At MIT, we see innovation as the process of translating knowledge into progress. That can mean something as useful and appealing as a well-considered app—or something that turns the world upside down. The first microchip. The laser. GPS.
As the people of MIT have demonstrated time and again, often the most profound and fertile innovations spring from the seeds of fundamental research. This issue of Spectrum highlights individuals at work on intriguing new examples, from Professors John Joannopoulos and Marin Soljačić, physicists who helped develop a new method for wireless power transfer, to electrical engineering Professor Jim Fujimoto, who pioneered optical coherence tomography, a major new form of medical imaging that offers real-time visualization of internal tissue microstructure and pathology using echoes of light.
You will also find a story on MIT.nano, the ambitious new facility soon to rise in the heart of our campus. Providing advanced facilities for nanoscale research and engineering, MIT.nano is also designed to create connection and inspire collaboration across the broad community of nano researchers in and around MIT. After decades of exploring the new ways that materials behave at the nanoscale, the time has come for action: transforming that knowledge into bold new progress in energy, environment, electronics, manufacturing, human health, and more.
The lessons of innovation and entrepreneurship have always been in the air at MIT. But for most of our history, they were not in the curriculum. Today—in response to rising student enthusiasm—MIT offers a wide range of resources, including courses, competitions, mentors, and maker spaces, to help students build the skills to invent new products, launch new companies, and deliver their ideas to the world. Expanding and enhancing those resources is a central aim of our new Innovation Initiative.
In the end, at MIT, innovation is simply how we approach the world—Mens et Manus in action. It shapes how we teach our students and collaborate with partners here and around the globe. And because our faculty, students, postdocs, and alumni approach the challenge of innovation in the spirit of our mission statement—bringing knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges, to benefit humanity—I believe we have the power to make a disproportionate positive impact.
I look forward with excitement to seeing where the people of MIT lead the world next.
L. Rafael Reif