Technology Day: Pathways to the Future

Continuing an annual tradition, Technology Day offered alumni an inside view of MIT’s role in solving global challenges. The online symposium focused on online learning, cancer research, computing, and climate change. The first three topics were covered in updates from Curt Newton, director of MIT OpenCourseWare; Matthew Vander Heiden, director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the Lester Wolfe (1919) Professor in Molecular Biology; and Daniel Huttenlocher, SM ’84, PhD ’88, dean of the Schwarzman College of Computing and the Henry Ellis Warren (1894) Professor of Computer Science and AI & Decision-Making. 

The fourth topic, climate change, was introduced in a session with President L. Rafael Reif. MIT Corporation member Songyee Yoon, PhD ’00, turned the conversation to the Climate Action Plan Reif announced in May, outlining MIT’s role in getting the world to a net-zero-­emissions economy, devising adaptations to mitigate climate change’s effects, and educating future MIT graduates to tackle both areas. “It is a serious challenge that they are inheriting from our generations, and we need to equip them with the tools to figure out how to address this challenge,” Reif said.

More details on that plan and related research followed in a session featuring MIT faculty including Maria Zuber, vice president for research and the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics. Zuber, who cochairs the Biden administration’s President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, is overseeing the Institute’s climate response. That includes a commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2026 and to marshaling all MIT’s capabilities in the service of decarbonization. “Often, when you see talks from MIT people, they deal with what we can do,” Zuber said. “In this session, we’re going to address what we must do and will do.”