Calculating the cost of tech-fueled discrimination

Overt racism is easy to spot. But it takes patience and perspective to identify microaggressions — behaviors that systematically degrade or exclude minority communities from key financial services, predictive policing, risk-based sentencing, and predatory lending, to name just a few examples — and to understand the larger impact on affected communities.

As technology rapidly changes our society and our economy, data and technology can be weaponized, unwittingly or otherwise, against diverse communities. But one MIT grad student hoping to turn data and technology into instruments of change has launched a conference to bring together scientists, mathematicians, tech specialists, and community activists to identify the algorithms and other data that suppress racial equality.

Lucas Mason-Brown, an MIT PhD candidate in mathematics, organized the Data for Black Lives (D4BL) conference with Yeshimabeit Milner of Miami and Max Clermont of Chicago, two friends from Mason-Brown’s undergraduate days at Brown University.

The idea grew from a Twitter account to the conference just last summer. But once conceived, the conference quickly attracted dozens of top community activists, public officials, computer programmers, and data scientists — many of them Media Lab researchers — to participate. The registration filled up quickly, with more than 300 on the waiting list who were able to watch the conference sessions via Facebook livestream.   

An animated crowd gathered at the Media Lab last month armed with hope, and left with alliances and ideas.

“It was amazing, I don’t think Boston has ever seen a convening like this,” Mason-Brown said. “The energy was electric.”

MIT President L. Rafael Reif said that one of the biggest challenges today is to navigate technology’s impacts.

“We welcome your impatience for answers, your insistence that it must be possible to use today’s most powerful technologies to make our society more just, more inclusive and more fair,” he told the crowd Friday night. “Automation and artificial intelligence will continue to transform our work, our lives, our society. Whether the outcome is inclusive or exclusive, whether fair or laissez faire, it is up to us.”

Keynote speaker Ruha Benjamin, a sociologist and an associate professor in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University and author of “People Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier,” earned a standing ovation.

“There is a simmering, there is a substrate of violence, of anti-Black racism, that gives rise to the headlines,” she said. “So we’re looking at the fine print. We’re interrupting a dominant narrative. We’re not going to focus narrowly on technology because that already circumscribes the conversation, we’re going to zoom our lens out and we’re going to talk about the fact that interpretation is required to make sense of data.”   

Data can be dangerously drawn, she said, giving the example of The New York Times science reporter Nicholas Wade’s controversial book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, which blames racial differences for varied degrees of economic success. The same goes for blaming technology, and not ourselves, when things go wrong, she said.   

“Human agency, human motivation, and values and politics, that is downstream, that comes after the facts,” she said. “So, what we’re doing is questioning the framing of technological determinism. We are partnering with our algorithms, we are enrolling our robots, we are in solidarity with this infrastructure. It’s not something we’re antagonistic to, but we’re thinking about how to enroll our androids in the struggle.”

Yeshimabeit Milner has been an activist since high school, when she started organizing around the school-to-jail pipeline issue, and is now executive director of D4BL.

“As our society and our injustices becomes increasingly automated, we believe this is one of the most important civil rights battles of our generation,” she said.

Blair Evans, an MIT computer science and electrical engineering alumus who works with programs for at-risk youth in Detroit, said during the Black Work, Black Wealth, Black Futures panel that he believed in using technology to enable what he called “community self-determination.”

“So, if we know we are in the early stages of an exponential growth path and we understand how it’s moving, we want to plot the intercept course and codesign the socio-economic political governance systems that will be enabled by that so that this doesn’t end up being another oppressive integration of new technology,” he said.

Other discussions centered on the dearth of black scientists, health equity, and political organizing. One attendee, Gbenga Ajilore, an economics professor at the University of Toledo, said he was lookeing forward to attending the panel “Automating (In)justice: Policing and Sentencing in the Algorithm Age.”

“There has been a lot of talk on big data and how to make things better,” he said. “To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a good discussion on big data and the downsides of algorithms.”

Attendees discussed collaborating on creative uses of data interpretative technology to confront redlining, predatory lending, school-to-jail trajectories, and health care inequities through statistical modeling, data visualization, and crowdsourcing. Data scientists at MIT and Google talked about ways to plug into social movements.

A number of attendees looked to collaborate with keynote speaker Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., faculty director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute, whose work includes using DNA evidence to exonerate those accused of murder.

“Ron Sullivan’s talk ended with a call to action — can we use cases for which DNA evidence is available to identify red flags for wrongful convictions — cases with single-witness identification and, particularly, cross-racial single-witness identification are especially prone to error,” said Mason-Brown. “Can we use data and algorithms to scale up the critical work that Ron Sullivan and others have been doing to save thousands of mainly black and brown individuals from wrongful imprisonment?”

To build on the energy at the conference, organizers plan a follow-up gathering next fall. 

“One of our tasks for 2018 is to figure out how to leverage all of this momentum and to build and maintain this very powerful network of data scientists, activists, and organizers,” said Mason-Brown.

Attendee Ty Austin, a graduate student studying architecture, said that this conference was “long overdue.”

Judy “JJ” Jackson, a diversity and inclusion officer for MIT’s Office of the Provost called it “one of the best conferences I attended in my memory … I’m looking for ways to help right now.”

A native of Belmont, Massachusetts, Mason-Brown studied math and philosophy at Brown University, received his masters in mathematics from Trinity College in Dublin, and taught seventh grade math and science for a year at the Edward Brooke School in Roslindale, Massachusetts. For his work with D4BL, he has been named one of 35 Echoing Green Fellows.

Mason-Brown said he is looking forward to the next conference, although he admits that it’s a challenge to juggle D4BL with his academic workload. A third-year PhD student in the Department of Mathematics at MIT, Mason-Brown studies representation theory — the study of abstract symmetries. Between his research, Data for Black Lives, and managing the Math Learning Center, Mason-Brown is busy, but he doesn’t see his research and activism as being in conflict with one another.

“My math research fuels my activism and my activism fuels my research. It’s not a zero-sum game,” he said.

Using ancient knowledge to create contemporary architecture

Brandon Clifford has gone to Rome to look for ghosts. An assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, Clifford is in the Eternal City on a yearlong residency at the American Academy, one of approximately 30 American scholars to be awarded the Founders Rome Prize fellowship for 2017-18. His project, “Ghosts of Rome,” continues his innovative research into how ancient knowledge can engage with current technologies.

“An obelisk that was transported from Egypt to Rome — how was it made? What did it feel like to watch the procession when it arrived?” asks Clifford, who is also co-founder of the firm Matter Design. “We tend to think of architectural elements as static. But the truth is that we are constantly interacting with them. And this is lost knowledge that could inform contemporary architecture.”

For a 2012 project that encompassed history and technology, Clifford used computer code and advanced fabrication techniques to create a compression-only, medieval-style birch plywood vault named “La Voute de LeFevre.” A year later, he nested precast, unreinforced concrete treads to fashion “Helix,” a half-scale spiral staircase. “I’ve traveled the world,” he says, “to find objects and techniques that I could then recreate with digital technologies and contemporary materials.”

The son of an astronaut, Clifford studied architecture as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech and earned a master’s degree in architecture from Princeton University. In 2008, along with Georgia Tech classmate Wes McGee, he founded Matter Design. The studio and research initiative bridges the Stone Age and the digital age, transposing ancient techniques such as custom masonry onto materials and language that resonate with 21st-century sensibilities and scales.

“Brandon’s research into lost or forgotten building technologies not only reintroduces these technologies into current-day discourse,” says Meejin Yoon, head of the Department of Architecture at MIT. “It also advances our understanding of the past and of the possibilities of our present.”

This innovative work garnered multiple prizes and awards in the years after Clifford and McGee launched their studio. Still, the effort was centered primarily on questions of materials and methods. That began to change in 2014, when Clifford built “Round Room” in the School of Architecture and Planning’s Keller Gallery. The “Round Room” was a baroque interior realized with unique aerated concrete elements carved by a robotic arm and assembled according to an ancient Incan wedge technique. While primarily a structural and acoustical experiment, that project also afforded visitors an opportunity to enter and experience the space, each imbuing it with his or her individual reality.

A breakthrough in Clifford’s thinking occurred in spring 2015, when he co-taught 4.154 (Architecture Design Option Studio — Megalithic Robotics) with Mark Jarzombek, professor of architectural history and theory. In that course, professors and students traveled to Peru to study Incan megaliths, then returned to campus to design and build their own.

Midway through the class, teaching assistant Carrie McKnelly lost both of her parents. The students, who had learned that the Inca often erected megaliths in honor of their departed, elected to dedicate their own megalith to McKnelly’s parents. “It opened their eyes to how architecture can shape the social fabric of their world,” says Clifford.

For Clifford, layered onto the story of loss and remembrance — and the electrifying experience of watching his students hoist their 2,000-pound megalith on MIT’s Killian Court using only human power and a few ropes — was the importance of myth.

“The first Dutch explorers who landed at Easter Island were told that these enormous stone sculptures had walked themselves from the quarry to where they are now. You can dismiss the story as folklore, but it tells us volumes about how easily these stones were actually transported,” says Clifford. “It doesn’t matter whether these stories are true or not. It’s like the telling of a good ghost story, when the listener experiences the thrill of moving through that fiction. They affect our perception of architecture. And that is a space I like to explore.”

Clifford entered that space with a 2016 project called “Buoy Stone.” Drawing on a myth that the smaller stones at Stonehenge were floated up the River Avon using animal bladders, he crafted a fiberglass “stone” designed to rest on its side as it was moved through the waters of the Charles River, and then to stand upright once filled with river water.

The project was conceived to commemorate the 100th anniversary of MIT’s move across the river from Boston to Cambridge. “So many people have told me that they’ve seen that object while they run along the Charles,” says Clifford. “Perhaps they’ll tell someone they’ve seen a floating stone, and I’ll have created my own fiction and myth.”

In Rome, Clifford is accompanying archeologists and historians, visiting monuments and archaeological sites, and peeling back the many layers of civilization that have left their mark on the Italian capital. But as much as he is fascinated by history, he stresses that he’s not overly interested in reliving it.

“I’m not concerned with trying to prove or disprove the past,” he says. “I want to go ghost hunting, to use these stories and histories and myths to shape a new architectural future.”

A bipartisan message of clean energy progress

The diverse group of energy leaders who spoke at the 2017 Clean Energy, Education, and Empowerment (C3E) Women in Clean Energy Symposium hailed from different professional, personal, and political backgrounds, bringing many viewpoints on the conference’s theme of transforming energy infrastructure — nationally and internationally — for a transition to a low-carbon future. Though opinions on the best strategies to bring about this transition differed, all agreed on the urgency of deploying strategies and technologies to achieve it.

“It’s inspiring to be surrounded by so many women at different stages of their careers, approaching clean energy issues from a wide range of perspectives and professions,” MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) executive director Martha Broad told the audience, which included industry professionals, government officials, and academic researchers, as well as students who were giving poster presentations. “MITEI is thrilled to host this event, celebrate our awardees, and hear from thought leaders in this space.” Broad is also a U.S. C3E ambassador — part of a cohort of senior leaders in business, government, and academia who serve as role models and advocates for women in clean energy.

Now in its sixth year being held at MIT, the C3E Symposium brings women at all stages of their careers together to discuss solutions to the most pressing energy issues of the day and to celebrate awardees from various disciplines. Founded under the auspices of the 25-government Clean Energy Ministerial, the U.S. C3E Initiative aims to advance clean energy by helping to close the gender gap and enabling the full participation of women in the clean energy sector. MITEI and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have collaborated on the symposium since 2012, and the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy joined the collaboration in 2016.

Inclusive clean energy solutions for the future

Panels throughout the two-day conference focused on strategies across the technology, policy, and business spheres to address energy challenges both local and global. Nevada State Senator Pat Spearman stressed the importance of forward-looking governance on a panel about innovative policies. For Spearman, innovation means taking advantage of Nevada’s natural energy resources, from an abundance of solar energy in the south to the potential for geothermal in the north. It also means developing progressive policies that facilitate timely regulatory changes in response to new and emerging technologies.

Spearman is particularly determined to account for low-income constituents with provisions in energy policy measures.

“We need to always include the fact that those who are on the lower spectrum of the income level are usually the ones who are the least likely to adopt because the price has not come down far enough,” she said. ”So those who can afford it do, and those who can’t, don’t. For me, it’s a matter of environmental and economic justice.”

On a panel about the future of the electric grid, Marcy Reed, National Grid’s chief of business operations, expanded on the importance of being mindful of customers’ needs.

“We have 20th-century infrastructure operating in a world with 21st-century demands,” she said, adding that at Massachusetts-based National Grid, and her colleagues take their cue on how to best affect change from their customers. “They’re savvy and passionate and environmentally-minded. They also want their energy delivery system to be modern and responsive to their needs.” She added that having the right tools and information enables customers to make energy-efficient choices.

Ugwem Eneyo, a Stanford University graduate and co-founder of Solstice Energy Solutions, explained how data are similarly important to her customers in sub-Saharan Africa.

“With the development and integration of solar and storage into the energy mix, data and connectivity will play a significant role in enabling future distributed energy grids, and will also play a significant role in driving efficiency and productivity of these distributed energy assets,” Eneyo said. Her company’s technology uses a data-driven approach to intelligently manage distributed energy, helping consumers plan for their own cost- and energy-efficient power use.

As a panelist for a session on international energy infrastructure developments, Radhika Khosla discussed ongoing changes in India’s energy system.

“Not only is India a very large emitter, but it is also one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change,” said Khosla, who is a visiting scientist at the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design. Citing rising temperatures, impending infrastructure and demographic transitions, and increased air pollution as a few among several factors, Khosla added, “What happens to India in terms of its growth trajectory matters not only in the global context, but also in the Indian context.”

Leveraging women’s expertise for the clean energy transition

Underscoring the bipartisan message of the importance of women’s involvement in the clean energy transition, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry gave a video keynote address in which he noted the positive effect that gatherings like the C3E Symposium can have in trying to address current energy challenges.

“Each of you here today helps advance innovation, connect new ideas with existing markets, and use technology to promote clean energy solutions,” Perry said. “But even more importantly, your work will inspire the next generation of women leaders in STEM, and that is sorely needed.”

Secretary Perry’s predecessor under President Obama, Ernest Moniz, engaged in a fireside chat with MIT Vice President for Research Maria T. Zuber, the E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics. Zuber and Moniz, who is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Emeritus and special advisor to the MIT president, discussed the need for a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy and also highlighted the significance of initiatives like C3E in the mission to support and increase women’s involvement in STEM fields.

“If you can see it, you can be it”

Every year, C3E honors mid-career women who have made particular contributions to their area of energy and invites previous awardees to attend the conference. This year’s award-winners were: Anna Bautista, vice president of construction and workforce development for Grid Alternatives (Advocacy Award); Leslie Marshall, corporate energy engineering lead for General Mills (Business Award); Nicole Lautze, associate faculty member at the University of Hawaii Manoa and founder of the Hawaii Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center (Education Award); Emily Kirsch, founder and CEO of intelligent energy incubator Powerhouse (Entrepreneurship Award); Chris LaFleur, program lead for Hydrogen Safety, Codes, and Standards at Sandia National Laboratories (Government Award); Allison Archambault, president of EarthSpark International (International Award); Sarah Valdovinos, co-founder of Walden Green Energy (Law and Finance Award); and Inês M.L. Azevedo, principal investigator and co-director for the Climate and Energy Decision-Making Center at Carnegie Mellon University (Research Award).

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) were co-recipients of the C3E Lifetime Achievement award for their work on energy issues, including their leadership roles on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and their stewardship of the bipartisan Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017.

In her prerecorded remarks, Murkowski said “We all recognize [that] women bring a different perspective to problem-solving, so it’s imperative, whether in your fields or mine, if we want to find the best and most innovative solutions to our biggest challenges, the female perspective must be present and active at the decision table.”

Cantwell, in written remarks delivered by C3E Ambassador Melanie Kenderdine, said, “I am proud to work alongside you as we continue to celebrate the women who are making incredible achievements in clean energy.”

Carol Battershell, principal deputy director of the DOE’s Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis and a U.S. C3E ambassador, noted how meaningful it was for the C3E ambassadors to have the honor of choosing the awardees. Several other speakers also remarked on how it felt to be in the presence of a group of such impactful leaders and diverse practitioners in the clean energy sector.

Sherina Maye Edwards, energy commissioner for the Illinois Commerce Commission, prefaced her comments by saying, “So often, I am on the road talking to rooms full of people who look nothing like me. It is so nice to see not just such a fantastic group of women, but also such a diverse group of women.”

Awardee Emily Kirsch, who attended the first C3E conference in 2013, met many C3E ambassadors there who mentored and encouraged her while she was launching her company. Accepting the Entrepreneurship Award, Kirsch said, “C3E is a testament to the idea that if you can see it, you can be it.”

On 75th anniversary of first nuclear fission reactor, MIT re-enacts seminal experiment

On Dec. 2 1942, under the stands at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field football stadium, Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi led an experimental team that produced humankind’s first controlled nuclear chain reaction — an event that marked the dawn of the nuclear era, enabling the development of the first atomic bomb and the first nuclear power reactors.

To commemorate the first criticality of the Chicago Pile (CP-1), exactly 75 years later, MIT on Saturday restored a device similar the one used for that epochal event in Chicago. Researchers celebrated by restoring an MIT subcritical experimental facility, which is similar to those used during development of the CP-1 reactor and its landmark sustained nuclear chain reaction.

The historic experiment’s re-enactment was not merely a novelty. The researchers have revived a device, called a graphite exponential pile and originally built in 1957, that over the coming years will provide hands-on access to subcritical nuclear experiments for MIT’s students, and serve as a unique and valuable research tool that can be used to study new reactor designs for future nuclear power plants.

The device is essentially just a large cube-shaped pile of blocks made of pure graphite — the material used as the “lead” of a pencil — with holes drilled through to allow insertion of rods of uranium. These natural-uranium rods have such low radiation emissions that they could be safely handled with bare hands, as Fermi and his collaborators did in 1942 (though in this case they will be handled with protective gloves anyway).

In the decades following Fermi’s original experiment, more than two dozen similar graphite pile devices were built at universities and national laboratories around the country and used for basic research and teaching, but over the years most of those have been disposed of. The one at MIT, which though only half as big as Fermi’s original was the largest of these other installations, escaped that fate but had been unused and forgotten for many years, until being “rediscovered” last year by professor Michael Short of MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.

Kord Smith, the KEPCO Professor of the Practice of Nuclear Science and Engineering, was surprised to learn that the device was still intact. Covered in protective metal panels that made it look like a disused storage cabinet, it went unnoticed even by students and faculty working near it. Smith, working with colleagues in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering and David Moncton, director of the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory and his staff, quickly formulated a plan to restore the device for the 75th anniversary of the original groundbreaking experiment. MIT nuclear science and engineering student Richard Knapp made the design and construction of the system the subject of his BS thesis in 1957.

Now, with the device and its 30 tons of graphite and 2.5 tons of uranium fully cleaned and restored, the final slugs of uranium were ceremonially slid into place on Dec. 2 to complete the system. This took place before an invited group of 49 faculty, students, and guests — the same number who were present with Fermi in Chicago — at the precise time of the original experiment.

Smith explains that MIT’s subcritical graphite pile originally fell into disuse as the nuclear industry quickly shifted from graphite-based reactor designs to alternatives based on light water, heavy water, or liquid sodium. Experiments with the graphite system were thus seen as less relevant. In these devices, graphite (or water) serves as a moderator that slows down the speed of neutrons emanating from a radiation source, by a factor of more than a million, to get them to interact with other uranium atoms and initiate a self-sustaining chain reaction in which neutrons knock other neutrons out of an atom’s nucleus to create a cascade of collisions. Criticality of the much larger CP-1 graphite pile was controlled by inserting or withdrawing control rods, made of cadmium, to absorb the neutrons and interrupt the reaction.

Today, a wide variety of cutting-edge designs for proposed next-generation nuclear reactors, including designs that have passive cooling systems or continuous operation without requiring shutdowns for refueling, do once again make use of graphite, so the reactor is once again a useful research tool. Such a tool will permit students to actually handle nuclear fuel and be more accessible to students than full-scale nuclear reactors such as MIT’s own research reactor, which runs almost continuously and produces 6 megawatts of thermal power. Experiments done in that reactor, to study new kinds of fuel-rod cladding or new instruments for monitoring the reactions, for example, typically run for a year at a time.

Students will be able to install, run, and get results from experiments in the graphite exponential pile within a few hours or days, Smith says. Use of the graphite pile is anticipated to stimulate students’ interest in, and preparation for, performing cutting-edge experiments on the much more powerful MIT research reactor.

“Graphite as a medium for reactors has come and gone a few times over the years,” he says, but now, “we’re in the midst of a rebirth.” And even today, there are still significant aspects of exactly how neutrons from nuclear reactions scatter through the crystal lattice of graphite. In fact, Smith says, a new physics model to describe these interactions has recently been proposed, and using the graphite pile “we want to design experiments to test these new theoretical models.”

In addition to doing experiments that could help in the development of new reactor designs, fuel, and cladding types, or measurement systems, this device and the MIT reactor will be a valuable educational tools for nuclear engineers, Smith says. “We tend to get students who are very good at developing computational algorithms and models. But if you don’t have something to compare your calculations with, you start to think your simulations are perfect.” In the real world, though, the actual measurements usually don’t agree perfectly with predictions, and understanding such differences often lead to the development of improved theoretical models, he says.

MIT community gathers to honor Paul Gray

Several hundred members of the MIT community attended a spirited and affecting celebration on Thursday of the late Paul Gray ’54, SM ’55, ScD ’60 — paying tribute to the former MIT president who helped transform the Institute’s social fabric, student experience, and scientific ambitions.

Family members, friends, former colleagues, and former students all spoke, depicting Gray as an affable, intellectually curious, down-to-earth leader determined to open up MIT to the the world, modernize its curriculum, and add the resources necessary to keep MIT on the frontiers of academic research.

“More than anyone I can think of, Paul shaped the MIT we know today,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif in his opening remarks at the event, held inside Kresge Auditorium. “When you think of the programs and progress he helped create, it’s impossible to imagine MIT without them.”

Among other things, Gray spearheaded MIT efforts to draw minority students to campus and to increase the number of female students. Gray helped implement MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which has become a staple of academic life at MIT, and advocated for the addition of biology to the MIT core curriculum in the 1960s. As president in the 1980s, Gray also worked to open the Whitehead Institute, a cornerstone of MIT’s now-expansive research efforts in the life sciences.  

If Gray was ambitious for MIT, he remained personally unpretentious, a leader who was skilled at listening and dealt with people in a genial and straightforward manner.

“Paul was profoundly honest,” Reif said. “He lived by the highest ethical and moral standards.” Moreover, Reif added, “There was a moral unity to his whole life, a unity of purpose and values. He knew who he was, down to the core. That gave him deep personal confidence in every situation. And it gave everyone else perfect confidence that he would always do the right thing. And he always did.”

Gray’s key actions included constructing programs, starting in the late 1960s, that identified and recruited minority students to matriculate at MIT.  In so doing, Gray worked extensively with Shirley Ann Jackson ’68 PhD ’73, the first African-American to receive a doctorate from MIT, who has been president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute since 1999 and is a life member of the MIT Corporation.

“I’ve always felt an enormous sense of kinship with Paul because we shared important moments of leadership together,” Jackson said in her remarks.

As Jackson recounted, she was one of just two African-American women in her graduating class, something she described as a “lonely” experience. Upon deciding to stay at MIT for graduate school, she became involved in the formation of MIT’s Black Students’ Union, whose requests for more resources led MIT to form its Task Force on Educational Opportunity. Gray helped direct the Institute’s response. 

“He quickly demonstrated that he was a true leader, exactly the right, mature person for a turbulent time,” Jackson said. “He took what could have been an adversarial situation, and sometimes it was, and instantly identified our shared objectives. … He immediately grasped that MIT could, and should, be better.”

Jackson, invited to join the Task Force on Educational Opportunity, soon found herself frequently working alongside Gray and observing his empathetic nature. “He was ready to listen, to learn, and to act,” Jackson, adding that the task force “spurred a breathtaking change at MIT,” by developing an array of programs that ultimately opened up the Institute to more minorities and women, among both students and faculty.

Gray’s efforts, Jackson added, were part of a career-long collaboration with his wife, Priscilla King Gray, as they both worked to enhance the Institute’s sense of community. 

“Importantly, Paul and Priscilla, as partners, worked to make MIT a more welcoming place, in myriad ways, for everyone,” Jackson said. She added that Gray was “a sounding board, mentor, supporter, and friend, throughout my career.”

In retirement, over the last decade, Gray remained a mentor and sounding board to many at MIT. Susan Hockfield, MIT’s 16th president, who served from 2005 to 2012, recalled Gray as a valued advisor who served as her “first and most essential guide to MIT” when she arrived at the Institute.

As Hockfield noted, Gray’s support for the expansion of bioscience research and teaching at MIT “set conditions in place for the biological, biomedical, biotech explosion at MIT and in Kendall Square,” which has helped keep both locales at the forefront of innovation.

“Thank you, Paul, for bringing us together in support of MIT’s core values: the pursuit of truth, meritocracy, personal integrity, and service to others,” Hockfield said.

“This special place”

Gray was born in Newark, New Jersey, on Feb. 7, 1932, and, growing up, became an eager student whose father encouraged him to tinker with electronic gadgets. Gray earned all three of his MIT degrees in electrical engineering and joined the MIT faculty in 1960. He served as associate dean for student affairs from 1965 to 1967; associate provost from 1969 to 1970; and dean of the School of Engineering from 1970 to 1971.

In the next phase of his career, Gray became the MIT chancellor from 1971 to 1980, served as MIT’s 14th president from 1980 to 1990, and then became chairman of the MIT Corporation (the Institute’s board of trustees ) from 1991 to 1997.

When Gray arrived at MIT, women constituted 2 percent of students, and minorities were very few in number; by 1990, when Gray’s tenure as president ended, 30 percent of undergraduates were women and 14 percent were underrepresented minorities.

In a move characteristic of Gray’s attachment to daily life at the Institute, he returned to the faculty in 1997, teaching undergraduate classes and advising students until recent years. Gray died in September after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

As multiple speakers at the event noted, Gray liked calling MIT “this special place,” an idea he impressed upon his colleagues, family, and friends.

“MIT truly is this special place,” said Gray’s son, Andrew Gray, in remarks at the celebration. “It’s its people that make it so.”

Andrew Gray recounted fond memories of how, as a child of Paul Gray, MIT faculty members became his “heroes,” and he got to know figures such as physicist and dean Margaret MacVicar, and Jerome Wiesner, MIT’s 13th president, who served from 1971 to 1980.

As Andrew Gray observed, it was telling that for his official portrait Gray chose to pose with Priscilla Gray, regarding her an equal partner in his activities. As president, the Grays would annually host every member of the senior class for dinner, in groups of 60 to 70, at the president’s on-campus residence — fittingly named “Gray House” in 2002.

Andrew Gray also recounted a story about the first date between his parents. On a chilly evening, Paul Gray had gloves, while Priscilla did not. Paul, thinking nimbly, suggested they each wear one glove, and hold hands with their uncovered hands.

“Not bad for a nerd from New Jersey,” Andrew Gray quipped, drawing a warm laugh from the audience.

Andrew Gray said he once asked his father why he had been so resistant to the kinds of prejudice he had apparently encountered in his formative years; in response, Paul Gray said, “Well, I guess it just never made any sense to me.” Paul Gray also once commented to his son that making MIT a residential college for women as well as men, another initiative he backed, was a “turning point for this school.”

One of Gray’s daughters, the reverend Virgina W.G. Army, also spoke, saying that Gray “lived his life full tilt” in an effort to make the world better, and shared stories about Gray as a family man and proud father.

In one instance, she recalled, Gray, an accomplished woodworker, found a bookcase that was being discarded at MIT, and made it a home project in which the two of them turned it into a complete, detailed doll’s house for her.

“Of course, we even put electricity in as well,” she said, noting that it ran on a battery her father the engineer connected to it.

“He made himself available and present in all of our lives,” Army said. “My father was my hero.”

Teacher and mentor

Thursday’s celebration also included a rendition of “America the Beautiful” and “Fanfare for the Common Man,” performed by the Kenneth Amis Ensemble; a presentation of the flags by the MIT Police and the MIT ROTC Joint Honor Guard; a video tribute featuring footage of Gray’s tenure as president; the performance of a Brahms sonata, by Institute Professor Marcus Thompson, on viola, and senior lecturer in music David Deveau, on piano; and the school song, “In Praise of MIT,” performed by the MIT Chorallaries.

Robert B. Millard ’73, chair of the MIT Corporation, delivered remarks formally closing the event.

A number of Gray’s former students and colleagues spoke as well, testifying to the life-long influence they felt from his mentorship and friendship.

“Paul became my role model,” said James W. Taylor ’65 SM ’67, who became a close family friend of the Grays. “Many people never find that. … Paul became the standard by which I lived much of the rest of my life.”

Wilson studied MIT’s curriculum structure with Gray in the 1960s, and noted that Gray’s “clarity of thought was incredible.”

“He was a warm, dedicated, and effective teacher,” said Gerald Wilson ’61 SM ’63 ScD ’65, an MIT professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer science, who became dean of the School of Engineering from 1982 to 1992. Wilson, who met Gray when Wilson was an undergraduate and Gray a teaching assistant, noted that Gray insisted on being called “Paul,” and “engendered and nourished a sense of community that everyone felt.”

Victor Fung ’66 SM ’66, another former student of Gray, amused the audience with a story about Gray reluctantly giving him a good grade for a graduate project, despite Fung’s habit of tardiness for his meetings between the two of them. Gray wrote a letter to Fung at the time, praising him, and also encouraging him to do better.

“Paul really impressed upon me that having the right idea is not enough,” Fung said, but that “you’ve got to execute properly” to get things done in the world. That letter, Fung added, is now a family keepsake.

Lawrence Bacow ’72, an economist who served as president of Tufts University from 2001 to 2011, also recounted the advice and encouragement he received from Gray, and called him “refreshingly unpretentious” despite his stature and accomplishments.

“I don’t think any president of any institution ever represented the values of the place better than Paul Gray,” Bacow said.

Gray’s lack of pretension was a running theme in the celebration’s remarks. Reif said he experienced it as a faculty member in the 1990s, administering the electrical engineering courses for undergraduates.

“Paul would always come to my office at the start of the semester,” Reif recollected. “This MIT legend, president, and chairman, would ask me what I wanted him to teach. I would always say, ‘Paul, what would you like to teach?’ And he would always choose 6.002, Circuits and Electronics. That’s the first academic subject in electrical engineering. Paul used to say it was like learning to play scales. … It’s the foundation of everything.”

Gray’s approach and achievements, Reif added, can serve as a personal example for others, but they also demonstrate the ways whole communities and instututions can evolve and improve, to meet humane aspirations.

“Would MIT even be MIT if we did not welcome talented people of every background?” asked Reif in his remarks. “In the life of a community, cultural change and moral growth are possible.”

Celebrating Millie

They came from around the globe to commemorate a beloved mentor, collaborator, teacher, and world-renowned pioneer in solid-state physics and nanoscale engineering.

On Sunday, Nov. 26, the MIT community welcomed family, colleagues, friends, former students, and other associates of the late MIT Institute Professor Emerita Mildred “Millie” Dresselhaus to a daylong symposium celebrating her life.

Dresselhaus, an MIT faculty member for more than half a century, passed away at age 86 on Feb. 20, after a career in which she led in the development of numerous fields within materials science and engineering, particularly those related to the electronic structure of carbon. For her many accomplishments, Dresselhaus earned copious national and international accolades — including the National Medal of Science, the Kavli Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and worldwide recognition as the “Queen of Carbon.”

But Dresselhaus’ support of others, especially of women and underrepresented minorities; her service to local and national science and engineering societies; and her devotion to students and family were evidenced in equal measure at Sunday’s event, which drew a capacity crowd to Room 10-250 and to sessions in the lobbies of buildings 10 and 13.

“The first thing Millie taught me was the power of noticing,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif, who began at the Institute as a young professor in Dresselhaus’ home department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said in his opening remarks. “Noticing patterns that others don’t see is essential to becoming and being a great scientist, and Millie surely had that gift.”

“But she used her amazing mind and heart to notice people, too,” Reif added. Dresselhaus, who as a student received guidance and encouragement from eminent physicists Rosalyn Yalow and Enrico Fermi, understood that “being noticed by the right person at the right time” could change the course of one’s career. And so, Reif explained, “Millie made part of her life’s work to notice others.”

Guests from various periods of Dresselhaus’ life filled the day with stories of her impact as a researcher and as a member of numerous communities, both at MIT and beyond.

In one session, colleagues from Mexico, Japan, Belgium, and elsewhere described Dresselhaus’ seminal contributions to the development of carbon science — from her work with graphite in the 1970s and 80s, to fullerines in the 1990s, to nanotubes in the 2000s, and back to graphite and two-dimensional graphene in the 2010s. Another session concentrated on her pioneering research developing nanomaterials in thermoelectrics, an area focused on turning temperature differences in materials into electricity.

One presentation slide depicted Dresselhaus’ extensive “family tree” of academic influence, which, based on publication citations, included some 900 collaborations over a half-century of research. A printed timeline, several dozen feet long, of life events and key scientific activities compiled by Dresselhaus’ granddaughter Shoshi Cooper gave attendees a visceral sense of the Institute Professor’s myriad travels, connections, and influences around the world.

But collaborators were often much more than just research partners; in many cases, they became lifelong friends — or family members. This began in the late 1950s with Dresselhaus’ partner in science and in life, husband and MIT staff researcher Gene Dresselhaus, who co-authored many papers and, as President Reif noted, four children. But it continued with her mentoring of dozens of graduate students and her connections to individuals across many realms of science research and education.

“What Millie and Gene gave me was deep encouragement,” said MIT colleague Jing Kong, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “I’m so thankful for what Millie has taught me and shown me. … I hope we can carry on [her] legacy.”

Dresselhaus’ service to society — whether as director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science or as president of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was also on display, as was her devotion to improving conditions for women and underrepresented minorities in science and engineering, both at MIT and elsewhere. Laurie McNeil, a former postdoc who is now a professor of physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, described Dresselhaus’ leadership in developing for the APS a nationwide Climate for Women Site Visit Program, which represented a critical step in helping physics departments improve support for female students and faculty.

Closer to home, Institute Professor Sheila Widnall of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who spoke to attendees via prerecorded video, described some of the many positive changes Dresselhaus helped to bring about for women at MIT, who comprised just 4 percent of the student body when Dresselhaus first joined the Lincoln Laboratory in 1960. Later that decade, after becoming only the third woman (after Emily Wick and Widnall) to join MIT’s faculty in science or engineering, Dresselhaus felt a strong responsibility to advocate on behalf of female students and colleagues, and to be available for them in various supporting roles. “We all owe Millie a debt of gratitude,” Widnall said.

Looking forward, MIT Professor and Associate Dean for Innovation Vladimir Bulovic spoke of the many ways MIT hopes to extend Dresselhaus’ legacy in years to come. He noted that her personal papers would soon be donated to MIT’s Institute Archives for future generations to explore, and that her spirit would continue on in a series of Rising Stars workshops that bring young women in science and engineering to MIT for career development and networking. Bulovic was especially enthusiastic about Dresselhaus’ mark on MIT.nano, the state-of-the-art nanoscience and nanotechnology facility rising in the middle of campus. In a nod to her assertion that “My background is so improbable — that I’d be here from where I started,” Bulovic announced that a key courtyard between MIT.nano and the Infinite Corridor will be named “the Improbability Walk” in her honor.

The final session of the evening concluded with inspiration and song. As a lifelong violinist, Dresselhaus cherished orchestral and chamber music, and would play regularly in groups and in impromptu performances with family and friends. In tribute, loved ones including daughter Marianne and granddaughters Elizabeth and Clara capped the day’s presentations with pieces by Bach, Schumann, and Brahms.

MIT Corporation Life Member Shirley Ann Jackson ’68, PhD ’73, the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a former student of Dresselhaus (who long held a joint appointment in the Department of Physics), also provided a warm tribute to her mentor via prerecorded video. “She was a woman of extraordinary focus, and always found opportunity within adversity and constraint,” Jackson said. “Her graceful adaptability and optimism offered me an important model as I encountered and stepped through my own unexpected windows of opportunity in industry, academia, and government. … Her unwillingness to allow struggling students to quit, and her efforts to break down institutional barriers for young women in science — including me — were a call to action for all of us who followed. … I am forever grateful to Millie Dresselhaus.”

Making others’ voices heard through education and journalism

Before senior Drew Bent began his undergraduate studies at MIT, he considered his interests in education to be “side projects.” He had worked at the educational platform Khan Academy and at Sony Ericsson while he was a high school student, employing what he had considered his main skill set since he was a child: programming.

“Basically, programming is all I did,” Bent says, “I used to be very much a technocrat.”

At MIT, Bent opted to double major in physics and electrical engineering and computer science. But he also dipped his toes in writing, as a journalist for MIT’s undergraduate newspaper, The Tech.

By the end of his first year, Bent had a revelation: “The stuff that I was doing that I was most passionate about — the work that could have the most positive impact — was actually the side projects,” Bent recalls. “It’s the MIT education that can actually help me and enable me to do really powerful things in these areas.”

Semesters later, Bent can further describe his vision.

“I’m very interested in leveling the playing field with education. I see education as a way to give everyone their own unique voice,” Bent says. “Journalism is making sure that voice is actually heard in a democratic process. Successful democracy requires an educated populace whose voices are all heard.”

Newshound

Since his freshman year, Bent has written over 35 articles for The Tech, covering campus news and research developments. Between his shorter news stories, Bent undertakes investigative journalism projects, some of which involve months of research.

“There are many aspects of journalism that are interesting, but the one that is most interesting to me is holding powerful actors accountable,” Bent says.

Bent’s reporting has spanned a wide variety of topics. His stories have included an investigation of an advertisement in The Tech that solicited an egg donor, a piece about the effects of a reorganization in MIT’s Information Services and Technology department, a profile of a student who was an Israeli military commander, and award-winning coverage of the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing. Other topics have included the closing of a fraternity, the discovery of gravitational waves, and other developments in student and residential life on campus.

“The [stories] that interest me are the ones that have someone whose voice wouldn’t have been heard otherwise and can actually lead to some change in policy,” Bent says, “Maybe [my writing] could start a conversation that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.”

Education across America

In the summer of 2015, Bent traveled with a group of MIT and Harvard students to 11 towns across America by bicycle, through Spokes America, a student-run educational initiative founded in 2013 by Turner Bohlen ’14.

As part of the initiative, Bent helped plan and organize learning festivals in urban and rural towns, which featured workshops on computer science, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. Bent liked the out-of-the-classroom approach of the program, which is geared towards middle and high school students.

“[Spokes America] really lets the students take the initiative, giving them the environment to build rockets, computer programs, and robots,” Bent says, “Science and engineering don’t have to be learned from a textbook.”

During his travels from festival to festival, Bent saw how interested the attendees  were in learning about engineering. Families who lived hours out of town would travel to festivals to partake in the Spokes America workshops.

“Everyone wants to bring everyone. Even parents want to go,” Bent says.

By using computer programming languages such as Scratch, which was developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group, participants were able to interact with engineering in a manner they hadn’t before.

Sometimes, Bent recalls, even children who hadn’t yet learned to read wanted to participate: “We weren’t going to say no to that.”

Tutoring and beyond

During the academic year, Bent regularly volunteers at the East End House, a Cambridge community center that holds educational programs for all ages.

Bent has worked at the East End House with second- through fourth-graders since 2014. Students are bused after school to the community center, where they then work with Bent.

“First, they grab snacks, then you work with them for an hour on math and reading,” Bent says, “Then, you encourage them to go beyond.”

Sometimes, beyond isn’t much farther than the local playground.

“It goes beyond tutoring. You’re really becoming their buddy,” Bent says. What’s important to him is “the stuff that happens in the hours outside of the classroom.”

His volunteer work at the East End House is “usually the most rewarding part of the week, but also the most challenging part.”

“Students can tell if you’re not giving your best effort,” Bent says, “So you need to set a good example.”

Building learning environments

In November 2017, Bent had a conversation with one of his tutoring students about college.

“Somehow she thought that intelligence is what got people to universities like MIT,” Bent says, “It’s largely the hard work that gets you there. She was genuinely surprised that it was hard work, and not just some predetermined ability.”

Bent says that students “need to realize they’re capable of anything.”

Beyond MIT, he hopes to foster environments in which this kind of learning and realization is common. Bent envisions being what his journalism professor Ethan Zuckerman calls a “public interest technologist” and wants to use his technical and investigative background to reform education. 

“The parts of education that I’m interested in are building learning environments —the more informal parts of education,” Bent says, “Whether it’s outside of school or bringing it into school.”

Bent believes his MIT education will be crucial in his pursuit.

“We often think of MIT as a place that develops technologies, but it also cultivates mindsets that are useful elsewhere in society,” Bent says. “The MIT education enables us to give back in more ways than we can imagine.”

Bent has also served as a member of the MIT OpenCourseWare Faculty Advisory Committee and has collaborated with Institute committees on developing an educational pilot program for students to do semester-long internships while taking online MIT courses. Along with senior Gabriel Ginorio, he has worked closely with Sanjay Sarma, MIT’s vice president for open learning. He has interned with the World Bank and spent this past summer working in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy helping to draft national technology policy. He was also a high school physics teacher with the MISTI Global Teaching Labs in Italy.

Mens et Manus America examines the rural American economy

Rural America is often portrayed as depressed and distressed — as a set of regions left hopeless by economic forces beyond their control. In early November an MIT audience was asked to look beyond such stereotypes and listen as four community development leaders painted a more nuanced portrait of America’s rural areas.

“We have these stereotypical, often negative views,” said Barbara Dyer, a senior lecturer and the executive director of the Good Companies, Good Jobs Initiative at the MIT Sloan of Management, who co-moderated the panel discussion. “In reality, there’s an enormous amount of innovation across this country and a lot of strength. Tonight, we want to suspend our stereotypes and spend some time with people who live in these places.”

Sponsored by Mens et Manus America, the well-attended event featured a panel of executives whose organizations are working to rebuild rural economies. The four leaders outlined the challenges of geography — notably the difficulty of providing services to populations spread out over wide areas — and of history, which can cast long shadows in places where economies once depended on individual companies.

Good rural infrastructure is a foundation for prosperity

Betsy Biemann, CEO of the rural development organization Coastal Enterprises Inc. of Maine, began by describing the challenge of working to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine. Noting that the state represents half the land mass of New England with just 1.3 million people, she said, “The challenge is, how does one afford the infrastructure of a huge expanse with a small number of people?”

Infrastructure needs include skills training, child care, and reliable transportation — any of which can trip up workers on the path to prosperity, speakers said. “The rural heartland is a good place to make things. Manufacturing is booming in places you wouldn’t think of,” said Janet Topolsky, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Community Strategies Group, which works in numerous regions to improve life on the economic margins. “Yet, everywhere I go,” she said, “rural employers have jobs going wanting because they can’t hire enough people with the right skills” — or can’t keep employees due to a lack of such services as child care or transportation.

High-speed Internet service is another key infrastructure need, Biemann identified. “There are a lot of communities in Maine where people have dial-up. Broadband would have a significant impact in reducing the level of poverty,” she said.

Biemann noted that Maine is still struggling to adjust to a “huge shrinkage of our economic engine,” including the loss of 5,000 paper industry jobs in just the last five years; and panelists underscored that such economic blows have lingering effects.
 
Shaping new identites in former company towns

Incourage Community Foundation of Wisconsin CEO Kelly Ryan, for example, said that when Wisconsin Rapids lost its main employer — a Fortune 500 paper company — the impact was more than just financial. “What I found was a greater sense of loss around identity,” she said. “We were the greatest paper-making community in the world, and if we’re not that anymore, what are we?”

This is the same kind of question autoworkers asked when Detroit’s manufacturing center contracted, Topolsky said, noting that she was born and raised in Detroit. “There are parallels between the rural and urban experiences that we sometimes don’t acknowledge.”

Building a culture that values education

Karl Stauber, CEO of Danville Regional Foundation, which works to encourage revitalization and renewal in the Dan River Region of Virginia, told a similar story: For many years, the economy of his region was heavily dependent on a single textile company. “We were a company town,” he said. “The Great Recession started in our community in about 1995. In some ways it’s still going on. A lot of people who could get up and go got up and went.”

Now, Stauber said, Danville is trying to build not just a new economy but also a new culture — one that values education in a way that the old company-centric system did not. The company actually discouraged residents from completing high school, Stauber said. “They wanted people they could control.”

In recent years, the Danville Foundation has worked to show companies that well-educated children are a good investment, Stauber said. “We got businesses to work together to change what was happening,” he said — and the effort significantly increased the number of children deemed ready for kindergarten in his region. “We talk about it as a tipping point.”

That doesn’t mean that every rural resident needs a four-year college degree, however, speakers agreed. “My feeling is that we have way oversold the value of a four-year degree,” especially considering the risks of mounting student debt, Stauber said.

“We have to make it more respectable to do something other than a four-year degree,” Ryan said, noting that options such as apprenticeships that offer paid training would make it easier for students to afford to get the skills they need.

In addition, since many rural residents would have to leave their regions to earn a bachelor’s degree, Stauber said, “Going to college is an exit strategy, it’s not a development strategy.”
 
How could MIT help create sustainable rural development?

The event’s co-moderator, Simon Johnson, the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at Sloan, asked the panelists what MIT could do to help.

Answers ran the gamut from suggesting that MIT invest directly in rural areas to proposing research into how cutting-edge technology could make the low workforce density of rural areas an advantage.

Ryan also revealed that MIT has already provided some assistance to Incourage. MIT students piloting a new MIT Sloan action learning offering called USA Lab conducted research this summer that helped the foundation meet its goal of launching a Wisconsin index fund. That fund will enable Incourage to use its investment portfolio to directly support its mission — revealing a new way of thinking about “return on investment,” she said.

The important question, according to Ryan, is: “How do we measure return? Is it just money, or is it social return?” This point was echoed in the question-and-answer session that ended the two-hour event, when one attendee asked the panelists: “If you could wave a magic wand and make one thing happen, what would that be?”

“I would change how we measure the results of economic development,” Topolsky said, pointing out that long-term investment in intellectual, social, and other kinds of capital are also necessary for sustainable development. “We should measure economic development by how many people get out of poverty.”

The non-partisan Mens et Manus America initiative explores social, political, and economic challenges currently facing the United States. The initiative is co-sponsored by the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and the MIT Sloan School of Management, and is co-directed by Agustín Rayo, professor of philosophy and associate dean of SHASS, and Ezra Zuckerman Sivan, the Siteman professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and deputy dean of MIT Sloan.

Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial team: Kathryn O’Neill, Senior Writer; Emily Hiestand, Editorial and Design Director

Helping Mexico design an effective climate policy

As nations gathered in Bonn, Germany, for this year’s UN climate summit, one item on their agenda was determining whether pledged climate efforts are sufficient to achieve the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Researchers at MIT have been working with the Mexican government to explore policy options that can help the country meet its international commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 22 percent by 2030, compared with business as usual. According to their analysis, this could be achieved by putting a modest additional price on carbon.

Carbon pricing has emerged as an important policy tool for countries (and subnational governments) as they work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the predominant cause of climate change. Policymakers confront a choice when developing carbon pricing policies: They can tax carbon emissions directly; implement a system known as cap-and-trade, wherein governments issue a limited number of pollution permits and allow companies to trade them; or they can use a combination of the two.

The MIT analysis, led by researchers Michael Mehling, deputy director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, and Emil Dimantchev, a graduate student in the MIT Technology and Policy Program, focused on this third, hybrid approach, exploring how Mexico can implement a cap-and-trade program alongside its existing carbon tax. They identify and discuss a number of different combinations, for instance using the tax as a floor price to keep carbon prices from falling too low.

The authors concluded that adding a relatively low carbon price — $3 per ton of emissions in 2030 — to Mexico’s existing climate policies, including a carbon tax already in place, would be enough to help the country meet its commitment of reducing emissions by 22 percent compared with a baseline in which no new policies are adopted to slow Mexico’s emissions growth. This 22 percent reduction would cut Mexico’s emissions growth roughly in half, to less than 1 percent per year.

The analysis found that a number of factors, including low natural gas prices and a requirement that 35 percent of Mexico’s electricity sales must come from clean energy sources by 2024, would contribute to slowing emissions growth. A hybrid tax and cap-and-trade system would complete the picture, helping to drive emissions growth even lower.

Mehling highlighted Mexico’s experience in accelerating its rate of economic growth while decelerating its rate of emissions growth. “Mexico is proving to the rest of the world that a developing country can rein in emissions while continuing to grow its economy,” he says.

In 2012, Mexico’s Congress unanimously passed the General Law on Climate Change, making Mexico the first developing country with a comprehensive climate change law. In October 2016, Mehling and Dimantchev began advising the Mexican federal government on the design of its national climate policy.

Dimantchev, who is also a research assistant with the research group of MIT Associate Professor Noelle Selin and with the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, says this kind of analysis can help policymakers manage uncertainty when developing long-term policies. “Our ability to forecast the future is very limited, which is why it’s important that policymakers not design policies based on a single projection of the future,” he says.

For this reason, Dimantchev notes, the report uses Monte Carlo simulations to estimate a range of emissions pathways and their implications for Mexico’s climate policy, allowing the authors to make recommendations for a hybrid carbon pricing policy that keeps prices from going as low as zero or as high as $100 or more per ton. “To induce action from the private sector, climate policies have to be more predictable, something with which hybrid carbon pricing can help,” Mehling adds.

The MIT researchers worked closely with officials from the federal Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the Ministry of Finance (SHCP), including Juan Carlos Arredondo Brun SM ’04, who now serves as director general for climate change policies at SEMARNAT, and Carlos Muñoz-Piña, director general for revenue policy at SHCP. Earlier this year, they traveled to Mexico City to discuss their initial findings with officials from both agencies, including Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo SM ’05, the undersecretary of planning and environmental policy at SEMARNAT.

“The MIT report has been helpful to my team as we explore how our existing carbon tax can operate alongside a future cap-and-trade system in Mexico,” Lacy says.

The German Agency for International Cooperation, which operates the Mexican-German Climate Alliance, funded the analysis.

Utah Native Kelsey Chugg Wins National Championship

Kelsey Chugg Wins National Golf Tournament

kelsey chugg takes to the greensGolf, as is generally known, doesn’t get easier with age, agreeing Bernhard Langer’s pursuit to establish differently. So it was that if the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship came down to a struggle of generations, youth prevailed.

Kelsey Chugg, 26, a four-time Utah Women’s State Amateur champion, shot her down 58-year-old competition, Mary Jane Hiestand, 1 and 3, in the closing on the Cypress Creek Course at Champions Golf Club in Houston on Thursday.
“Unbelievable,” she explained. “It has only been a crazy week, and only really a great deal of pleasure to be out here in the Champions Golf Club. I can not believe I pulled it off. ”

The success gives Chugg an exemption to the U.S. Women’s Open next year. “That is a fantasy,” she explained. “I do not even understand how to describe it. It is really cool. I am so pumped to go to the U.S. Open. That has been a lifelong aim. I am only taking a look at the decoration on the market. Like that is so cool. ”

The reduction, meanwhile, deprived Hiestand of the in addition to an exemption to the very first U.S. Senior Women’s Open at 2018.

At least, Hiestand surpassed her own expectations by hitting the Women’s Mid-Am closing, as she mentioned on Wednesday. “I did not expect to be here,” she explained. “The Mid-Am, I had been planning to give this up for some time, and I moved to be eligible because it had been at Naples, and here I’m in my first final ever.”

A house game turned into a road trip for Hiestand, who resides in Naples, Fla. Initially, this Mid-Amateur was scheduled to be performed at Quail Creek Country Club at Naples, five minutes from Hiestand’s home. However, Hurricane Irma compelled the championship to be transferred, and Champions Golf Club owners Jackie and Robin Burke stepped up and volunteered their program. Naples is notorious for its beautiful weather and fashionable golfers. Many of the women here can be seen sporting a Golf Skort from women’s golf-fashion gurus flirteegolf.com.

Apart from spotting her competitor 32 decades, Hiestand also saw her a 4-up edge through 13 holes, a hard and ultimately insurmountable barrier from the 18-hole championship game. Hiestand won the 14th and 16th holes with pars, but three-putted from roughly 65 ft about the par-4 17th hole, then surrendered Chugg’s short par putt to finish the match.

“I made nothing,” explained Hiestand, who had been attempting to knock off 2008 winner Joan Higgins since the earliest winner, by six decades. “It was absolutely the gap. It is a putter’s golf program. For me to not earn anything is amazing, but you need those days. She made everything now. Kudos to her, because that is exactly what is needed to win a tournament. She is a really good player. ”

Not one of those golf from tee to green qualified as unforgettable. Neither player made one birdie, therefore the six holes which Chugg won along with the three which Hiestand won were all fastened with pars. Hiestand, incidentally, broke into the lead by holing a 22-foot par putt on the first hole. However, Chugg immediately took charge of the game by winning the second, third and fifth holes with pars to go up 2. She won the 10th hole with a different level to boost her guide to go up 3.

Given her era benefit and disability, Chugg was a probably favorite anyhow, notwithstanding Hiestand’s experience. Chugg, the membership manager in the Utah Golf institution in Salt Lake City, plays into a +2.1 handicap indicator at Schneiter’s Riverside Golf Club.
Hiestand, that performs into a +0.2 handicap indicator at Hideout Golf Club at Naples.

Chugg also follows in intriguing trend in the Women’s Mid-Amateur, in which the previous four winners happen to be at least the minimum 25 decades old to compete, but none has ever been older than 28.

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