Computer science facilities to be in new complex


With impetus provided by a $10 million lead gift from MIT alumnus and Corporation member Ray Stata and his wife Maria, President Charles M. Vest announced plans today to construct a $90-95 million complex that will unite the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the Laboratory for Computer Science and the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory on the main campus.

The 254,000-square-foot complex, which will be erected in two modules on a 2.8-acre site now occupied by Building 20, will also house the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, and faculty from the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The new facility, which will also have classrooms and offices as well as laboratory space, will be about the size of the biology building that opened in 1994. It is just one of several construction projects that have recently been announced or completed (see story below).

"Ray and Maria Stata have made a magnificent personal commitment to the future of the Institute," said Dr. Vest. "Physically integrating our computer science facilities into the core of the campus has been a goal for many years. With their help, and that of many others, this will soon become a reality.

"The state-of-the-art facility we envision will facilitate learning, research and interaction within EECS and across disciplinary boundaries. This project is essential from both academic and long-range campus planning perspectives."

In presenting the gift for the new building, Mr. Stata, who received the SB and SM in electrical engineering in 1957, noted that tuition covers only half of the cost of providing an MIT education and that infrastructure plays an important role in attracting faculty and students and maintaining standards.

"If you compound the interest on the subsidy over a lifetime, that comes to quite a debt," said Mr. Stata, chairman and founder of Analog Devices Inc. of Norwood. "We need to repay that debt, and go beyond, if possible, to assure that others get the same opportunity we had."

Recalling his own student days, Mr. Stata remembers being awed by his classmates' intelligence and ambition when he entered MIT after graduating from Oxford High School in rural Pennsylvania, about 65 miles southwest of Philadelphia. After his first physics exam, Mr. Stata wondered whether he belonged. Fortunately, he endured-and thrived. "I did OK," he said modestly. "MIT certainly was a major influence in my life and contributed significantly to whatever success I've had."

The Statas' son Raymie received the SB in EECS from MIT in 1991, the SM in 1992 and the ScD in 1995.

Mr. Stata has been a member of the MIT Corporation since 1984 and a member of the Executive Committee since 1994. Ray and Maria Stata endowed a chair in EECS in 1984.

In addition to founding Analog, Mr. Stata is also a founder and major leader of the Center for Quality Management, a group of Boston-area CEOs who work together to develop new organizational principles intended to make their companies become more competitive.

The LCS and the AI Lab have operated in off-campus rented quarters at 545 Technology Square since the '70s and now occupy an entire nine-story building.

Placing computer science in a complex adjacent to electrical engineering (Building 38), the Research Laboratory for Electronics (Building 36) and Buildings 34 and 39 will foster intellectual exchanges between students and faculty as well as provide access to all of the buildings without venturing outdoors.

"The new engineering complex is a major step in the future of the School of Engineering," said Robert A. Brown, dean of the School. "Computer science and information technology are at the heart of many of the most important developments in engineering. This project will lead to a facility with state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms for faculty, staff and students involved in this revolution. Moreover, it will centralize those activities on campus, where they can have the biggest impact on students and faculty in related areas throughout the Institute."

With linguistics on site as well, the intellectual mix should be stimulated even further by students and faculty from the humanities. "The new facility should prove a stellar opportunity for faculty in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy to interact in new and exciting ways with faculty from EECS and brain and cognitive sciences around the subject of `language and mind,'" said Dean Philip S. Khoury of the School of Humanities and Social Science.

"This will help to foster MIT's international leadership in teaching and research at the intersection of linguistics, neuroscience, cognitive science and artificial intelligence," Dr. Khoury said. "I have personally encouraged movement in this direction since becoming dean and am delighted to see it beginning to take place."

GIFTS TOTAL $13.5 MILLION

To date, $13.5 million in gifts, including the Statas', have been earmarked for the new building. The other $3.5 million came from three donors: Dorothy and Herbert E. Grier (SB '33) of La Jolla, CA, retired president of EG&G Inc.; J. Burgess Jamieson (SB '52), managing partner of Sigma Partners in Menlo Park, CA, and an anonymous donor.

An architect for the project will be chosen in the spring. Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 1998 after the venerable Building 20 is demolished.

Building 20, a three-story wooden structure, is the last of the temporary facilities erected on campus during World War II. Known at the time as the Radiation Laboratory, designs for much of the radar used during g the war were created on the site. A the height of its activities, the RadLab employed nearly 4,000 people on several continents. After the war, there was a natural evolution into the Research Laboratory for Electronic and interdisciplinary projects.

Current occupants of Building 20 include the linguistics and philosophy faculty, ROTC, the Environmental Medical Service, the Biological Process Engineering Center, solar car engineers, the piano repair operation and the Tech Model Railroad Club.

Plans call for the new complex to open during the 2000-01 academic year. It will be a celebration that Provost Joel Moses has dreamed of since 1978 when he was associate head of EECS. Over the years, Professor Moses has seen scores of plans. "There was one for $25 million, about 18 years ago," he said. "If we'd built it, we'd surely need another new building now."

The rental space at Tech Square houses 618 people in computer science and artificial intelligence. This includes 31 faculty (with three more due next semester), 149 graduate students and 89 undergraduates among 450 researchers and other employees in the LCS. The AI Lab has 16 faculty and 93 graduate students, and a total of 168 persons working in the building.

Student interest in computer science has increased dramatically in recent years, with 367 members of the class of '99 (33 percent) majoring in EECS, making it the largest undergraduate department at the Institute. Two of three sophomores in the department now study computer science, reversing the trend of previous generations. The new complex will be able to accommodate expected future growth in the number of students and faculty.

"The laboratories, amenities and equipment in the new facility will be important in recruiting new faculty," said Paul Penfield Jr., EECS department head.

The new facility will facilitate interdisciplinary research in long-term projects, such as understanding human cognition, and ongoing short-term projects, including standardization of World Wide Web protocols. With the LCS serving as the home base of the Web, increasingly sophisticated uses of software are being developed. "Because of the marriage of electrical engineering and computer science, MIT is almost uniquely positioned to do this kind of work," Professor Penfield said.

Health care projects include the development of medical robots and medical imaging-allowing surgeons to peer beneath the body's surface-a technique already in use at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Studies are also being conducted on human/machine interaction, with an eye toward developing ways for communication to occur through speech, hearing, vision and touch-"really exciting work," said John V. Guttag, associate head of EECS.

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Many recent and planned construction projects at MIT

In addition to this week's announcement of a new computer science complex, there have been many other building construction projects on the MIT campus in the last two years, with more to come. They include:

��������������������������� A new $18 million pool and athletic facility announced last week, to be located between the Johnson Athletics Center and the Stratton Student Center (Buildings W34 and W20). Construction is scheduled to begin in June 1998 and be ready for occupancy in September 2000.
��������������������������� The new biology building (Building 68), which opened in 1994.
��������������������������� The Jack C. Tang Center for management Education at the Sloan School (Building E51), dedicated last April.
��������������������������� The cogeneration plant (Buildings 42 and 43), which was finished in the summer of 1995. It provides most of MIT's heating, cooling and electricity while cutting costs and pollution.
��������������������������� Ongoing renovations in Building 16 and 56. The project began a year and a half ago; work in Building 56 is about to be finished, and workers will begin on Building 16 in January.
��������������������������� The renovated music library (Building 14E), which reopened in late October and was dedicated this month.
��������������������������� Renovations in the School of Architecture and Planning (Buildings 7 and 5), completed this fall.
��������������������������� A complete interior renovation of Senior House (Buildings E2 and E3), which reopened in its new configuration for students at the beginning of this academic year.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 18, 1996.


Topics: Campus buildings and architecture

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