President Emerita and Professor of Neuroscience
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President Emerita and Professor of Neuroscience
"Physicists gave engineers the electron and they created the IT revolution. Biologists gave engineers the gene and together they will create the future."
Susan Hockfield is Professor of Neuroscience and President Emerita at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; she served as the sixteenth president from 2004 to 2012 and was the first woman and the first life scientist to lead the Institute. She has elected to establish her current office at the KI. Prior to MIT, she was the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1998-2002), and Provost (2003-2004) at Yale University.
After earning a BA in biology from the University of Rochester and a PhD from Georgetown University at the School of Medicine, Hockfield was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at San Francisco. She then joined the scientific staff at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. In 1985, Professor Hockfield became a faculty member at Yale University, where she focused her research on brain development and glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer, and also pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research.
Professor Hockfield serves as a director of Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Fidelity Non-Profit Management Foundation, Lasker Foundation, Mass General Brigham Incorporated, Pfizer, Inc., and Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. She is a life member of the MIT Corporation and a board member of the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School. Hockfield has served as a Science Envoy with the U.S. Department of State and was a member of a Congressional Commission evaluating the Department of Energy laboratories. Professor Hockfield is the recipient of the Charles Judson Herrick Award from the American Association of Anatomists, the Wilbur Lucius Cross Award from Yale University, the Meliora Citation from the University of Rochester, the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement, the Amelia Earhart Award from the Women’s Union, the Edison Achievement Award, the Pinnacle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Geoffrey Beene Builders of Science Award from Research!America, and the 2019 Charles L. Branch BrainHealth Award. She has received honorary degrees from national and international universities, and is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hockfield has recently served as president and chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In Professor Hockfield’s 2019 book, The Age of Living Machines, she writes about an exciting view of the coming convergence of biology and engineering—and how it will change our world for the better. This new convergence has the potential to be every bit as revolutionary as the discoveries in physics with engineering which began a century ago producing astonishing arrays of new technologies. Hockfield’s book brings readers into the invention process of some of the breathtaking new technologies that are coming our way: Virus-built batteries. Protein-based water filters. Cancer-treating nanoparticles. Mind-reading bionic limbs. Computer-engineered crops. The development of these technologies, Hockfield writes, is the scientific story of the twenty-first century—one that holds the promise of overcoming some of the greatest humanitarian, medical, and environmental challenges of our time. The Age of Living Machines was selected by the American Institute of Physics as the Book Winner of its 2020 Science Communication Award, which recognizes “the best science writing of the previous year.” The AIP judges called out the book for telling “the process of science, covering a breadth of the types of people doing science with focus on the biology and technology fields, speaking against anti-science and reaching the public.”
Susan Hockfield has distinguished herself in a career that has spanned advanced scientific research and the presidency of one of the premier institutions of science and engineering in the world. During her tenure as MIT president, Hockfield shaped emerging national policy on energy technology and next-generation manufacturing, championing the breakthroughs in fields from clean energy to cancer emanating from the historic convergence of the life sciences and the engineering and physical sciences. At MIT, this same vision informed her leadership of several new initiatives, including the founding of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard. In June 2011, President Obama appointed her co-chairperson of the steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. Read more.
As a life scientist, Professor Hockfield pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research and identified a set of proteins whose expression is regulated by neuronal activity early in an animal’s life. Her work included the discovery of a gene implicated in the spread of cancer in the brain, providing a link between her research and human health.