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Michael Sipser named interim dean of the School of Science

Mathematician has been a member of the faculty since 1980 and department head since 2004.
Michael Sipser
photo: Justin Knight

Michael Sipser, the Barton L. Weller Professor of Mathematics and head of the Department of Mathematics since 2004, has been named interim dean of the School of Science, effective Dec. 16.

Sipser succeeds Marc Kastner, the Donner Professor of Physics, who was recently nominated by President Barack Obama to lead the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. A faculty search committee will work to identify a permanent dean.

“We are grateful to Mike Sipser for his willingness to accept this role and responsibility, and deeply appreciative of Marc’s tremendous leadership as Dean of Science,” Acting Provost Martin Schmidt wrote today in an email to the faculty and to staff within the School of Science.

A member of the MIT faculty since 1980, Sipser is a leading theoretical computer scientist and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Under his leadership, the Department of Mathematics has launched several successful fundraising efforts, securing funds for the renovation of Building 2, for endowed chairs, and for fellowships: Thanks to these efforts, the department now provides fellowships to all first-year graduate students. During the same period, the department has seen a 54 percent increase in the number of undergraduate majors, from 186 in 2004 to 287 this year. Sipser has also appointed more than half of the department’s 50 current faculty members.

Sipser is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He authored the widely used textbook “Introduction to the Theory of Computation,” first published in 1996 and now in its third edition. Sipser received the MIT Graduate Student Council Teaching Award in 1984, 1989, and 1991, and the School of Science Student Advising Award in 2003.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Sipser earned his BA in mathematics from Cornell University in 1974 and his PhD in engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1980. He joined MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science as a research associate in 1979, becoming an assistant professor of applied mathematics in 1980; associate professor of applied mathematics in 1983; and professor of applied mathematics in 1989.

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