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Dorsey named Edgerton professor

Associate Professor Julie Dorsey of the Department of Architecture, an interdisciplinary design specialist in computer science and architecture, is the recipient of the 1997-98 Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award.

The announcement was made at the April 16 faculty meeting by Professor Lawrence M. Wein, chairman of the Edgerton Committee.

Professor Dorsey said she was "totally surprised and honored" by the announcement. She thanked the faculty and particularly acknowledged the support of William Mitchell, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning; Stanford Anderson, head of the Department of Architecture; Professor of Architecture William L. Porter, and Professor Michael L. Dertouzos, director of of the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS).

"I feel very fortunate to be at an institute that's so supportive of interdisciplinary teaching and research," she said.

The award, which carries an honorarium of $5,000, was established in 1992 as a permanent tribute to Institute Professor Emeritus Harold E. "Doc" Edgerton for his years of "great and enduring support" for younger faculty members. It recognizes junior faculty members for distinction in teaching, research, and service to MIT. Professor Edgerton died in January 1990.

Professor Dorsey holds the BArch and BS degrees in computer science, both with honors, from Cornell University (1987) and the MS (1990) and the PhD (1993) in computer science, also from Cornell. She was adjunct assistant professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania in 1994, and joined the MIT faculty that year as assistant professor of design and computation and building technology in the Department of Architecture. She is also affiliated with the LCS.

Following enthusiastic applause, Professor Wein read the Edgerton Committee's announcement:

"Julie's work advances the state of architectural design through computer graphics. She began her career by developing a computer-graphics system to enable designers of highly complex, time-varying lighting for stage and opera to evaluate their designs quickly and intuitively. She has extended this concept to architectural acoustics by developing inverse algorithms to specify room-surface location and properties to achieve a desired aural environment. She has recently pioneered efforts to simulate weathering of materials, including flow-induced erosion and deposits and the development of metallic patinas.

"This body of work has advanced the science of computer graphics while furthering the practice of architecture, and has defined the link between these two fields as an important area in its own right. Julie's rare combination of technical and artistic expertise is something that Doc Edgerton himself would have greatly admired."

Professor Wein continued, "Julie has already received a significant number of professional awards. Since arriving at MIT, she has received a National Science Foundation Research Initiation Award, the Richard Kelly Award from the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, a research award from the American Institute of Architectural Research, and a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award for the years 1996-2000."

The Edgerton Committee report then focused on Professor Dorsey's contributions to teaching at MIT.

"Julie has developed three new courses: Light, Color and Computer Graphics; Advanced Topics in Computer Graphics: Natural Phenomena; and Visualization. In addition, she has taught a freshman seminar and co-taught a graduate architectural design studio. Students have consistently and enthusiastically praised her dedication, her ability to inspire by example and her teaching skills. Her strength and purpose as a teacher is exemplified by her undergraduate visualization course. She and others had recognized that undergraduates were not well served by a geometric-modeling course intended for MArch students.

"Julie developed a new course for MIT undergraduates in remarkably short time and attracted a large class of 62 students, including 18 from other departments. In addition, she is currently supervising six PhD students."

In the area of service to the MIT community, the Edgerton Committee cited Professor Dorsey's "numerous committee duties" including her current service on the MIT Council on Educational Technology. "She also serves on the Department Council, as a freshman advisor, and on the various committees for the advisors including the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee. Her background in design, history, technology and computer science makes her unique in our faculty, and she responds gracefully and efficiently to all requests for her services," the Edgerton Committee's report concluded.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 30, 1997.

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