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Ian Waitz named vice president for research

The former vice chancellor for undergraduate and graduate education will leverage more than 30 years of experience at the Institute to oversee MIT’s research activities.

Zach Winn | MIT News • mit
April 24, 2024 5 minSource

In a letter to the MIT community today, President Sally Kornbluth announced the appointment of Ian A. Waitz to the position of vice president for research. In the role, Waitz will report to the president and oversee MIT’s vast research enterprise. The appointment is effective May 1.

Waitz, who is also the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, brings deep knowledge of MIT to the position. Over more than 30 years, he has served in a wide range of roles across the Institute, where he has made his mark through energy, optimism, persistence, and a commitment to MIT’s mission of using education and innovation to create a better world.

“Ian brings a rare range and depth of understanding of MIT’s research and educational enterprise, our daily operations, our institutional challenges and opportunities, our history and our values — and an unmatched record of solving hard problems and getting big, high-stakes things done well,” Kornbluth wrote.

“MIT’s research enterprise is a critical part of our mission, not just for the impact that innovation and discovery have on the world, but also for the way it enables us to educate people by giving them problems that no one else has ever solved before,” Waitz says. “That builds a sort of intellectual capacity and resilience to work on really hard problems, and the nation and the world need us to work on hard problems.”

Waitz will step down from his current role as vice chancellor overseeing undergraduate and graduate education, where he was instrumental in advancing the priorities of the Chancellor’s Office, currently led by Melissa Nobles.

In that role, which he has held since 2017, Waitz worked with students, faculty, and staff from across the Institute to revamp the first-year undergraduate academic experience, helped steer the Institute through the Covid-19 pandemic, and led efforts to respond to graduate student unionization. Waitz also led a strategic restructuring to integrate the former offices of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and the Dean for Graduate Education, creating the Office of the Vice Chancellor and leading to a more aligned and efficient organization. And, he spearheaded projects to expand professional development opportunities for graduate students, created the MIT Undergraduate Advising Center, worked to significantly expand undergraduate financial aid, and broadly expanded support for graduate students.

“I think my experience gives me a unique perspective on research and education at MIT,” Waitz says. “Education is obviously an amazing part of MIT, and working with students bridges education and the research. That’s one of the things that’s special about a research university. I’m excited for this new role and to continue to work to further strengthen MIT’s exceptional research enterprise.”

Waitz will be filling a role previously held by Maria Zuber , the E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics, who now serves as MIT’s presidential advisor for science and technology policy. Waitz says he’s eager to dive in and work to identify ways to help MIT’s prolific research engine run more smoothly. The move is just the latest example of Waitz leaning into new opportunities in service to MIT.

Prior to assuming his current role as vice chancellor, Waitz served as the dean of the School of Engineering between 2011 and 2017, supporting the school’s ability to attract and support exceptional students and faculty. He oversaw the launch of programs including the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), the Sandbox Innovation Fund, and the MIT Beaver Works program with Lincoln Laboratory. He also strengthened co-curricular and enrichment programs for undergraduate and graduate students, and worked with department heads to offer more flexible degrees.

Prior to that, Waitz served as the head of MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where he has been a faculty member since 1991. His research focuses on developing technological, operational, and policy options to mitigate the environmental impacts of aviation. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and has worked closely with industry and government throughout his career.

“One lesson I’ve learned is that the greatest strength of MIT is our students, faculty, and staff,” Waitz says. “We identify people who are real intellectual entrepreneurs. Those are the people that really thrive here, and what you want to do is create a low-friction, high-resource environment for them. Amazing things bubble up from that.”

Reprinted with permission of MIT News

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