Course VI: Making an Impact on the World

A Message from Department Head – Eric Grimson

September, 2008

I am very pleased to be able to update our many alumni/alumnae and supporters on the state of the department. This past year has been one of great opportunities, great accomplishments, and great challenges for the department. We continue the evolution of our undergraduate curriculum, designed to meet the interests and learning styles of a modern generation of students; we continue to pursue the influence of electrical engineering and computer science research methodologies in health sciences, finance, energy, environment, and other areas, building on our tagline that “EECS is everywhere”; and we continue our active outreach efforts, encouraging potential students to consider the wealth of exciting opportunities open to someone skilled in the analytical methods of electrical engineering and computer science.

Over 250 students were enrolled in 6.01, spring 2008.

Over 250 students were enrolled in 6.01, spring 2008.

At 200 to 250 new undergraduate majors in EECS per year, we appear to have stabilized our enrollment, albeit at a lower level than the dramatic enrollment peaks seen 8-10 years ago. We are delighted that we remain a number one ranked department in electrical engineering, in computer engineering, and in computer science—all the more reason that we strive to maintain this level of excellence and keep on top of the constant evolution in EE and CS. Our students have increasingly broad interests and career goals, as evidenced by the examples of alumni and alumnae featured later in this newsletter. Both inside and outside of the classroom, we are adapting our curriculum to provide the kinds of skills and knowledge that our graduates need in order to be next-generation leaders. And, the scope and impact of cutting edge research in electrical engineering and in computer science is reaching ever more broadly into all aspects of modern life, as seen in the examples of research described in the next article in this newsletter.

We are particularly intrigued with how much the research interests of our faculty and students are focused on problems of major impact to the world: novel solar concentrators based on organic materials and efficient photo-conversion methods; remarkably effective environmental clean up methods using bundles of carbon nanotubes deployed as paper-like structures; efficient lighting technologies based on quantum dot technologies; leveraging state-of-the-art nano-fluidic devices, femto-second lasers, and two-photon microscopy to study nerve regeneration; and robust communication networks for wide-scale traffic and environmental monitoring. These are just examples of a broad range of research activity that is motivated by compelling human needs: energy, environment, transportation, health; and they reflect the commitment of our faculty and students to making an impact on the world.

EECS Professor Dennis Freeman, left, with then EECS graduate student Roozbeh Ghaffari and research scientist Alexander J. Aranyasi, reported discovering in fall 2007, a hearing mechanism that could help explain the ear’s ability to sense and discriminate sounds, possibly leading to improved systems for hearing restoration. (photo: Donna Coveney, MIT News Office).

EECS Professor Dennis Freeman, left, with then EECS graduate student Roozbeh Ghaffari and research scientist Alexander J. Aranyasi, reported discovering in fall 2007, a hearing mechanism that could help explain the ear’s ability to sense and discriminate sounds, possibly leading to improved systems for hearing restoration. (photo: Donna Coveney, MIT News Office).

Hence, the department continues to thrive in a state of constant evolution: changing what and how we teach, the directions of our research, and the composition of the department. Throughout this newsletter, we hope to give you a glimpse of this ongoing evolution, and how it is driven by the desire to remain a (or the) top ranked department in the nation—sensitive and responsive to a changing world environment.

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