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Swager, Yablo to head departments

Timothy Swager
Timothy Swager
Steve Yablo
Steve Yablo

Timothy Swager, professor of chemistry, and Steve Yablo, professor of philosophy, have been appointed heads of their respective departments, effective July 1, 2005.

In announcing Swager's appointment, Robert Silbey, dean of the School of Science, said, "Tim will make an outstanding head of chemistry and I look forward to working with him over the next five years."

Swager also serves as associate director of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) and as leader of the ISN team on Mechanically Active Materials and Devices.

His research interests include chemical sensors, polymer science, liquid crystals, synthetic conductors, molecular electronics and photonics. He is perhaps best known for his demonstration of the amplifying ability of molecular wires to create ultrasensitive sensors for explosives that rival the sensitivity of bomb-sniffing dogs. Sensors enabled by Swager's technology are presently being used in Iraq by the U.S. Marine Corps to detect explosives threats.

Swager received a B.S. degree from Montana State University in 1983 and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1988. He did postdoctoral work at MIT and was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania before coming to MIT as a professor of chemistry in 1996.

In his announcement, Silbey recognized the "leadership and dedication to the department" of outgoing head Stephen J. Lippard, Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry.

Philip Khoury, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, announced Yablo's appointment.

"Steve Yablo is one of the leading philosophers of his generation, having made significant contributions to logic, philosophy of mind and metaphysics. He's also an outstanding undergraduate teacher. His leadership of the Philosophy Section has contributed to the very high national ranking of our philosophy Ph.D. program. I have every expectation that his leadership of the Linguistics and Philosophy Department will only redound to that department's benefit in the years ahead," Khoury said.

Yablo describes his areas of specialization as metaphysics, philosophy of mind and philosophical logic. He teaches courses in metaphysics, logic, philosophy of mind and philosophy of mathematics. In the past five years, Yablo has published articles with such lively titles as "Tables Schmables" (2003), "Go Figure: A Path Through Fictionalism" (2002) and "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" (2001).

Yablo received a B.Sc. degree in math and philosophy from the University of Toronto in 1979 and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1986.

He taught at the University of Michigan and the University of Toronto before coming to MIT in 1998 as an associate professor of philosophy. He was promoted to full professor in 2001.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 6, 2005 (download PDF).

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