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New program studies emerging technologies

Principal investigators of the IGERT grant are (left to right) professors Dava Newman, Kenneth Oye, Merritt Roe Smith and Daniel Hastings.
Principal investigators of the IGERT grant are (left to right) professors Dava Newman, Kenneth Oye, Merritt Roe Smith and Daniel Hastings.
Photo / Sarah W. Anderson

The National Science Foundation has awarded MIT $2.9 million for a multidisciplinary graduate program on assessing effects of emerging technologies.

"This program will help MIT meet our responsibility to better understand and shape the consequences of the very technologies that MIT plays a role in developing," said President Charles M. Vest.

The five-year award is under the NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Re-search Training program. Graduate students will be drawn from the Technology and Policy Program (TPP) in the Engineering Systems Division (ESD); the Department of Political Science; and the Program in Science, Technology and Society (STS). The program's principal investigators are professors Daniel Hastings, director of the TPP; Dava Newman of aeronautics and astronautics and TPP; Kenneth Oye of political science, ESD and the Center for International Studies; and Merritt Roe Smith of STS.

The emerging-technology program's multidisciplinary panels and associated research groups will focus sequentially on nanotechnologies, ubiquitous computing and genetic engineering, with a fourth technology to be selected. Panelists will include scientists and engineers as well as government, industry and United Nations representatives.

"Engineering systems are often very complex and their analysis typically requires multiple perspectives. Consequently, many of today's most pressing technological issues would profit from this cross-school collaboration," said Dean of Engineering Thomas Magnanti.

The program will include three new core courses on evaluating economic, security, environmental, societal and ethical consequences of technical change, the multidisciplinary panels, which will train students to respond to emerging technologies and shape faculty-student research on critical areas of uncertainty; and seminars. The NSF award will provide tuition and stipends starting next fall. For more information, contact Sarah Anderson in the Center for International Studies (, 253-8306).

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 11, 2004.

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