President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea visits MIT

- Posted in Uncategorized by

President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea visited MIT on Friday, participating in a roundtable discussion with Institute leaders and faculty about biomedical research and discussing the fundamentals of technology-driven innovation clusters. 

South Korea, Yoon noted in his remarks, has highly regarded educational institutions, hospitals, and research facilities, along with robust legal and business systems. However, he added, the country still aims to develop the kind of biomedical innovation cluster exemplified by the Kendall Square area in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where a confluence of established and startup firms, academic research, and agile investment capital has created a world center of bioscience work. 

“We need [clusters] to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts,” Yoon said during the event, held in the MIT.nano building. 

Yoon’s visit included a look at the Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility in MIT.nano, which enables nearly atom-level evaluation of the structures of molecules and numerous other organic materials. It also featured presentations from MIT faculty, with a follow-up discussion among the participants. 

“I hope the Republic of Korea can benchmark what you are doing,” Yoon told the MIT participants, in remarks translated to the audience. “I know that won’t happen overnight.”

Yoon made the visit in the midst of a six-day state visit to the U.S., which included a formal White House state dinner this week hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden. The trip was aimed at further strengthening what is now a 70-year alliance between the two countries, with both security and economic topics on the agenda.

The visit to MIT was hosted by Richard Lester, associate provost for international activities and the Japan Steel Industry Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, and Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the MIT School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Thomas Schwartz, the Boris Magasanik Professor of Biology at MIT, initiated the visit by showing Yoon the microscopy facility. Yoon then proceeded to the roundtable discussion, which was moderated by Chandrakasan.

Lester welcomed Yoon to MIT, saying it was a “great honor” to have him at the Institute. 

For his part, Yoon offered remarks to formally start the discussion, noting among other things that “boosting investments in science and technology” on an ongoing basis was “extremely important” to his government. 

Six MIT professors spoke to Yoon about different aspects of biotechnology and enhancing innovation. Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, outlined the model of research-driven biotech startups he has helped create in recent decades. The group of about 40 firms Langer has helped found includes Moderna, the high-profile Covid-19 vaccine developer. Such ventures have had global impact, while changing the local cityscape around MIT. 

“It’s been remarkable to see the area around MIT transform,” Langer said, while suggesting that South Korean work in the field was clearly on the rise. “There is a lot of interest in biotechnology companies in [South] Korea,” Langer also noted. 

Dina Katabi, the Thuan and Nicole Pham Professor at MIT, explained how AI could be used to better diagnose some serious illnesses, including Parkinson’s, by using new tools to assess brain activity and its relationship to the potential for disease formation. “We can innovate in medicine, once you have such data,” she said. 

In some cases, new biotech tools are being deployed against familiar contagions. James Collins, the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science, discussed how he and colleagues are using AI tools to develop new medicines that could be used against increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacterial illnesses. Without new advances, Collins said, such illnesses could kill 10 million people a year by 2050. 

“We’re using AI models not only to discover but to design new antibiotics,” Collins said. “We think collaboration across nation-states, as well as universities worldwide, is really going to be needed to address this crisis.”

In response to prepared questions from the South Korea delegation, MIT faculty also talked about an array of topics pertaining to research and development and innovation.

Collin Stultz, the Nina T. and Robert H. Rubin Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as well as co-director of the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST) and associate director of MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), talked about developing talent in the biomedical field.

“Cultivating innovation in this space requires educating scholars who not only have technical expertise but have a real understanding of the biological and biomedical questions that are the most pressing,” Stultz said, noting that HST students work in hospital settings. “A hallmark of the HST program is not only to get specialized training in particular fundamental engineering or science disciplines … but also [to go] very deep into our actions with the medical community.”

Kwanghun Chung, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, a core member of IMES, an investigator in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and a faculty member in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, was asked to talk about the different components making up a successful innovation ecosystem. He noted that the process was analogous to seeding many things in nature, in order to create extensive growth. His remarks drew a response from Yoon, who added, “I realize such a forest doesn’t happen overnight.” 

Giovanni Traverso, the Karl Van Tassel Career Development Professor, showed Yoon models of small drug-delivery systems he and his colleagues have developed, demonstrating, for instance, how such devices attach to their targets properly.

In addition to Yoon, the participants from South Korea included Lee Jong Ho, minister of science and ICT; Choi Sang Mok, senior secretary to the president for economic affairs; Songyee Yoon PhD ’00, a member of the MIT Corporation and president and chief strategy officer of NCSOFT, a Korean gaming company; and Kim Young Tae, Seoul National University Hospital president and CEO.

Lee, who at the start of his career was a postdoc at MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratory, called the MIT visit a “very meaningful opportunity” to discuss trends and strategies, in a statement released by the South Korean government after the event. 

Yoon was elected as president in March of 2022. He grew up in Seoul, graduated from Seoul National University after studying law, and has had a lengthy career as a prosecutor. Yoon served as the country’s prosecutor general from 2019 to 2021. 

Source: President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea visits MIT

The Unemployment Gap Between Black and White New Yorkers Is Widening

- Posted in Discrimination by

The unemployment rate for Black New Yorkers rose to 12.2 percent in the first quarter of the year, while the white unemployment rate dropped to 1.3 percent, a new report says.

Source: The Unemployment Gap Between Black and White New Yorkers Is Widening

The Unemployment Gap Between Black and White New Yorkers Is Widening

- Posted in Uncategorized by

The unemployment rate for Black New Yorkers rose to 12.2 percent in the first quarter of the year, while the white unemployment rate dropped to 1.3 percent, a new report says.

Preparing Your Military-Connected Child for (Another) New School

- Posted in Uncategorized by

By: Lizann Lightfoot PCS season – when service members receive permanent change of station orders – is right around the corner, which means that military-connected children across the country are preparing to move and enroll in a new school. If you’re a parent or caregiver of a military-connected child, you’ve likely witnessed how challenging it

Continue Reading

The post Preparing Your Military-Connected Child for (Another) New School appeared first on Blog.

Source: Preparing Your Military-Connected Child for (Another) New School

J-PAL North America announces six new evaluation incubator partners to catalyze research on pressing social issues

- Posted in Uncategorized by

J-PAL North America, a regional office of MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), has announced six new partnerships with government agencies and leading nonprofits through the State and Local Evaluation Incubator and the Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator, launched in August 2022. These collaborators span the contiguous United States and represent a wide range of social policy areas. 

Over the next several months, organizations will work with J-PAL North America staff and affiliated researchers to design a randomized evaluation of one of their policies or programs. Randomized evaluations, in which participants are randomly assigned to either receive the program in question or “treatment as usual,” are unique in their ability to demonstrate the causal impact of a program. The goal of these evaluation incubators is to help organizations generate and utilize evidence to answer critical policy questions on state and local efforts to reduce poverty or addressing homelessness and housing stability.

Three collaborators aim to reduce homelessness and foster housing stability. One Roof, the coordinating agency for central Alabama’s Continuum of Care, seeks to evaluate the efficacy of a new risk assessment questionnaire for individuals experiencing homelessness upon engaging with the Coordinated Entry (CE) system. Jennifer Harrell, director of coordinated entry at One Roof, shares that “the CE program serving Central Alabama hopes to use the locally driven, evidenced-based data results learned from the randomized evaluation to begin the redesign process of the CE system to bring about more equitable housing outcomes for folks experiencing homelessness.”

The Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia (LASEV) provides legal services to low-income Virginians. “LASEV is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with J-PAL to develop evidence-based strategies in response to the eviction crisis facing the low-income families in our service area,” says Grants Manager Holly Yates. Through the Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator, LASEV will design an evaluation to assess the impact of providing legal information and reminders to individuals and families facing eviction. 

Washington’s Pierce County Human Services (PCHS) plans to assess the impact of their Eviction Prevention program, which provides wraparound case management, financial counseling, and funds to low-income households who are behind on rent. Heather Moss, director of PCHS, explains that “this evaluation of our program will help the county understand how best to use our limited resources to help neighbors at risk of losing their housing.”

The remaining collaborators operate in distinct and important policy areas: procedural justice, transportation, and income assistance. In California, the Anaheim Police Department aims to evaluate two officer training programs — wellness and procedural justice — to assess their impact on community trust. Deputy Chief of Police Rick Armendariz explains that their goal “is to provide training for our officers that helps them deal with their difficult, complex, and stressful job, while understanding the importance of developing a strong relationship with the community they serve.” On the topic of procedural justice specifically, the Anaheim Police Department hopes that their evaluation can inform policing policy more widely.

Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) plans to pilot and evaluate a guaranteed basic income program for low-income families with children. “Evaluating new and existing government programs provides data decision-makers can use to make government as efficient and effective as possible,” says Weston Merrick, a senior manager in the Results Management unit at MMB. “This particular project seeks to understand the impact of a guaranteed basic income pilot program on income, public assistance use, health, and housing stability in a large Minnesota county.”

King County Metro, the transportation services provider for the greater Seattle, Washington, area, is looking to evaluate their new on-demand transportation service for travelers with disabilities. Carrie Cihak, metro program project director, shares her excitement about participating in the State and Local Evaluation Incubator, noting that the engagement “empowers King County Metro decision-makers with evidence on the questions that matter most to us. Partnering with J-PAL will ensure our communities gain maximum benefit from innovative mobility solutions.”

By designing rigorous evaluations of their programs through the State and Local and Housing Stability Evaluation Incubators, collaborators have the potential to not only understand their impacts, but maximize their effectiveness. J-PAL North America and its partners are excited about using these findings to inform their practices and better support their constituents. Findings from these projects are also expected to contribute to broader policy lessons across this array of sectors.

Individuals interested in learning more can contact Mera Cronbaugh for questions about the State and Local Evaluation Incubator and Laina Sonterblum for inquiries related to the Housing Stability Evaluation Incubator.

Source: J-PAL North America announces six new evaluation incubator partners to catalyze research on pressing social issues

European bankers on digital euro: ‘ECB has no interest in users’ personal data’

- Posted in Uncategorized by
            <p style="float:right; margin:0 0 10px 15px; width:240px;"><img src=",onerror=redirect,quality=90,width=840/"></p><p>While anonymity still stands as the core issue of a European CBDC, the inevitable competition with private banks also raises questions.</p>

Source: European bankers on digital euro: ‘ECB has no interest in users’ personal data’

Deep-learning system explores materials’ interiors from the outside

- Posted in Uncategorized by

Maybe you can’t tell a book from its cover, but according to researchers at MIT you may now be able to do the equivalent for materials of all sorts, from an airplane part to a medical implant. Their new approach allows engineers to figure out what’s going on inside simply by observing properties of the material’s surface.

The team used a type of machine learning known as deep learning to compare a large set of simulated data about materials’ external force fields and the corresponding internal structure, and used that to generate a system that could make reliable predictions of the interior from the surface data.

The results are being published in the journal Advanced Materials, in a paper by doctoral student Zhenze Yang and professor of civil and environmental engineering Markus Buehler.

“It’s a very common problem in engineering,” Buehler explains. “If you have a piece of material — maybe it’s a door on a car or a piece of an airplane — and you want to know what’s inside that material, you might measure the strains on the surface by taking images and computing how much deformation you have. But you can’t really look inside the material. The only way you can do that is by cutting it and then looking inside and seeing if there’s any kind of damage in there.”

It's also possible to use X-rays and other techniques, but these tend to be expensive and require bulky equipment, he says. “So, what we have done is basically ask the question: Can we develop an AI algorithm that could look at what’s going on at the surface, which we can easily see either using a microscope or taking a photo, or maybe just measuring things on the surface of the material, and then trying to figure out what’s actually going on inside?” That inside information might include any damages, cracks, or stresses in the material, or details of its internal microstructure.

The same kind of questions can apply to biological tissues as well, he adds. “Is there disease in there, or some kind of growth or changes in the tissue?” The aim was to develop a system that could answer these kinds of questions in a completely noninvasive way.

Achieving that goal involved addressing complexities including the fact that “many such problems have multiple solutions,” Buehler says. For example, many different internal configurations might exhibit the same surface properties. To deal with that ambiguity, “we have created methods that can give us all the possibilities, all the options, basically, that might result in this particular [surface] scenario.”

The technique they developed involved training an AI model using vast amounts of data about surface measurements and the interior properties associated with them. This included not only uniform materials but also ones with different materials in combination. “Some new airplanes are made out of composites, so they have deliberate designs of having different phases,” Buehler says. “And of course, in biology as well, any kind of biological material will be made out of multiple components and they have very different properties, like in bone, where you have very soft protein, and then you have very rigid mineral substances.”

The technique works even for materials whose complexity is not fully understood, he says. “With complex biological tissue, we don’t understand exactly how it behaves, but we can measure the behavior. We don’t have a theory for it, but if we have enough data collected, we can train the model.”

Yang says that the method they developed is broadly applicable. “It is not just limited to solid mechanics problems, but it can also be applied to different engineering disciplines, like fluid dynamics and other types.” Buehler adds that it can be applied to determining a variety of properties, not just stress and strain, but fluid fields or magnetic fields, for example the magnetic fields inside a fusion reactor. It is “very universal, not just for different materials, but also for different disciplines.”

Yang says that he initially started thinking about this approach when he was studying data on a material where part of the imagery he was using was blurred, and he wondered how it might be possible to “fill in the blank” of the missing data in the blurred area. “How can we recover this missing information?” he wondered. Reading further, he found that this was an example of a widespread issue, known as the inverse problem, of trying to recover missing information.

Developing the method involved an iterative process, having the model make preliminary predictions, comparing that with actual data on the material in question, then fine-tuning the model further to match that information. The resulting model was tested against cases where materials are well enough understood to be able to calculate the true internal properties, and the new method’s predictions matched up well against those calculated properties.

The training data included imagery of the surfaces, but also various other kinds of measurements of surface properties, including stresses, and electric and magnetic fields. In many cases the researchers used simulated data based on an understanding of the underlying structure of a given material. And even when a new material has many unknown characteristics, the method can still generate an approximation that’s good enough to provide guidance to engineers with a general direction as to how to pursue further measurements.

As an example of how this methodology could be applied, Buehler points out that today, airplanes are often inspected by testing a few representative areas with expensive methods such as X-rays because it would be impractical to test the entire plane. “This is a different approach, where you have a much less expensive way of collecting data and making predictions,” Buehler says. “From that you can then make decisions about where do you want to look, and maybe use more expensive equipment to test it.”

To begin with, he expects this method, which is being made freely available for anyone to use through the website GitHub, to be mostly applied in laboratory settings, for example in testing materials used for soft robotics applications.

For such materials, he says, “We can measure things on the surface, but we have no idea what’s going on a lot of times inside the material, because it’s made out of a hydrogel or proteins or biomaterials for actuators, and there’s no theory for that. So, that’s an area where researchers could use our technique to make predictions about what’s going on inside, and perhaps design better grippers or better composites,” he adds.

The research was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the GoogleCloud platform, and the MIT Quest for Intelligence.

Source: Deep-learning system explores materials’ interiors from the outside

Study: Covid-19 has reduced diverse urban interactions

- Posted in Uncategorized by

The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced how often urban residents intersect with people from different income brackets, according to a new study led by MIT researchers.

Examining the movement of people in four U.S. cities before and after the onset of the pandemic, the study found a 15 to 30 percent decrease in the number of visits residents were making to areas that are socioeconomically different than their own. In turn, this has reduced people’s opportunities to interact with others from varied social and economic spheres.

“Income diversity of urban encounters decreased during the pandemic, and not just in the lockdown stages,” says Takahiro Yabe, a postdoc at the Media Lab and co-author of a newly published paper detailing the study’s results. “It decreased in the long term as well, after mobility patterns recovered.”

Indeed, the study found a large immediate dropoff in urban movement in the spring of 2020, when new policies temporarily shuttered many types of institutions and businesses in the U.S. and much of the world due to the emergence of the deadly Covid-19 virus. But even after such restrictions were lifted and the overall amount of urban movement approached prepandemic levels, movement patterns within cities have narrowed; people now visit fewer places.

“We see that changes like working from home, less exploration, more online shopping, all these behaviors add up,” says Esteban Moro, a research scientist at MIT’s Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC) and another of the paper’s co-authors. “Working from home is amazing and shopping online is great, but we are not seeing each other at the rates we were before.”

The paper, “Behavioral changes during the Covid-19 pandemic decreased income diversity of urban encounters,” appears in Nature Communications. The co-authors are Yabe; Bernardo García Bulle Bueno, a doctoral candidate at MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS); Xiaowen Dong, an associate professor at Oxford University; Alex Pentland, professor of media arts and sciences at MIT and the Toshiba Professor at the Media Lab; and Moro, who is also an associate professor at the University Carlos III of Madrid.

A decline in exploration

To conduct the study, the researchers examined anonymized cellphone data from 1 million users over a three-year period, starting in early 2019, with data focused on four U.S. cities: Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The researchers recorded visits to 433,000 specific “point of interest” locations in those cities, corroborated in part with records from Infogroup’s U.S. Business Database, an annual census of company information.  

The researchers used U.S. Census Bureau data to categorize the socioeconomic status of the people in the study, placing everyone into one of four income quartiles, based on the average income of the census block (a small area) in which they live. The scholars made the same income-level assessment for every census block in the four cities, then recorded instances in which someone spent from 10 minutes to four hours in a census block other than their own, to see how often people visited areas in different income quartiles. 

Ultimately, the researchers found that by late 2021, the amount of urban movement overall was returning to prepandemic levels, but the scope of places residents were visiting had become more restricted.

Among other things, people made many fewer visits to museums, leisure venues, transport sites, and coffee shops. Visits to grocery stores remained fairly constant — but people tend not to leave their socioeconomic circles for grocery shopping.

“Early in the pandemic, people reduced their mobility radius significantly,” Yabe says. “By late 2021, that decrease flattened out, and the average dwell time people spent at places other than work and home recovered to prepandemic levels. What’s different is that exploration substantially decreased, around 5 to 10 percent. We also see less visitation to fun places.” He adds: “Museums are the most diverse places you can find, parks — they took the biggest hit during the pandemic. Places that are [more] segregated, like grocery stores, did not.”

Overall, Moro notes, “When we explore less, we go to places that are less diverse.”

Different cities, same pattern

Because the study encompassed four cities with different types of policies about reopening public sites and businesses during the pandemic, the researchers could also evaluate what impact public health policies had on urban movement. But even in these different settings, the same phenomenon emerged, with a narrower range of mobility occurring by late 2021.

“Despite the substantial differences in how cities dealt with Covid-19, the decrease in diversity and the behavioral changes were surprisingly similar across the four cities,” Yabe observes.

The researchers emphasize that these changes in urban movement can have long-term societal effects. Prior research has shown a significant association between a diversity of social connections and greater economic success for people in lower-income groups. And while some interactions between people in different income quartiles might be brief and transactional, the evidence suggests that, on aggregate, other more substantial connections have also been reduced. Additionally, the scholars note, the narrowing of experience can also weaken civic ties and valuable political connections.

“It’s creating an urban fabric that is actually more brittle, in the sense that we are less exposed to other people,” Moro says. “We don’t get to know other people in the city, and that is very important for policies and public opinion. We need to convince people that new policies and laws would be fair. And the only way to do that is to know other people’s needs. If we don’t see them around the city, that will be impossible.”

At the same time, Yabe adds, “I think there is a lot we can do from a policy standpoint to bring people back to places that used to be a lot more diverse.” The researchers are currently developing further studies related to cultural and public institutions, as well and transportation issues, to try to evaluate urban connectivity in additional detail.

“The quantity of our mobility has recovered,” Yabe says. “The quality has really changed, and we’re more segregated as a result.”

Source: Study: Covid-19 has reduced diverse urban interactions

Robert Armstrong: A lifetime at the forefront of chemical engineering research and education

- Posted in Uncategorized by

Robert C. Armstrong, the Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering who has been the director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) since 2013 and part of MITEI’s leadership team since its inception in 2007, has announced that he will retire effective June 30. At that time he will have completed 50 years on the MIT faculty.  

Armstrong plans to continue to work at 10 percent capacity, focusing on research projects on which he serves as principal investigator and also advising a number of graduate students.

“Working at MIT has been a great honor and privilege for me,” says Armstrong. “Nowhere else can I imagine having had the opportunity to work with such exceptional students and colleagues and to have a ‘job’ that makes me want to get up every day to see what I can do to help humanity with its great challenges.”

Armstrong joined the founding MITEI leadership team with Ernest Moniz, now the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems emeritus and special advisor to the MIT president. When Moniz left MIT in 2013 to become U.S. secretary of energy, Armstrong was named MITEI director.

“MITEI has enabled us to leverage MIT’s great talent base to make significant advances in energy research, education, and outreach,” says Armstrong. “This is an incredibly important and exciting time in energy, and there is much to be done in envisioning and implementing an energy transition that mitigates the worst impacts of climate change, provides energy justly and equitably to those around the world without access or with inadequate access, and improves security of energy supply. I have been honored to do this work with amazing colleagues at MITEI and throughout MIT, and I will be cheering that team on, as it races to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

MIT Vice President for Research Maria Zuber will form a search committee to select the new MITEI director. Zuber has worked closely with Armstrong since she became vice president for research in 2012.

“Anyone who knows Bob knows that he is soft-spoken, but a person of deep conviction,” says Zuber. “He is a master of complexity, an admired educator, a respected leader, and a terrific colleague. During his decade as director, Bob has focused the MIT Energy Initiative on the urgent, daunting challenge of transforming the global energy system to respond to the climate crisis. In the last couple of years, Bob led the creation of MITEI’s Future Energy Systems Center, reflecting his keen understanding that an effective climate response requires integrated analysis and a systems approach — there is no one-fix-all solution. I congratulate Bob on a remarkable career, and I thank him for his half-century of dedicated service to MIT.”

Armstrong joined the MIT faculty in 1973 after earning his doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. A native of Louisiana, he earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech. He served as chair of the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering from 1996 until joining MITEI in 2007. 

“In his 50 years at MIT, Bob has been a truly dedicated educator, researcher, and leader in our department, the Institute, and the field of chemical engineering,” says Paula T. Hammond, Institute professor and the head of the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering — a successor to Armstrong in that role. “During his time as head, he expertly expanded the breadth and depth of the department’s research and academics while maintaining its high level of excellence. He has served as a thoughtful and proactive mentor to so many of our faculty members, as well as a dedicated teacher and advocate for modernizing chemical engineering curriculum. We are extremely fortunate to have profited from his scholarship and leadership over the past several decades and will continue to benefit thanks to his vision and work toward the future of chemical engineering and energy.”

In 2008, Armstrong was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering, based on his research into non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, his leadership in chemical engineering education, and his co-authoring of influential chemical engineering textbooks. He became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020.

He received the 2006 Bingham Medal from The Society of Rheology, which is devoted to the study of the science of deformation and flow of matter, as well as the Founders Award (2020), the Warren K. Lewis Award (2006), and the Professional Progress Award (1992), all from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Source: Robert Armstrong: A lifetime at the forefront of chemical engineering research and education

Driving toward data justice

- Posted in Uncategorized by

As a person with a mixed-race background who has lived in four different cities, Amelia Dogan describes her early life as “growing up in a lot of in-betweens.” Now an MIT senior, she continues to link different perspectives together, working at the intersection of urban planning, computer science, and social justice.

Dogan was born in Canada but spent her high school years in Philadelphia, where she developed a strong affinity for the city.  

“I love Philadelphia to death,” says Dogan. “It’s my favorite place in the world. The energy in the city is amazing — I’m so sad I wasn’t there for the Super Bowl this year — but it is a city with really big disparities. That drives me to do the research that I do and shapes the things that I care about.”

Dogan is double-majoring in urban science and planning with computer science and in American studies. She decided on the former after participating in the pre-orientation program offered by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, which provides an introduction to both the department and the city of Boston. She followed that up with a UROP research project with the West Philadelphia Landscape Project, putting together historical census data on housing and race to find patterns for use in community advocacy.

After taking WGS.231 (Writing About Race), a course offered by the Program in Women’s and Gender Studies, her first year at MIT, Dogan realized there was a lot of crosstalk between urban planning, computer science, and the social sciences.

“There’s a lot of critical social theory that I want to have background in to make me a better planner or a better computer scientist,” says Dogan. “There’s also a lot of issues around fairness and participation in computer science, and a lot of computer scientists are trying to reinvent the wheel when there’s already really good, critical social science research and theory behind this.”

Data science and feminism

Dogan’s first year at MIT was interrupted by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but there was a silver lining. An influx of funding to keep students engaged while attending school virtually enabled her to join the Data + Feminism Lab to work on a case study examining three places in Philadelphia with historical names that were renamed after activist efforts.

In her first year at MIT, Dogan worked several UROPs to hone her own skills and find the best research fit. Besides the West Philadelphia Land Project, she worked on two projects within the MIT Sloan School of Management. The first involved searching for connections between entrepreneurship and immigration among Fortune 500 founders. The second involved interviewing warehouse workers and writing a report on their quality of life.

Dogan has now spent three years in the Data + Feminism Lab under Associate Professor Catherine D’Ignazio, where she is particularly interested in how technology can be used by marginalized communities to invert historical power imbalances. A key concept in the lab’s work is that of counterdata, which are produced by civil society groups or individuals in order to counter missing data or to challenge existing official data.

Most recently, she completed a SuperUROP project investigating how femicide data activist organizations use social media. She analyzed 600 social media posts by organizations across the U.S. and Canada. The work built off the lab’s greater body of work with these groups, which Dogan has contributed to by annotating news articles for machine-learning models.

“Catherine works a lot at the intersection of data issues and feminism. It just seemed like the right fit for me,” says Dogan. “She’s my academic advisor, she’s my research advisor, and is also a really good mentor.”

Advocating for the student experience

Outside of the classroom, Dogan is a strong advocate for improving the student experience, particularly when it intersects with identity. An executive board member of the Asian American Initiative (AAI), she also sits on the student advisory council for the Office of Minority Education.

“Doing that institutional advocacy has been important to me, because it’s for things that I expected coming into college and had not come in prepared to fight for,” says Dogan. As a high schooler, she participated in programs run by the University of Pennsylvania’s Pan-Asian American Community House and was surprised to find that MIT did not have an equivalent organization.

“Building community based upon identity is something that I’ve been really passionate about,” says Dogan. “For the past two years, I’ve been working with AAI on a list of recommendations for MIT. I’ve talked to alums from the ’90s who were a part of an Asian American caucus who were asking for the same things.”

She also holds a leadership role with MIXED @ MIT, a student group focused on creating space for mixed-heritage students to explore and discuss their identities.

Following graduation, Dogan plans to pursue a PhD in information science at the University of Washington. Her breadth of skills has given her a range of programs to choose from. No matter where she goes next, Dogan wants to pursue a career where she can continue to make a tangible impact.

“I would love to be doing community-engaged research around data justice, using citizen science and counterdata for policy and social change,” she says.

Source: Driving toward data justice

Page 1 of 5