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A new crop of awards

MIT people win a Nobel and two MacArthurs.

December 19, 2022

Three members of the MIT community have been honored with some of the world’s biggest awards.

In October, Ben S. Bernanke, PhD ’79, shared the Nobel Prize in economics with Douglas W. Diamond and Philip H. Dybvig. Bernanke, who chaired the Federal Reserve from 2006 to 2014, was honored for his work showing how bank runs exacerbated the Great Depression. After many banks collapsed, the Nobel citation states, “valuable information about borrowers was lost and could not be recreated quickly. Society’s ability to channel savings to productive investments was thus severely diminished.”

In September, chemistry professor Danna Freedman and Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar Moriba Jah received MacArthur Fellowships, often referred to as “genius grants.” 

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From left: Ben Bernanke, PhD ’79, Danna Freedman, and Moriba Jah
JON FRIEDMAN/FEDERAL RESERVE (BERNANKE), JOHN D. AND CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION (FREEDMAN, JAH)

Freedman, a former MIT postdoc who joined the faculty in 2021, designs molecules that can function as quantum units, or qubits. One direction she hopes to pursue with her $800,000 grant is working with scientists from fields such as neurobiology or Earth sciences on quantum sensors, in which some particles are in such a delicately balanced state that they are affected by minuscule variations in their environment.

Jah, an associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin, is working on a joint research program to increase resources and visibility for space sustainability. He is also helping to host the AeroAstro Rising Stars symposium, which highlights academics from backgrounds underrepresented in aerospace engineering. 

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