Six faculty members elected AAAS fellows

Professors Baggeroer, Flynn, Harris, Klopfer, Lauffenburger, and Leonard elected

Six MIT faculty members were elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) October 2019, according to an MIT News release.

The faculty members elected were Arthur B. Baggeroer ScD ’68, professor of mechanical, ocean and electrical engineering; Suzanne Flynn, professor of foreign languages and linguistics; Wesley Harris, professor of aeronautics and astronautics; Eric Klopfer, head of the comparative media studies and writing section; Douglas Lauffenburger, professor of biological engineering, chemical engineering, and biology; and John Leonard, professor of mechanical and ocean engineering.

According to the AAAS website, fellows are “member[s] whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished and who has been a continuous member for the four year period leading up to the year of nomination.”

Arthur Baggeroer, an emeritus Ford professor of engineering who is also a secretary of the navy and chief of naval operations chair for ocean science, wrote in an email to The Tech that he researches digital signaling processing for sonar, radar and seismic systems, ocean acoustic telemetry, global acoustics for ocean thermometry and ocean warming and matched field array processing.

Baggeroer has been conducting extensive research on ocean acoustics in the Arctic Ocean since 1978 and has worked as the chief scientist for several ice camps, he told The Tech in a phone interview.

“I have many students. Whenever I go to meetings, I encounter people who have written theses for me or been in my classes,” Baggeroer said. It “is personally rewarding to see them flourishing.”

According to his email, Baggeroer is also an Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) fellow and Acoustical Society of America (ASA) fellow. He was the director of the MIT-Woods Hole Joint Program (1983–1988) and has been affiliated with the MIT-Lincoln Laboratory since 1968. He has also served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Navy.

Suzanne Flynn is also a speech-language pathologist in the department of otolaryngology and communication enhancement at Boston Children’s Hospital. According to the website of the LEX Language Project, which she directs, Flynn researches aspects of language acquisition and multilingualism, including syntax acquisition for second- and third-languages, the multilingual brain, and the effect of Alzheimer’s disease on language.

She is the co-founding editor of Syntax: A Journal of Theoretical, Experimental and Interdisciplinary Research. Flynn is currently one of the Maseeh Hall heads of house.

Wesley Harris, who is also the C.S. Draper professor of aeronautics and astronautics, served as the associate provost for faculty equity from 2008–2013 and the department head of the MIT aeronautics and astronautics department from 2003–2008.

Harris has made seminal contributions in the fields of unsteady aerodynamics, aeroacoustics, rarefied gas dynamics, sustainment of capital assets, and chaos in sickle cell disease. He has also worked to advance cultural diversity in academia and government.

Harris has also worked as associate administrator for aeronautics at NASA headquarters from 1993–1995, dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Connecticut from 1985–1990, and program manager at NASA headquarters from 1970–1980. He is currently the New House head of house.

Eric Klopfer is head of the Comparative Media Studies and Writing Section. His research focuses on educational technologies to support math and science learning at the high school and middle school levels.

Klopfer is the director of the Scheller Teacher Education Program, a formal program that trains MIT students who wish to become math and science teachers. He designs educational games to provide engagement through authentic involvement in problem-solving and works with schools and teachers to help them conceptualize how to incorporate project-based learning into the core curriculum.

“Our goal with a lot of these designs is not to necessarily just entertain kids with games … but rather use the games as a way to engage students in solving hard problems that are contextualized within the game,” Klopfer said in an interview with The Tech.

Klopfer said that while completing his PhD in biology, he worked as a volunteer in educational programs with schools and teachers. He worked as a teacher in Amherst, using his background in computer modeling and biological systems to integrate technology into classrooms.

“A lesser-known aspect of the AAAS is its involvement with science education,” Klopfer said. “So for me, it’s particularly meaningful.”

Douglas Lauffenburger is the Ford professor of biological engineering, chemical engineering, and biology. His research is in molecular cell bioengineering.

Lauffenburger’s main research focus is in cell dysregulation and “identifying and testing new therapeutic ideas,” according to the Lauffenburger laboratory website.

Lauffenburger is a member of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the MIT Center for Gynepathology Research, as well as an affiliate of the Ragon Institute of MIT, MGH, and Harvard. He is also an American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

In an email to The Tech, Lauffenburger wrote, “To me the central significance of this honor is its recognition of contributions to the advancement of science broadly, in my case predominantly the creation of biological engineering here at MIT.”

John Leonard, who is a professor of mechanical and ocean engineering, leads the Marine Research Group at MIT and pioneers work on simultaneous localization and mapping in autonomous vehicles.

Leonard told The Tech in an interview that he completed his PhD in 1994 at Oxford University, where he worked in one of the first “vibrant mobile robotics research groups.” “I was obsessed with the problem of how robots could navigate and build maps of the world,” Leonard said.

Leonard said a core aspect of AAAS is “advocacy for science,” adding that “an important part of that is trying to communicate to the public.”

Leonard also described academics as “part of a community” and emphasized that “it’s really important to be active in the community, to help people when they ask for help, and to advocate for younger faculty, colleagues, students, and postdocs.”

Flynn and Harris did not respond to a request for comment by The Tech.

Update 12/05/2019: This article was updated to correct that Baggeroer has only been affiliated with and has not served as the director of the MIT Lincoln Lab.