Four MIT graduate students have been awarded 2018 United States Department of Energy (DoE) Computational Science Graduate Fellowships to address intractable challenges in science and engineering. Nationwide, MIT garnered the most fellowships out of this year's 26 recipients. The fellows receive full tuition and additional financial support, access to a network of alumni, and valuable practicum experience working in a DoE national laboratory. By supporting students like Kaley Brauer, Sarah Greer, William Moses, and Paul Zhang, the DoE aims to help train the next generation of computational scientists and engineers, incite collaboration and progress, and advance the future of the field by bringing more visibility to computational science careers. Kaley Brauer is a graduate student in the Department of Physics.
Members of the MIT engineering faculty receive many awards in recognition of their scholarship, service, and overall excellence. Every quarter, the School of Engineering publicly recognizes their achievements by highlighting the honors, prizes, and medals won by faculty working in our academic departments, labs, and centers. Anant Agarwal, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, won the 2018 Yidan Prize for Educational Development Laureate on Sept. 15. Angela Belcher, of the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering, won the Xconomy Award for Innovation at the Intersection on July 18. Martin Bazant, of the departments of Chemical Engineering and Mathematics, became a fellow of the American Physical Society on Sept. 26.
MIT researchers have developed a cryptographic system that could help neural networks identify promising drug candidates in massive pharmacological datasets, while keeping the data private. Secure computation done at such a massive scale could enable broad pooling of sensitive pharmacological data for predictive drug discovery. Datasets of drug-target interactions (DTI), which show whether candidate compounds act on target proteins, are critical in helping researchers develop new medications. Models can be trained to crunch datasets of known DTIs and then, using that information, find novel drug candidates. In recent years, pharmaceutical firms, universities, and other entities have become open to pooling pharmacological data into larger databases that can greatly improve training of these models.
Neurons in the human brain receive electrical signals from thousands of other cells, and long neural extensions called dendrites play a critical role in incorporating all of that information so the cells can respond appropriately. Using hard-to-obtain samples of human brain tissue, MIT neuroscientists have now discovered that human dendrites have different electrical properties from those of other species. Their studies reveal that electrical signals weaken more as they flow along human dendrites, resulting in a higher degree of electrical compartmentalization, meaning that small sections of dendrites can behave independently from the rest of the neuron. These differences may contribute to the enhanced computing power of the human brain, the researchers say. "It's not just that humans are smart because we have more neurons and a larger cortex. From the bottom up, neurons behave differently," says Mark Harnett, the Fred and Carole Middleton Career Development Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
The Tang family of Hong Kong has made a $20 million gift to MIT to name the Tang Family Imaging Suite in the new MIT.nano The Imaging Suite in MIT.nano is part of a highly specialized facility for viewing, measuring, and understanding at the nanoscale. With design features that include a 5-million-pound slab of concrete for stabilization, isolated construction of individual spaces, and technology to minimize mechanical and electromagnetic interference, MIT.nano's imaging suites provide the "quiet" environment needed for this sensitive work. "We are grateful for the Tang family's generosity and visionary investment in nanoscale research at MIT," says Vladimir Bulović, inaugural director of MIT.nano and the Fariborz Maseeh Professor in Emerging Technology. "The imaging suite will allow scientists and engineers to decipher the structure and function of matter with precision that has not been possible before and, armed with this new knowledge, identify promising opportunities for innovation in health, energy, communications and computing, and a host of other fields."
Developing automated systems that track occupants and self-adapt to their preferences is a major next step for the future of smart homes. When you walk into a room, for instance, a system could set to your preferred temperature. Or when you sit on the couch, a system could instantly flick the television to your favorite channel. But enabling a home system to recognize occupants as they move around the house is a more complex problem. Recently, systems have been built that localize humans by measuring the reflections of wireless signals off their bodies.
Researchers from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have developed an automated model that assesses dense breast tissue in mammograms -- which is an independent risk factor for breast cancer -- as reliably as expert radiologists. This marks the first time a deep-learning model of its kind has successfully been used in a clinic on real patients, according to the researchers. With broad implementation, the researchers hope the model can help bring greater reliability to breast density assessments across the nation. It's estimated that more than 40 percent of U.S. women have dense breast tissue, which alone increases the risk of breast cancer. As a result, 30 U.S. states mandate that women must be notified if their mammograms indicate they have dense breasts.
Our cognitive abilities come down to how well the connections, or synapses, between our brain cells transmit signals. Now new study by researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory has dug deeply into the molecular mechanisms that enable synaptic transmission to show the distinct role of a protein that, when mutated, has been linked to causing intellectual disability. The key protein, called SAP102, is one of four members of a family of proteins, called PSD-MAGUKs, that regulate the transport and placement of key receptors called AMPARs on the receiving end of a synapse. But how each member of the family works -- for instance, as the brain progresses through development to maturity -- is not well understood. The new study, published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, shows that SAP102 and other family members like PSD-95, work in different ways, a feature whose evolution may have contributed to the greater cognitive capacity of mammals and other vertebrates.
Seafaring vessels and offshore platforms endure a constant battery of waves and currents. Over decades of operation, these structures can, without warning, meet head-on with a rogue wave, freak storm, or some other extreme event, with potentially damaging consequences. Now engineers at MIT have developed an algorithm that quickly pinpoints the types of extreme events that are likely to occur in a complex system, such as an ocean environment, where waves of varying magnitudes, lengths, and heights can create stress and pressure on a ship or offshore platform. The researchers can simulate the forces and stresses that extreme events -- in the form of waves -- may generate on a particular structure. Compared with traditional methods, the team's technique provides a much faster, more accurate risk assessment for systems that are likely to endure an extreme event at some point during their expected lifetime, by taking into account not only the statistical nature of the phenomenon but also the underlying dynamics.
MIT today announced a new $1 billion commitment to address the global opportunities and challenges presented by the prevalence of computing and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). The initiative marks the single largest investment in computing and AI by an American academic institution, and will help position the United States to lead the world in preparing for the rapid evolution of computing and AI. At the heart of this endeavor will be the new MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, made possible by a $350 million foundational gift from Mr. Schwarzman, the chairman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone, a leading global asset manager. Headquartered in a signature new building on MIT's campus, the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will be an interdisciplinary hub for work in computer science, AI, data science, and related fields. With the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing's founding, MIT seeks to strengthen its position as a key international player in the responsible and ethical evolution of technologies that are poised to fundamentally transform society.