Skip to Content

Christina Gabriel, SM ’81, ScD ’85

Innovation facilitator transforms communities
June 19, 2012

Christina Gabriel makes innovation happen. As president of University Energy Partnership, a nonprofit that brings energy advancements from researchers at five Pittsburgh-area universities to market, she helps drive local economic development.

“I think people are realizing that research can make a contribution to a regional economy, but that’s not enough,” says Gabriel. “How do you create business and ecosystems and jobs, not just for PhDs but for everyone?”

A former researcher herself, Gabriel earned her MIT degrees in electrical engineering and computer science after completing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. She became a principal investigator at AT&T Bell Laboratories, earning three patents for the ultrafast all-optical switching devices and systems she devised. Through much of the 1990s, she worked at the National Science Foundation, first with industry-university centers and later as deputy head of the engineering directorate, and she served on the professional staff of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.

Gabriel then returned to her native Pittsburgh. From 1998 to 2006 she worked at Carnegie Mellon, eventually as vice provost and CTO, successfully boosting the number of technology transfer transactions. For nearly five years, she worked as director of innovation economy at the Heinz Endowments, promoting economic growth in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Because of her success in Pittsburgh, she’s been tapped to advise the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters consolidation in southeastern D.C. The new campus, the largest federal development since the construction of the Pentagon, is meant to function as an innovation cluster, spurring urban revitalization.

MIT also benefits from her experience. Gabriel has served on the Sponsored Research Corporation Visiting Committee since 2002. She enjoys the wide-ranging committee discussions, which cover everyday concerns, such as staffing needs, as well as big questions, such as dwindling government funding and new international collaborations.

Gabriel credits MIT with helping her develop two ways of thinking that have served her well throughout her career: the analytic and the synthetic. “The synthesis is what I think is even more important,” she says. “Engineers create something that never existed before.”

These days, Gabriel divides her time between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., where her husband, Kaigham Gabriel, SM ’79, ScD ’83, is acting director of DARPA. They have a son and two daughters, one of whom, Nivair, earned a degree in aeronautical engineering at MIT in 2008.

Deep Dive


Embracing CX in the metaverse

More than just meeting customers where they are, the metaverse offers opportunities to transform customer experience.

Identity protection is key to metaverse innovation

As immersive experiences in the metaverse become more sophisticated, so does the threat landscape.

The modern enterprise imaging and data value chain

For both patients and providers, intelligent, interoperable, and open workflow solutions will make all the difference.

Scientists have created synthetic mouse embryos with developed brains

The stem-cell-derived embryos could shed new light on the earliest stages of human pregnancy.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.