The Literary Scientist
Karl Iagnemma’s first book, On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction, mirrors the arts/sciences duality of his own life as an MIT research scientist and fiction writer-two roles that don’t typically overlap. Published in April by Dial Press, the collection of eight stories explores the interplay of emotion and logic. It describes human relationships through characters Iagnemma calls “science types,” who find that “it’s tough to really squeeze emotion out of a formula.”The title story, for example, set in a fictional MIT-like university, introduces readers to a mathematician who tries to use a mathematical model to understand his girlfriend. Iagnemma, SM ‘97, PhD ‘01, wrote the story while at MIT working on his PhD thesis, so when he needed to describe a university, “all I could think of was MIT.”
Iagnemma started writing fiction as a mechanical engineering major at the University of Michigan. After coming to MIT for graduate studies, he began to seek publication for his stories, which have since appeared in several magazines, including Playboy and the Paris Review, and in the 2003 Pushcart Prize and 2002 Best American Short Stories anthologies. Now he writes when not doing research in space robotics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he develops algorithms to control robots that will capture space debris.