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Awards and honors

Chancellor Lawrence Bacow has been awarded a laurea in ingegneria civile honorary degree in civil and environmental engineering by the University of Bari's School of Engineering in Italy. It was the first honorary degree the University of Bari had given since 1970. Dr. Bacow is also the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies at MIT.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Catherine Drennan has been awarded the Searle Scholars Program award to support her group's study of long-range communication in proteins, which have evolved complicated signaling and regulatory pathways to affect specific chemistry. The Searle program, established in 1980 to support research in medicine, chemistry and the biological sciences, is funded from the estates of Mr. and Mrs. John G. Searle. (Mr. Searle's grandfather founded the pharmaceutical firm G.D. Searle and Co.) About 15 grants per year go to researchers in the first or second year of their first tenure-track appointment at the assistant professor level.

Institute Professor and Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp received the Walker Prize from Boston's Museum of Science March 12. Established in 1864 by surgeon William Johnson Walker, the prize recognizes "meritorious published scientific investigation and discovery." Professor Sharp is director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

The MIT Mars Team has been named one of five national finalists in the NASA Means Business student competition for its entry, "2020 Vision: An Educational Outreach." This year's challenge focused on involving NASA "customers" in the agency's newly announced 20-Year Mars Plan, which will send a series of robotic missions to the Red Planet over the next two decades. Ideas in MIT's entry include creating a space-centered scouting organization, publishing a book of Apollo-generation memories and developing a traveling Mars exhibit for schools. The team is already working on several local outreach initiatives, including helping Boy and Girl Scouts earn space-related merit badges, teaching a weekend class on Mars for high schoolers and coordinating a multi-university celebration of "Yuri's Night" -- the April 12 anniversary of both the first manned space mission and the first US shuttle flight.

Two MIT graduate students, Jonathan Weinstein in economics and Walter Lee in computer science, won the North American Pairs Flight B bridge tournament at the 44th Spring North American Bridge Championships in Kansas City last month. They were fifth going into the final session. "We had a good start, but we slowed down about halfway through. I thought we had blown it in the next-to-last round, but we stayed calm and had an 80 percent last round. And we needed it," Mr. Lee said in an online bulletin about the contest. Mr. Weinstein also won a gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad in 1994.

Two seniors have been named to Verizon Academic All-America basketball teams. Cristina Estrada, an economics major, was selected for the women's first team, while Craig Heffernan of electrical engineering and computer science was named to the men's third team. The program is co-sponsored by Verizon and the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Gordon L. Brownell, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering and honorary physicist in the radiology department at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), received the Bernard H. Falk Award at the National Electrical Manufacturers Association annual meeting. He was honored for his development of positron imaging and positron emission tomography (PET). He and colleagues at MIT and MGH developed the first positron imaging device for medical use in 1950 and the first PET scanner in 1970.

Assistant Professor Thomas DeFrantz of music and theater arts was the American representative at the Bienelle of Dance in Umea, Sweden from March 28-April 1. He was invited to give a talk about dance studies in the United States and a report on everything he saw at the festival. He said the trip was "part of a mini-tour" that included a visit to the Italian island of Sardinia to participate in the Congress on African-American Research, where he read from his manuscript on Alvin Ailey.

Two graduate students have each received $1,000 research grants from Sigma Xi, the scientific research society. Bart Bartlett will work on spin-frustration effects on the antiferromagnetic coupling in Kagome lattice systems, supervised by Professor of Chemistry Daniel Nocera. Balasundar Raju of electrical engineering and computer science will research high-frequency ultrasonic characterization of normal human skin and skin cancer in vivo, supervised by Professor Mandayam Srinivasan of mechanical engineering and the Research Laboratory of Electronics.

Associate Professor Frederic C. Schaffer of political science is a 2000-01 Fulbright Scholar. He is researching "The Hidden Cost of Democratic Reform: Clean Elections and Voter Disengagement in the Philippines" at the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University. MIT is hosting 14 visiting Fulbright Scholars for various periods between August 2000 and January 2002.

Professor Nam P. Suh, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been selected by the Council of the Institution of Engineering Designers (IED) as the winner of the 2001 Hills Millennium Award, given annually to a foreign national who has made a major contribution to the professional areas of engineering design and/or product design. The award, which is being presented for the first time this year, is made possible by a gift to the IED from Professor Peter Hills and his wife to mark the millennium and his service as IED president.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 4, 2001.

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