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Tech's Media Lab Coverage Biased

Tech's Media Lab Coverage Biased

While I understand that The Tech is a student newspaper, it is the student newspaper of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Instead of preparing a set of balanced columns like any reputable newspaper, The Tech knowingly presented three attacks on the Media Lab in the last issue (Dec. 9) of the year, without a chance for response until January. Such behavior not only cheapens The Tech, but, since the issue is world-readable on the web, reflects badly on MIT.

Faced with a blitz of sophomoric commentary, I decided to seek out Douglas E. Heimburger '00 whose column ["Smoke and Mirrors," Dec. 9] seems the most coherent. My questions centered on how Heimburger evaluated the Media Lab's research. Had he read even one of the roughly 400 journal articles or the several thousand conference papers authored by Media Lab personnel over the years, taken a Media Lab course, attended the Oct. 13-14 IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers, participated in 6.270, run the software the lab has provided to the MIT community over the years (Fishwrap, facerec, Galatea, Thingworld, the predecessor to Firefly, etc.)? No, he had not. So what did he base his column on? Popular press articles, apparently.

Having been associated with the laboratory since 1989, I am very proud of my fellow students and the lab's accomplishments. I joined the lab as a UROP (the lab is the Institute's largest employer of UROPs, currently numbering 150) because it employed the professors who wrote the papers I respected most. I learned the extraordinary value of an apprenticeship in an active research environment, of which my colleagues at other universities were very jealous. As a graduate student, I've slowly learned the lab's history in forming the standards in use today, such as MPEG1-4, Quicktime, and, most recently, DVD. I've seen the successful experiments in quantum computing, holographic laser printers and holographic video, face recognition, electronic paper, and supercomputing. In addition, I find that exactly half of the graduate students in my department are from other departments and half of those are current EECS PhDs.

Thus, Heimburger's uniformed and vapid comments not only insult Media Lab students but all the students who base their research here. To evaluate a laboratory based on the popular press is equivalent to evaluating the lives of Edison, Bell, or Franklin on the breathless or accusatory articles written during their lifetimes.

Thad Starner G