New vice president for research Ian Waitz

April 24, 2024
Sally Kornbluth, President |

Dear members of the MIT community,

I write to share the news that Vice Chancellor Ian A. Waitz, the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, has agreed to become MIT’s next vice president for research (VPR). He will begin a five-year term as VPR on May 1.

The VPR position was previously held, with distinction, by Professor Maria Zuber, as I detailed in September. Since then, Maria has also served as my presidential advisor for science and technology policy, and she will continue to do so.

Ian’s breadth and depth of service to MIT

The VPR portfolio is at the heart of MIT’s mission: Ian will be responsible for fostering an outstanding research environment, enhancing research support services and enabling major multidisciplinary research initiatives. His charge also includes operational and strategic oversight of more than a dozen interdisciplinary labs and centers as well as of Lincoln Laboratory.  

To this set of challenges, Ian brings a rare range and depth of understanding of MIT’s research and educational enterprise, our daily operations, our institutional challenges and opportunities, our history and our values – and an unmatched record of solving hard problems and getting big, high-stakes things done well. 

Since earning his PhD from Caltech, Ian has spent his career here, rising to lead both his own department – AeroAstro – and eventually the School of Engineering, a role in which he launched thriving programs from Sandbox to Beaverworks. Beyond his own research, which aims to dramatically cut the climate impacts of aviation, he personally presented 250 faculty promotion cases as dean and heard well over 1000 others across the schools as a member of Academic Council, giving him an unusual grasp of the broad universe of MIT research. 

Seeking new challenges, in 2017 Ian became vice chancellor, a new position created to oversee both undergraduate and graduate education. While building this united office, Ian spearheaded important new financial assistance, student support and professional development opportunities for graduate students and an extensive evaluation of the first-year undergrad experience. His contributions include increasing financial aid for undergraduates every year for a decade despite economic headwinds and the creation of the new Undergraduate Advising Center.

And when the pandemic threatened the very functioning of the Institute, Ian played an essential part in assessing and reassessing risks and options to determine the right path. (As many here at the time have told me, the “8-o’clock calls” Ian led through those disorienting months were a calming daily dose of facts, connection and sanity.) He also led negotiations for the graduate student union collective bargaining agreement, a process whose final product strikes a thoughtful balance between being responsive to our graduate students’ needs and advancing our research and educational enterprise.

Having served as a US delegate to the global climate change convention and as a member of Lincoln Laboratory’s Advisory Board for more than a decade, Ian feels strongly about MIT’s commitment to national service. I was also struck by his compelling vision for how we can multiply the impact of MIT’s research enterprise to make a decisive difference against overarching human challenges, in fields from climate to AI to health science.

You can read more about Ian’s accomplishments and qualifications in this MIT News story.

Gratitude – and next steps

To fill this key position – so important to the health of MIT’s research enterprise – Provost Cynthia Barnhart and I appointed a search committee of faculty from across the Institute. After conferring with members of the community, the committee advised us that the role, which we had planned to shift to a senior vice provost title reporting to the provost, should remain as a vice president reporting to me.  

Cindy and I agreed that there should be no question or confusion about the importance of this position and so decided to return to the existing title, to make clear that the VPR is the Institute’s senior research officer. I’m grateful to the committee members – listed below – and to their chair, Professor Tyler Jacks, for this wise, forthright advice, for their broad consultation about challenges and opportunities for our research enterprise, and for identifying a suite of exceptional finalists.

Chancellor Melissa Nobles is now launching a search for a new vice chancellor. While that search goes on, Professor Dan Hastings has agreed to serve as interim vice chancellor. I extend my deep appreciation to Dan for taking on this responsibility; in a long career defined by energetic dedication to our community, this stands as just the latest example of his selfless willingness to step up in service to MIT. 

Please join me in sending Ian our congratulations and best wishes.


Sally Kornbluth

Search committee

Marc Baldo, Dugald C. Jackson Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the Research Laboratory of Electronics

Fotini Christia, Ford International Professor of the Social Sciences and Director of the MIT Sociotechnical Systems Research Center

Robert Freund, Theresa Seley Professor in Management Science and Professor of Operations Research

Tyler Jacks (chair), David H. Koch Professor of Biology

Miho Mazereeuw, Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism and Director of the Urban Risk Lab

Dennis Whyte, Hitachi America Professor of Engineering and Professor in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering

Kim Haberlin (staff to committee), Chief of Staff, Office of the Provost

Mary Markel Murphy (staff to committee), Senior Director for Administration, Vice President for Research