David Pesetsky honored by MIT Linguistics colleagues and alumni

More than 100 faculty colleagues, current and former students, and guests gathered at the Stata Center on Feb. 11 for a daylong linguistics workshop organized as a tribute to the research and teaching of MIT linguist David Pesetsky.

Attendees came from as far away as Korea, Russia, and Turkey to honor Pesetsky, the Ferrari P. Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics and head of MIT’s Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. Pesetsky is noted both for his innovative and critical research on syntactic theory and for his teaching; he is a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT, an honor awarded to the Institute’s finest teachers and mentors.


Planned in secret over a year and a half as a surprise to mark Pesetsky’s 60th birthday, the event featured panel discussions on two linguistics topics of keen interest to Pesetsky — case and wh-questions — and was rounded out with poster sessions and a celebratory dinner. The event was organized by Claire Halpert PhD ’12, MIT Professor Sabine Iatridou, Hadas Kotek PhD ’14, and Coppe van Urk PhD ’15, with help from Mary Grenham, the administrative officer for MIT Linguistics.

Iatridou offered welcoming remarks to start the day. “We’re here to show you our love and appreciation,” she said. “You have contributed to each and every one of us — with dedication and generosity and enormous linguistic talent — to our thinking, to our work, to our attitude toward doing science in general. Thank you.”

While it’s unclear how Pesetsky was persuaded to pop into the Stata Center on a wintry gray Saturday, it’s certain he was both genuinely surprised and delighted to discover the event had been planned in his honor. “Seeing over three decades of former students, from my very first PhD student from 1986 to students who just finished (and of course many who are still at MIT), all together in the same room — that was overwhelming,” he said. “One of our alums who participated quoted her incredulous spouse as saying that ‘we are in a special line of work if an all-day work conference on a Saturday counts as a really great birthday surprise.’ But that’s exactly how it was.”

A Pesky set

A highlight of the day was the presentation of a Festschrift for Pesetsky — “A Pesky Set: Papers for David Pesetsky” — a collection of 60 linguistic papers contributed by former and current students. “If I understand correctly, it was apparently a magical accident that they numbered exactly 60,” Pesetsky commented, “but it’s no accident that the papers are fantastic, because their authors are some of the best researchers in the field today.”

Halpert, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Minnesota, co-edited the book with Kotek, a lecturer in semantics at Yale University, and van Urk, a lecturer in linguistics at Queen Mary University of London. “Our aim with the Festschrift was to celebrate a part of David’s legacy and impact on the field that is perhaps less immediately obvious just from looking at his own research output: the far-reaching effect of his tireless mentorship as a teacher and adviser,” Halpert said.
Pesetsky is an “an inspiring teacher and dedicated mentor,” said Kotek, noting that she continues to look to him as a role model now that she is a faculty member herself. “It can be hard to convey to someone just how much they’ve influenced your life, but I hope that this event is a good way for us to start saying ‘thank you!'”

Commenting in advance of the occasion, Institute Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky, who led the department along with Institute Professor Emeritus Morris Halle during its early years, said the honor for Pesetsky is in some ways the fruition of the dream they had for the department.

“Morris and I sometimes reminisce about the days, 60 years ago, when we mused about what it might be like to develop a linguistics program at MIT, quite a long shot at the time. Looking back over the years, it is immensely gratifying to see how the experiment took its course, and where it has reached today,” Chomsky said.

“It is particularly gratifying to know that the project is now in the very capable hands of David Pesetsky, one of the truly outstanding linguists of the current period, whose original and far-reaching achievements have been enriching the study of language and related disciplines since his student days.”

Story by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial team: Kathryn O’Neill, Emily Hiestand


4th HBP Student Conference on Interdisciplinary Brain Research – 21 January 2020, Pisa, Italy

[Source: Research & Innovation] The human brain is such a complex system that it can only be understood by combining knowledge and practices from multiple scientific fields. The 4th HBP Student Conference provides an open forum for the exchange of new ideas among young researchers working across various aspects of science relevant to the Human Brain Project (HBP). The conference offers a space for extensive scientific dialogue, both intra- and interdisciplinary, among peers and faculty through a variety of discussion sessions, lectures and social events. We invite original high-quality submissions describing innovative research in all disciplines addressed in the HBP. These contributions can emphasise theoretical or empirical works relating to a wide spectrum of fields including but not limited to: neuroscience, computer science, robotics, medicine, psychology, cognitive science or philosophy. We particularly encourage submissions with a potential to inspire collaboration in the research community by introducing new and relevant problems, concepts, and ideas, even if the work is at an early stage of development. Source

The Committee on Animal Care solicits feedback

The Committee on Animal Care (CAC) and the vice president for research welcome any information that would aid our efforts to assure the humane care of research animals used at MIT and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

Established to ensure that MIT researchers working with animals comply with federal, state, local and institutional regulations on animal care, the CAC inspects animals, animal facilities, and laboratories, and reviews all research and teaching exercises that involve animals before experiments are performed.

If you have concerns about animal welfare, please contact the Committee on Animal Care (CAC) by calling 617-324-6892, or send your concern in writing to the CAC Office (Room 16-408), or email cacpo@mit.edu. The issue will be forwarded to the chair of the CAC and the attending veterinarian.

You may also contact any of the following:

•       Vice president for research: 617-253-3206, mtz@mit.edu
•       Director of the Division of Comparative Medicine and attending veterinarian: 617-253-1735, jgfox@mit.edu
•       CAC chair: 617-285-5156, helh@med.mit.edu

All concerns about animal welfare will remain confidential. The identity of individuals who contact the CAC with concerns will be treated as confidential, and individuals will be protected against reprisal and discrimination consistent with MIT policies. The Committee on Animal Care will report its findings and actions to correct the issue to the vice president for research, the director of comparative medicine, the individual who reported the concern (if not reported anonymously), and oversight agencies as applicable.


MIT rates No. 1 in 12 subjects in 2017 QS World University Rankings

MIT has been honored with 12 No. 1 subject rankings in the QS World University Rankings for 2017.

MIT received a No. 1 ranking in the following QS subject areas: Architecture/Built Environment; Linguistics; Computer Science and Information Systems; Chemical Engineering; Civil and Structural Engineering; Electrical and Electronic Engineering; Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering; Chemistry; Materials Science; Mathematics; Physics and Astronomy; and Economics.

Additional high-ranking MIT subjects include: Art and Design (No. 2), Biological Sciences (No. 2), Earth and Marine Sciences (No. 5), Environmental Sciences (No. 3), Accounting and Finance (No. 2), Business and Management Studies (No. 4), and Statistics and Operational Research (No. 2).

Quacquarelli Symonds Limited subject rankings, published annually, are designed to help prospective students find the leading schools in their field of interest. Rankings are based on research quality and accomplishments, academic reputation, and graduate employment.

MIT has been ranked as the No. 1 university in the world by QS World University Rankings for five straight years.


European Innovation Council – European Commission awards €210 million to 108 innovative projects to help them access the market faster

[Source: Research & Innovation] 108 innovative projects have been selected for funding under the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot in the latest funding round. The total amount to be distributed to the projects under the EIC Accelerator and the Fast Track to Innovation strands of the EIC pilot is €210.2 million. Source