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Four faculty members appointed to professorships

The Office of the Provost has announced that four faculty members have been appointed to professorships. Those selected are Professor Paul A. Lagace of aeronautics and astronautics, Assistant Professor Melissa Nobles of political science, Assistant Professor Anna C. Thornton of mechanical engineering and Assistant Professor Kai von Fintel of linguistics and philosophy.

Professor Paul A. Lagace has been selected as the Class of 1960 Fellow for a two-year term. His principal fields of interest are structures and materials, particularly those used in the aerospace industry, and with emphasis on composite materials. He is also interested in manufacturing issues related to the design of such materials. He has consulted for many companies and has been active on many national committees within, and related to, the aerospace field, and he is currently president of the International Committee on Composite Materials.

Professor Lagace, who is head of the division of materials and structures within the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, has received several awards for outstanding teaching. He was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow in 1995, and he received MIT's Baker Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1990 and the Aeronautics and Astronautics Teaching Award for 1988-89. He received the SB in 1978, the SM in 1979 and the PhD in 1982, all from MIT. He has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1982.

Professor Melissa Nobles has been selected as the Cecil and Ida Green Career Development Professor for a three-year term. This chair was established by Mr. and Mrs. Green, longtime friends and benefactors of the Institute, to recognize and encourage excellence in teaching. Cecil Green (SB '23, SM) is the founder of Texas Instruments, Inc.

Professor Nobles, who has been teaching at MIT since 1995, received the BA from Brown University in 1985, and the MA (1991) and PhD (1995) in political science from Yale University. Her research interests are in the comparative study of race and politics. She also examines the establishment of reparation-amnesty policies and "truth commissions" after the dissolution of politically repressive regimes in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

She is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Shades of Citizenship: Race and Censuses in Modern Politics, which explores how state census bureaus in the United States and Brazil participate in the political constitution of race. Professor Nobles was the organizer of a two-day academic workshop on a similar topic at MIT last fall, supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the MIT Center for International Studies.

Professor Anna C. Thornton has been named the 1943 Career Development Professor for a three-year term. The chair recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching and research. She researches the development of computational tools and formalized processes to assist in the design process. Professor Thornton has focused specifically on the area of key characteristics -- methods to systematically manage variation risk through the product development process, constraint-based design and design automation methods. In addition, she organizes a yearly symposium on the topic of key characteristics.

Professor Thornton received the BSE from Princeton University in 1990 and the PhD from Cambridge University in 1993. She was a part-time lecturer at MIT from 1994-95, during which time she also worked in product development at Polaroid and Concentra Corp. She has been an assistant professor since July 1995.

Professor von Fintel has been named to the Class of 1942 Career Development Professorship for a three-year appointment. His primary area of research and teaching is in the formal semantics of natural language, especially the interfaces of semantics with syntax and pragmatics. One focus of his work has been the analysis of quantificational constructions within dynamic theories of context-dependence. He holds undergraduate degrees from the Universities of M������n-ster and Cologne in Germany, and the MA (1992) and the PhD (1994) in linguistics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Professor von Fintel, who has been at MIT since 1993, is an associate editor for Linguistic Inquiry and for Syntax: Journal of Theoretical, Experimental and Interdisciplinary Research. He is also one of the co-organizers of the eighth annual meeting of the Conference on Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT), which will take place at MIT in April 1998.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 1, 1997.

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