News From Brown, September 2015

Christopher Rose will continue his work in communications theory. As associate dean of the Brown University faculty, he will cobble together multidisciplinary faculty, postdoctoral, and graduate student teams by building on what he sees as the unusual technical breadth of underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines.

Christopher Rose has a rather broad view of his chosen field of communication theory. It’s a cosmic-scale view, one might say.

“They say that when your tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But when your hammer is communication theory, I really do think it applies just about everywhere,” said Rose, professor of engineering. “I’d say that my predilection is to look at whatever big question comes across my purview through the lense of information theory.”

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Ainissa Ramirez and her work were featured on a segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered”: 

This Teacher Wants To Excite Your Inner Scientist

Imagine a space shuttle speeding toward Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, the friction outside heating the vessel up to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it enters the atmosphere.

Those kind of temperatures normally melt metal. So what protects NASA’s space shuttles?

That’s just the kind of question award-winning scientist Ainissa Ramirez can’t wait to answer. In fact, she’s done it in this YouTube video. Hint: It involves sand.

“I always target everyone’s inner smart 12-year-old,” says Ramirez, who has a gift for explaining complicated science to people like you and me.

She’s got patents and has written dozens of technical papers, but her ability to simplify is what makes Ramirez a great teacher. And as a self-described science evangelist, she’s trying to reach the world by writing books, giving TED Talks and producing online videos to explain scientific concepts.

She’s jumping on the podcast bandwagon too, with a new show called Science Underground.

 

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Latanya Sweeney was appointed editor-in-chief of Technology Science, a new journal published by the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard University. The journal was established by a group of 47 researchers, professors, and legal experts from 30 universities around the world. It will publish “original material dealing primarily with a social, political, personal, or organizational benefit or adverse consequence of technology.” Current features include research on Facebook Messenger’s geolocation collection and disclosure, medical privacy, and price discrimination in international travel.

Dr. Sweeney is a professor of government and technology in the department of government at Harvard University. She is the founder and director of the Data Privacy Lab. Before coming to Harvard in 2011, Professor Sweeney was a Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During 2014, she served as the chief technology officer for the Federal Trade Commission. Dr. Sweeney currently serves as a member of the Electronic Privacy Information Center Advisory Board (EPIC).

Professor Sweeney holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science and a Ph.D. in computer science, all from MIT. She also earned a master’s degree in computer science from Harvard University.

Ainissa Ramirez: 2015 AIP Gemant Award

Ainissa Ramirez is the winner of the 2015 Andrew Gemant Award from the American Institute of Physics (AIP).  The annual prize recognizes significant contributions to the cultural, artistic or humanistic dimension of physics. It includes $5,000 in cash and a grant of $3,000 to further public communication of physics at an institution of the winner’s choice.Ramirez is honored for reaching diverse audiences through her lectures, videos, and books.”Ramirez is both a standout scientist and a stellar communicator,” says Catherine O’Riordan, vice president of Physics Resources at AIP. “Her tireless commitment to sharing the thrill of discovery is helping change public perceptions of science and excite a new generation of future scientists.”

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“Spectral correspondences for Maass waveforms on quaternion groups” by Terrence Blackman and Stefan Lemurell has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by the Journal of Number Theory, available for download 7 July 2015.

The work was supported by the MIT Mathematics Department and by the MIT Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professors & Scholars Program.

Abstract

We prove that in most cases the Jacquet-Langlands correspondence between newforms for Hecke congruence groups and newforms for quaternion orders is a bijection. Our proof covers almost all cases where the Hecke congruence group is of cocompact type, i.e. when a bijection is possible. The proof uses the Selberg trace formula.

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Terrence Blackman has joined the Medgar Evers College (CUNY) School of Science, Health & Technology as an Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Mathematics Department, where he formerly served as an assistant professor. “Those of us who knew Terrence will attest to the fact that he cares immensely for the success and well-being of his students and colleagues,” says Dr. Augustine Okereke, Senior Vice President & Provost at Medgar Evers.

Dr. Blackman was recent speaker at the annual Conference for African-American Researchers in the Mathematical Sciences (CAARMS), where he delivered a talk titled “Can you hear the shape of a drum? Space, Number, Symmetry & Equity”. Initiated in the early 1990s by William Massey of Bell Laboratories–then AT&T, now Lucent Technologies–the conference addresses critical issues involving African-American researchers and graduate students in the mathematical sciences. (Massey’s mentees include former MIT MLK Visiting Faculty Robert Hampshire, Arlie Petters, and Otis Jennings.)

Huffington Post Q&A with Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, the 63rd black woman in American history with a PhD in physics:

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a 32-year-old theoretical astrophysicist. Her academic home is arguably the nation’s most elite physics department, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In one sense, she is among a dying breed. Prescod-Weinstein is a pen-and-paper theorist. “Basically I do calculus all day, on paper,” she told HuffPost. “I’m a little bit of a hold-out. There are things I could be doing by computer that I just like to do by hand.”

But she is also part of a vanguard, a small but growing number of African-American women with doctorates in physics.

Just 83 Black women have received a Ph.D. in physics-related fields in American history, according to a database maintained by physicists Dr. Jami Valentine and Jessica Tucker that was updated last week.

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On Sunday, September 15, 1963–just a month after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.–four Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The church had served as a meeting place for civil rights leaders. Four young girls were killed, many other people injured.

Over half a century later, our country mourns the fatal shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in South Carolina by a young white supremacist. Dr. King had been a visitor to Emanuel AME Church, whose history is rooted in the struggle against slavery and which played an active role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Among the nine victims of the shooting was senior pastor Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator since 2000 who recently helped lead a prayer vigil for Walter Scott, the black South Carolina man who was shot dead in April by a white police officer.

Alongside many across America, the MIT community is shocked and heartbroken by these murders. In the coming months, the Institute Community and Equity Office will continue to seek ways at MIT to increase understanding of systemic racism and effective ways to combat it. 

Everyone in the MIT Community is encouraged to participate in a gathering for reflection and prayer led by Chaplain Bob Randolph on Monday, June 22, 2015 at 12 noon in the MIT Chapel.

 


 

Eulogy For The Young Victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
September 18, 1963, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

[Delivered at funeral service for three of the children – Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Diane Wesley – killed in the bombing. A separate service was held for the fourth victim, Carole Robertson.]

This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes to a close. They are now committed back to that eternity from which they came.

These children-unoffending, innocent, and beautiful-were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.

And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician [Audience:] (Yeah) who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats (Yeah) and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. (Speak) They have something to say to every Negro (Yeah) who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.

And so my friends, they did not die in vain. (Yeah) God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. (Oh yes) And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these little girls may well serve as a redemptive force (Yeah) that will bring new light to this dark city. (Yeah) The holy Scripture says, “A little child shall lead them.” (Oh yeah) The death of these little children may lead our whole Southland (Yeah) from the low road of man’s inhumanity to man to the high road of peace and brotherhood. (Yeah, Yes) These tragic deaths may lead our nation to substitute an aristocracy of character for an aristocracy of color. The spilled blood of these innocent girls may cause the whole citizenry of Birmingham (Yeah) to transform the negative extremes of a dark past into the positive extremes of a bright future. Indeed this tragic event may cause the white South to come to terms with its conscience. (Yeah)

And so I stand here to say this afternoon to all assembled here, that in spite of the darkness of this hour (Yeah Well), we must not despair. (Yeah, Well) We must not become bitter (Yeah, That’s right), nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence. No, we must not lose faith in our white brothers. (Yeah, Yes) Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality.

May I now say a word to you, the members of the bereaved families? It is almost impossible to say anything that can console you at this difficult hour and remove the deep clouds of disappointment which are floating in your mental skies. But I hope you can find a little consolation from the universality of this experience. Death comes to every individual. There is an amazing democracy about death. It is not aristocracy for some of the people, but a democracy for all of the people. Kings die and beggars die; rich men and poor men die; old people die and young people die. Death comes to the innocent and it comes to the guilty. Death is the irreducible common denominator of all men.

I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity’s affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal. Let this daring faith, this great invincible surmise, be your sustaining power during these trying days.

Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. (Yeah, Yes) Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. (Yeah) And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him (Yeah, Well), and that God is able (Yeah, Yes) to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.

And so today, you do not walk alone. You gave to this world wonderful children. [moans] They didn’t live long lives, but they lived meaningful lives. (Well) Their lives were distressingly small in quantity, but glowingly large in quality. (Yeah) And no greater tribute can be paid to you as parents, and no greater epitaph can come to them as children, than where they died and what they were doing when they died. (Yeah) They did not die in the dives and dens of Birmingham (Yeah, Well), nor did they die discussing and listening to filthy jokes. (Yeah) They died between the sacred walls of the church of God (Yeah, Yes), and they were discussing the eternal meaning (Yes) of love. This stands out as a beautiful, beautiful thing for all generations. (Yes) Shakespeare had Horatio to say some beautiful words as he stood over the dead body of Hamlet. And today, as I stand over the remains of these beautiful, darling girls, I paraphrase the words of Shakespeare: (Yeah, Well): Good night, sweet princesses. Good night, those who symbolize a new day. (Yeah, Yes) And may the flight of angels (That’s right) take thee to thy eternal rest. God bless you.

 

Thomas H. Epps III (MIT ’98, MS ’99) received the 2015 Owens-Corning Early Career Award from the Materials Engineering and Science Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. The award recognizes outstanding independent contributions to the scientific, technological, educational, or service areas of materials science and engineering by people who are under the age of 40. Dr. Epps will be honored at the Institute’s annual meeting this coming November in Salt Lake City.

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Adriane Brown (MIT SM ’91) was eight years old in 1966, when she and her brother integrated a previously all-white school in Virginia. By sixth grade, she was class president. She’s been a leader ever since, in the corporate world and, most recently, in developing an intellectual property marketplace. This year, MIT recognized her professional and community contributions with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award.

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