The School of Science is recently announced that six of its faculty members have been appointed to named professorships. All appointments are effective July 1.
The newly appointed professors:
Jeremy England, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, has been named a Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Career Development Professor. England applies theoretical physics to biological phenomena in order to uncover the patterns in space and time that enable life at the molecular level. His current research focuses on understanding how a protein’s shape is determined by the sequence of amino acids, building a statistical model for the spatial and temporal organization of cytoplasm within cells, and developing analytical and computational models that demonstrate the physical conditions that make possible self-replicating forms capable of evolution. England joined the MIT faculty in 2011 after spending two years as a lecturer and research fellow at Princeton University. After earning his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Harvard University in 2003, he began graduate studies at the University of Oxford, and completed his doctorate in physics at Stanford University in 2009.
Anna Frebel, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, has been appointed to the Silverman (1968) Family Career Development Professorship. Frebel employs the world’s largest optical telescopes to identify old, metal-poor stars and small dwarf galaxies surrounding the Milky Way. Frebel is best known for her discoveries and spectroscopic analyses of the most metal-poor stars and how these stars can be employed to uncover information about the early universe. She has now expanded her work to include observations of faint stars in the least luminous dwarf galaxies in order to obtain a more comprehensive view of how the Milky Way formed with its extended stellar halo. Frebel received her PhD from the Australian National University in 2006, and afterwards completed a WJ McDonald Postdoctoral Fellowship in Austin, Texas, and a Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She joined the MIT faculty in 2012.
Piyush Gupta, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and a member of the Whitehead Institute, has been named the Howard S. and Linda B. Stern Career Development Professor. Gupta studies the mechanisms that generate and maintain cellular diversity in adult tissues and how the subversion of these mechanisms contributes to cancer. His laboratory investigates the genetic and cellular processes that govern adult and cancer stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. An improved comprehension of these processes is of fundamental interest in biology and would facilitate the development of therapies for a broad range of diseases, including cancer. Gupta earned his bachelor's degree in biological chemistry at the University of Chicago in 1999, and then completed his PhD at MIT in 2005 under the direction of Robert A. Weinberg, a professor of biology. After postdoctoral work at the Broad Institute, Gupta joined the MIT faculty in 2010.
Chris Kaiser, a professor in the Department of Biology, has been appointed to the Amgen Professorship. Kaiser’s research uses genetic, biochemical, and structural biology methods to understand the basic mechanisms of protein folding and intracellular transport, which are essential to normal cell function. His efforts have led to the identification of numerous genes and mutations involved in these processes. Kaiser is particularly interested in the formation of disulfide bonds, which are important for protein folding and stability. Kaiser was awarded a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1980 and a PhD in biology from MIT in 1987. He did postdoc research as a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow with Randy Schekman at the University of California at Berkeley before joining MIT as an assistant professor of biology in 1991. He served as head of the Department of Biology from 2004 to 2012 and as MIT’s provost from 2012-2013.
Bradley Pentelute, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been named the Pfizer Inc.-Laubach Career Development Professor. Pentelute’s research lab focuses on deciphering the properties of mirror image proteins in the natural milieu, the development fast flow platforms for the rapid production of chemically modified biomolecules, the development of robust methods to deliver biomolecular agents (peptides and antibodies mimics) to the cytosol of cells, and structure-function studies of infectious protein nanomachines such as Anthrax toxin.
Jing-Ke Weng, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and a member of the Whitehead Institute, was named a Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Career Development Professor. Weng has broad interests in understanding the origin and evolution of plant specialized metabolism at enzyme, pathway, and systems levels, as well as how plants exploit discrete small molecules to interact with their surrounding biotic and abiotic environments. He works to address one of the fundamental questions in biology, using chemodiverse plants to discover how complex traits evolve in a Darwinian fashion. Weng also actively seeks opportunities to utilize plants as unique model systems to study human diseases, including metabolic syndromes and protein-misfolding diseases. He received his PhD in biochemistry from Purdue University in 2009 (under the direction of Clint Chapple) and was awarded a Pioneer Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He joined the MIT faculty in early 2014.