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Munther A. Dahleh has been named the acting director of the Engineering Systems Division (ESD). He began his new position on Dec. 1, stepping down from his previous position as Associate Department Head of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), which David J. Perreault has been appointed.

In addition to taking the reins of ESD, Dahleh will also act as Director-designate of a potential new program that aims to integrate ESD with other research and teaching units at MIT, including the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems and a new initiative in statistics. The organization seeks to address societal problems by studying social behavior integrated with technology. To this end, Dahleh aspires to employ MIT’s “systematic and rigorous approach to solving problems” towards augmenting social sustainability. The creation of this new organization would open up new research opportunities for MIT students, and possibly create new academic programs such as an undergraduate minor in statistics. Dahleh’s goal is to finish the planning phase by spring semester.

“The next several months are a transition period for ESD,” Dahleh said. “The idea is to make ESD part of a larger organization that includes people from different parts of MIT.”

To aid in this effort, Dahleh will work with four committees on the preparation and planning of the integration initiative. The first committee, chaired by Dahleh and Karen E. Willcox PhD ’00, associate department head of Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, aims to identify the mission, strategy, and operating plans for the new organization. Another committee will be chaired by Emery N. Brown, professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and David D. Gamarnik PhD ’98, professor in the Sloan School of Management, with a charge to initiate new research and education in statistics. A third group, chaired by EECS Department Head Anantham P. Chandrakasan and Alan S. Willsky ’69, director of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS), will work on policies and procedures for collaboration among different departments at MIT. The last working group, chaired by Institute Professor Thomas L. Magnanti and Oliver L. de Weck PhD ’01, professor of Aero/Astro and Engineering Systems, will focus on maintaining and enhancing the academic programs offered by ESD.

The integration of ESD is still in the planning phase, “the upside is very clear,” Dahleh says. He mentions that “MIT would be focusing on societal problems, including energy, water supply, security, risk in financial markets, infrastructure resilience, and health care.” Realistically, Dahleh notes that the impediments to realizing his vision for the new program that rises to these challenges include the difficulty of large scale and inter-departmental collaboration.

Before coming to MIT, Dahleh earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University, followed by a PhD in electrical engineering from Rice University in 1987. Dahleh has been a member of the MIT faculty (and LIDS) since 1987 and became a professor in 1998. He is currently the housemaster of the undergraduate dormitory MacGregor House.

While in his new position, Dahleh will continue his research in networked systems with applications in energy, transportation, finance, and social networks. Dahleh will be co-teaching Networks (6.207/14.15) this coming spring.