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Susan Hockfield has served as the sixteenth president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since December 2004. A strong advocate of the vital role that science, technology, and the research university play in the world, she believes that MIT can best advance its historic mission of teaching, research, and service by providing robust and sustained support for the ideas and energies of its faculty and students.
A noted neuroscientist whose research has focused on the development of the brain, Dr. Hockfield is the first life scientist to lead MIT and holds a faculty appointment as professor of neuroscience in the Institute's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
Dr. Hockfield encourages collaborative work among MIT's schools, departments, and interdisciplinary laboratories and centers to keep the Institute at the forefront of innovation. She believes that MIT's strengths in engineering and science uniquely position the Institute to pioneer newly evolving, interdisciplinary areas and to translate them into practice. Together with MIT's traditions of excellence in architecture and planning, management, and the humanities, arts and social sciences, these strengths will allow the Institute to continue to develop powerful solutions to our era's greatest challenges.
Under her leadership, MIT has launched a major Institute-wide initiative in energy research and education and continues to expand its activities at the intersection of the life sciences and engineering, with a particular focus on cancer research. The Institute has also embarked on a sustained effort to strengthen support for student life and learning, including undergraduate curriculum renewal, and is undertaking major campus construction and renovation projects with a combined value of approximately three-quarters of a billion dollars.
Believing that MIT has a responsibility to help develop new models of teaching and research for a global age, Dr. Hockfield has also worked to extend the university's long tradition of international engagement through initiatives in education and scholarship with partners around the world.
Before assuming the presidency of MIT, Dr. Hockfield was the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology and provost at Yale University. She joined the Yale faculty in 1985 and was named full professor in 1994. While at Yale, she played a central role in the university's leadership, first as dean of its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1998-2002), with oversight of over 70 graduate programs, and then as provost, the university's chief academic and administrative officer.
Dr. Hockfield's research has focused on the development of the brain and on glioma, a deadly kind of brain cancer. She pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research, leading to her discovery of a protein that regulates changes in neuronal structure as a result of an animal's experience in early life. More recently she discovered a gene and its family of protein products that play a critical role in the spread of cancer in the brain and may represent new therapeutic targets for glioma.
Dr. Hockfield earned her B.A. in biology from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. from the Georgetown University School of Medicine, while carrying out her dissertation research in neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at San Francisco in 1979-80, and then joined the scientific staff at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York in 1980. She served as director of the Laboratory's Summer Neurobiology Program from 1985 to 1997, concurrent with her teaching post at Yale, and more recently as a trustee of the laboratory.
Dr. Hockfield holds honorary degrees from Brown University, Tsinghua University (Beijing), and the Watson School of Biological Sciences at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her other honors include the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal from the Yale University Graduate School, the Meliora Citation for Career Achievement from the University of Rochester, and the Charles Judson Herrick Award from the American Association of Anatomists for outstanding contributions by a young scientist.
Dr. Hockfield is a director of the General Electric Company, a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and a member of the Board of Overseers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She has served on the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council of the NIH, as well as a number of other advisory boards. Her memberships in professional societies include the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society for Neuroscience.
Dr. Hockfield lives in Cambridge with her husband, Thomas N. Byrne, M.D., and their daughter, Elizabeth.