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Seven from MIT named National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellows

Posted: 02 May 2018 01:25 PM PDT

Seven MIT graduate students have been awarded 2018 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowships. They are among 69 fellows nationwide offered the highly competitive awards.

NDSEG Fellowships last for up to three years, covering full tuition and mandatory fees. Fellows receive a monthly stipend of $3,200 and a yearly medical insurance stipend.

Fellows are selected by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research. This year's NDSEG Fellows are:

  • Eeshan Chetan Bhatt of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Science and Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering, funded by the Office of Naval Research;
  • Frederick Daso of the necstlab and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, funded by the Office of Naval Research;
  • Ashley L. Kaiser of the necstlab and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research;
  • Bharath Kannan of the Engineering Quantum Systems group and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, funded by the Office of Naval Research;
  • Peter Yucheng Lu of the Photonics and Modern Electro-Magnetics Group and the Department of Physics, funded by the Army Research Office;
  • Molly Parsons of the Laboratory for Computational Biology and Biophysics and the Department of Biological Engineering, funded by the Office of Naval Research; and
  • Sarah Schwartz of the Fournier Lab and the Department of Biology, funded by the Army Research Office.

"My experience as a 2016 Summer Scholar truly launched my career at MIT even before I returned for graduate school, and it allowed me the key opportunity to pursue and publish my research at a fast pace," says Kaiser, who worked with Postdoc Itai Y. Stein to create predictable patterns from unpredictable carbon nanotubes. "I'm very honored and excited to receive this fellowship, as it will support my research goals to develop enhanced nanocomposite technology during my PhD."

"Winning this award was a culmination of two things: my growing passion for structural analysis as a freshman entering MIT, and Professor [Brian] Wardle's willingness to take on a freshman UROP into his lab group," adds Daso, whose current research focuses on applying novel curing techniques to process thermoplastic composite materials and reducing or eliminating process-driven deformations during the cure cycle for resin impregnated fabrics. "With Professor Wardle's guidance and support, I was able to cultivate my interests in composite research and focus on getting into graduate school. Winning the award in such a competitive year is a testament to the future impact my work will have in the field of composite materials."

Begun in 1989, NDSEG has awarded nearly 3,600 fellowships to U.S. citizens and nationals who pursue a doctoral degree in one of 15 supported disciplines at a U.S. institution. The NDSEG Fellowship is sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office, and the Office of Naval Research under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT announces 2018-19 class of fellows

Posted: 02 May 2018 08:30 AM PDT

The Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT (KSJ), an internationally renowned mid-career fellowship program, announced today that 10 elite science journalists from four countries will make up its Class of 2018-19.

Each year the KSJ program, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, brings journalists to Cambridge for a 10-month fellowship that allows them to explore science, technology, and the craft of journalism in depth, to concentrate on a specialty in science, and to learn at some of the top research universities in the world.

The 10 fellows, selected from more than 120 applicants, are an award-winning and diverse group, ranging from veteran science reporters for The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press to the Cairo-based chief editor of Nature Middle East to a Russian-born PhD in economics who found a new career as an investigative data journalist.

"We are thrilled to again bring a remarkable group of science journalists to MIT," says Deborah Blum, KSJ director, herself a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the author of six popular science books. "We know they'll find this a unique, fascinating, and influential learning experience — and we look forward learning from them as well."

KSJ@MIT, supported by a generous endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is recognized around the world as the premier mid-career fellowship program for science writers, editors, and multimedia journalists, and as publisher of the award-winning digital magazine Undark. Since its founding in 1983, it has hosted more than 300 fellows representing media outlets from The New York Times to Le Monde, from CNN to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and more.

With support from the program, fellows pursue an academic year of independent study, augmented by twice-weekly science-focused seminars taught by some of the world's leading scientists and storytellers, as well as a variety of rotating, skills-focused master classes and workshops. The goal: fostering professional growth among the world's small but essential community of journalists covering science and technology, and encouraging them to pursue that mission, first and foremost, in the public interest.

The 2018-19 KSJ fellows are:

Pakinam Amer, chief editor of Nature Middle East, published by Nature Research and part of Springer Nature, one of the world's leading global research publishers. Previously, she worked as a journalist for media including the Associated Press, the German Press Agency, Egypt Today, and Business Today. Before becoming a science journalist, she specialized in current affairs and conflict reporting in Egypt and the Arab world. She produces and hosts Nature Middle East's podcast, the Arab region's first science podcast in English.

Magnus Bjerg, a digital projects manager at TV 2 in Denmark, the biggest Danish news broadcaster. He is part of the station's editorial development team, which won five digital awards in 2017, including honors from the Society for News Design Scandinavia and the Association of Danish Media (best digital story of the year), and is president of the Danish Online News Association. Previously he was a digital reporter at ekstrabladet.dk, Denmark's most viewed news site.

Talia Bronshtein, investigative data journalist and former interactives editor at STAT, the Boston-based health news site. After earning a doctorate in economics, she was a Fulbright scholar at Brandeis University, a professor of economics in her native country of Russia, and a consultant on Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Her visualization of 200 years of immigration to the U.S. was featured in "Best American Infographics 2016," and her investigation of reporting violations in clinical trials won an AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Gold Award.

Jason Dearen, correspondent and member of the global environment team for The Associated Press. His accountability journalism has spurred regulatory action and policy change at both state and federal levels. His coverage of flooded toxic waste sites during Hurricane Harvey exposed inaction by the EPA, resulting in $115 million in clean-up efforts in Houston. He has received numerous honors, including from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists. He attended the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Lisa DeBode, a freelance journalist who writes in English and Dutch for The Atlantic, NPR, and The Guardian, among others. A former reporter at Al Jazeera America in New York and a field producer at CNN in Brussels, she is the author of "Europa: An Illustrated Introduction to Europe for Migrants and Refugees," and a 2017 fellow at the International Women's Media Foundation. In 2016, her reporting sparked a law that provides free pads and tampons to New York City shelters, public schools, and prisons.

Tim De Chant, senior digital editor at NOVA, where he is founding editor of the digital magazine NOVA Next, and a lecturer in MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing. He has written for Wired, The Chicago Tribune, and Ars Technica, among other publications. Before turning to science journalism, he received a PhD in landscape ecology from the University of California at Berkeley, and a BA in environmental studies, English, and biology from St. Olaf College.

Jeff DelViscio, director of multimedia and creative at STAT, where he oversees video, photography, animation, interactives, audio, and social media. He previously spent nearly nine years at The New York Times. He holds dual master's degrees from Columbia in journalism and in earth and environmental sciences. He has worked aboard oceanographic research vessels and tracked money and politics in science from Washington. When Jeff was 3, science saved his life after a run-in with a lawnmower; he's been trying to give back to science ever since.

Elana Gordon, reporter and audio producer at WHYY public radio in Philadelphia and a founding member of its health and science show, "The Pulse." She previously worked at KCUR in Kansas City. She has covered everything from drugs and medical bills to the mystery surrounding a 19th-century horse thief. Her stories have been featured on NPR, Kaiser Health News, "99% Invisible," The Washington Post, and PRI's "The World." In 2017, her documentary about the discovery of Legionnaires' disease received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.

Rachel E. Gross, online science editor at Smithsonian magazine, where she helps readers make sense of new scientific discoveries and spotlights unsung women in the history of science. Before that she was a science reporter for Slate, where she won the 2016 Religion News Association's Best Online News Story Award for her profile of an evangelical creationist who embraced evolution. She has covered religion and science for Moment, America's leading independent Jewish magazine, and traveled to Auschwitz on a FASPE fellowship to study journalism ethics.

Amina Khan, science writer at The Los Angeles Times. Over nearly nine years at the paper, she has covered Mars landings, explored underground gold mines, and witnessed a brain surgery. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, she's the author of "Adapt," a book about the future of biologically inspired design, and was a staff writer for the Netflix show "Bill Nye Saves the World."

During the nine-month academic year, starting in August, KSJ fellows design their own course of study, exploring the wide range of offerings at MIT, Harvard University, and other institutions in Cambridge and greater Boston.  The program is designed to offer a rich and varied mix of coursework, attendance at departmental colloquia, research trips, lab visits, interviews, reading, and writing.

Fellows are required to produce a research project, which can form the basis of a future story, the foundation of a book proposal, or a detailed report on an area of science. All fellows give a formal presentation on their projects at the conclusion of the fellowship year. (The 2017-18 fellows are pursuing topics as varied as artificial intelligence in journalism, the science of painkillers, plant de-extinction, and the legacy of the McCarthy era among scientists at MIT and Harvard.) 

KSJ was launched in 1983 under the guidance of its founding director, Victor McElheny, with the firm commitment of MIT to play a key role in enriching public understanding of science. It is part of MIT's acclaimed Program in Science, Technology, and Society in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. It is endowed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Kavli Foundation.

Since it began, the KSJ program has hosted some 350 fellows, many of whom continue to cover science for a wide array of platforms, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Time, Scientific American, Science, and many broadcast and online outlets. In 2016 the program launched a digital science magazine, Undark, and is exploring other innovative ways to interact with and support the global science journalism community.

Networking to foster new ideas

Posted: 02 May 2018 06:45 AM PDT

From transportation systems and sustainable infrastructure to climate variability and atmospheric pollution, there was no lack of diversity in the research showcased at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Research Night, a fun and casual networking event for CEE community members on April 24.

Although many students and researchers travel around the world to share their research findings at conferences and lecture series, the CEE Research Night was created as a forum for the community to learn about the wide range of research conducted in the department and areas for future developments.

"It was great to see the whole community come together to learn from one another, as well as to support and encourage each other at the CEE Research Night," says Markus Buehler, the McAfee Professor of Engineering and department head. "It is our hope that through community events like this one, our students, faculty, and researchers will establish relationships and connections with people who they might not see regularly, but who could greatly benefit from each other's research interests or methods at the interfaces of disciplines."

Over 30 participants spoke about their work during an electronic poster session and networked with peers and faculty who came to hear about the research. Posters represented the wide range of research conducted across the department and the important problems CEE students are seeking to solve.

Presenter Reetik Sahu is a graduate student in Professor Dennis McLaughlin's research group. He presented a poster on "Managing the groundwater as a common pool dynamic competition," which balanced the intersection of economic decision-making and the demands of farmers competing for the same water, with the known environmental research on hydrology and groundwater resources.

Using data from San Joaquin, California, Sahu created a model that considers "competitive economic decision making," while factoring in the environmental feasibility of putting demands on these resources.

"[CEE Research Night] is a platform for me to share my research with others in the department and in the community and, at the same time, to get broader feedback on my project to see if it is really relevant to people who are not familiar with my [research] problems," Sahu said at the event.

Other posters, such as graduate student Li Jin's "Resilient Control of Smart Highways," considered the future of transportation systems and smart cities. A graduate student in Professor Saurabh Amin's Resilient Infrastructure Networks Lab, Jin works on resilient operations and smart transportation systems. His work considers the implications of embedding computer technology into transportation. The conditions he considers range from the "nominal," or expected setting; a scenario with "random perturbations" that may arise; as well with scenarios with security failures.

Jin's poster covered two case studies that modeled instances of smart highways. One example was of "vehicle platoons," or trains of trucks on the highway that are not physically connected but maintain contact through communications. These platoons allow more efficient operations, which could result in fuel savings and more streamlined traffic flows by managing the distance between vehicles. The other example identified the potential bottlenecks and congestion that may arise in existing infrastructure with smart highway technology, such as vehicle platoons traveling as moving bottlenecks for the background traffic. This helps traffic managers identify the tradeoffs of smart highways in order to help them deploy optimal solutions, Jin explained.

"I think [CEE Research Night] is a very good opportunity to present my research to other people and ask for their feedback and see if there is anything that I can improve," Jin said at the event. "It's also a good chance to do some brainstorming and to walk around and see what other people are doing and to get some new ideas."

Jane Chui, a graduate student in Ruben Juanes' research group, presented a poster on her work which considers the physics of fluid viscous materials underground, such as oil. Chui is seeking to understand how active, living organisms like bacteria could potentially change the nature of these fluid flows, as bacteria interaction could change the viscosity of the surrounding environment and ultimately help with applications like microbial enhanced oil recovery.

"Viscous fingering is something that's been studied by the oil industry for a very long time, but I want to expand this to other applications like the bioremediation of subsurface spills," Chui said. "I wanted to present my research [at CEE Research Night] because I think a lot of people think of viscous fingering as an old problem, but this is a new and exciting development and a branch off of the classical problem that's picking up now."

Sahu, Jin, and Chui provide just a sample of the diverse and wide-ranging research represented at the event. The multitude of poster presentations and were judged by attendees, including CEE faculty, who evaluated the clarity and impact of the research, as well as participants' presentation skills.

At the conclusion of the night, three top prizes, determined by students and faculty at the event, were awarded to graduate student Murat Uzun for "Learning Full-scale structures;" Chui for "Impact of motile bacteria on viscous fingering;" and postdoc Diego Lopez Barreiro for "Multiscale modeling and manufacture of biomass-derived materials."

"In a conference setting, the audience is composed of researchers with a similar background. In CEE Research Night type of events, however, you really need to identify and convey the key aspects of your research. I found this information condensation and filtering helpful for my thinking process," Uzun said after the event. "Here in MIT CEE, we have a very multidisciplinary culture with people from various backgrounds. Different perspectives can be really beneficial."