.

There, Joseph learned about the FRESH study, a long-term study that identifies women acutely infected by HIV. The study, run by the Ragon Institute of Harvard, MGH, and MIT, also provides those women with career training and aims to empower them through education. Joseph was deeply inspired by the women participating in the study project.

"Even though they're living in a place where HIV is prevalent and they have to face so many hardships in their lives, they are still so vibrant and lively, and I really felt that they had found a sisterhood," Joseph says, "I thought it was really cool to see them leaning on each other. It really helped me to see that I love the idea of having an impact on global health."

Making smiles

During her sophomore year, Joseph joined Camp Kesem, a summer camp for children whose parents have been affected by cancer. As part of training, Joseph learned camp songs and games which she could play with the campers.

"You go to camp for a week, and you're just there to make the kids smile and be their friend. That's all it is and all it should be, and it's great," Joseph says.

After her first week volunteering at Camp Kesem, Joseph applied for the coordinator board to play a bigger role in planning camp activities. "I got on the coordinator board and I just threw myself into it completely, I loved it so much, and I still do," Joseph says. She focused especially on teen activities. "In addition to the normal camp things, we also do leadership development and get into deeper, more emotional conversations with [teens]," Joseph says. "You get to be there for them." 

This year, Joseph is the volunteer coordinator for Camp Kesem and helps find the next groups of counselors for the coming summers.

"These people are going to be the next people with our campers, and they're going to be helping find the next generation and the next generation. It's been really fun. I found a lot of great friends through Camp Kesem, and there's just so many incredible people in it," Joseph says.

Finding family through sport

When she's not in the classroom or in a lab across the world, Joseph can be found with her softball team. Joseph has played varsity softball since her first year at MIT, and considers the team her family.

"It's like we're getting through everything together and it feels seamless," she says.

Joseph says the team spends a lot of time together in the locker room, building friendships and supporting one another. "I think it is really a testament to how much our coaches put into fostering the sort of community where everyone can be themselves and really embrace who they are as softball players and friends and people," Joseph says.

After graduation, Joseph intends to get her PhD in biological engineering; she also plans to be a writer.

"Long term, it's about being able to take what I learned and share it and make sure that people have access to the information that they need to be able to make the decisions that are the best for them and the people they care about," Joseph says. "I like the idea of writing and communicating the things that are important to the world."

Opportunities to study abroad during IAP continue to grow

Posted: 09 Apr 2018 02:15 PM PDT

MIT's Global Education Office, in collaboration with campus faculty, academic departments, and office partners, continues to expand program offerings for students interested in studying abroad during Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January. These three- to four-week sessions have increasingly become an attractive study-abroad option for students who desire an international academic experience but prefer to not spend too much time away from campus or internship opportunities.

Now in its 11th year, IAP in Madrid has grown to include three options: Global Literature taught in English by Professor Margery Resnick, Spanish III taught this year by lecturer Mariana San Martin, and Advanced Spanish Conversation and Composition taught by senior lecturer Margarita Ribas Groeger.

All three courses provide MIT credit. Students gain cultural immersion and experiential learning through homestay accommodations and the opportunity to have Madrid as their global classroom. The Global Education Office staff guide students who need financial assistance for these programs through the scholarships application process.

IAP in Madrid has expanded over the years thanks to funding from the Victor and William Fung Foundation and the Institute. The Fung Foundation funding also enabled a new seed fund, the MIT Global Classroom Fund, which started last year. This seed fund is helping to create new international academic opportunities for MIT undergraduate students by allowing faculty to innovate teaching and learning engagement throughout the world. A collaboration between the Global Education Office and the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), the Global Classroom Fund offers awards for up to $15,000 per year for faculty and lead instructors to develop new courses and modules or take existing courses/course modules to international locations.

Literary London, launched this January, was a successful initiation of the Global Classroom Fund premise and charts the way for future faculty to engage in international classroom programming. This newest IAP course was developed and led by literature Professor Diana Henderson. Through Literary London, Henderson brought 15 students to England to explore the locations, histories, and artistic institutions that have made London a world cultural hub. Students experienced guided readings, theater performances, walking tours, museums, and visits to sites associated with major British authors and their works. Students who participated in Literary London received HASS-H credit and the course counted for the Literature major or minor.

Students are enthusiastic about their IAP study abroad experiences, which not only promote fresh insights on course materials but also spark students' personal and intellectual growth. "Spending IAP in Spain was an experience that allowed me to learn a lot about myself," observes sophomore Briana Rose McRae, who participated in the Global Literature course, part of IAP in Madrid. "I was very nervous right before the trip, as I was traveling into the unknown. However, I was surprised by my own ability to adapt so quickly to a new place, culture, and language." Advanced Spanish course junior Iva Gramatiko adds, "Nothing could replicate a long-term stay in a country in terms of learning a language, and I was lucky to have that opportunity this IAP. After this experience, I'm more confident in my Spanish-speaking abilities, as well as my ability to interact with people in their home countries."

The Literary London students also found their IAP trip transformative as they delved first-hand into the worlds of Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, and other famous writers. "This was my first time ever watching a Shakespearean play live and I had the fortune of experiencing it at the famous Royal Shakespeare Company," recalls junior Billy Torres. "It was the single most important turning point in my journey to appreciating Shakespeare." "The benefits of this program are endless, especially for anyone who loves literature, theatre, or travel. I got a chance to exercise the more artistic part of my brain, and learn how to explore," notes junior Kacie Bawiec. "Study abroad is one of my favorite things I have done at MIT up until this point. I hope as many students as possible get to experience the freedom and joy that comes with learning how to travel, how to explore, and how to problem solve, all with the safety net and structure of one of the best literature classes at MIT."

For faculty, the IAP study abroad programs provide a vehicle to experiment with new pedagogical approaches. "Of the curricular innovations I have designed and brought to fruition, IAP courses in Madrid have been among the most rewarding — both to me as a professor whose field is Hispanic culture and to the now more than 500 undergraduates who have participated in this adventure," says Margery Resnick, associate professor of literature. "Giving MIT undergraduates the opportunity to immerse themselves in Spanish life while acquiring linguistic, cultural, literary and historical knowledge, is exhilarating. The joy of teaching this class to a group of MIT students who savor every moment in Spain is immeasurable." 

"The IAP-Madrid program has been a valuable addition to the Spanish curriculum in Global Studies and Languages," notes Emma Teng, head of Global Languages and Literature and professor of Asian Civilizations. "Due to student demand, we expanded the program to include a second Spanish-language class, Spanish Conversation, which has proved to be enormously popular. Students and instructors alike report that the experience in Spain, especially the extracurricular activities and local tours, are extremely enriching. Students have an opportunity to practice their language skills in situ and to gain invaluable cultural immersion experiences. Additionally, they return with renewed enthusiasm for Spanish and are able to enroll in higher-level courses, participate in internships abroad, and even complete a Spanish minor."

Henderson also found the experience of teaching abroad to be inspiring. "The group spirit and camaraderie among this diverse group — ranging from first-year to seniors, with different backgrounds and artistic interests — was extraordinary and precious," she reflects. "Learning about how much a city changes, how much is lost, was also really valuable for MIT students, who often don't pay much attention to the historical dimensions of knowledge, and who gets to write the histories as well. Thinking about their own role in telling the stories and remembering the past made the work of humanities scholarship more visible and vital. Being able to choose their own authors to 'map,' with a good deal of freedom in how they interpreted the assignment, worked well with MIT's spirit of hands-on and project-based learning, and allowed each student to share a different area of expertise with the group — so we all learned much more than any one person could have managed alone."

The Global Education Office is pleased with the positive response from students and faculty and looks forward to future collaborations. "Feedback from students and faculty tells us that these programs create very powerful student learning through experience and significantly increase students' global fluency. That is hugely motivating for us in the Global Education Office," states Malgorzata Hedderick, associate dean of Global Education. "We have had great partners in faculty, academic departments, MISTI and others for the development of these programs and we hope to be able to continue this positive growth momentum."

MIT students and postdocs visit Capitol Hill to advocate for increases in federal science funding

Posted: 09 Apr 2018 01:40 PM PDT

On March 12-13, 27 MIT undergraduates and graduate students traveled to our nation's capital to participate in the annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD). The Science Policy Initiative (SPI), a student group that recognizes the need for scientists' involvement in policy formation, organized the trip. This was the 12th consecutive year that a delegation from MIT participated in CVD.

The students' goal was to advocate for continued support for basic science and engineering research on Capitol Hill. The visit came on the heels of President Trump's steep proposed budget cuts for research organizations in science and engineering, for the second consecutive year. In meetings with Democratic and Republican members, students shared personal experiences to illustrate the importance of continued support of research in Congress for their home districts and states, and for the nation as a whole.

The delegation met with 70 members of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as their staff, representing 25 states in total. They came to Washington with a unified requested for a combined $58.9 billion in fiscal year 2019 budgets of the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, NASA Science, and the Department of Energy Office of Science, matching the requests of MIT. At the time of the March 13 meetings, Congress was still in the midst passing the budget for the 2018 fiscal year. With a vote expected at the end of the week, students had additional motivation to deliver their message and influence ongoing negotiations.

Shortly after the students departed from Capitol Hill, SPI and the greater MIT community was encouraged to see a direct impact of the CVD program. On March 15, during a House Science Committee hearing on the National Science Foundation, New York Representative Paul Tonko opened his statement by declaring, "We should not be flat funding education and we should not be flat funding research. Flat funding for almost a decade will means cuts to critical programs." He went on to cite his meeting with CVD participant Erin Rousseau — a graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology — to give a human story to the sometimes abstract issue of federal science funding. Tonko stated, "We need more Erins who are going to be inspired to choose a STEM pathway and who will repay our nation's commitment by moving science forward and changing the world."

An agreement on an omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2018 was reached on March 23, delivering a victory for science with the largest increases in federal research funding in more than a decade. These increases were secured largely because of a deal reached in February to raise budget caps on both defense and nondefense discretionary spending. "The boost in federal research spending provided by this bill is encouraging, but it is crucial that the scientific community continue to engage with lawmakers to ensure sustained support for science in 2019 and beyond," said Jeremiah Collins, a graduate student in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.

Congressional Visit Day is a means by which the Science and Policy Initiative trains and empowers students to become effective advocates for science policy. "Participating in CVD was a tremendous opportunity to engage with our representatives and learn about the legislative process — not just the technical procedures, but the interpersonal and practical activities that undergird most legislative progress," said Max Olender, a graduate student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "I think this trip has given me a lot of experience and confidence. If I ever need to meet with anyone from the Senate or House again, I'll know how to do so effectively," said Briana Hiscox, a graduate student in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.

With a combination of scientific expertise and firsthand experience imparted by CVD, the student participants are now uniquely prepared to continue working with policymakers to ensure government support for basic research that is central to the mission of MIT, as well as that of the wider science and engineering community.

Fine-tuning fusion

Posted: 09 Apr 2018 09:15 AM PDT

Theresa Wilks has come full circle, at least geographically. After receiving a master's and PhD from Georgia Tech, she returned to her home state of California in 2016 as an MIT postdoc doing fusion energy research at the DIII-D tokamak, a national fusion reactor in San Diego. Her research is part of a growing collaboration MIT has with DIII-D.

"It's funny because all the people in Boston say, 'Oh, we can't move to San Diego.'" She laughs, clearly relishing her location. "I'll take one for the team. I'll live in San Diego full time, and be the boots on the ground."

MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) has done research on the DIII-D tokamak since it began operations in the late 1980s, but collaboration activity has increased following the final operations on MIT's Alcator C-Mod tokamak in September 2016. Wilks is part of the first wave of new postdocs deployed to DIII-D.

The project, led by PSFC principal research scientist Jerry Hughes, expands on research that was often a focus of Alcator C-Mod: controlling instabilities in the turbulent plasmas that fuel a fusion experiment. The plasma that swirls around the donut-shaped vacuum chamber of a tokamak is kept from damaging the walls by magnetic fields.

Wilks's interest lies in the edge of the hot plasma closest to the tokamak's chamber walls. Changes within these few centimeters, known as the 'edge pedestal,' can significantly affect the turbulence in the plasma, possibly leading to better control of the plasma and greater energy production.

Her path to energy research started in California where, as an undergraduate at University of California at Berkeley she did a mechanical engineering internship at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, the city where she had grown up.

"It was really interesting, but something just didn't click," she says. "I felt like a small cog in the wheel of a big machine."

It wasn't until she joined a thermal hydraulics lab at Berkeley that she developed a compelling interest in science research.

"When I started doing research I thought 'Science research is the way to go.' It's so exciting to be at the forefront, pursuing your own ideas and to be developing things from scratch."

A fellowship appointment at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory introduced her to research in heavy-ion fusion, and she took classes at Berkeley to support this new interest.

At Georgia Tech, a short-term master's project familiarized her with tokamak plasmas, DIII-D, and the mysteries of the edge pedestal. She enjoyed the project so much that she continued to work on DIII-D data for her PhD.

Wilks was particularly interested in the radial electric field, shaped like a deep well, which is generated in the edge pedestal. Understanding how to calculate and control this field plays a role in suppressing plasma edge turbulence. For her doctoral research, she used DIIII-D data to develop models of the edge pedestal region of tokamak plasmas. This would allow her to predict the radial electric field and its impact on variables such as diffusion, heat flux, plasma rotation — and to figure out how to predict this in future reactors.

Today Wilks is happy to balance her talents for analysis and modeling with time at the helm of experiments.

"It is really exciting to work at a facility where we can test new hypotheses experimentally on a regular basis," she says.

She is designing experiments to explore how to leverage turbulence in the edge pedestal to mitigate the impact of large instabilities in the plasma called edge localized modes (ELMs). She wants to reduce or completely eliminate them, creating a more stable environment for fusion energy reactions, and limiting the effects of heat and particles on the walls of the machine.

Given her background with DIII-D data, her project leader, Jerry Hughes, was not surprised that she "hit the ground running in no time."

"She embedded herself in the experimental team, both analyzing existing tokamak data and designing new experiments. Now, more often than not, she is in the control room at DIII-D, part of a young generation that will need to operate the tokamaks of tomorrow."

One of those future tokamaks could be SPARC, the recently proposed collaboration between MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which plans to use new superconducting technology to create a tokamak that will provide a faster, more compact and less expensive path to net fusion energy.

"By studying the edge boundary of both DIII-D and C-Mod, and applying modeling to the data, we can make big steps toward projecting to SPARC," says Hughes.

Wilks is enthusiastic to go wherever the research takes her. "Three. Two. One," she counts, announcing her readiness for future experiments. "Let's make plasma."

Timothy Swager receives Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship

Posted: 09 Apr 2018 08:35 AM PDT

Timothy Manning Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry, has been named a 2018 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellow by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

The Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship program is sponsored by the Basic Research Office in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. It is administered by the Office of Naval Research. The program seeks outstanding researchers to conduct transformative basic research in topic areas of interest to the DoD. Through the program, select university researchers and students learn about DoD's current and future challenges, and are introduced to some of the ongoing critical research. The program fosters long-term relationships between DoD and university researchers, and prepares them for possible entry into the defense and national security workforce.

"Although translating science to near-term applications is very important, perusing longer range blue sky concepts is something that I enjoy and funding for these types of activities has always been limited," said Swager, who was awarded the fellowship for his project, Complex Smart Colloids. "This fellowship is really a game changer for me, and will help us to push some high-risk, untested designs that could potentially have a powerful, lasting impact."

The fellowship commemorates Vannevar Bush, director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development during WWII and a former vice president of MIT. Following his example, the DoD invests in basic research to probe the limits of today's technologies and discover new phenomena and know-how that ultimately leads to future technologies and helps prevent capability surprise. These investments have led to broad and game-changing capabilities such as the global positioning satellite (GPS) system, magnetic random access memory, and stealth technology, to name a few.

Fellows are currently conducting basic research in the areas of quantum information science, neuroscience, nanoscience, novel engineered materials, applied mathematics, and statistics that could revolutionize a wide variety of DoD capabilities such as artificial intelligence, position-navigation-timing in denied environments, autonomous system design, decision support tools, and sensor development. In addition to conducting this innovative, blue sky research, the fellows have opportunities to directly engage with the larger DoD research enterprise and to share their knowledge and insights with DoD military and civilian leaders, researchers in DoD laboratories, and the national security science and engineering community.

The Swager Group's research is broadly focused on synthetic, supramolecular, analytical, and materials chemistry. They are interested in a spectrum of topics with an emphasis on the synthesis and construction of functional assemblies. Molecular recognition pervades a great deal of the group's research. Chemosensors require recognition elements to discriminate chemical signals.

Electronic polymers are one of the areas that the group is well known for having made many innovations and the researchers are constantly developing new electronic structures, properties, and uses for these materials. Recently they have launched an effort to create functionalized carbon nanotubes and graphenes, and have advanced new chemical methods for their functionalization and utilization in electrocatalysis and chemical and radiation sensing. In the area of liquid crystals, the group makes use of molecular complimentarity and receptor-ligand interactions to provide novel organizations.