The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 71.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Struik, Taylor Turn 100: Faculty Review Federal Support

By Jeremy Hylton

The agenda of Wednesday's faculty meeting was more festive than normal, mixing a few informational presentations with resolutions in honor of the 100th birthdays of two emeritus professors.

Emeritus Professors Dirk J. Struik and C. Fayette Taylor will both turn 100 this month.

Professor John B. Heywood PhD '62, director of the Sloan Automotive Laboratory, presented a resolution honoring Taylor, the first director of the Sloan Lab. Heywood described Taylor's career in industry and his career at MIT.

Taylor was a pioneer in the development of the internal combustion engine and worked for the Wright Aeronautical Corp. before coming to MIT, where he helped develop the Whirlwind engine used on Charles Lindbergh's historic trans-Atlantic flight.

After his retirement in 1960, Taylor began a second career as a painter and sculptor. He lives in a Weston retirement home with his wife Alice, who is 96.

Professor David J. Benney PhD '59, head of the Department of Mathematics, made a brief resolution in honor of Struik, a fellow mathematics professor.

Struik, who still attends many mathematics department functions, was in attendance Wednesday and spoke about his experience at MIT and the people he worked with.

Struik was a well-known mathematician both for his work in analysis and geometry and for his pioneering book on the history of mathematics, The Concise History of Mathematics.

An outspoken Marxist, Struik was suspended, with pay, from 1951 to 1956 after he was indicted on charges of advocating the overthrow of the government. The charges were later dropped, and Struik was reinstated.

Government relations

The faculty meeting concluded on a more somber note, as Provost Mark S. Wrighton described the current relations between MIT and the federal government, and possible losses of federal funding.

"We've had a fairly tortuous summer," Wrighton said. "We have had a number of issues before us and some of them have been potentially serious in terms of funding levels for MIT."

President Charles M. Vest echoed Wrighton's concern in his introductory remarks, when he described the past year as a "complicated and frightening year in our dealings with the federal government."

In the arena of indirect research cost reimbursement, Wrighton said that the government had decided not to place a cap on indirect research costs. Indirect research costs, also known as overhead costs, are used to pay for services and equipment that support research, but are not tied to a particular project, like the library system or electricity.

The Clinton administration had originally proposed a pause in indirect costs. But apparently, recent Congressional negotiations have eliminated the pause. "There has been an enormous amount of confusion, and almost every provost had a way of circumventing [the new rules]," Wrighton said.

MIT implemented new federal regulations that require UROP students to be included in the overhead cost base, Wrighton said.

Lincoln funding declines

Another source of concern for the administration is the continuing decline in the amount of support for Lincoln Laboratory, which focuses on defense-related research. Lincoln will receive $320 million in federal support this year, down from $360 million last year, Wrighton said.

Further decline in support for Lincoln Lab support will eat into the salary base, Wrighton said, reducing the amount of support for faculty and graduate students supported in part by the Lab.

Wrighton also discussed the status of the defense department's research budget, which was cut by $900 million in the final version of the budget to pass the House of Representatives, but only by $82 million in the Senate version.

A Congressional conference committee is expected to announce the final size of the cuts today, according to Tobin L. Smith in the MIT Washington office.

Wrighton also discussed the status of funding from the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

A potentially serious funding freeze at DOE was averted, and NIH funding has remained stable, but support from NASA is somewhat strained, he said. He noted that the space station did survive the budget debate.

Wrighton said that MIT had made progress in several areas, noting in particular the efforts of Vest and John C. Crowley, head of the MIT Washington office.

Despite continuing problems, Vest said, "There are two things that make me rather upbeat about this."

First, "everyone we have asked for help has been enormously generous with their time," Vest said.

Second, industry leaders have supported research universities' lobbying efforts. For the first time, "industry really did get behind us on this and tried to educate people in Congress about the value of university research," Vest said.

New MEng program described

In other business, Professor Judith T. Kildow described the new Master of Engineering program in the Department of Ocean Engineering, a change in the policy for adjunct professors was announced, and a motion was introduced to make a minor change to the rules of the faculty.

Course XIII follows the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as the second department to create an MEng degree program. The 12- to 18-month program is in Marine Environmental Systems.

"We started [planning] two years ago in response to students' requests to have something environmental going on in our department," Kildow said.

The program requires five introductory courses in three areas: marine management, ocean engineering, and marine sciences. Some students may satisfy this requirement with their undergraduate coursework, Kildow said.

"We also saw that nationally we were responding to very great government and industry demands," Kildow said.

Students must also plan a four-subject concentration, take a project course in problem solving, have practical experience in laboratories or at sea, and must complete an applied thesis based on the concentration and practical experience.

Professor Frank E. Perkins '55, dean of the graduate school, said that the Departments of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering had also made formal proposals to create MEng degrees.

The MEng program will be approved by the Committee on Graduate School Policy and the Faculty Policy Committee before being presented to the Corporation for final approval, Perkins said.

Perkins described the intended characteristics of new MEng programs in contrast with SM programs. They are:

1/3 a greater focus on design and practical applications,

1/3 less focus preparation for a PhD, and

1/3 less time required to finish the program, typically a year.

The new MEng programs reviewed by the CGSP differ in many ways from the EECS program, Perkins said. For example, the new programs are not considered extensions of the undergraduate program into a fifth year, he said.

Changes in rules

Dean of Engineering Joel M. Moses PhD '67 described a minor change to the Policies and Procedures manual that specifically allows the Institute to appoint a limited number of adjunct professors to more than a 50 percent workload.

Because many companies are reducing their work forces, "there are attractive opportunities for getting experienced people," Moses said.

Currently, the School of Engineering has eight adjunct professors, a position designated for people with practical experience and expertise in a particular field who spend part of their time teaching and conducting research at MIT. The current adjunct professors are "absolutely outstanding," Moses said.

The old rules specified that the appointments were part-time, and the change specifies that they are "normally" part-time. It also changes the process to be followed for appointments and renewal of appointments.

Moses said the new rules would be used to appoint full-time or nearly full-time adjunct professors only rarely.

Professor of Physics Robert L. Jaffee introduced a motion to change rules of the faculty governing membership of the Faculty Policy Committee. The current rules specify that the Vice President in the Office of the President will be a member of the committee.

Effectively, the rule had been written expressly for Constantine B. Simonides '58, Jaffee said. Simonides died suddenly in April, and instead of naming a successor to his position, there was a general reshuffling of the vice presidents' titles and responsibilities, and two new vice presidents were appointed.

In the absence of a Vice President in the Office of the President, Jaffee's motion will change the rule to "one member designated by the president."

The motion will be voted on at the next faculty meeting.