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Education projects made possible by alumni/ae funds

Eight new projects are being sponsored in 1999-2000 by a trio of alumni/ae funds that underwrite innovations in undergraduate education and teaching. Income from the Class of 1951 Fund for Excellence in Education, the Class of 1955 Fund for Excellence in Teaching and the Class of 1972 Fund for Educational Innovation have assisted faculty involved in 32 projects opver the past six years.

The projects being funded this year are:

Linking Theory to Practice Through Hands-On Activities: Unified Engineering Undergraduate Course Enhancement -- Assistant Professor Daniel Frey of aeronautics and astronautics will design additional classroom demonstrations and laboratory exercises for the Unified Engineering course. This project seeks to improve student exposure to physical examples of the theoretical constructs taught in Unified through additional hands-on experience. He hopes to create a collection of varied demonstrations and experiments, giving instructors additional material to draw upon for lectures and problem sets.

Web-Based Microelectronic Device Characterization -- Professor Jes�s del Alamo of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) is setting up permanent dedicated equipment for web-based microelectronics device characterization. This will continue the field trials that have already occurred in 6.720J/3.43J and 6.012 in 1998-99. The project will allow hands-on device characterization in classes that have not, for practical reasons, been able to offer such an experience to students before.

Thermal Fluid Machines For 2.005/2.006 (Thermal Fluids Engineering) -- As part of the major curriculum reform underway in mechanical engineering subjects 2.005/2.004 is a year-long sequence that replaces 2.20, 2.40 and 2.51. In the new sequence, the principles of fluid mechanics, thermodynamics and heat transfer are being taught as a unified whole. Professor Ernest Cravalho and Associate Professors Gareth McKinley and John Brisson are developing instrumented demonstrations of quantitative and qualitative effects in thermal fluid sciences, including a vapor compression refrigerator, a boiling curve and an upgrade of their critical point demonstration. The award will enable them to use both undergraduate and graduate students to develop the demonstration hardware.

Software to Teach Nerve Conduction -- Since 1984, Professor Thomas Weiss of EECS and several students have been developing software to teach cellular biophysics. The alumni funds will let them develop a multiuse software package for students to learn about the conduction of action potentials in both unmyelinated and myelinated nerve fibers by access to simulation software. The software and its manual will be made available over the Internet.

Development of an Interdisciplinary Laboratory Subject for a Modern Environmental Engineering Curriculum --As part of the reform effort in the undergraduate environmental engineering curriculum, Associate Professor Heidi Nepf and Assistant Professors Martin Polz and Bettina Voelker plan are developing an interdisciplinary laboratory subject that will give students the tools for innovative analysis of the physical, chemical and biological processes governing the behavior of environmental systems. The increased interaction among the involved faculty members needed to create this lab will deepen their understanding across disciplines, and the collective teaching of the lecture subjects tied to the lab will improve as the lab provides the structure and focal points for instruction.

emergentDesign Curriculum Initiative -- Open-source software tools will be developed by Associate Professor of Architecture Peter Testa to introduce computation in the earliest stages of the architectural design process. The emergentDesign curriculum, a significant departure from traditional architectural education, will draw on techniques and approaches from computer science and artificial intelligence in addition to architecture. A major component of the studio will be a weekly in-class laboratory in programming interactive Java applications to serve as design tools. He hopes that viewing design as a process as opposed to a product will give the students a chance to engage architecture from a contemporary perspective.

A Communication Pipeline for elab 7.15J -- In the new Project Lab for Biology undergraduates and Bioengineering minors (7.15J/BEH350), students of Professor Paul Matsudaira of bioengineering and environmental health will examine the complex pattern of yeast cell genes using DNA chips -- matrices of probe DNAs that are arrayed on glass slides. Because DNA chips are so new, teaching materials must be compiled from various sources. Professor Matsudaira plans to develop a fully integrated electronic support tool for instruction, data collection and preparation of reports for the new lab subject. Student reports and papers for the BUG Journal as well as the Project Lab will be administrated via the subject's web site, permitting rapid feedback, improved graphics, better written papers and publication-ready documents.

Introduction to Women's Studies: A Team-Teaching Model For MIT -- Women's Studies faculty members, including Assistant Professor Lora Wildenthal of history and Associate Professor Sally Haslanger of linguistics and philosophy, have created a new modular approach to teaching SP.401. The class will now draw on the expertise of all faculty members in women's studies and make it possible for all faculty to take over teaching this introductory subject on a rotating basis. Individuals with a variety of scholarly interests will be able to contribute seriously to the endeavor.

Proposals for projects for the 2000-2001 academic year will be solicited from faculty beginning in February 2000. Faculty with questions about this program should be in touch with Dean Peggy Enders.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 17, 1999.

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