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Year-long search for VP nears end

By Reuven M. Lerner

The search for a permanent associate provost and vice president for research appears to be nearing completion, with a new appointment possible within the next month.

The post is now held by Professor J. David Litster PhD '65, who was temporarily named to the post following last year's retirement of Kenneth A. Smith '58. Litster had previously headed the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory.

While Birgeneau and a recent "help wanted" advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education said the new vice president would take office on Jan. 15, Birgeneau admitted that this would depend in part on whether the new provost came from inside or outside of MIT. The "length of time that process takes would bias the committee toward an inside person, especially since there are a number of qualified people on the MIT faculty," he said.

A high-ranking administrator, who insisted on anonymity, said Litster was appointed to give President Charles M. Vest and Provost Mark S. Wrighton time to redefine the job and determine the new vice president's specific responsibilities. The administrator said this might very well include an increased emphasis on relations with government agencies, partly in light of MIT's failed bid for the National Science Foundation's new National Magnet Laboratory project.

A search committee, chaired by Institute Professor Mildred S. Dresselhaus, has met regularly over the last few months to recommend a permanent appointment to the post. Birgeneau said the committee had "talked to a very large number of people on the MIT campus, myself included," about specific candidates as well as the position in general. Undergraduate Association President Stacy E. McGeever '93 said last night that there were no students on the search committee.

Birgeneau praised Litster's performance so far, saying that "he's unusually strong technically -- very intelligent, very strong person." He added that "just from listening to him, I sense he has understood well broadly what the research issues are here."

Litster and Dresselhaus were both unavailable for comment.