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Lisa Peattie, professor emerita of urban studies and planning, dies at 94

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 02:10 PM PST

Lisa Peattie, a celebrated scholar and a lifelong activist who was a professor emerita of urban anthropology in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and recipient of the ACSP Distinguished Educator Award, passed away on Dec. 13, 2018. She was 94.

Peattie was born in Chicago and raised in Illinois, Mexico, and Guatemala. Her international upbringing amid her parents' fieldwork in Morelos and Yucatán, Mexico, nurtured an early interest in the connections among academic disciplines.

She studied anthropology at the University of Chicago, earning her doctorate in 1968.

Peattie joined the MIT faculty in 1963 with the goal of pushing anthropology out of the realm of pure social science and into the arena of action and advocacy, by including the researcher's moral positions and the interests of the individuals being studied. She was one of the first female faculty members to gain tenure at MIT.

In 1962 Peattie and her husband, Roderick Peattie, moved to South America to help document the efforts of the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies to plan a new city in the interior of Venezuela. Her experiences in the field and her observations of the difficulties faced by those living at the margins of the new city led to her pathbreaking book, "The View from the Barrio" (University of Michigan Press). The volume raised planners' awareness of the way that the plans they imagined actually affected people at the margins.

"Lisa was an unorthodox urban anthropologist who strongly believed that governmental interventions in the lives of the urban poor usually reduce the autonomy of the poor," says Bish Sanyal, the Ford Professor of Urban Development and Planning. "She came to this conclusion by living with the poor and by observing from below how poor families coped with socioeconomic changes." 

Following the death of her husband in 1963, Peattie returned to Boston to teach full time at MIT. During her career at the Institute, Peattie remained a tenacious activist, protesting frequently against the Vietnam War during the 1960s and early 1970s, against nuclear proliferation in the 1980s and 1990s, and most recently as part of the Occupy movement in the early 2010s.

In 1966, she was part of the original group of students and faculty from MIT and Harvard that created Urban Planning Aid (UPA). This organization was the first advocacy planning firm in America. Peattie and her colleagues offered technical assistance and promoted empowerment in low-income communities faced with housing, health, safety, and representation challenges. UPA helped residents of Boston and Cambridge halt the proposed construction of the Inner Belt highway, fight evictions. and prevent the demolition of housing.

"Lisa was my professor at MIT in both the MCP program and later for my PhD," says Anna Hardman MCP '71, PhD '88. "I learned so much from Lisa's insight, ideas, and enthusiasm‚ and from her commitment to important causes‚ lessons I re-learned when I worked for Urban Planning Aid in the 1970s. Lisa was wise, always thoughtful, and her contribution to women in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning was vital."

In 1999, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning presented Peattie with the profession's highest teaching honor, its Distinguished Educator Award. The award recognized her scholarly accomplishments as well as the impact of her work as an applied anthropologist and activist.

Peattie raised four children: Christopher Peattie (husband of Denise Hood), who predeceased her in 2011; and Sara Peattie, Miranda Clemson, and Julia Peattie. She also leaves two grandchildren, Chris Clemson and Ella Beaver. She is survived by her brother, James Redfield, and his wife, Kathy Atlass.

"Widowed young in a foreign country with four children, our mother continued to approach life with zest and courage, traveling overland up the Pan-American Highway from Panama to New England in a Jeep with her children and a parrot," say her daughters. "Our mother was a woman capable of enthralling a class of graduate students, planting a vegetable garden, baking bread, and painting the bedroom ceiling all in the same day. Often exasperating, she was never dull. She threw great parties and was a mean dancer. In later years her body flagged but her spirit, never. Her curiosity about the world never dimmed."

MIT athletes earn four NEWMAC championships

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 01:30 PM PST

The fall season was another successful one for MIT Athletics as the Engineers achieved both athletically and academically.

MIT teams claimed four New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championships, eight programs were nationally-ranked, and four teams represented MIT at NCAA Championship events programs. Six student-athletes were named All-Americans, 52 earned All-Conference honors, and 11 Engineers were recognized with major awards from the NEWMAC.

Academically, MIT amassed 96 NEWMAC Academic All-Conference selections and seven Google Cloud Academic All-America Team members as MIT is now one of just two schools nationally to have over 300 all-time Google Cloud Academic All-America honorees.

At the conclusion of the fall, MIT was ranked No. 12 nationally in the Learfield Directors' Cup standings out of 449 NCAA Division III institutions. The Engineers generated 218.5 points, which was based on each team's finish at NCAA Championship events.

Men's Cross Country finished 16th at the NCAA Championship and captured the program's 21st NEWMAC Championship, maintaining its status as the only team to win the title in conference history. Head coach Halston Taylor was named NEWMAC Coach of the Year for the fifth year in a row and 16th time during his career. Sophomore Billy Woltz earned NEWMAC Athlete of the Year accolades, first-year Andrew Mah collected NEWMAC Rookie of the Year plaudits, and senior Josh Rosenkranz was selected to NEWMAC All-Sportsmanship Team. Seven student-athletes earned spots on the NEWMAC All-Conference team while Mah, Rosenkranz, Woltz, and junior Josh Derrick qualified for the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) New England All-Region Team.

Women's Cross Country captured third place at the NCAA Championship and won the program's 12th straight NEWMAC Championship. Senior Leandra Zimmermann earned USTFCCCA All-America honors while head coach Halston Taylor was voted the USTFCCCA New England Region Coach of the Year for the fifth time. First-year Einat Gavish was named the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year and junior Marissa McPhillips was selected for the NEWMAC All-Sportsmanship Team. Eight student-athletes represented MIT on the NEWMAC All-Conference Team, including USTFCCCA New England All-Region honorees Gavish, Zimmermann, junior Katie Bacher, and sophomores Katie Collins and Jenna Melanson.

Field Hockey advanced to the NEWMAC Championship for the third year in a row but fell to Smith College, 2-1, in overtime. Junior Devon Goetz was tabbed for National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) All-America Third Team accolades and was joined by sophomores Megan Flynn and Amanda Garofalo on the NFHCA New England East All-Region Team. The trio also picked up NEWMAC All-Conference awards while sophomore Jennah Haque represented the Engineers on the NEWMAC All-Sportsmanship Team.

MIT Football was crowned NEWMAC Champions, marking the program's second conference title, and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second time in Institute history. In addition to receiving 13 NEWMAC All-Conference Team selections, first-year head coach Brian Bubna was named the NEWMAC Coach of the Year, senior Udgam Goyal was voted the NEWMAC Offensive Athlete of the Year, and senior Riley Quinn earned a spot on the NEWMAC All-Sportsmanship Team. Junior Ben Bennington was selected to the New England Football Writers Division II/III All-New England Team while Quinn was the recipient of the organization's Jerry Nason Award for Senior Achievement, which recognizes a student-athlete succeeding in football against all odds. For the second year in a row, Goyal was named the Google Cloud Academic All-America Team Member of the Year for Division III Football. He was also joined by junior AJ Iversen on the Google Cloud Academic All-America First Team.

Men's Soccer fell to Wheaton College, 3-1, in penalty kicks after a scoreless double-overtime quarterfinal game in the NEWMAC Championship Tournament. Junior Jeremy Cowham, and seniors Thad Daguilh and Wesley Woo earned NEWMAC All-Conference accolades while senior David Wu was selected to the NEWMAC All-Sportsmanship Team. Woo represented the Engineers on the United Soccer Coaches All-Region Second Team and was voted to the Google Cloud Academic All-America Third Team.

Women's Soccer claimed its second straight and fifth overall NEWMAC Championship after defeating Springfield College, 2-1, in overtime. The Engineers' season ended with a 1-0 loss at Amherst College in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In addition to receiving seven NEWMAC All-Conference Team selections, head coach Martin Desmarais was named the NEWMAC Coach of the Year for the fifth time in six seasons, junior Sophia Struckman was voted the NEWMAC Offensive Athlete of the Year, senior Hailey Nichols repeated as the NEWMAC Defensive Athlete of the Year, and senior Allie Hrabchak earned a spot on the NEWMAC All-Sportsmanship Team. Struckman was tabbed for USC All-America Third Team accolades and was joined by Nichols on the USC All-Region First Team. Nichols, junior Emily Berzolla, and senior Lily Mueller represented MIT on the Google Cloud Academic All-America Team for the second year in a row.

Women's Volleyball fell to Babson College in four sets during the semifinal round of the NEWMAC Championship Tournament. Senior Abby Bertics was named the NEWMAC Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row and was joined by senior Carly Silvernale on the NEWMAC All-Conference First Team while senior Carly Staub earned a spot on the NEWMAC All-Sportsmanship Team. Bertics was selected to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-America Third Team for the second consecutive season and was named the New England Region Player of the Year while senior Christina Liao received AVCA New England All-Region Honorable Mention plaudits. Bertics became the first student-athlete in program history to be voted the Google Cloud Academic All-America Team Member of the Year for Division III Volleyball and repeated as a Google Cloud Academic All-America First Team selection.

Men's Water Polo defeated Iona College, 16-11, in the fifth-place match of the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) Championship Tournament, marking the Engineers' best finish and first tournament win in the three-year history of the event. MIT also collected the program's ninth Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Division III Eastern Championship title following a 15-12 victory over Johns Hopkins University. First-year head coach Bret Lathrope was named the NWPC Coach of the Year while first-year Miller Geschke and junior Clyde Huibregtse were tabbed to the NWPC All-Conference Second Team. Geschke was chosen for the CWPA Division III All-America First Team as sophomore Evan Kim collected Honorable Mention plaudits.

Researchers catalog defects that give 2-D materials amazing properties

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 07:59 AM PST

Amid the frenzy of worldwide research on atomically thin materials like graphene, there is one area that has eluded any systematic analysis — even though this information could be crucial to a host of potential applications, including desalination, DNA sequencing, and devices for quantum communications and computation systems.

That missing information has to do with the kinds of minuscule defects, or "holes," that form in these 2-D sheets when some atoms are missing from the material's crystal lattice.

Now that problem has been solved by researchers at MIT, who have produced a catalog of the exact sizes and shapes of holes that would most likely be observed (as opposed to the many more that are theoretically possible) when a given number of atoms is removed from the atomic lattice. The results are described in the journal Nature Materials in a paper by graduate student Ananth Govind Rajan, professors of chemical engineering Daniel Blankschtein and Michael Strano, and four others at MIT, Lockheed Martin Space, and Oxford University.

"It's been a longstanding problem in the graphene field, what we call the isomer cataloging problem for nanopores," Strano says. For those who want to use graphene or similar two-dimensional, sheet-like materials for applications including chemical separation or filtration, he says, "we just need to understand the kinds of atomic defects that can occur," compared to the vastly larger number that are never seen.

For example, Blankschtein points out, by removing just eight contiguous carbon atoms from the hexagonal chicken-wire-like array of atoms in graphene, there are 66 different possible shapes that the resulting hole could have. When the number of atoms removed increases to 12, the number of possible shapes jumps to 3,226, and with 30 atoms removed, there are 400 billion possibilities — a number far beyond any reasonable possibility of simulation and analysis. Yet only a handful of these shapes are actually found in experiments, so the ability to predict which ones really occur could be of great use to researchers.

Describing the lack of information about which kinds of holes actually can form, Strano says, "What that did, practically speaking, is it made a disconnect between what you could simulate with a computer and what you could actually measure in the lab." This new catalog of the shapes that are actually possible will make the search for materials for specific uses much more manageable, he says.

The ability to do the analysis relied on a number of tools that simply weren't available previously. "You could not have solved this problem 10 years ago," Strano says. But now, with the use of tools including chemical graph theory, accurate electronic-structure calculations, and high-resolution scanning transmission electron microscopy, the researchers have captured images of the defects showing the exact positions of the individual atoms.

The team calls these holes in the lattice "antimolecules" and describes them in terms of the shape that would be formed by the atoms that have been removed. This approach provides, for the first time, a simple and coherent framework for describing the whole set of these complex shapes. Previously, "if you were talking about these pores in the material, there was no way to identify" the specific kind of hole involved, Govind Rajan says. "Once people start creating these pores more often, it would be good to have a naming convention" to identify them, he adds.

This new catalog could help to open up a variety of potential applications. "Defects are both good and bad," Strano explains. "Sometimes you want to prevent them," because they weaken the material, but "other times you want to create them and control their sizes and shapes," for example for filtration, chemical processing, or DNA sequencing, where only certain specific molecules can pass through these holes. Another application might be quantum computing or communications devices where holes of a specific size and shape are tuned to emit photons of light of specific colors and energy levels.

In addition to their impact on a material's mechanical properties, holes affect electronic, magnetic, and optical characteristics as well, Govind Rajan says.

"We think that this work will constitute a valuable tool" for research on defects in 2-D materials, Strano predicts, because it will allow researchers to home in on promising types of defects instead of having to sort through countless theoretically possible shapes "that you don't care about at all, because they are so improbable they'll never form."

This work "addresses an important problem in 2-D nanoscale systems," says Alex Zettl, a professor of materials science at the University of California at Berkeley, who was not involved in this research. "Since the defect isomer possibilities become rapidly intractable with growing atom vacancy number, a brute-force attack is fruitless. This new cataloging and probabilistic ranking approach is elegant, relevant, and predictive."

He says that this work provides "a solid theoretical foundation," and since engineering of 2-D materials is becoming a reality, this system "is sure to become accepted and widely adopted."

The research team included Kevin Silmore at MIT, Jacob Swett at Lockheed Martin Space in Palo Alto, California, and Alex Robertson and Jamie Warner at Oxford University. The work was supported by the Army Research Office via the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at MIT, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.

J-PAL North America calls for proposals from education leaders

Posted: 14 Jan 2019 05:00 AM PST

J-PAL North America, a research center at MIT, has announced a new call for proposals designed to help education leaders identify effective practices that utilize education technology. 

With schools adopting innovation and technology at a rapid pace, decision makers are demanding rigorous evidence to help determine which programs improve educational outcomes, especially for underserved students.

Through its Education, Technology, and Opportunity Competition, J-PAL North America invites education organizations and agencies to apply for support from the research center to develop randomized evaluations that can test and help improve the effectiveness of promising education technologies. In particular, J-PAL North America is interested in partnering with education leaders to generate evidence on promising instructional models that use technology to improve learning. 

Selected applicants will receive pro bono technical support from J-PAL staff and access to J-PAL's network of leading academic researchers to help them design and implement randomized evaluations of their programs. In addition, applicants may be eligible for up to $50,000 in funding from J-PAL North America to help develop a randomized evaluation.

In the previous round, J-PAL North America selected two partners to develop randomized evaluations, respectively, of an online math program and a family engagement platform that leverages multilingual translation.

Selected partners will join a network of education leaders who are committed to generating critical evidence on the effectiveness of education technologies and acting upon this evidence to improve the lives of students.

By participating in past rigorous evaluations, education leaders have gained critical and credible information on how their programs can help improve student learning.

"As the founder of a company seeking to improve literacy for children, I felt a strong obligation to know whether our program was actually making a difference by improving the vocabularies of children," says Shane DeRolf, founder and CEO of Big Word Club, an ed-tech company focused on reducing the word gap in early childhood. "By partnering with J-PAL North America and academic researchers on a randomized evaluation, we gained actionable knowledge on our program's impact and now have the confidence to market Big Word Club to a broader network of parents, educators and schools."
 
Beyond helping individual education leaders answer practical questions about which education technologies work, the competition aims to grow the broader evidence base for promising models in education that have the potential to scale.

"Technology can help make massive inroads for how to best help our kids learn," says Peter Bergman, assistant professor of economics and education at Columbia University and a co-chair of J-PAL's Education, Technology, and Opportunity Initiative. "We have a unique opportunity to bring together researchers and education leaders to generate rigorous evidence on which uses of education technology and innovation truly work and why. We hope the insights generated from these studies will help move the entire education ecosystem forward." 

Details on how to apply to the Education, Technology, and Opportunity Competition can be found online. Eligible applicants include school districts, school networks, charter management organizations, education agencies at all levels of government, community colleges and universities, and education nonprofits. 

Applications to the competition are due on April 1, and winners will be announced by early June. J-PAL North America will be hosting a webinar on Feb. 8, from 1:00 to 2:00 PM ET to provide an introduction to the competition, review the application process, and respond to questions. Prospective applicants are also encouraged to contact Initiative Manager Vincent Quan directly with questions.

J-PAL North America's education technology work is supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation. J-PAL North America, a regional office of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, was established with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. It works to reduce poverty by ensuring that policies are informed by scientific evidence.