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So many important events have happened over the course of 2008 at MIT. With pioneering research, prominent awards, and influential visitors, MIT has enjoyed a prosperous year and has continued its history of excellence in science and technology.

Institute Professor wins Millennium Technology Prize

Robert S. Langer ’74, an MIT institute professor and director of the largest biomedical engineering laboratory in the world, won the 2008 Millennium technology Prize for his innovative research involving controlled drug release and tissue engineering.

The prize is known for being the world’s largest technology award, only recognizing those who put forth “innovations that assist and enrich our everyday lives today as well as in the future,” according to the award’s website. The prize, given every other year, provides the winner with 800,000 euros or $1.2 million.

Two Professors win MacArthur Fellowships

In September 2008, John Ochsendorf, an associate professor of Architecture, and Marin Soljacic ’96, an assistant professor of Physics, were two of twenty-five people to win MacArthur “genius” grants, which award recipients with $500,000 to be spent in any way they desire.

The award, which is administered over five years, comes with no strings attached and is given to promising scientists who show potential to contribute significantly to society in the future according to a MacArthur Foundation press release.

Ochsendorf plans to use the money to support his projects and students and for travel to project sites around the world. Soljacic, while continuing to fund his current work, hopes to diverge to more high-risk ventures that he couldn’t pursue otherwise.

Former MIT professor wins Nobel Prize in Economics

Paul Krugman PhD ’77, a professor at Princeton University, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences on October 13th, 2008.

Krugman used to be a professor at MIT and is also an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times,

He was awarded for his research in economics that delineated patterns of trade amongst countries, showing why traditional trade theory was off.

Two seniors win Rhodes Scholarships

Alia Whitney-Johnson ’08 and Matthew L. Gethers ’09 were two of thirty-two 2008 Rhodes Scholarship winners that will study at Oxford next year.

Whitney-Johnson and Gethers were MIT’s 39th and 40th winners of the Rhodes Scholarship.

President of Rwanda comes to MIT

Welcomed with a standing ovation, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame gave a speech at Kresge Auditorium on September 18, 2008, to discuss the “Imperative of Science and Technology in Accelerating African and Rwandan Development.”

Kagame began his speech by elaborating on how science and technology is paramount to yielding a socioeconomic transformation in Africa. He urged the community to aid Rwanda in bringing technological innovation to Rwandan citizens.

Kagame said in the talk, “Africa is the fasted growing market for mobile phones,” and continued on to mention that Rwanda had 28 million subscribers as of the first quarter of 2008.

Second generation XO Laptop announced

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organization unveiled the plans for the second generation of their XO Laptop on May 20th, 2008.

In addition to being cheaper than the current price tag, the new computer will be smaller and will sport two touch-screens. OLPC also announced in may that they would be partnering up with Microsoft.

McCain and Obama advisors debate energy

On October 6th, 2008, representatives from the Obama and McCain campaigns faced each other in an energy debate that was organized by the MIT Energy Initiative and the MIT Energy Club.

Jason Grumet, advisor to Obama, and James Woolsey, advisor to McCain, while agreeing on reducing oil dependence, clashed heavily on how the country will transition away from oil.

The Environmental Research Council is launched

In order to expand MIT’s influence in the environmental field, MIT President Susan Joan Hockfield announced in her State of the Institute speech that a council would be formed in order to network together the environmental research being performed across the campus.

Her vision for this project involves it eventually gathering community-wide collaboration on a scale similar to that of the MIT Energy Initiative.

Dara Entekhabi, the Bacardi and Stockholm Water Foundations Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Earth System Initiative will chair the new council, which will work with faculty and research from all five of MIT’s schools.

A proposal from this new council outlining plans for the environmental initiative should be ready by February 15, 2009.