Professor of Oceanography Paola M. Rizzoli of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences has been named to two new posts. She is the MIT director of the MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, and she is also the first female chair of the Committee on Academic Performance (CAP).
CAP is concerned with the academic performance of undergraduates and may make recommendations to the faculty on such matters as minimum scholastic standards, exams and grading. The committee acts on petitions from individual undergraduates regarding exceptions to established academic standards, and reviews the records of undergraduates at the conclusion of each regular exam period. The panel also presents to the faculty its recommendations on candidates to be awarded bachelor's degrees.
As CAP chair, Professor Rizzoli said she hopes to work with Professor Lotte Bailyn of the Sloan School, the new chair of the faculty, in more closely coordinating the work of several faculty committees, including the Committee on the Undergraduate Program and the Committee on Curricula.
"Decisions are sometimes taken in parallel and it's not always clear what each committee should be doing," she said. "Professor Bailyn wants to achieve more cohesiveness and collaboration between the major committees of academic life at MIT."
Professor Rizzoli has been a member of CAP for a year. She takes over as chair from J.D. Nyhart, professor of management and ocean engineering.
She added that she was pleased to be selected as the first woman to chair CAP. "I strongly believe it's important for women to be in positions of responsibility. In that way, we can increase awareness of the importance of having more women in science and increase the real participation of women in life at MIT," she said.
Initiated in 1968, the MIT/WHOI Joint Program offers doctoral degrees in five areas: applied ocean science and engineering, biological oceanography, chemical oceanography, marine geology and geophysics, and physical oceanography. Students may also obtain an engineer's degree and SM in oceanographic engineering. The WHOI director of the program is Dr. John W. Farrington. Professor Rizzoli, who has been involved with the Joint Program since coming to MIT 16 years ago, takes over from Professor Marcia McNutt as MIT director.
Professor Rizzoli's main research interests are focused on the theoretical and numerical modeling of the ocean circulation with the assimilation of oceanographic data sets and with specific applications to the northern Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf Stream system and semi-enclosed seas such as the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. She has been long involved in studies of the sinking and flooding problems in her native Venice.
Professor Rizzoli holds the BS in physics and mathematics (1963) from the Lyceum Benedetti in Venice, the PhD in physics from the University of Padua (1968), and the PhD in physical oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (1978). She held research positions in Italy and at the University of California at San Diego before coming to MIT as an assistant professor in 1981. She was promoted to associate professor in 1985, received tenure in 1987 and became a full professor in 1990.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 10, 1997.