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Professorship appointments continue

This is another in a series of articles on faculty members' appointments to named professorships.

Professor Robert W. Field of chemistry has been named Haslam and Dewey Professor of Chemistry. The chair was established by the Grace Foundation to honor MIT alumni Robert T. Haslam of the Class of 1911 and Bradley Dewey of the Class of 1909, who helped launch W.R. Grace as a world leader in the chemical industry. The professorship, which is awarded to a leading authority in chemistry, is considered one of the highest honors for an MIT faculty member.

Professor Field has developed a variety of laser spectroscopic techniques to examine the electronic and vibrational spectra of small, gas-phase molecules. Armed with these experimental techniques, it has been possible to extract information from unprecedentedly complex spectra. He has shown that often it is the most complicated spectra that open a window into elegantly simple insights into the structure and dynamics of a molecule.

Professor Field received the AB from Amherst College in 1965 and the MA and PhD from Harvard in 1972. He began his academic career at MIT in 1974 and was named full professor in 1982. His many awards include two each from the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America. He has served on the editorial advisory boards of five journals and is the author of more than 270 papers and other publications.

Professor Barbara Imperiali of the Department of Chemistry was recently appointed the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor. She came to MIT in July from the California Institute of Technology, where she held the position of professor of chemistry. Before being promoted through the ranks of assistant, associate and full professor at Caltech (1989-99), she was an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University (1986-89).

Professor Im-periali received the BSc in medicinal chemistry from University College London in 1979 and the PhD in synthetic organic chemistry from MIT in 1983. Her research is concerned with diverse aspects of protein structure, function and design, using a multidisciplinary approach to address fundamental problems at the interface of chemistry and biology. Her group examines the central biological issue of protein modification (focusing in particular on understanding enzyme catalyzed protein glycosylation) and most recently, trying to exploit the modular polypeptide as a platform for selective and sensitive metal ion sensing. These chemosensor molecules may ultimately have biomedical and environmental applications.

Assistant Professor Angelika Amon is the next holder of the Howard S. and Linda B. Stern Career Development Professorship for a three-year term.

Professor Amon received the BA and MS in 1989 and the PhD in 1993, all from the University of Vienna. She did her thesis research with Dr. Kim Nasmyth, one of the world leaders in the field of cell cycle control. She did postdoctoral work both with Ruth Lehmann in the Whitehead Institute and was appointed a Whitehead Fellow in January 1996. Dr. Amon became an assistant professor of biology in the Center for Cancer Research and the Department of Biology in January 1999. She also received the Presidential Young Investigator Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Her primary research interests are in the field of cell cycle control, in particular in how cell division is regulated. Her research program uses the budding yeast Saccharomyces cervisiae as a model system to investigate the components and regulatory networks that govern cell cycle progression. Cell division is the fundamental process by which an organism is built. Deciphering the regulatory networks that ensure accurate duplication and segregation of the genetic material is vital to understanding both normal cell division and abnormal cell division that leads to cancer and other disorders.

Assistant Professor Alexandre Megretski of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has been selected to be the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor for a three-year term. Professor Megret-ski joined the MIT faculty in 1996. Prior to that he was an assistant professor at Iowa State University from 1993-1996. He received the MS (1985) and PhD (1988) from Leningrad University.

His research interests are in the analysis and design of complex dynamical systems with nonlinear and uncertain elements, for example, computer algorithms interacting with the continuum of the real world. He uses a theory to write software which, when given a description of a complex system as an interconnection of many elementary units, can draw a conclusion about that system's stability and performance. Another of his interests is in the relaxation of non-convex optimization problems, difficult problems that can be solved by coming up with a good approximation and then solving that approximation.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 20, 1999.

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