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Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano addressed the MIT community with “The Future of Science as Public Service” at the 2011 Compton Lecture, held Monday in Kresge Auditorium. Napolitano spoke on how the collaboration between scientists and the government will be the future of national security. The Secretary was the first woman to give a Compton Lecture.
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Napolitano delivers Compton Lecture

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano presented the Karl Taylor Compton Lecture yesterday before a modest turnout in Kresge Auditorium. Napolitano is the first woman in the Compton Lecture Series, which has included Niels Bohr, two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, and Senator Ted Kennedy.

The title of yesterday’s speech was “The Future of Science as Public Service.” Describing the diverse challenges faced by her department, Napolitano emphasized her goal of developing challenging and rewarding scientific careers in government capable of attracting scientists as much as academia and the private sector do. She said more scientists are needed to apply knowledge across the government and that government and public policy specialists were likewise needed in the science private sector.

Napolitano said the DHS is responsible for a large amount of data, and it must also balance civil rights and liberties when implementing security measures. She said aviation security must be as non-intrusive as possible, while still effective and fast; technology must be able to easily detect tip-offs that hint at potential danger.

“The challenges we confront constantly change,” Napolitano said, adding that policies must be able to adapt to change. She suggested that greater collaboration between government and science would help lead to such policies.

After the speech, MIT President Susan J. Hockfield presented Napolitano with the Compton Bowl, made by MIT’s Glass Lab.

During the question-and-answer period, Napolitano fielded a question about racial profiling, saying its use in security is illegal, unconstitutional, and ineffective.

­­—Derek Chang