RESEARCH & INNOVATION
MTL Director Anantha Chandrakasan wins
SIA University Researcher Award.
In CSAIL project, robots
do the gardening.
Happy Birthday, MITAC
MIT Activities Committee celebrates a
quarter-century of events, tickets and fun.
E R V I N G
M I T C
O M M U N I T Y
Volume 53, Number 19
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Re-engineered material could solve long-standing battery issues
IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CEDER LAB
Scanning electron micrograph of a
particle of the new battery material. Dark
area indicates the inside of the particle
surrounded by a lighter surface layer
only five nanometers wide.
bring pragmatic approach
to Obama administration
Drawn to science
IMAGE / MOLLY BANG
A page from ‘Living Sunlight,’ a children’s book about photosynthesis that MIT ocean
microbiologist Penny Chisholm co-authored. Read more on page 3.
American presidents have famously raided
universities to build their policy teams.
President John F. Kennedy sought foreign
policy advisors from his alma mater, Harvard.
President Ronald Reagan relied on economists
steeped in the laissez-faire school of thought
from the University of Chicago.
President Barack Obama has tapped a
number of MIT-trained economists to craft
a response to the worst economic downturn
in generations. These economists represent
no particular ideology or canon. Instead, they
reflect the eclectic, practical approach of the
Institute’s Department of Economics.
James Poterba, the Mitsui Professor of
Economics, former head of the MIT Econom-
ics Department, and president of the National
Bureau of Economic Research, says the MIT
crew is part of a “dream team of economic
advisors” in the Obama administration.
“They are realists and pragmatists who
are looking for what will work to address the
particular problems we are facing,” Poterba
says. “I think these folks are very much prob-
lem solvers in the MIT tradition.”
“Of course,” he adds, “on the economic
front, they have lots of problems to solve.”
MIT’s Department of Economics has
trained many leading central bankers. In addi-
tion to U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman
Ben Bernanke PhD ’79, the bankers with MIT
ties include Mario Draghi PhD ’77, governor
of the Bank of Italy, Stanley Fischer PhD ’69,
an emeritus member of the MIT faculty and
governor of the Bank of Israel, José de Grego-
rio PhD ’90, governor of the Central Bank of
Chile, and Athanasios Orphanides ’85, PhD
’90, governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus.
In Washington, Lawrence H. Summers
’75, former secretary of the Treasury and
Harvard University president, leads Presi-
dent Obama’s National Economics Council.
Christina Romer PhD ’85 heads the Council
of Economic Advisors while Austan Gools-
bee PhD ’95, who served as Obama’s senior
economics advisor during the campaign,
has been nominated to serve as a member
of the Council of Economic Advisers and is
chief economist of the President’s Economic
Recovery Advisory Board. Harvard econom-
ics professor Jeremy Stein PhD ’86 is a special
advisor to the secretary of the Treasury.
Additionally, Xavier de Souza Briggs, associate
professor of sociology and urban planning in
the Department of Urban Studies and Plan-
ning, has joined the administration as associ-
ate director of the White House Office of
Management and Budget.
The MIT-trained economics appointees
bring different skills and points of view,
following no single “party line,” says Robert
Solow, Institute Professor emeritus. Their
primary strength lies in their ability to deal
with data without a lot of presupposition, he
MIT engineers have created a kind of
beltway that allows for the rapid transit of
electrical energy through a well-known
battery material, an advance that could usher
in smaller, lighter batteries — for cell phones
and other devices — that could recharge in
seconds rather than hours.
The work could also allow for the quick
recharging of batteries in electric cars,
although that particular application would be
limited by the amount of power available to a
homeowner through the electric grid.
The work, led by Gerbrand Ceder, the
Richard P. Simmons Professor of Materials
Science and Engineering, is reported in the
Please see BATTERY, PAGE 7
Please see ECONOMY, PAGE 6
From top: Alumni Ben
Bernanke PhD ’79,
Austan Goolsbee PhD
’95, Christina Romer
PhD ’85 and Lawrence H.
Y OF CHICA
PAGE 2 March 18, 2009
MIT Tech Talk
Edward O. Vetter, Corporation
life member emeritus, 88
Edward Oswald Vetter ’42, a former
commerce undersecretary in President
Ford’s administration and an energetic life
member emeritus of the MIT Corpora-
tion, died March 9 at the age of 88.
Born on Oct. 20, 1920, in Rochester,
N.Y., to German immigrant parents,
Vetter graduated from MIT in 1942 with
a degree in mechanical engineering. After
graduation, Vetter joined the Army, where
he was eventually promoted to major. His
professional career took him to Standard
Oil of California as a production engineer
and then to Texas Instruments, where
he retired in 1975 as the chief financial
officer. He later entered government, serv-
ing as the undersecretary of commerce in
the Ford administration, energy advisor to
the governor of Texas and chairman of the
Texas Department of Commerce.
Vetter was elected a term member of
the MIT Corporation in 1973, reelected in
1978, and elected a life member in 1983.
As president of the Alumni Association, he
served as an ex officio member from 1976
to 1977. In 1977, he was a recipient of the
Bronze Beaver Award, the highest honor
bestowed by the Alumni Association for
Paul Gray, MIT president emeritus
and professor emeritus in the Department
of Electrical Engineering and Computer
Science, remembered Vetter as someone
fiercely loyal to MIT and possessing the
fun-loving charm of his adopted state of
Texas. “By the time I got to know him in
1971, you’d have thought he was a Texan
all his life,” Gray said.
Joseph G. Gavin Jr. ’41, remembers
rowing with Vetter when both were
members of the varsity squad as under-
graduates. A fellow life member emeritus
of the Corporation, Gavin said the Dallas-
based Vetter was a great supporter of MIT.
“He was one of those forthright people
who called a spade a spade. He was a real
Texan and I remained a damn Yankee,” he
said. But “he was always there when the
Institute needed something.”
Vetter participated on numerous Corpo-
ration committees, including more than
a decade of service on both the Executive
and Membership Committees. He served
as chair of the visiting committees for
the Department of Materials Science and
Engineering, the Department of Nuclear
Engineering, and Sponsored Research; he
was also a member of the visiting commit-
tees for the Department of Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science and
for the Libraries. Vetter was a member of
the Development Committee, an ex officio
member of the Corporation Joint Advisory
Committee on Institute-Wide Affairs,
and the chair of the Corporation’s ad hoc
Committee on Information Transfer.
“He certainly was a great addition to
the corporation for his knowledge and
insight,” said Emily “Paddy” Wade ’45, a
Corporation life member emeritus.
Vetter is preceded in death by his wife,
Mary Brite Vetter, and daughter, Mary
Patricia. He is survived by his loving wife,
Ann Wallace Vetter; his three daughters,
Judy Vetter, Sally Vetter and Kathleen
Jenkins; a grandson, Taylor Vetter Jenkins;
and other extended family.
Contributions in his memory may be
sent to Southwestern Medical Foundation
to Support Research for Macular Degen-
eration, 2305 Cedar Springs Rd., Suite
150, Dallas, Texas 75201. Resolutions on
his death will be presented at the meeting
of the Corporation in June.
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Submit your events!
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In the March 11 front-page
story titled “Liskov wins Turing
Award,” Barbara Liskov was incor-
rectly described as “the first U.S.
woman to earn a PhD in computer
science.” Liskov is the first U.S.
woman to earn a PhD from a
computer science department. Tech
Talk regrets the error.
Margaret Warner memorial
service to be held March 24
A memorial service for Margaret
(Peg) Warner will be held at 3:30 p.m.
on Tuesday, March 24, in the MIT
Warner, special assistant to the
executive vice president and treasurer,
passed away on Saturday, Feb. 7, at
her Lexington home after a coura-
geous battle with cancer. She was 67.
Rich Wilson SM ’76 piloted his 60-foot
racing yacht, Great American III, across
the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne in
France on Tuesday, March 10, after sailing
nonstop for four months — and 26,000
miles — around the world.
Wilson, 58, took ninth place in the
Vendee Globe solo sailboat race, making
him the oldest skipper and only the second
American in the race’s 20-year history to
finish successfully. Equipment failures and
severe weather knocked out 19 of the 30
boats that initially set sail in November.
Race organizers praised Wilson’s deter-
mination to complete the race, which had
the highest-ever attrition rate: “[Rich’s
achievement] is a testament to his excel-
lent seamanship skills, deep determination,
careful planning and prudent execution.”
To survive the journey, Wilson packed
his monohull with a 120-day supply of
food, including generous amounts of
homemade granola, foil-packed tuna, and
freeze-dried meals. He cluster-napped — a
40-minute sleeping technique that kept
him in sync with his body’s natural sleep
cycle and allowed him to intermittently
monitor the horizon for oncoming vessels.
Although he sailed alone, he was in
touch with supporters and the world daily.
You can relive his adventure virtually on
his SitesAlive Foundation web site with
daily blogs, podcasts, photos, a live map,
and Q&As about sailing and oceanography
answered by experts. He documented the
challenge to share this learning experience
with K-12 students around the world.
As Wilson, who has been a defense
analyst, technical consultant, and investor,
told his SitesAlive followers, he began sail-
ing with his father at age three. The fresh
air on the open ocean helped his asthma,
and he liked learning about boat main-
tenance and sailing strategy. In 1980, he
became the youngest overall winner of the
prestigious Newport Bermuda Race as the
skipper of Holger Danske, and in 2004 he
won second place in the solo Transatlantic
UK-USA. He also set three world records
as skipper and navigator on clipper routes:
San Francisco-Boston in 1993, New York-
Melbourne in 2001, and Hong Kong-New
York in 2003. Most recently, he completed
the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre in
2007 and the return solo race, the B2B
from Brazil to France.
Wilson still enjoys learning and
confronting obstacles — as he did during
several storms, when mechanical and elec-
trical failures forced him to make repairs
while his boat rocked violently — but he
also enjoys the ocean’s wildlife. On his web
site, he described sightings of albatross,
flying fish, porpoises, and shooting stars.
Light rain and cloudy skies accompanied
Wilson in his final stretch to the French
port where he was greeted by thousands of
onlookers, including his family who live in
“For me, this was not just a race, but
something else too,” he said after landing
in France. “The difficulties were worth it
for all the lessons and essays I sent back.”
Wilson’s final essay on SitesAlive
recounts advice from one of his greatest
teachers at MIT, Ray Pariser, who said,
“You need to stretch your mind.”
“For me, being at sea does that exactly,”
26,000 miles later, alumnus completes solo sail
PHOTO / OLIVIER BLANCHET, VENDEE GLOBE
Rich Wilson SM ’76 aboard his 60-foot racing yacht, Great American III, as he finishes
the Vendee Globe solo sailboat race.
• MITAC 25th Anniversary Open
11 a.m.-4 p.m. in 32, Stata
Center lobby and Student Street.
MITAC celebrates 25 years!
• “Techno-Blinders: How the Cult
of Technology is Endangering U.S.
Stanley, Georgetown University. Noon-
1:30 p.m. in E38-615.
• Tough Economy Series: The “Art”
of Behavioral Interviewing in a Tough
Speaker: Bob Dolan - Career
Development Center. 2:40-4 p.m. in
56-114. The MIT Career Development
Center has planned special workshops
covering all aspects of the job search
given the current economic situation.
• Institute Faculty Meeting. 3:30-5:30
p.m. in 10-250.
• Going Global: “Yes You Can!”
— an informational panel. 4-5 p.m.
in 12-142. Are you intrigued by the
thought of studying abroad or pursuing
other global education opportunities
but think they are impossible to actu-
ally pursue? A panel of MIT students
and staff will be present to answer your
questions and dispel myths about global
education at MIT.
Thursday, March 19
• Women In Math Lecture Series.
Speaker: Angela Hicks (UC San Diego)
on “Combinatorics of the Diagonal
Harmonics.” 2:30-3:30 p.m. in 4-149.
• “Logical Relations: A Step Towards
More Secure and Reliable Software.”
Speaker: Amal Ahmed (Toyota Techno-
logical Institute at Chicago). 4-5 p.m.
in 32-G449. Part of the EECS Special
• Rethinking Interactions — Discus-
sions on Diversity.
5-6:30 p.m. in
50-220. Robbin Chapman, Manager of
Diversity Recruitment, School of Archi-
tecture and Planning, will speak.