Announcing the New Dean of Science

June 05, 2014

To the members of the MIT community,

I am pleased to share the news that Michael Sipser, the Barton L. Weller Professor of Mathematics and former head of the Department of Mathematics, has agreed to serve as Dean of Science.

Last December, former Dean Marc Kastner stepped down, having been nominated to lead the Office of Science in the US Department of Energy. Since then, Mike has served very ably in the role of interim dean and was warmly recommended by the committee I appointed (see below) to search for a permanent dean.

Trained as a mathematician and an engineer, Mike joined the MIT faculty shortly after earning his PhD from Berkeley. Since then, he has been a pioneer in theoretical computer science, written the standard textbook on the theory of computation and served as an enthusiastic and highly effective teacher. A member of CSAIL since 1979, Mike has lived out MIT’s commitment to working across disciplines and schools; the thesis students he supervises are as likely to come from Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as from Mathematics.

Mike’s approach is measured, thoughtful and deliberate. For a decade, he led MIT’s Department of Mathematics, one of the top programs in the world, with impressive results. A calm and persuasive advocate, he was instrumental in working with donors to raise the funds to renovate Building 2. At the same time, he won the widespread respect and affection of faculty, students and staff for creating a warm, collegial community with a sense of humor. In facing the difficult human problems that arise in managing any group, Mike seeks the facts and works hard to arrive at balanced solutions. He will bring to the School of Science the same instinct to make sure that people feel valued, listened to and cared for.

Mike has always loved teaching and explaining science; as interim dean, he has taken obvious pleasure in speaking on behalf of the many faculty candidates for promotions and tenure. His ability to make the case for fundamental research will be important both in Washington and in the upcoming Campaign. Mike is also personally committed to increasing diversity in STEM fields by actively building the pipeline of talent; thanks to Mike’s efforts, a program launched by one of his former PhD students, “Math Prize for Girls,” now brings hundreds of teen girls to our campus every fall to do competitive math for fun.

I look forward to working with Mike in his new, permanent role. And I want to thank Search Committee chair Rebecca Saxe and her colleagues for the energy and time they poured into the process, and for identifying such a strong candidate to lead our School of Science.

Sincerely,
Marty Schmidt

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Advisory Committee

Paula Hammond, ChemE
Tim Jamison, Chemistry
John Joannopoulos, Physics
Tom Mrowka, Mathematics
Peter Reddien, Biology
Rebecca Saxe, BCS, committee chair
Sara Seager, EAPS