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Oppenheim’s Impact

Reading about Alan Oppenheim (“Oppenheim the Unorthodox,” May/June 2011) brought back memories of the course he first offered in 1969, Digital Signal Processing. I took that course, and Professor ­Oppenheim set the path of my technological career.

From digital processing of radar data I moved to the processing of seismic data for oil exploration. This year I completed the circle by teaching a course in oil exploration at Duke. Many of the experiments I used to illustrate the effects of aliasing in digital processing were inspired by Oppenheim.

Thank you for recognizing not only one of the greatest minds in digital signal processing but also a most inspirational professor.
Victor Friedmann, SM ‘70
Durham, North Carolina

Glass Lab Expansion

I’d like to add to what was written about the Glass Lab’s expansion effort (“Materials Science Melts into Art,” May/June 2011).

The present-day Glass Lab, which is part of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, began in 1986, when Professor Cima and Page Hazelgrove offered a beginning glassblowing class to 16 students with a few TAs. Glassblowing is very difficult to do by yourself, so the idea was for students to learn—and get to improvise—in a team environment. Today, we have 16 beginners, 24 intermediate and advanced students, eight student TAs, and four instructors. Committed students can pursue advanced classes, learning to lead teams, be effective assistants, and, with support from mentors, become instructors. Many students have discovered latent abilities as team leaders or teachers.

Some students’ curiosity is satisfied after one semester; for others, glassblowing becomes an important extracurricular activity throughout their MIT careers—and beyond. By expanding, we hope to double the size of the beginner program, offering more people the opportunity to try glassblowing.
Peter Houk
Director, MIT Glass Lab

Global Access for IP

As a graduate of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, I am proud of MIT’s contribution to medical innovation. Yet the luster of our achievements dulls with the realization that only a small percentage of the world’s population actually benefits from them. While factors such as lack of health-care infrastructure and political instability are beyond our control, the high price of medical technologies is arguably the one major global health problem that an academic institution can directly influence. Universities play a vital role in generating the raw ideas behind diagnostics and therapeutics and transferring them to the private sector. But steep prices set by industry put university-derived intellectual property (IP) beyond the reach of much of the world.

MIT can address this by introducing “global access” clauses to all IP agreements. Partner companies would be required to charge different prices in different regions and allow generic production of certain products, with appropriate safeguards to prevent leakage back into high-income countries. This would open up new (albeit low-margin) markets that provide for the underserved—and would align with MIT’s mission of advancing scientific knowledge to serve the world.

I am a physician-scientist on the front lines of poverty and a member of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, a nonprofit that mobilizes universities to alleviate global health inequalities. I write this open letter to MIT alumni as a jumping-off point for further discussion and action. The MIT community has risen to great challenges in the past and I am confident we can again lead the way in a matter of life and death for so many.
Sanjat Kanjilal, MD ‘10 (Harvard)
New York

An MIT Mentor

During the 150th-anniversary celebration, we pay tribute to MIT staff who for so many years have helped create a student body destined to succeed.

My mentor and guardian angel is Julia C. McLellan, who arrived at MIT in 1946. I met her in the admissions office in 1955. “Follow your dreams, here or elsewhere” were her encouraging words. I was 31 years old, trying to rebuild my life after the Holocaust in Europe.

Julie encouraged us when the going was rough, and she was there to share our joy when our efforts succeeded. When I was admitted to MIT, Julie helped me find a place to live for my family. She also helped my wife find work using her language skills. When we expected relatives after the 1956 Hungarian revolution, Julie offered helpful advice.

Two of our children attended MIT, and Julie was there, in loco parentis. She was also there for the MIT students I interviewed as an educational counselor over the past 40 years. I had many happy reports.

Julie celebrated with us at graduations. Although she retired in 1985, she walked with me in the procession at my 50th reunion, wearing her own red jacket as an honorary member of the Alumni Association.

Julie has changed the world for the better, one student at a time. There must be thousands of MIT alumni who feel the same way.

From all of us, this is a quiet thank-you. How wonderful that Julie is still with us, active and caring as always.
George G. Heller ‘59
Menlo Park, California

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