Two professors from the School of Engineering and two from the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences were named MacVicar Faculty Fellows this year in recognition of their innovative teaching practices and accomplishments.
Vladimir Bulovic and Daniel Jackson, of electrical engineering and computer science; Diana Henderson of literature; and David Jones of science, technology and society are the newest MacVicar fellows.
The honor was formally announced by Provost L. Rafael Reif at a faculty reception on Thursday, March 5, at Gray House. The fellows were chosen by a special committee headed by Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel Hastings.
The program, now in its 18th year, is designed to create an elite group of MIT scholars committed to excellence in teaching and innovation in education -- causes championed by the late Dean for Undergraduate Education and Professor of Physics Margaret L.A. MacVicar, whom the program honors. Dean MacVicar died in 1991.
"We are a faculty dedicated to research and scholarship and also dedicated to providing an excellent education for our students," said Hastings. "The MacVicar programÂ is a tangible statement of that caring."
The fellowships provide an annual scholar's allowance to assist each fellow in developing ways to enrich the undergraduate learning experience. MacVicar Faculty Fellows serve 10-year terms.
Two of the fellows, Bulovic and Jackson, were named Van Buren Hansford (1937) - Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows.
Bulovic, the KDD Associate Professor of Communications and Technology, earned BS (1991), MA (1995) and PhD (1998) degrees from Princeton University. He joined the MIT faculty in 2000.
Bulovic's research interests include studies of physical properties of nanodot composite thin films and structures, and development of novel optoelectronic organic and hybrid nanoscale devices. In 2004, he was named as one of the TR100, Technology Review magazine's annual list of top young innovators in technology.
As a teacher, Bulovic seamlessly blends his artistic skills with extraordinary technical acumen, according to his colleagues. He has an incredible ability to engage and motivate students, and to inspire them to new heights. Moreover, he is able to take complex ideas and present them in a manner that makes them especially clear and intuitive.
"As he presents materials, Professor Bulovic is constantly gauging the students' absorption of the material," one of his students told the MacVicar Nominating Committee. "If there are any confused looks or bewildered faces from students, he re-explains the material in another way and waits for questions or a sense of student understanding. He seems to enjoy answering questions, which makes students comfortable asking them."
Henderson, professor of literature and dean for curriculum and faculty support, jointed the MIT faculty in 1996 after spending several years on the faculty at Middlebury College. She earned a BS in philosophy and English from the College of William & Mary in 1979, and an MA (1980), MPhil (1983) and PhD (1989) in English from Columbia University.
Henderson's areas of research include gender studies, Shakespeare, early modern culture, modernism and world drama. She has written several books on Shakespeare and won the 2005 Everett Moore Baker Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
According to colleagues, Henderson has been a force behind the revitalization of the literature major at MIT, and works hard to show that learning is enjoyable and that reading and understanding difficult texts can become a pleasure.
"Professor Henderson is one of those rare people who is able to spread her enthusiasm and academic vigor for any literary topic to make even the most terrified or uninterested student want to learn more," one of her students told the nominating committee. "She doesn't lecture, she engages."
Jackson, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, graduated from Oxford University in 1984 and earned MS and PhD degrees from MIT in 1988 and 1992, respectively. He joined the MIT faculty in 1997 after spending six years as an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
His research interests include finding ways to make software more dependable and easy to use, and to reduce the cost of development.
Jackson's colleagues say that he is a gifted teacher who cares deeply about his teaching and about the learning experience of MIT undergraduates. His lecturing style is clear, articulate and precise, and --Â through his artful use of the blackboard -- he bucks the lecture trend of PowerPoint information delivery at firehose speeds.
"I greatly admire the evident passion that Professor Jackson has for his students and his teaching," one of his students told the panel. "The excitement in his voice about the subject and the humor he injected into his lectures made every lesson, dare I say, enjoyable!"
Jones, Associate Professor of the History and Culture of Science and Technology, holds BA (1993), MA (1997), MD (2001) and PhD (2001) degrees from Harvard University. After completing his degrees, he was a teaching fellow in pediatrics at Boston University's School of Medicine and a clinical fellow in pediatrics and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has been at MIT since 2004.
Jones has written a book on epidemics among American Indians, and has also studied Cold War medicine, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and the history of cardiac surgery.
Jones has a knack for understanding how to package important ideas so that students quickly appreciate the connection between big social and scientific issues and their own, humble experiences, according to his colleagues. As a practicing physician, as well as a historian of science and medicine, Jones has great credibility when he talks about controversial issues, and can cover very complicated angles with ease and gravitas.
"Three hours of David Jones per week simply isn't enough!" one of his students said. "Often after recitation, there were large clusters of students staying beyond class time, even missing portions of other classes, clamoring to glean more from David."
On Friday, March 6, the MacVicar fellows will host a panel discussion, "New Directions in General Education @ MIT," which is open to all members of the MIT community. Panel members include Professors Denny Freeman of electrical engineering and computer science, Haynes Miller of mathematics, Alex Techet of mechanical engineering and Janet Sonenberg of theater arts.
The panel will be held in Room 9-057 from 2 to 3:30 p.m., followed by a reception and viewing of faculty exhibits in Lobby 9.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 11, 2009 (download PDF).