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Three faculty members selected for chairs

Three MIT faculty members have been selected to hold professorships. Professor Dennis McLaughlin is the first H.M. King Bhumibol Professor, Professor Patrick Winston has been named a Ford Professor of Engineering, and Assistant Professor Andrew Chess will hold the Robert A. Swanson Career Development Professorship in the Life Sciences.

Professor McLaughlin of civil and environmental engineering is the inaugural holder of the H.M. King Bhumibol Professorship for a five-year renewable term. The chair was established by the Suksa-pattana Foundation through gifts from MIT alumni/ae in recognition of the King of Thailand and his stature as a technologist.

Professor McLaughlin, who heads his department's hydrology group, came to MIT in 1983. His primary research interests are in groundwater hydrology, water resource systems and environmental data assimilation. His current projects include studies of sustainable agriculture in arid regions and of remote sensing of soil moisture. He received the BSEE degree in 1966 from Purdue University, and the MSE (1967) and PhD (1985), both from Princeton University. Before coming to MIT in 1983, he worked in industry and also held academic and research appointments at other universities in the United States and abroad.

Professor Winston of electrical engineering and computer science, who was director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory from 1975 until this year, has been appointed a Ford Professor for a five-year term. The Ford chairs were established in 1959 by a gift from the Ford Foundation to recognize outstanding senior faculty within the School of Engineering for intellectual accomplishment, innovation and leadership with their chosen disciplines.

Professor Winston was named acting director of the AI Lab in 1973 and director in 1975. He is well known for his work in learning, precedent-based reasoning, common-sense problem solving, problem-solving via abstraction and applications of artificial intelligence to database mining, scheduling and dynamic resource allocation. He is the author of 16 books, six of which are widely used as textbooks in artificial intelligence courses.

On September 22, Professor Winston will become chair of the Navy Research Advisory Committee. He is past president of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. He received the SB in 1965, the SM in 1967 and the PhD in 1970, all from MIT, and was appointed an assistant professor at MIT in 1970.

The new holder of the Swanson chair, established in 1986 by Robert A. Swanson, a 1969 MIT graduate and co-founder and chief executive officer of Genentech, Inc., is Professor Chess of biology. The three-year appointment recognizes junior faculty who show exceptional promise of making important contributions in the field of life sciences.

Professor Chess, who has been an associate member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and an assistant professor of biology since 1996, does research in molecular biology. His focus is on how the turning on and off of specific genes accounts for the extraordinary diversity of neurons in animals' brains. He also studies the olfactory system of mice as a model system.

He received the SB from MIT in biology in 1986 and the MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1990. Professor Chess was an associate at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and an associate research scientist at the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University before joining the MIT faculty.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 17, 1997.

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