Technology Day 2006 - "MIT Tackles Global Challenges"
SCHAEFER: It's always tough to quiet down an MIT crowd. Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
SCHAEFER: Nice and bright and alert on this nice New England day. Welcome. Or should I say to many of you, welcome back to MIT. My name is Mary Schaefer. And I am the chair of the Technology Day Committee. And to prepare for this morning's opening remarks, I thought I would take a look at what we did last year.
And I learned that Beth Garvin, who is the CEO of the MIT Alumni Association, had told my predecessor, Doug Vincent, to keep his remarks short. You don't come here to listen to someone like me. You come here to listen to President Hockfield and the exceptional faculty who are part of this morning's program.
So I figured that makes my job really easy. My job also as Tech Day chair and as member of the Tech Day Committee has also been very easy thanks to the support from the MIT Alumni Association, particularly Lou Alexander. Thank you, Lou, who works very closely with the committee.
And thanks, too, to my fellow committee members who were very generous in donating their time and their creativity to make this program happen. And also thanks to the outstanding faculty, who are part of this morning's program. Also, thank you for coming. And thanks also to the people who are in Little Kresge, who are listening to this program via a live feed in that auditorium.
We have a very diverse set of speakers this morning. But there are unifying themes. As the program title suggests, these faculty are tackling significant global challenges, such as the environment, public health, education, and poverty. You will hear how these challenges require new ways of collaborating across national, political, industry, and disciplinary boundaries. You will also hear perspectives on how we must educate and prepare engineers, scientists, and managers with the skills and leadership capabilities to address and anticipate these challenges in innovative, responsive, and creative and responsible ways.
Our format today is very simple. The faculty will talk-- each faculty person will talk about 40 minutes. That includes about 10 minutes for questions and answers. We will have a break mid-morning. And we will conclude the program by one o'clock so that we can go to lunch.
Finally, I have one other piece of business. And this is we ask of those of you with electronic devices that sing, beep, or play your favorite tune--
--to please silence them during this program. That all said, it is my pleasure to introduce Beth Garvin, the Executive Vice President and CEO of the MIT Alumni Association. Beth has been at MIT for more than 20 years and has headed the MIT Alumni Association since 2003. So please join me in welcoming Beth Garvin.
GARVIN: Good morning. Those of you who aren't from New England may not realize that this is a beautiful day in New England this spring. Anything that's not a torrential rain is a good day. We've been trying to make up for the bad weather with cheerful staff and lots of enthusiasm in greeting you. And I hope you've been enjoying your time back at MIT.
I will say you're smart to arrive early. We expect quite the overflow crowd today, as everybody wakes up from their revels last night and straggles in later. So you're lucky to have great seats. You can stay dry for the next three hours. And we will make sure you get to lunch on time. So relax and enjoy.
I hope I have a chance to greet each of you individually. I'd love your ideas and your suggestions about the Alumni Association. And I'd particularly like to encourage you to fill out the evaluation forms that you will have in your packets about your reunion, about Technology Day, about anything else you'd like to tell us. Your comments are what allow us to keep improving the association to serve you better.
It is my absolute delight and honor to introduce President Hockfield this morning. She joined us almost 18 months ago-- I guess it is 18 months ago now-- and has led the Institute with a vision and energy that has inspired all of us on campus. And importantly to me, she's taken that energy and enthusiasm around the world to visit with many of you and to meet the alumni. So it is with no further introduction-- you know all about her accomplishments-- I introduce President Susan Hockfield.
HOCKFIELD: Good morning, everyone. Beth, I thank you for that mercifully brief introduction.
One of the burdens of the first year and a half was having to suffer through the very long litany of places I have been in my life. So I feel as though the alumni and I are getting to know one another. And so the briefer the introduction, the better, because we can get on to the real business of the day. Thanks.
It's great to be here this morning. I apologize for the bit of a frog in my voice. I was out partying late with all of you.
We visited a couple of gatherings last night. And they were-- the energy at these gatherings was simply fantastic. So welcome back to MIT. It's fabulous to see so many of you. Actually this is a week of records that are being broken. Many of these reunions are setting records for attendance, for participation.
And I hope you all have heard that this year's senior class absolutely buried the all-time record for participation in the senior gift. The record before this year was 39%. And this class was over 50% when I last looked. And who knows where they got to? So it's really a terrifically wonderful week for the Alumni Association for alumni participation.
The theme of this morning's session is MIT Tackles Global Challenges. And it really could not be more appropriate. It is really at the essence of what MIT does is use what happens on campus to change the world. It reflects our history. We were founded, of course, as a land grant institution with a mission of service to the nation and the world. And this mission has led to remarkable accomplishments.
The one that I draw out quite frequently is the work of the Radiation Lab during World War II, the Rad Lab, which developed the radar that, arguably, was the war winning technology. That also was a kind of an incubator for something I'll talk about a little bit later, which is the marvelous convergence between the physical sciences and engineering that occurred here at MIT when Karl Compton was president in the '30s and '40s.
This theme this morning also reflects our unique ability to tackle challenges that cross what might, at other places, be disciplinary divides. We have a remarkable ability to work together and a problem solving mindset. This ability to work across departments in disciplines, I believe, was laid down in the founding architecture of the main group, unlike the standard academic quadrangles that you find on most campuses, where there's a set of buildings leading up to the temple of learning, the library under the dome.
At MIT, they're not separate buildings. They were built in 1916 as a single building, which allow people to walk from one department to another, as I describe it, without putting your coat on to go outside to borrow your colleagues' reagents and equipment. So at MIT, there's a really open flow of information, of people that I believe is part of MIT's success.
What I want to do in my comments this morning is address two important themes for MIT that are not on the general agenda for today. The faculty this morning will focus on other activities. But even the sum of what I'm going to talk about and what they're going to talk about hardly begins to scratch the surface of the interesting and important activities that are now going on on campus.
The first topic I'm going to talk about is energy. And the second will be the convergence between the life sciences and engineering. These were two themes that I laid out last year in my inaugural address. And the enthusiasm and activity around these two themes has grown enormously in the year since then.
On the energy topic, when I first arrived at MIT or when it first became known that I was going to become MIT's next president, I began talking to everyone I could-- part of the MIT community-- faculty, staff, students, alumni-- and asking them, posing the question, what are the opportunities and responsibilities for MIT over the next decade or several ahead?
I was a bit surprised when the topic that was mentioned most frequently-- actually most frequently by a huge margin-- was energy-- energy and the environment. Now I was surprised, because having paid some attention to MIT in the weeks before and perhaps a little less but still paying some attention to MIT over the years before, MIT had not emerged in my perceptions as a place where energy research was being done at a very high level or in very large volume.
Where I was surprised and delighted to discover was the dozens and dozens of important, interesting, thought provoking research already going on on this campus in the realm of energy. And what, of course, I also discovered was the passion with which so many people in this community described this as probably the single most important responsibility for MIT going forward.
That interest led to my convening the Energy Research Council. The Council was chaired by Ernie Moniz from the Department of Physics and Bob Armstrong from the Department of Chemical Engineering. And altogether, the Council had about 15 faculty members drawn from across the five schools of the Institute. It was really a cross Institute collaboration.
And what I asked of them was to frame for all of us an Institute wide approach to the issues of energy so that MIT could play a more significant role. The report of the Energy Research Council was released last month. We released it coincident with a full day forum on energy on campus. It was May 3. For those of you who haven't discovered yet, the forum itself-- the videocasts from the forum are on the web, as is the report from the Energy Research Council. And it really has laid out a framework for our next steps.
The amount of enthusiasm on campus can be measured in a variety of ways. But let me just capture a few numbers for you. The Energy Research Council invited white papers from across the Institute. Now not everyone who is currently working in energy submitted white papers. And I would say not everyone who is about to be working in energy submitted white papers.
However, 100 faculty authored or co-authored the white papers that the Energy Research Council used to provide a framework for our activities going forward. 100 of our faculty-- our faculty is about 1,000-- so 10% of our faculty actually went the distance to provide a white paper or co-author a white paper on some energy topic. Those white papers are also available on the web.
We, of course, have students who are wildly enthusiastic about this topic. And they established an Energy Club. The Energy Club has 300 members. And I think to date they have had 100 events. Hardly a day goes by when I'm not invited by the Energy Club to participate in one of their events. Their events are spectacular. And in fact, just one week after the Institute wide energy forum, the Energy Club had an Institute wide energy forum also that drew in speakers from the outside. And it was also a fantastic event.
Now I said that our energy forum was on May 3. You probably don't follow the academic calendar the way I do. But May 3 is a very busy time of the year. It's the week before finals. Everyone is racing around to try and finish the projects that they began at the beginning of the year. So I anticipated that the attendance of the forum would be reasonable but not overwhelming.
I was astonished when I got up to open the forum and address the audience to find Kresge as packed as it is today. Over 800 people attended the forum. They were there at 9 o'clock in the morning when I opened the forum. And they were there through most of the afternoon. As I said, this is just a little way-- a small way-- of trying to convey to you the amount of enthusiasm on campus.
What can MIT bring to energy? I think there are many ways in which MIT can really make an important impact. Our unique combination of expertise in science, technology, public policy, economics, urban design, and management can all together bring forward not just new technologies, but also the policies that are necessary to bring these technologies into use.
We have an ability to integrate across these areas to produce transformational advances. And really critically for this energy issue is we have a tradition of effective collaboration with both industry and government. And these collaborations will be essential as we address the energy challenges.
Our scientists and engineers, our scholars, our humanists, our architects are already putting in place the foundations for our energy future. Let me just mention a few things. What I have learned in my year of studying energy here at the Institute is that the major technological obstacle to almost every alternative energy is energy storage.
In the last six months, four new battery technologies have come out of MIT. These breakthroughs will reduce the weight, the cost, and increase the performance of batteries. MIT faculty are now developing new technology for photovoltaics. Actually the father of photovoltaics, Ely Sachs, is here in our Department of Mechanical Engineering. And they're working on solar panels that will convert sunlight directly into energy-- into electricity using semiconductor devices. And this has the potential to make renewable energy cost competitive with fossil fuels without subsidies.
Nuclear power-- an area of increasing interest-- let me just mention that I often see the students as leading indicators of where the world is going. The number of majors in nuclear science and engineering has increased from 20 to 55 in the last 3 years. And we are really on the threshold of a significant global expansion of nuclear power, which could slow down the growth in CO2 emissions.
MIT has a long history of leadership in nuclear science and engineering and a team of faculty from the schools of both engineering and science has laid the groundwork for new directions that address key challenges for nuclear technologies from advanced reactor design to risk assessment. In short, MIT really gives us reason to believe that we can successfully address the challenge of clean sustainable energy to power up the developed and the developing world.
A second theme that I laid out last May was the area at the convergence between the life sciences and engineering. This convergence promises to transform the way we approach human health and disease. But I believe it will affect every aspect of our lives. I draw a parallel between this generation's convergence and the convergence that happened under Karl Taylor Compton's leadership.
The physics that was done at the beginning of the 20th century laid out an understanding of the nuts and bolts of the physical universe. That nuts and bolts understanding made it possible for physics to be in conversation with engineering during the '30s and '40s. And it produced-- at MIT, we called engineering science. One of its products, as I mentioned, was the Rad Lab and the development of radar for World War II.
But it also produced the second half of the 20th century electronics revolution, the information revolution that has completely transformed our lives. Along a similar kind of reasoning, the discoveries in biology beginning after World War II with the elucidation of the structure of DNA by Jim Watson and Francis Crick began an understanding of nuts and bolts of the biological universe. Molecular genetics between 1952 and today has completely changed the way we think about the life sciences and the living universe.
And I would add that many of the seminal discoveries in the revolution of molecular genetics were actually made here at MIT. This convergence that is now made possible by nuts and bolts understanding of the life sciences so that those discoveries are coming into conversation with engineering will transform our world in a way that I believe will exceed the transformation that we saw after World War II through the electronics and information industries.
These discoveries are being used on campus all across the schools. People estimate that about a third of our faculty are now doing something in the life sciences. It is a very active and interesting time. And I believe that MIT is positioned like no other place in the world to take advantage of this convergence between engineering and the life sciences.
The convergence is represented in part geographically at the corner of Vassar and Main Streets. I hope many of you or all of you have been up to see our new buildings. And the new-- what I often call the great circle on campus-- the new Ray and Maria Stata Center houses the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.
Just across the street in December, we opened our new complex for the brain and cognitive sciences. Catty corner to that is the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. And just next door neighbor to the Whitehead is a new building that houses the Broad Institute. The Broad Institute is a collaboration between MIT, Harvard, and its affiliated hospitals in the Whitehead. And the Broad's mission is to use what we learned in the Human Genome Project-- this fabulous new technology-- to discover new ways to diagnose and treat diseases.
Across the street from the Broad is a pretty dilapidated building, an old candy factory, that houses our Center for Cancer Research. The Center for Cancer Research alone can claim four Nobel prizes. We have just begun a campaign to raise the funds to build a new home for the Center for Cancer Research that will be conjoined with a bioengineering technology core that will, in one building, really represent the convergence between the life sciences and engineering.
The biology department is just across the street from the Cancer Center. Behind the biology department is the Department of Chemical Engineering. And next door to Chemical Engineering is a building that houses our division of biological engineering, which received a number this year-- number 20-- therefore giving it status in the MIT way of counting things.
And then, of course, you come back, again, to the Ray and Maria Stata Center. This great circle really represents a caldron of collaboration on campus. Within walking distance of the great circle are about 145 biotech pharmaceutical medical device industry that have parked themselves in our backyard. So they can be in easy conversation with our campus.
And importantly, within a 10 minute walk from the great circle is the Massachusetts General Hospital. And the number of collaborations between MIT faculty and faculty at the MGH is probably too great to count and growing every day. We really do possess on this campus a set of intersecting activities that I believe will transform our lives as this convergence between life sciences and engineering shapes our future. Later this morning, Professor [? Subra Saresh ?] will talk about one aspects of the convergence, which is the emerging possibilities for the study of diseases using nanotechnology.
Now as I said, energy, human health-- these are only some of the ways in which MIT is going to change the 21st century. We play a unique role in education and research, not just in this country, but around the world, because our faculty and students are really like no others. Of course, the Institute faces challenges. The work we do is enormously expensive. We are challenged in terms of federal support for research, which has declined from a high of about 2% of GDP in the mid 1960s to 0.8% today. I spent a day a month in Washington working hard to advocate for sound policies for research in education.
And of course, our competition now, as many schools turn to science and technology as their future-- our competition is with schools with far larger endowments than our own. And the competition, I believe, is healthy. But it presents an incredible challenge for all of our departments and for our provost.
I am enormously optimistic about MIT's future. We have the commitment and enthusiasm of you, our alumni, which fuels what we do on campus to a great extent. You know, as I was thinking this morning about what I would like to say to this gathered group of alumni, I realized that the charge I gave to the graduates yesterday is a charge I would give to all of you.
I view the alumni and people who spend most of their lives off this campus as our information army, the people who can really get the message out about what MIT does and what MIT can do for the world. So let me just give you the charge that I gave to our graduates yesterday.
I told them that it is my fervent hope that you will transmit the values that define this community to the other communities you now join or to which you belong already. I hope that you will see leadership as an opportunity to serve the common good, that you will make integrity the touchstone of your judgments, that you will exemplify the pursuit of truth and an unwavering drive for excellence, and that you will continue to demonstrate the value of good old fashioned hard work, which I know all of you do as MIT alumni.
And finally and most crucially, I ask that you inspire your generation and the generations to come with a renewed sense of possibility and optimism for the future. Here at MIT, we see up close the myriad ways in which science and technology and all of our activities across the Institute promise to benefit humankind. If we are to realize that promise, we need to kindle in others the same love and passion for truth and discovery, for creativity and problem solving that brought us all here to MIT.
And I hope that each of you will embrace this challenge as your own. I said it to this year's graduates. And I say to all of you. Please help us share the news about the wonderful work that MIT is doing. Share the passion for the world changing technology, policy, science, and the world changing power of the hard work that all of you do every day and the hard work we do on campus. Enjoy the morning. I just can't wait to hear these three faculty presenters. And I hope that you've had a very inspiring and delightful weekend here on campus. Welcome back to MIT.
I have been [INAUDIBLE] we have the time for some Q&A. So there are microphones in the audience. And if you could step up to the microphones with your questions, that would be terrific. And someone down there on the floor is going to have to direct the microphone use, because I cannot see who's lining up. OK. Please.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, one question that I have is that many of the problems in energy and in architecture and other things are an assumption of that everything has to be sort of like a Manhattan Project in scale. And I think what MIT has to do is to enlargen its output to create those types of activities, which are most scale effective.
For instance, in solar energy or wind energy, we can think in terms of towers that are 400 feet high. I remember my father was in solar energy. They wanted to make one satellite, which would be 12 miles across and microwave beam things back. And so I think to go further, many of these things have already been invented. It's a question of how do you fine-tool them. How do you precisely fit them?
And then the other question is about people on the outside. With the web now, many people on the outside can just as easily spur ideas, which can retroactively go back to the institution. It isn't a question of you're here, your brain die, and you just, you know, [? sell ?] newspapers.
HOCKFIELD: Yeah, thank you for those comments One of the key elements of the Energy Research Council and the activity of our energy group going forward is this cross-institutional approach. One of the things I've learned this last year is that there are a lot of people who will advocate one technology or another as the solution. What I have learned is that we are going to have to use all possible solutions and use them all in an integrated way.
We, of course, have our engineering systems division, which really focuses on how you integrate technologies across all scales. And so I believe MIT really can say important things that need to be heard about, as you call them, scalable approaches. And on the second comment, which is let's open our doors to input from the outside, again, this is an area at which MIT excels.
Several alumni organizations across the country are mounting-- MIT alumni organizations are mounting their own activities in the energy domain and that are being linked to what's going on on campus. The report of the Energy Research Council is now open for comment. And we have conducted all of these activities with a real openness to the outside world. And I agree with you. I think there's a lot of power out there. And we will continue to work in conversation with the world outside the campus.
AUDIENCE: My name is Jonathan [? Levin. ?] My question is a little bit broader in the same area. It is proper for MIT to change the world. And it is proper for the world to return the favor. Amongst the crackpots is the occasional [? Ramanujan. ?] In this era of increasing divide between the haves and the have nots, how will you and MIT narrow the divide between the tenured scientist and the passionate but excluded amateur?
HOCKFIELD: Ooh, wow--
--that's an interesting--
So you know, actually so it's a little broader version of the second question-- a part B of question 1. And I think-- let me just give you one example of MIT'S embrace of the world. I hope many of you know about OpenCourseWare, which was MIT's decision five years ago to provide the materials for all of our courses on the web for free.
Five years ago, most universities around the country were trying to figure out how to use distance learning to increase our revenues. And the MIT faculty decided we would just give it all away. So those of you who haven't yet seen it, I recommend the OpenCourseWare website. It's simply fantastic. We have, I think, 1,200 or 1,300 courses up now with a plan to have all 1,700 up by the end of next year.
The use of OpenCourseWare is simply astonishing. So the materials for courses-- the problem sets, the exams, the class notes-- chemistry actually has a little section on techniques for doing chemistry experiments. It's quite fantastic. It was designed for college and university professors. So if another university wanted to mount a course in biological engineering and wanted to see what MIT was doing this new domain, you could actually go to the web and get the materials.
Astonishingly, half of the users of OpenCourseWare are, well, amateurs-- as you would say, independent learners, which is very exciting. OpenCourseWare is getting 36,000 visits to content a day-- new visits to content a day-- 36,000 a day. Half of them are not from the United States. And so what we are doing is making the treasures of MIT available to the world.
I think this divide between the amateur and the professional is really an important one. And our activities in reaching out and making MIT-- what MIT does known in a comprehensible way to the world is, I think, an important part of how we can bridge that divide.
AUDIENCE: Good morning. Thank you very much for your inspiring words. But naturally, I was led to ask the next question. And that is the dependence on funding. Now the funding you receive from the Alumni Association are, you know, is focused on I guess to further the goals of MIT as you've enunciated them.
My concern is when you mentioned funding from government and from industry, sometimes the objectives there may not necessarily be directed at the goal of integrity and truth there. You know, people have axes to grind. How does MIT or how will you resist some of those pressures publicly or privately? Or how will that work? And what's the percentage of those funds?
HOCKFIELD: OK. Well, let me just answer the last question first. About 80% of our on campus research is running about $600 million a year. About 80% of that is federal, 12% corporate. And I think MIT has really a set of practices and policies that are followed around the nation in terms of using this funding in wise and appropriate ways. I believe that going forward, our collaborations with industry are going to become increasingly important. And of course, as the federal commitment to basic research and even applications research declines, we turn increasingly to these collaborations with industry happily.
What is happening across many industries is an acknowledgment of the role that they need to play in funding the kind of research that are done at places like MIT. Every several years, a faculty committee is convening to look at exactly these questions to be sure that MIT is using the kind of practices and policies that will guide us to do responsible work and will keep us from as much as possible the-- what shall we call it-- the currents and eddies that might drive us in other directions. I think it's a real issue, but happily one that we don't ignore. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I'm Janis Siegel. And I'm the spouse of an alum of MIT. And also my own career has been partially in environmental law. I'm a lawyer. And my function has been, in part, to translate what people know about technologically scientifically and let courts understand what these people know. So my comments come from that background.
And what I have observed in my course has been a great difficulty in people-- the smarter they are-- if they come from MIT-- the more difficulty they have interacting with the business world and the legal world and the world of government. And I don't know if you're doing it yet. I hope you are.
But if you are not, I really hope that you work on fostering early on in the undergraduate education and the graduate education interaction, projects together-- the scientific and technological people with the business people at Sloan so that these people learn to talk with one another early on, work on things-- not just a casual conversation in the cafeteria, but to work on things together. So they learn how to talk to one another.
HOCKFIELD: Absolutely. I agree with you 1,000%.
And let me tell you a couple of things that are going on. MIT established a communications requirement several years ago. It's now under review. And I think it will be under very serious review through our new Dean for Undergraduate Education, Dan Hastings. So already this need that you point out, has been recognized in this requirement.
I would underscore it in the commonplace about this broadly networked world is that anything that can be done someplace else will be done someplace else. That may be true. But what that means is that the importance of person to person interactions and human interaction skills has become greater. And I don't know what your life is like. But it's probably a little bit like mine that the time available to get the work done between people becomes short, as you have to actually be better at it and more efficient at it. And our students need to leave here actually knowing those things.
One of the things I'm really excited about-- we have a new director of our Washington office, Bill Bonvillian, who comes out of Senator Joe Lieberman's office. He was with the Lieberman office for about 15 years. What he has a passion for is not just science and technology. But he has a passion for what he calls raising up spokespeople for science and technology.
We have a program for summer interns in Washington. And what he has developed as part of that program this summer is a series of seminars to teach these young people, you know, how to interact with government. So they can be more effective. I'm actually surprised and pleased with the number of students who've told me that their interests are in policy.
I think one of the things that the nation needs is more people who have the kind of education that MIT provides to be out there doing the interaction and educating the world about the things that we do. Yes.
AUDIENCE: Which I don't know if I've expressed it clearly enough. But they need to learn how to partner with people with other skills-- in other words, not just think of one individual from MIT as the person who can do all, but it's in the partnership. So many people I've heard at this gathering have tried businesses. And many have not succeeded. And that's because one person can't do everything. You have to know how to partner. And it starts-- it can start at a really young age. So that's my point.
HOCKFIELD: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: You're welcome.
HOCKFIELD: Mary's hovering here, which--
She would drop the boom if she had one. I'm sorry. But people at the microphone, perhaps I will get a chance to speak with you later. Thank you all very much.
SCHAEFER: Thank you, President Hockfield. And clearly, I think we could probably continue through most of the morning, having a dialogue with President Hockfield, because it's a great opportunity to talk with our leadership. It is now my pleasure to introduce Woodie Flowers, the Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT.
Professor Flowers is always a favorite among alumni and student audiences. Woodie helped create MIT's renowned Introduction to Design course and is known for extraordinary contributions to undergraduate education. He studies the creative design process-- product development systems and innovations in education. He also is co-founder of the FIRST Robotics Competition, sometimes referred to as 270 on steroids.
This morning, Woodie will offer his perspectives on a liberal education for the 21st century. Woodie?
FLOWERS: Thank you. That's heresy, right?
I'm going to talk about a balanced brain. I think we're kind of lucky, because as the world has moved, MIT has found itself I think more near the center of gravity of where an educated person should be. But it's a moving target. We have an advantage. I think we have to take advantage of that. So my plea to you is please help us change. And I think it's a cultural change. And that means it's really big and really scary. So I repeat, please help us change.
Now in the next 30 minutes, I'm going to ask you to fasten your seat belts, because I'm going to take you on a roller coaster ride. In the first part of the presentation, I'm going to try to gain some credibility so that maybe I can get you to listen to some things that you may not want to hear.
And then at the end of the presentation, I hope we're going to all come out and feel very optimistic.
OK. Now years ago, many wise people have said if you'd like for people to listen, you must start by making a fool of yourself. The audio visual crew at FIRST championship made it unusually easy for me.
So I've done my part.
You now have to listen. So let me explain and tell a story-- 270, Introduction to Design. About 40 years ago, things were a bit different then. I had a lot more hair.
But we gave the students a kit of materials and asked them to use their creativity and their technology to build something to accomplish a specific task. Their response was wonderful. They worked like hard, competed like crazy. But they helped each other. And they treated one another graciously.
After seeing that and encouraging it, I decided that gracious professionalism was what that was all about. And I think that's a good label. Now 270 is alive and well. It's now called 2.007. Alex Slocum is teaching it right now. And he's doing a great job. I want to take another path.
In about 1990, I met Dean Cayman. Dean had just founded an organization called FIRST for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Dean's insight was that we needed market pull in education. Market push is really hard. We also both agreed that societies get the best of what they celebrate. Think about that tonight when you watch the evening news.
I think our country, for example, is kind of stumbling drunk on celebrity for just celebrity's sake. So we founded the FIRST Robotics Competition to celebrate some other things. And it was high school kids and adult mentors focused on machines and wonderful interactions with the community.
The first one was called Maize Craze. And it was relatively modest. It was up in New Hampshire in a tray of corn-- relatively small robots, a modest kit of materials. Not long thereafter, we had grown to the point where the national competition was at Epcot. And Disney had built a million dollar stadium and put on a big show. And it was quite an event.
We outgrew Epcot. We moved to Houston to Reliant Stadium. We are now for the last couple of years have been for the national competition in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Now the field is much bigger. The machines are more complex. The game is more intense. This year, the robots were shooting balls while they were playing kind of a combination of soccer and basketball. In this particular image, if you count, there are 10 balls in the air. The robots were using a lighted target and a camera system to shoot balls much better than an NBA player could do.
But the thing that's most important about FIRST is the 100,000 high school kids and 35,000 adults, which make it work. Now some very important people come to FIRST events. We're very lucky. But the people compete like crazy. They really work. We laugh at ourselves.
That sign says, will fix robot for food. And if you can't see the sign on the young lady's back, it says we're missing prom for this. So they're wearing their prom.
So some very nice things are happening. There's a lot of emotion. If you go through a first season without a tear in your eye, you need psychiatric help immediately, because you're not getting it. Now it was clear that we needed to get kids involved earlier. So FIRST LEGO League was formed. That became international very, very quickly. We needed something to fill the middle between the LEGO League robots and the big ones. FIRST Vex Challenge is new and is taking off quite successfully.
But the people are the amazing thing about FIRST. And the behavior of the people, I think, are substantially influenced by the culture that's been created in FIRST. And I think that is the key issue-- the thing that we really want to feel good about. The growth has been impressive.
FIRST LEGO League is now-- this year is anticipated to be over 8,000 teams. FIRST Robotics Competition-- it will be over 1,300 teams. We're in 4% to 5% of the high schools in the country. There's $8 million in scholarships given out by FIRST. Thanks to Bill Doyle, there is a scholarship at MIT for FIRST alone. Please feel free to join funding that scholarship.
So long-term studies have shown that FIRST, in a carefully done study that compares apples to apples, triples the-- doubles the number of students who get into science and technology, triples the number who go into engineering. And the thing most dear to my heart is it doubles the number of students who get involved in service while they're in college.
If you Google the word-- simple word FIRST-- the first thing that comes up is FIRST. That's quite amazing. If you Google "gracious professionalisn," you get 66,000 hits. If you add the word FIRST, you only lose 2,500 or about 4%. So whatever discussion there is about gracious professionalism is centered on FIRST.
What does that mean? We've got robots and gracious tied together. Yes!
It is so wonderful and important. And it shows, I think, what culture can do. If we can do that--
--I think we can do MIT and nouveau nerd pride.
In the discussion, we've already heard a wonderful setup for that. However, you have to follow me down this bumpy road for a bit, because we've got a lot of work to do. So I'm going to talk to you about data centered in mechanical engineering, because that's what I know. But I don't think our department, which is known to be the best in the world, is really that different than others.
An undergraduate thesis-- wonderful, well-done thesis-- a survey of some of you guys 10 years out-- the response was amazing. 46% is overwhelmingly statistically valid. So let me just paint the picture of the shape of the data. And then I'll give you a closer look at it.
One of the questions is where did you learn what you know? So MIT undergraduate-- the data looks like this. What did you learn in graduate school? It looks like this. How about on the job? There it is. How about elsewhere? And didn't learn at all-- so that's the shape.
OK. Now let's zoom in and see what that means. On the left end, that's the mechanical engineering core. That's the stuff that we spend about 80% of our time working on. The stuff in the middle, professional skills, is almost identical to what is normally associated with a liberal education. And on the right, I'm calling how and what. It's how do you do this stuff. And what is it all about? Context-- societal context.
So now if you look at the data with the labels, there's some good news and some not so good news there. There were two other questions asked in the survey. Frequency of use-- how much did you use this stuff that you had learned? The blue means never.
And the mauve means pervasively. There was another question. It said, what were you expected to know? The blue means none. And mauve means, I was expected to lead or innovate. Now if you look at that data and superimpose "used pervasively" on "learned at MIT," that's not an ideal match. I think we have some homework to do, because "not learned" and "used pervasively" includes these things. And "learned but seldom used"-- and seldom is a euphemism for never--
--includes these things. Now so let's look even closer. Let's look at what "learned" means. Now I must confess if I went to a bad teachers anonymous meeting, I would have to stand up and say, my name is Woodie Flowers. And I'm a bad teacher.
I'm not blaming-- I love and respect the students that I'm talking about. It's not their fault. They're responding to what we do. So it breaks my heart to see things like this-- a BBC program--
- [? --tea ?] have been right through the system of public assessment. But what real understanding do the creme de la creme have of basic principles if they can't work out how to light a bulb with a battery?
- Do you have any idea why it's not working?
- The battery could be dead. The bulb could be bad. I'm hooking it up totally incorrectly.
I'm not an electrical engineer. I'm a mechanical engineer.
FLOWERS: Now obviously that breaks our heart, right?
A doctoral student working under my supervision, Ben Linder-- absolutely wonderful man-- did a study of our seniors in mechanical engineering. And he gave them a survey-- randomly selected, carefully done, statistically solid-- asked them, just write down the units of the things that we have covered in our curriculum. And here's what the data looks like. So let's zoom in close and look at that data.
Up near the top, you see that one student missed the units of time. There was a little confusion about power. But when we get down to weight, 30% of the students had the wrong units for weight. And that's because of acceleration of gravity. But in the middle, half of our students didn't know that Reynolds number was a number and didn't have units. And down near the bottom, entropy, a very important thing in today's world, and fracture toughness-- none of the students knew the units.
So if you superimpose a 50% line on that, you see that our seniors know the units of half the things that we think we have taught them in our curriculum. So I've given you data-- some data. There's more. But I've given you examples that say there's a real question about whether or not we're teaching the right stuff. And there's a real question about whether or not the students have learned what we think we've taught them. Let's get off this red slope now and start up the other side.
One of the good news things is that there are loud, clear signals that we must change. Jim Collins' highly empirical book, Good to Great, points out that if you're going to continue along the path of excellence, you have to face the brutal facts. I think that's what we must do.
And I'm sure most of your read Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat. The new language that you've probably heard is the world is tilted. And it's not tilted our direction. Clay Christensen's fantastic insights about the fact that when you are plugging along doing what you think you need to do, you get knocked out by something that you didn't see coming. So watch behind you.
Daniel Pink's book says that architecture, engineering, and law are just gone. They're so 20th century. Just forget it. I don't think he's right. But some of the things that he points out in this book are a real wake up call about right and left brain stuff. Read it. You might enjoy it. The National Academy has put out several recent reports.
The Engineer of 2020-- if you read that, you notice there's some different language. Competence in analysis is sort of assumed. The real issues are something-- things like practical ingenuity, for example. If you look at the more recent study chaired by Norman Augustine, Chuck [? Vast ?] of the who's who of educators, Rising Before the Gathering Storm, I think a very reasonable read of that is that we need to do a lot of catching up. You should look at the worrisome indicators at the bottom-- at the end of the executive summary of that report, because they are a clear wake up call.
My personal opinion is that we can't rejoin a race that we defined 50 years ago that's now populated by a bunch of people that are very smart and very hungry and going very fast and expect to win that race. I think it is clear we have to change the game some and recognize that the world has changed.
I didn't get to attend the NAE meeting last fall. But I just got to read Bill Wulf's address. Near the end of it, he says, "But the strategies that helped us get to the top are not the ones that will lead us to greater security, prosperity, and health in the future. As difficult as it is, we must change. And we must do it before it is too late."
An example down the road is Olin College. I know a lot of the students that graduated in the first class earlier this month. They're very powerful students. They got a different version of engineering education than MIT offers. There are two versions of what's going on down the river.
One group says Harvard's not going to do anything. They're way off balance. They're changing [INAUDIBLE] The other group of people is saying, wait a minute. They've got $20 billion. And they're defining an engineering school. And they're going to come on strong. I think, as President Hockfield hinted, we can't ignore that. And we have an opportunity that we must take advantage of.
So what do we do? Well, let me make some suggestions. At MIT, we have a whole group of wonderful, innovative programs. There's a long list. And I wouldn't dare try to cover them all. The leadership centers are really important. One-- we've got some great things happening in service learning. There are booths out in the lobby, where you can learn about some of those. We've got some tweakings on the undergraduate core curriculum.
But I think the truth is they're nibbling around the edges. The real issue is the core, the culture. And one of the things that I believe deeply is that we have to stop using presence-- the most valuable thing we have, being in the same room with another person-- to do training. I think we have to focus on using presence for education.
Now to make a distinction, a simple version is that learning differential equations, I think, is training. Learning to think using the insights from differential equations, the education-- I think they are profoundly different. So I'm saying shift away as much as we can from the sage on the stage model. Everybody says, well, that's the most efficient model. That's the way we have to do it-- big classes, et cetera.
I think the only reason we can do that is that we allow ourselves to pretend that the students are learning what we're saying. And if we start measuring, we might note that in our effort to cover it all, we actually bury it. And I think it is much, much harder to uncover.
I think one of the reasons is that we have a model that says people think like we write on the blackboard. I don't think that way.
I think in three dimensions, in color, in sound, and all kinds of things. And I think direct experience is a far more valuable way to gain fundamental insights about nature. MIT is lucky enough to have the Teaching and Learning Lab. Dr. Lori Breslow runs that lab. And she recently gave me a paper. Here's the citation. It's about the efficacy of active learning. It's a meta analysis paper. I love meta analysis papers, because it says what has everybody learned when you pool all the data.
Here's the data. The red line is zero. It says when you use active learning, you don't, on average, gain a few percent. You gain tens of percent. I think in the competitive world that our students face, we can't send them out unless we've given them every possible edge we can.
Lori says we have to talk more about learning and less about teaching. I absolutely agree. In fact, I believe that we need to do with more than talk about. Working with students is much more effective. Thus, things like [INAUDIBLE] are wonderful. So what do we do about training? A very quick version of one of my thoughts-- if you Google my name and "New Media's Impact," you can download a chapter that I wrote for a book for the Forum on Future of Higher Education. It's an easy read.
I think, for example, one of the things we can do is create the Draper Labs of Learning, that like the Rad Labs, Draper Labs was put together because of national and international need. Hello, we have a national and international need. We need to do something big. Maybe one of the things that we could do-- we've learned a lot from OpenCourseWare in Singapore [? lines. ?]
So maybe it's time-- and I'm not talking about distance learning, although as President Hockfield pointed out, quite a few universities have created a revenue source that way-- but I'm talking about a world class, electronic based learning system. And it would require, for example, that maybe we take $100 million and hit three major topics-- maybe biology, maybe electromechanical systems or robotics-- whatever you'd like to call that-- and energy.
And we go get the best people on the planet involved. And we put together teams where the faculty member is the content provider and organizer. But the psychologist and the learning specialists and the animators and the system specialists are putting together something that competes with movies, which is what young people are accustomed to seeing-- do really world class stuff.
Now let's imagine that that thing that had MIT's name associated with it propagated to the point where there were several hundred thousand. And it became self-sustaining. And then we could give it away to people in the world who need it. But teachers could subscribe to the automatic homework grading system. And the automatic quiz grading system.
They could subscribe to the part that allows you to compare your scores on your students to others. All those things can happen. And this group, this team would meet and say, you know, notice when people were using this particular part of it, they missed this on the quiz. Maybe there's something wrong here. Maybe that's not structured right.
So for the first time in the history of humankind, we could have compound growth in the quality or efficacy of learning materials. I think that could be a really big thing. And I think the business model for that is quite reasonable. And I also believe that whoever does it first is going to have a monumental advantage. I think that could be very good for MIT. I think it could allow young faculty members, for example, who invest in this way to not only be rewarded financially but could have the right kind of fame, because they could be the source of information that influenced a very large number of young people.
Now as an example of some of the things that might happen, if you look at John Belcher's work, you know, he's an electromagnetic field guy. And he publishes papers that look like this. There are 1/1,000 of a percent of people around the world that can look at this and imagine what a field looks like. These are animations that he and his group made to illustrate how fields work. A first grader can understand this immediately. There are some very powerful things that can be done with advanced electronic media.
So let's assume we had that stuff. What might we do with it? Well, we have a model of education that's chunked. You know, you finish college. And you go off in your career. I think we should blend those things. In the first one of those notches, for example, we overlap high school and college. In the second, we start your career while you're in college and make it continue throughout your life.
We could, for example, push some of that training that I was talking about back into high school. We could have some real data that might give us a better rationale for some of our admissions. We could shift the emphasis in the freshman year. I can't imagine that you can call yourself educated without some international experience. So I'd personally want to look very carefully at requiring a half year experience somewhere else probably in the freshman year, because during that time, they could be using electronic media to do the training while they're learning more about themselves and society in another part of the world.
We could get more internships pushed back into school like UPOP. But you guys could stay connected to MIT in a privileged way throughout your life. You could go back and encounter very structured, great ways to learn new things. So MIT is a great location for this sort of thing, because oddly enough, you're here, because you're interested in research and academics. The President Hockfields of many universities face a group that care nothing about research and academics. They care about the football team and the basketball team. So you guys can be very helpful.
As was mentioned earlier, MIT did reinvent engineering education. I think that particular cycle has done an absolutely wonderful thing. But it's nearing the end of its viable life. MIT has substantially reinvented life science education. MIT tackles big problems, just as the boss said a little while ago, like energy, for example.
So let me talk about an archetype for some of the kinds of-- that has some of the vectors of education that I think are really important. Dave Wallace teaches our senior design course. He won two wonderful teaching awards this spring. In that course, we give the students a problem too big from idea to alpha prototype in a time too short-- one semester-- with a team too large-- a big group, 15 to 20 people-- and a budget too small-- only $6,500 per team.
It starts with wonderful team building and formal brainstorming exercises. The kids get into the lab. They spend a lot of time touching real things. Last fall's theme was agriculture. So they had to learn how lentil seeds flow in a funnel and how pecans can be shelled and how grass might be separated from dirt-- things that's very hard to simulate.
You might enjoy a typical MIT study. One of the estimation problems that Dave gave the students was to test the efficacy of the Archimedes death ray theory, where the soldiers reflected the sun off their polished bronze shields and set the Roman ships on fire. Do a search on that. And look at what happened. It's a wonderful story. It actually brought down the whole MIT server farm, because it was several million hits per hour.
So a typical, wonderful MIT story, but kids learned a lot from that process. They work a lot together in the lab. In the Pappalardo Lab is a fantastic facility. Near the end of the semester, there's lots of students there. They spend time with the technical staff of the lab. They spend time with the instructors. There's a big, large critical review at the end. This year one of their projects, for example, was a manioc grater primarily for Haiti.
[? Suleman ?] is demonstrating the conventional way it's done by rubbing a cassava or a manioc on a perforated piece of tin. Nick is demonstrating the pedal powered 100 times more effective one that the students designed and built to be built with indigenous materials. That beautifully painted flywheel is cast concrete. The frame is rebar-- things that are available in Haiti. There was a pedal powered irrigation pump that was fantastically effective.
So what's the impact of this? Well, at the beginning of the semester, Dave asked the students, what do you want to do? Now, there's nothing wrong with wanting to be a management consultant, which was the most popular option. But you'd hope that mechanical engineers might want to do something else. At the end of the course, things had shifted dramatically. The most popular response was product development.
And graduate school had become more important. I think some of those shifts were quite amazing. And six months after the course ended, the survey revealed that they had stuck to what they said they wanted to do after the course much more. So I believe that that worked that way, because it was more about education and less about training. It was more about synthesis than analysis. It was about creativity. Did I mention creativity? Did I say anything about being creative?
I think it's absolutely critical to students in today's world. It was about being a leader more than a follower. It was about-- execution was important. But innovation was more important. It was about team over individual. It had an international flavor. It focused on the high margin parts of what students should do.
And I hope it left them more fulfilled than content. And I hope it helped them forget--
--about IHTFP. I hate that. I think passion for MIT is a much more reasonable goal. I think that's what we want our graduates to feel, because we've had a wonderful relation with them. In fact, I think we have an ethical obligation to try very hard to focus on what we do with them to help them have a comparative advantage. If you make the assumption that they're good people, which I think is a very good assumption and they're smart-- obviously true-- you really want them to be effective. You would like for them to be in the game, because they're really effective. And that should allow them to have a very meaningful life.
If that happens more, we could have technologically literate leaders. We could have really informed consent-- consensus rather. And we could make wiser decisions maybe then we're making now. So I repeat what I said at the beginning. Please help us change. Thank you.
I will do my best with your questions. How much time do we have? Yes.
AUDIENCE: Hi, I work at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado. And when I talked to the hiring gurus, they said, we don't like to hire MIT graduates, because they are too impractical and too theoretical. To your point about your presentation, you clearly are saying that you would like us to help you. I would like to see more MIT graduates at Ball Aerospace. What would you recommend?
FLOWERS: I mean, how do I-- well, I'm recommending that we change so that the people that are saying what they're saying won't say that and that there would be a much more direct-- and right now, if you recruit from students who have taken 2.009, for example, I think you'll find a group that may be more oriented toward making that reputation go away.
AUDIENCE: OK. Give us a class list.
FLOWERS: All right.
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Joseph Wang. This is sort of the question I was planning to ask President Hockfield. But since--
FLOWERS: That's not fair.
AUDIENCE: OK. Well, one thing that you mentioned, is an example of textbook collaboration. And I think the archetype of that is Wikipedia. And the key thing that they do is they don't put-- they've put as few limits as possible as to who can collaborate. And this is important, because the career path of someone who's a physics graduate, like myself-- the whole education is designed to get your PhD.
Now once you get your PhD, you're unemployed. And one of the things that's missing is, OK. Now what do you do? Now you're unemployed. And somebody made earlier the difference between tenured faculty and untended faculty-- well, I've got a physics PhD in astrophysics. I'd love to teach astrophysics. I mean--
And I think one of the things that has to be done for the-- in looking at the MIT education is to figure out, OK. We've now trained all these or educated all these people with just huge amounts of degree of knowledge. What do you do when you can't find a job? Yeah.
FLOWERS: That's a nice comment. And I believe it. And I think trying to shift toward giving you the tools that you need to make versatile decisions is if you look up the definition of liberal education, it is essentially, the education that leaves you with most versatility in your life. And that's what I'm advocating. Over here.
AUDIENCE: Good morning. You talked a lot about revolutionizing the education system. And I'm wondering more about the educator system. I have now worked industry for over 15 years, where performance and rewards are heavily tied together. I'm wondering about your thoughts regarding this, particularly with regard to the tenure system.
FLOWERS: Well, I think the tenure system was begun for a reason that was very valid. I personally don't think it's the right thing to do right now. Olin College, for example, is a non-tenure school. People are trying that. Who knows where it's going to go? But it's a big, complicated question. It is a cultural question, and therefore, really complicated-- just finished reading most of Machiavelli's The Prince. And I think there's a lot of insight in there.
AUDIENCE: I'm Norman Beecher, class of '44. How is it that we can have this great split in our country, where we have admiration for scientific knowledge here and especially among our graduates and their relationships, but we still have a growing group in this country who believes that the world is as written in the Bible 2000 years ago and base their decisions on things that are totally mythical? How can we break that contrast, that split?
FLOWERS: My presentation was too long--
--to start with. I feel very strongly that one of the pieces to a liberal education for the 21st century is epistemology. For the last 10 years or so, my wife and I have had at 4:00 AM book club. And we'd get up. And we read together. And one of the things that we have been trying to come to understand is to learn the difference between what we believe and what we think we believe. And I think young people today really, really need to ask that question and understand it. And the division about which you speak breaks my heart. We have to fix that. I don't have any silver bullets.
And then-- yeah.
AUDIENCE: One thing that seems to be missing is the fact that you can go down to about a mile down the road and pick up a 200 gigabyte system, which you can put a million pictures on it or 50 million pages. And so the question I have is a lot of these decisions are really [? immaterial. ?]
One can just walk out the door with all that. I think what we need is perhaps the design of switch engines, which anyone can use. I mean, I think you're still thinking in terms of people reading from books and small groups of people, where the reality now with this is you can throw it on-- create web pages, throw it on the web. And everybody can have access to much more. And the question is simply if I want to become this or if I want to do something, design a search engine. And all the answers come up in front of you.
FLOWERS: I understand that. I still believe-- I love search engines. I use them a lot. Students-- in today's world, if you can't find it with Google, it doesn't exist.
But I believe that if you talk about education, you probably would like to be able to put some structure into that stuff so that you can find it in an ordered way that leads you to scaffolding and building the education and allow you to test your own knowledge against other people and stuff. But I think I agree with a major part of that. Yes.
AUDIENCE: Hi, Woodie. I'm Ed Moriarty. I work at the Edgerton Center. I came here in-- what, it was-- 1971. And I took 270 with you teaching it. And this bit about you being a bad teacher-- you, by far, were the most inspirational teacher I had here at the Institute.
FLOWERS: You're very kind. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: And that subject--
--was, by far, the best. That said--
FLOWERS: Welcome to MIT.
AUDIENCE: I think in your vision-- I plotted the Draper Lab idea as wonderful. I saw that you emphasized sort of the distance learning aspect of it as something that's implementable. I find in my working here at the Institute, we have a lot of very hands on stuff going on. I oversee 17 different student groups and clubs from Formula SAE to the Solar Electric Vehicle Team.
And our biggest problem right now is we've got no place where people can go like Building 20 used to be, where you could go. And it's just there. And there's people over here doing some stuff. And people over there are doing other stuff. There's a machine shop over here, some electronics over there. There's enough space to store your junk. So you don't have to keep hauling it away. Any thoughts towards what we could do to get a Building 20 here again for students to do this kind of stuff?
FLOWERS: Thank you.
Ed, you know I love all the stuff that you're doing. And I agree so much that I shouldn't even comment. I mean, when I said presence for education over other kinds of things for training, that's exactly what I mean. If you're here, you should be doing things with faculty members. Doing research is one of the things. But we need a much more versatile space.
I actually advocate for mechanical engineering that the senior year be a studio model year, where there are a whole bunch of group students working together, kind of living in a space, going next door, building something, learning together. So I think that is an absolutely wonderful idea. And I would much rather see that than another very elegant, large lecture hall. Read my chapter in that book. And you'll see some of that stuff. We probably have one more or not? One more, please.
AUDIENCE: I graduated in 1971, [? Course ?] [? 6. ?] My name is Lloyd Marks. I just wanted to make the comment that when I graduated, I had a period of time before I went on to professional school, where I did work in engineering. And I found that knowledge of Maxwell's equations was not high on the list of the interest of the employer.
AUDIENCE: They wanted--
They wanted us-- they wanted us to be able to lay out printed circuit boards, which was not something we learned in undergraduate. A couple of comments-- first is that I think despite all your comments and the ideas of using technology, fundamentally the undergraduate courses-- there's no connection.
And there still is no connection at MIT or anywhere else between why you're learning about certain basic principles in engineering and what connection it has to do with the real world. And I know this in part because much later in my career, I went back to take graduate courses for fun. And with the knowledge of what these basic principles were all about, the experience was a totally different one.
And I think there is not a technological solution. It's a very labor intensive and very old fashioned solution in which the teacher-- if they know-- has to sit down with the student and say, the reason that I'm teaching you about resonance is because in the real world, this is what this principal relates to. And I think the students graduate now with no knowledge whatsoever. They can do their problems sets and so on. And I don't know exactly how you can solve that. But I don't think you can solve it through better search engines or distance learning, because you need that interaction with the teacher.
FLOWERS: Thank you very much. That's a wonderful closing comment on my presentation.
SCHAEFER: Thank you, Woodie. Clearly, this is a topic that spurred a lot of discussion. And I'm sure, again, as with President Hockfield, we could continue this well into the morning. Hopefully, you have moved back-- recovered into a hopeful and optimistic state of mind--
--for our next speaker, who is Phil Gschwend. Phil is the Ford Chair Professor in the School of Engineering. He has been a professor at MIT's civil and environmental engineering department for a quarter of a century, where he is now associate department head.
Phil seeks to understand the environmental fates of old pollutants, as well as anticipate the environmental consequences of producing and using new materials. He is deeply concerned with finding sustainable engineering solutions to many of today's pressing needs that work within the context of environmental systems.
He will examine some of the environmental issues we face and how to, continuing the theme that Woodie said, prepare engineers to anticipate and meet them. His talk is on Engineering and Earth Systems-- Can We Educate a New Breed of Engineers? Phil?
GSCHWEND: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to follow that tough act.
As the title of the slide indicates, I'm on a bit of a evangelical mission today. And that is trying to combine what we've traditionally been great at-- that is, engineering-- with something that's somewhat new for engineers maybe. And that's understanding how the Earth system responds to our great engineering developments. And just by way of introduction, I want to, again, say welcome back to MIT for all of you. Am I advancing this? Or are you? Let's see.
OK. So today-- well, hello.
I have no cursor. Maybe I should be cursing.
There it is. There it is. So today what I want [? to try to ?] talk about, assuming I can manage my mechanics up here, is a little bit about who I am, give you a feeling for what I supposedly am an expert in, and in particular, try to convince you that, at some level, we can anticipate what's going to happen in the world when we take certain engineering steps.
The second thing I want to talk about is a little bit of contextual information as to how great it is to have engineering developments and what that ends up meaning in terms of, in particular, developing-- putting us into positions behind the eight ball, where we have certain problems. And we end up with those problems after we've seen the problems having to deal with them.
So I'd like to talk a little bit about some of the principles we can use to anticipate those problems and then go a little forward into talking about new design paradigms, where you take environmental criteria into account at the beginning. And potentially now, that means we may have to change our MIT education, interestingly enough with respect to many of the questions I've already heard this morning, perhaps mentioning to the students why we're doing the problem ahead of time before we go into the designs, for example. And I think you'll agree with me there are many prospective benefits there.
Let me start with point 1-- who am I? And why am I telling you about this? I am a geochemist. I graduated from Woods Hole in chemical oceanography. And I have been ensconced as I was introduced for 25 years now in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering-- that one spot in the middle of Professor Hockfield's tour around the campus that no one ever talks about-- environmental engineering.
We happen to be interested in the problem, for example, in my case, of knowing what's going to happen to chemicals, especially in my case, organic chemicals should you want to use them for some various prospective? So for example, we've worked on problems that have to do with munitions manufacturing in the Woburn area, surfactant use in this area-- and what that means is the Gulf of Maine-- the use of methyl [? t-butyl ?] ether in our gasoline.
And all these kinds of things end up getting built into textbooks that hopefully when the students are looking at those books, they're actually realizing I need to know this organic chemistry-- ooh-- because it actually is important for me to understand what will an organic chemical do to the world that I breathe, eat, drink, grow crops in, et cetera.
So let's look a little bit more at that. A little bit about environmental cycling very briefly-- all of us are busy using surfactants. I washed my hair this morning with Head and Shoulders. Head and Shoulders contains chemicals like that alkyl benzene up there. That goes down our pipes, goes out to the treatment plant, goes out our waters in this part of the world, 9 miles off shore off of Boston into the Massachusetts Bay Area.
What happens to that that stuff? Does it matter? Well, one should think about that before you start putting it out there hopefully. We've never done that up to now. Obviously what we can do is we can make use of those differential equations that we apparently learned as a tool-- but hopefully now we know why we learned them-- and combine them into a set of processes that talk about the time rate of change of chemical concentrations in space that we're interested in here-- the Gulf of Maine.
We can use information on the chemicals that we're talking about, because we know some physical chemistry and reaction chemistry and biochemistry, et cetera. And we can use some information about the environment we care about-- how is it mixed? How does the light come and go, et cetera? And putting that together, I maintain that we can anticipate what will happen.
So for example, in this particular case, one can anticipate with such models what the concentrations of these kinds of chemicals-- there's one example-- are going to be. Those are the red bars. And then one can go out in the world and sample those environments out in the Boston Harbor, Mass Bay, Cape Cod Bay, and on out into the Gulf of Maine and see, in fact, that there's a reasonably good correspondence between what's really out there and what you would have expected to be out there. So point number 1-- we can expect it when we think about it.
Same point-- we've decided in our wisdom to fight air pollution to put so-called oxygenates, an organic chemical up there-- methyl t-butyl ether-- into our fuels like gasoline. So when we burn the gasoline, in principle, we do a better, more efficient job and create less air pollution. However, as many of you know who read the newspapers, that causes problems in other environmental media-- so for example, in our groundwater.
And I maintain that it's not rocket science to understand that that's going to happen. In fact, another one of my students, Sam Airy, said, well, we know gasoline tanks leak underground at their storage sites. Here's a facility on the left. And on-- your right, sorry-- and when that happens, we know that the fluids will fall down to the water table. That's not rocket science. We know that the groundwater flows in certain directions.
And if you do a survey in the United States, it's about a kilometer or 2 to the nearest municipal water supply well near any-- or turn it around-- at any municipal water supply well is about a kilometer or 2 upstream to the nearest gas station, which is something you can pretty easily find out.
So you can solve the problem of what's going to happen knowing a little bit about this chemical and the likelihood of spills to calculate what's the likelihood of having this kind of a chemical in our drinking water supplies. And one solves that problem, then finds out the methyl t-butyl ether, as well as a lot of other chemicals, should be expected in your water supply wells about a decade or two after we start using it at parts per billion concentrations. And that's exactly what people are reporting in the literature. This is not actually very hard to do.
Going one step further, we don't just want to know the concentrations in the world. We want to know, well, what is it that then we are soaking up into our bodies? So many of us maybe are interested in going down to Legal Seafood and having some steamers-- Mya arenaria. Mya is an organism that grows out here in the world around us. And it's exposed to these kinds of chemicals.
So one would like to know if we know what the concentrations are in the environment around an organism-- ourselves included, by the way-- what would we expect to be within the organism? Can we solve that problem? And in fact, no surprise-- when I go look at what's in clams versus what I can calculate from physical chemical understandings of what should be in the clams within a factor of 3 or 4-- so depending on what site you go to-- you can pretty reasonably know what to expect for a set of interesting organic chemicals, including carcinogens, like [? benzopyrene, ?] would be in the clam.
So the only message I'm trying to give you with these brief examples is that I think that we can, in fact, understand that chemicals are released in the environment and that they travel some distance. And then there are-- organisms are exposed. And we can calculate and anticipate what that's going to be. We should not be surprised if we do anything that we're going to be exposed to such things.
Now so first, we can anticipate. Point 2-- we're doing great things that MIT and elsewhere around the world, in that we're having great inventions of new technologies for energy needs or other kinds of needs that we identify. Here, for example, is a list from the National Academy of Engineering of the top 20 greatest achievements in the last century. And those are all ideas that most of us probably could have thought about and picked out.
And whenever you look at these kinds of things, what you see, of course, are technologies like the car, the computer, or refrigeration, et cetera that when they were designed and thought about, somebody was in a small space trying to put that together. And when it was successful, it grew explosively and took over the world, if you want, in terms of those kinds of technologies. That's very important to realize. When we get a good idea, it grows like crazy.
In that context, people who, for example, are worrying about semiconductor manufacturing have noticed that back in the 1980s, only 20 some years ago, the part of the periodic table used for that kind of activity is those blue squares in the 1980s-- just a small part of the periodic table. By the '90s, the green squares have been added. And now in the last decade, all the orange squares are being added. What does that mean?
As we pursue our engineering and design activities, technological advances, we are, of course, using more and more materials from all over the periodic table. And if you ask any geochemist, well, what happens to these things in the environment, we've never had much time and energy to think about it yet. We haven't been presented with that yet.
And all of this context is, of course, being forced increasingly by-- there's a demand that grows and grows and grows as more and more people in all of the world want to enjoy the same kind of technical benefits that you and I have. So with that in mind, let's go on now to talk for a moment about what I see as the problem.
The problem is historically we come up with great inventions, solutions there in the middle, to the needs that we identify. We identify a need that we need to have some kind of refrigerants that are not toxic, that don't catch on fire and things like that. And someone comes up with a great idea-- Freons. It's nontoxic. It's not flammable. It's very safe. The problem, of course, is we didn't think about the consequences of that. And as a result, of course, we have issues on the right there, such as the stratospheric ozone hole.
And you can go through that exercise with many other needs that we've identified in the last century and had certain solutions that we've come up with. And the result is that we have explosive growth of certain technologies, resulting in changes in environmental concentrations-- in this case, as DDT. And a [? slug ?] [? one ?] that was very important used DDT. And that result is that we have always environmental consequences.
So we have these things that we invent and design. And we don't think about the environmental consequence. This is not just problems of the past. These are problems now. Teflon, a polymer-- we use polymers like crazy. How many of us think about the environmental consequences of using polymers?
Alloys-- we use alloys all over the place for all kinds of engineering applications. How many of us think about the beryllium in our golf clubs when we're hitting that ball? And what's the beryllium going to do when the golf clubs are gone? Those are not necessarily the best choices from an environmental perspective.
Where is this problem? I tell you this problem is absolutely everywhere. I was talking to someone a little earlier. I live just, of course, in a suburb of Boston. The neighboring suburb of Boston-- Concord, Massachusetts-- has a place where we were designing and building depleted uranium products. Depleted uranium is extremely useful material. We didn't worry too much in the time when it was happening about what would be the environmental consequences. And now we have these 46 acre sites in suburban areas that are contaminated with the results of our manufacturing and our engineering-- wish we had thought about that ahead of time.
Who is going to pay for all of this stuff? Of course, the answer is everybody. If you just go to that one site-- not all the sites in the world, just this one site-- who is responsible? The United States Army, the United States Department of Energy, which means all of us who are taxpayers, corporations like Whitaker and Textron-- so they're investors and stockholders. Insurance companies and bankers who hold the mortgages-- once again, all of us who pay the premiums-- all of us are going to pay. We can know that. So wouldn't it be beneficial not to have that problem?
Is the problem going to go away in the future? Well, you know, nanotechnologies are great. But we have this thing. It's growing once again, as shown for some of the dollar signs there in recent reports from C&EN News, et cetera. But we haven't thought much at all about the environmental effects of these things. Perhaps we should do that at the outset.
So having told you that there might be some issues, if you want, with respect to our engineering designs, I would like to just say for a few moments some of the principles that we could always apply to thinking about these designs. The first principle is whenever we use something, we'll lose some of it. We'll release some of it. Just assume that. Plutonium-- we release some of it-- snap satellite burnups, et cetera. We always lose some.
Point 2-- anybody who has a child knows that. Whenever you try to organize something-- so entropy is definitely what unit I need to know-- things spread out. Just it's a principle. We know it. And maybe that's one of the reasons to take thermodynamics. Take about a week. And we'd be done with it. OK.
Number 3-- whenever you upset a natural cycle-- again, anyone who has a child knows that-- whenever you take them out of their rhythm, things get out of hand. So those three principles I want to just spend a moment on developing. First point as an example, whenever we use some materials, it's released.
One of the great inventions of the last couple of decades ago was the catalytic converter on our cars. And of course, what's happening is that we're using metallic surfaces with platinum and palladium and things of that sort and alloys to react the gases going by and taking out the pollutants that we're interested in.
One would think that blowing gases over metals would not be much of an issue environmentally. And yet, if you go into the sediment cores in this area and you sample that mud as a function of time, what you find is the concentrations of elements like platinum increase around 1970s when we started using catalytic converters.
These materials when we use them, are lost to the environment slowly but surely. I'm not talking about disposal. I'm talking about just using it. Likewise, when you use materials, they always spread out. So for example, many of us have been all excited that I can buy scotchgard rugs and couches and things like that and clean it up. Of course, I can do that. Scotchgard is a chemical, which is a fluorinated organic compound.
When [? Geesey ?] and his colleagues go and look at the environment and in particular organisms collected all around the world, their tissues contain the materials from which scotchgard is made. Hence, scotchgard's coming off the market. Things spread out. I don't think there was a lot of scotchgard going on for the penguins in Antarctica's couches. So this is a-- just things will spread out.
Point number 3-- I'll take just a couple of slides for this. It's an interesting situation that the world, even in 2000 years, has evolved to set up a situation whereby what we're typically exposed to on this axis from Bob [? Gharials, ?] an old paper, is what are the concentrations in the world's streams-- typical concentrations of things like chloride, which is a relatively common ion in streams; fluorine and zinc in kind of the middle; lead arsenic kind of in the-- further from the middle; and relatively rare elements like mercury and selenium in our streams?
And when you go and independently look at the Public Health Service-- not the current EPA, the old public health service-- drinking water standards, it was a very strong correlation. It was OK to drink water with relatively high chloride but not OK to drink water with relatively-- you had to have relatively low mercury. That's not too surprising, because in a sense, that's what we grew up with-- evolved to be experienced-- whoops-- to experience.
Unfortunately, there comes a time sometimes when we change the world. We engineer something. So for example, we may be an engineer a new system of water cycling. In the Bangladesh area in our efforts to minimize pathogen effects, we convinced the people to start using groundwater as a way to get their drinking water supply. Let the soils filter out, if you want, the pathogens of their wastes.
At the same time, their rice economy was growing like crazy. And they wanted to use groundwater to add water to the agricultural systems to be able to sustain more growth. What happens? So suddenly we have a lot more water being pumped out of the ground, put onto rice fields. And that has to, of course, percolate back in the ground. And when it does so, it carries with it the organic wastes, if you want, of decaying plant vegetation.
And those organic wastes cause geochemical changes underground, which among other things put arsenic into the flow-- naturally occurring arsenic, no pollution whatsoever. We just changed the world a little bit. And as a result, those ingredients, which are now put into the water, are now pumped back up to the surface and used not only for irrigation, but for drinking.
What happened? The concentrations of arsenic that were naturally present in their drinking water at the beginning jumped by about a factor of 10. And millions of people are suffering from [INAUDIBLE] and other unhappy health effects. We have problems when we change the chemical compositions of what we eat, breathe, drink, roll around in the dirt, or whatever our exposure roots are. That's when we have problems. So we know that. These are lessons that have been seen over and over.
So you might be a little bit concerned when you start to, as Klee and Graedel reviewed, find out that the amount of materials that are being mobilized by humans as compared to natural mobilization mechanisms is starting to be overwhelming-- that is, we are mobilizing all those elements with bars to the left by factors of 10, 100, 1,000, and even 10,000 more. The nature has been cycling. That's interesting, because that's an implication that our exposures are going to go up in some proportion to this.
Some other elements at the top, by the way, you see were nowhere near nature's mobilizing rates. Those elements are pretty rarely-- with maybe the exception of sodium for people's hearts-- pretty rarely thought to be problematic in the environment. So you start to see some quick easy lessons that you can use and take home.
But the bottom line is every time we have a new technology, we think of some need. We think of a way to attack it. We invent something. For example, I'm picking on particular chemicals and materials here, like carbon nanotubes, beryllium, Freons, PCBs. We come up with great inventions. PCBs were a great chemical invention-- great, great attributes.
There is a great economic benefit to coming up with those solutions. And it really improves a lot of people's quality of life. People who were burning up in factories are not burning up when the hydraulic fluids or PCBs are being leaked. We always see an exponential growth in those industries that use these materials. So there's more and more materials put into play.
And then finally, down the road problems crop up, usually a couple of decades or three decades after the technology has been advanced. And we see disrupted ecosystem metabolism, if you want. We need to avoid having to pay that 30 years down the road. And I'm trying to tell you we can anticipate that.
So the solution-- we need to re-invent, if you want, or expand really our design paradigms. Typically we have had an idea that we come up with a need. And we think of ways to meet some technical need. And we, of course, think about the costs of whatever design choices we make.
But now I'm suggesting that we should also make sure that that thing fits within our environmental metabolism. None of us would be happy to take a drug that we didn't think that the FDA or some other biochemistry types thought fit within our natural metabolism of our own bodies. Why do we think that we can invent drugs over here and put them in the Earth and not worry about the metabolism of the Earth? That's a mistake that we've made in the past for a long time. And we want to get past that.
So if you have to come up with this extra design criterion, what do you need to think about? You probably have to do it really early in the product development. Once certain products are developed to some extent, millions and millions of dollars-- maybe even billions of dollars have been expended putting the product into play-- it's too hard to go back and reverse it. It's really hard to convince ARCO to go shut down that methyl t-butyl ether factory they have in Southern California, because they've already invested billions of dollars in doing that. So we need to do it early in the process before there's much at stake.
Environmental people have to do it quickly. Things are developing quickly. We can't wait 10 years to decide if Freons or PCBs are OK. We have to do it in sort of year time frame, in the normal cycle of inventing new things-- sort of the time frame of courses that Woodie teaches. I have to do it that fast.
And we have to do it suitably cheaply that it doesn't totally throw out of whack the costs of making the new product. So those are criteria we have to have in our environmental design factors. I want to give one quick example of a particular problem that I've been working on with some colleagues in material science and electrical engineering. [? Ajay ?] Somani is the graduate student who does all of the real work, if you want.
One idea is that we may be able to have three dimensional integrated circuits. And there's a lot of benefits as you can imagine from putting the circuits all on top of each other-- shortening distances and things of that sort. So in this, [? Ajay ?] and his colleagues are thinking about how can I actually form these three dimensional things. And there are various ideas on the table about how to design the-- simply design the process of putting the wafers together.
One idea, for example, is to use a sacrificial handle that one would put on a wafer, use it to transfer, use it to align and orient, et cetera, but at the end of the process, take the wafer-- the handle back off. And so we're starting to think about what are the technical needs to use such a handle. What would be the cost? Is that in a prohibitive way to do it? And what would be the environmental consequences? So this is a very simple step in a procedure that hopefully would grow exponentially if it's successful.
So [? Ajay ?] and his colleagues put together some of the issues about using these designs, such as the aluminum handle wafer and other kinds of approaches. And they'd look at it-- of course, technical performance issues, such as the yield, how successful can the wavered production go forward. Is it expensive?
And lastly, what, if any, are the environmental consequences? Very early in the game-- so the environmental consequences naturally have to think about what are the energy considerations with choice 1, 2, or 3, how much water is used-- that's a very important feature for semiconductor manufacturers-- 1, 2, and 3. And what are the chemical inputs and outputs? ANd I'm just going to boil this all down and focus in on one part of this whole table-- tantalum. I'm sure all of you have thought about tantalum a lot, right?
Tantalum-- it was one of those orange boxes on the periodic table that nobody ever thinks about. How can we quickly think about something like tantalum? Well, a geochemist sees the world maybe a little differently than some of you. We see the world as a set of compartments that are interactive in exchanging material. So you have an atmosphere, an ocean, other water bodies, et cetera, soils.
And in the middle of that, we come in as industries and people living and start to influence the passage of materials back and forth. That's not too hard to do. If we go and we look up some of the information that is available-- and it's not very much for somebody like tantalum-- what you can see right away is that we are mining something in the vicinity of 10 to the 9th grams of tantalum every year. And in our fossil fuel burning, we're putting out another 10 to the 9th grams of tantalum every year. So those are going out into the world because of our activities.
And the weathering of the world is also in the order of 2 times 10 to the 9th grams of tantalum every year. So the Earth by itself is pushing billion grams around all the time. And we're coming along and doubling it or so. If the world is linear, that means we're doubling our exposures, which might not be too bad. But if the tantalum barrier layer in the semiconductor manufacturing and other industries becomes exponentially growing, that factor of 2 is going to go up through the roof. And we should be able to anticipate that. That's not very hard.
So we feedback and say, maybe you don't want to take the tantalum route of your three options. That's how the discussion-- how the design works. There's a lot of benefits to doing things this way. First of all, of course, you avoid all that cost down road. And those companies that are suffering from having made wrong choices in the past that we all know and are in court cases day after day after day would avoid all that nonsense.
There are other things, of course, like the scotchgard story. You invent a product. And it doesn't just grow for some short amount of time and die, because it's found to have a problem. 3M is finding out about that. The paper last week here in the Boston Globe talked a lot about markets.
The European market is going to be shut down-- the things that have lead in their boards and things that we read about. This is now well known to the industry. We have to be thinking about the markets. And those markets are paying a more and more attention to the qualities and the environmental consequences of our choices. So that helps us.
We can, of course, hopefully get into a rhythm with regulators or anyway, the people who oversee-- people who are designing, engineering things and get past the problems of compliance and those costs. And lastly-- and maybe this is not so obvious to everybody-- there are, of course, many things in the world that have already been engineered by nature. And if we can learn from those, we might make some advances that we didn't anticipate-- certain material choices, how to put them together like composites, et cetera.
So the second part of the solution, of course, is how does one go about this in a way where you have students graduate and know how to do all of this stuff. It's really hard to do all the other stuff, from differential equations and electromagnetic equations and all this stuff to this also the environmental thing. That could be tough. Let's talk.
So first of all, we're blessed that we have a group of people who are happy to be quantitative. And I think that's a necessity. I think that people have to have some knowledge about how the Earth works. You have to, for example, know what's the difference between a soil and a sediment. People I talk to usually don't know about that.
You have to be able to do critical thinking. That's what Woodie's talking about. You have to be educated, not trained. You have to be able to put the parts together-- not the differential equation with a lot of terms, but the two terms that are critical, and think with those terms.
You have to realize the world is not black and white. It's not right, wrong. It's somewhere in between most of the time. And there's a lot of trade-offs. That's where maybe our policy colleagues come into play. And very often, we have to play on our common sense. It's almost always a common sense solution.
So how can we do this? How can we ever get new MIT graduates to be in this rule? OK. Probably number 1-- we don't do anything. We just let Harvard take care of it.
Now we've all actually heard that answer this morning a couple of times already. I don't know. Let's talk. If we do nothing, then here's where I think we'll sit with respect to our role in our development of new engineered products. And this is from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
They made a graph, where they talk about competitiveness on one axis and efficiency on the other axis. And in particular, you'd love to have the gold star up in the upper right. We're awfully competitive in this part of the world-- the United States, the Western economies-- in terms of how we get things done. We're not especially efficient in an efficiency sense. And so we're actually losing ground in terms of our designs and our progress on that y-axis of this graph. I think if we let Harvard do it, we may stay there. That's what I'm worried about.
Option number 2-- we go. And we require all of the students to get environmental literacy. That means we take those GIRs or the [? new ?] [? commons-- ?] whatever it turns into-- and our communication intensive requirements and all those things. And we add one more thing to those already existing type programs. And we require those students to know everything.
I think that's a really tough sell. Here [? as ?] a couple of programs that you might remember, for those of you who went through the undergraduate programs, for a EE or for an Earth Systems person right now, I want you to see is that there is a lot of things that are required-- Woodie showed the same thing for Mechy-- and a few leftover electives. You would be forced to use more electives for this kind of information.
We have offered in the past this kind of a literacy class. And what do we see? And I don't want to-- I broke it out into which majors actually showed up and tried to take the literacy class. And it turns out Chemy won. And Chemy won mostly because they had, in my opinion, good advising.
But the real number I want you to notice there was that only 3% of the student body ever was interested in trying to find out about what they were doing and whether it mattered to the environment. It's not something that we can cause them to want to do on their own. And yet at the same time to mandate it in their curricula that are already stuffed with stuff makes me think that that's not going to fly.
So the third possibility that occurs to me-- and maybe you'll think of other ones-- is that maybe we should educate specialists. We educate people who are specialists in economics for their business activities. Why shouldn't we educate people who have this specialty, who are knowledgeable about engineering problems and needs, and add them to those teams that I've already heard about this morning? We need teams. Yes, and we need different kinds of expertise to work together.
There is a market for such specialists. Our colleagues at [? ETH ?] [? Zurich ?] have had such a program of this kind of specialty for several years now-- I don't know, since the mid '90s-- 10 years, let's say. And what they've been putting out is about 70 undergraduates a year. Or for them, it's a diploma level.
And what they find is that the graduates go into many interesting industries, as do our graduates, by the way. But often, they don't go into environmental things as much as they're going into banks and insurance companies, who know that they want to have on their team, people who are good at looking at the environmental consequences of whether I give that mortgage or whether I insure Johns Manville or whether I-- et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. They want to have another team player.
So I just wanted to end with a couple of quick thoughts. As I said before, there are options. There are opportunities to learn from the environment-- not only from improving designs but to see how that nature has already done designs-- the Velcro design, certain strength of material designs.
Our own Franz Ulm is looking at, for example, how one can do a better job with cement based on learning how bone works. Bone and cement have a lot of similarities as a material. So it's interesting to see how do we learn from the Earth and biological systems to go forward in our engineering systems.
Let me conclude with a couple of quick thoughts-- some challenges. There's a lot of Earth system ignorance, even among the specialists. I maybe gave the impression that I can predict a lot of things. I can predict a lot of things. But there's even more, of course, that I can't predict.
I have never, ever thought about the hafnium cycle. I don't know about you.
But hafnium is just not one of those things I would lay awake at night thinking about. And yet, that's one of those orange boxes. And when you go or do a literature search, you find out no one else has thought about it either. So we've got a lot of background information we can do better with.
We still have trouble actually often talking to people who are engineering new products and new processes. Why? Because they have proprietary information-- they want to keep it to themselves against the competition. So how do I get the basic information to work with to help them? That's, hence, part of the idea about doing it very early in the process.
There are still a lot of people who are very interested in more important problems. And we'll hear more about that a little bit later. Hunger-- if you don't fix hunger, a lot of this other stuff is sort of irrelevant. And finally, it's a little bit unclear to me when we should ever identify a potential problem.
Let's take Freons as an example. How do you decide? Do we ban them? Do we allow them? That's the black and white combination. Or is there something in between, where we use them in the smart ways and don't use them in the dumb ways, like to blow foam? That's how we used it-- to make foam bubbles.
That was a dumb way to use it, if you ask me. It was good for the people blowing foam, but not good for the environment. So we need to design with those ideas in mind. Perhaps we just need a new profession. Sort of analogous to having a Sloan School of Economics, we need some sort of thing for the environment. We need a group of people trained with an expertise to ultimately be parts of these engineered teams.
And I think that we need to have all of our products in the future designed, yes, with technical needs in mind; yes, that they're cost effective; and yes, that they're environmentally compliant and sustainable. Thank you very much.
AUDIENCE: My name is Mary Ann Magnuson. And I've owned an environmental engineering firm for the past 17 years. And then I worked at Northeast Utilities 10 years prior to that. One of the things that I have been extremely concerned about-- I mean, the environmental chemicals that we know about-- the MTBEs, the gasoline components, the chlorinated solvents, the pesticides, the herbicides and everything-- one of the things that we've seen over the past 25 years, which is rather frightening.
And that has been sperm count declines-- over 50% in 35 years continuing to decline. What we've also seen is that these compounds mimic estrogen. So we have 1 in 7 women now with breast cancer and 1 in 15 men with breast cancer. We've got a serious problem when we look at ourselves as a species if we don't start looking at pharmaceuticals pretty soon in the environment.
They took women particularly off of hormone replacement a few years ago, because it caused us heart attacks. I don't think so. It's because it ended up in the sewage treatment plants. It ended up in the oil soluble non-biodegradable, ended up in the sludges, ended down on the crops. And now it's in the sap. And it's in the plants.
So we're looking at-- we've been around for, what, 2 million years ourselves. The dinosaurs have been around over 200 million years. The cockroaches have gotten it right.
GSCHWEND: No pharmaceuticals for the cockroaches.
But you're right. We use pharmaceuticals. They will go into the environment. And when we look in the environment, we see them absolutely. And we see some of the consequences in terms of sex distinguishing and difference [INAUDIBLE] absolutely true.
AUDIENCE: The other thing we're seeing is the absence of [? phage ?] pylori now in our gut. So we're getting a higher increase of stomach cancer, esophageal cancer.
GSCHWEND: Well, it's hard to connect everything cause and effect wise. But you're absolutely right. We're seeing changes. And we're seeing consequences consistent with those changes.
GSCHWEND: If I go back and forth--
AUDIENCE: Yes. I have a question. MIT tackles global challenges. What about the challenges right in the United States? And MIT originated in the United States. And if it hopes to continue and get support from the United States, I think it should look at United States problems, like the border, for example, that President Bush has sent only a measly 6,000 troops to try and defend and then getting involved in Iraq, for example. Why should we be dying over in Iraq when we should be dying to defend the United States here in this country?
GSCHWEND: Are you trying to get me on to a political comment? No.
I absolutely agree we have to take care of home first. And taking care of home first-- we're surrounded and conquered by depleted uranium products. Santa Monica, California is totally messed up with methyl t-butyl ether in its groundwater. Absolutely. You can go around everywhere that you can look and see that our environmental surroundings have been, shall we say, degraded. And some of the consequences we just heard about are undoubtedly linked to it. Whether we go to Iraq is, I think, a different discussion.
AUDIENCE: We live in an age, where quarterly earnings per share and the next election pretty much drive most decisions. You're talking about stuff that's going to show up 20 years from now.
AUDIENCE: I think people in this room believe you. But a lot of the rest of the world will argue that we don't have enough data. We only regulate against things that we can prove, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That seems to me this is a really huge problem if you have any thoughts.
GSCHWEND: Yes, of course there are certain cases that are relatively well proven. You can look at Johns Manville's history, for example, with asbestos. But I think that what we have to get ourselves into, as I said, early in the game is a idea that we look at the designs, where we develop a preponderance of data and makes wise decisions early in the game. These are like bets in Las Vegas. They're not known quantities that you will definitely hit on the blackjack table. But you know your odds. And you take your bets accordingly. I think that's what we should do with the design.
If tantalum is a bad bet, then we should take another pathway. It's just a matter of that preponderance of data to me. And I think we have to convince our engineering colleagues of that, because we're the ones who are changing the world. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Hi, I'm Jim Sweeney at Stanford University. And I very much applaud what you're doing, because it's just fundamentally important to accomplish that both in research and education. But in order to accomplish what you're talking about, you need not just to get interdisciplinary students.
You need to get interdisciplinary faculty members. And to get interdisciplinary faculty members, you probably need to have a set of opportunities and incentives for the young faculty members starting out to go through a growth path, get tenure, and be rewarded for being interdisciplinary, rather than their only disciplinary. How are you at MIT-- your department, in particular-- and how is MIT coming to grips with this real challenge of transforming the faculty starting from the young faculty?
GSCHWEND: It's a good question.
I should avoid all the pitfalls of that one. But--
--one aspect I think that's important to distinguish-- and I've listened to some of the other questions that make me want to say this also this morning-- and that is the environmental engineering type faculty started out I think most of their careers with an idea that they had a problem in front of them to start with. And they would use whatever information was necessary to attack the problem. Therefore, they start out as interdisciplinary. If I need physics, I use physics. If I need chemistry, I use chemistry. If I need molecular biology, I use microbiology. I try to solve problems. I don't try to use a discipline.
So to some extent, they tend to select for us to be interdisciplinary. It tends to make us jack of all trades and master of none, which is a bad thing. But that's-- and hence, the tenure process can be a problem. But I think that we're somewhat selected for to be interdisciplinary.
And it's only when a Rafael Reif calls me up and says, can you come over and talk to me about 3D integrated circuits and Duane Boning continues that conversation, then we continue to make those connections. And that's what we need even more of at the Institute, I think. It goes back to whatever someone was saying about interpersonal skills. Maybe I'm getting better as I get older or something. I don't know. I hear more people asking me to come talk about their engineering problems. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: As you said earlier in your presentation that gasoline is going into our water sources, the world is already so dependent on gasoline. How do you expect that dependency to go away?
--boy, that's a good question.
Well, a wise colleague of mine, John Ehrenfeld, once helped me teach a course on sustainability. And his idea was the following. First, you don't focus on the problem on making the gasoline go away. You focus on the problem of what are we trying to do with the product we're using-- in this case, gasoline.
So for example, one of the main reasons I use gasoline is to come to work every morning. Probably about half the gasoline I use is used for that purpose. If I, in fact, don't actually literally move my body from where I live to work, I don't use gasoline. All I'm trying to do is put myself in a position to work.
So part of the solution is paying attention to what the real problem is. And that is moving bodies from A to B. So they can do their activities. If we can find ways not to have to move mass around the world so much, we partly solve the problem. I'm not saying that's the only part of the problem. But remember what we're trying to accomplish. The engineering need, if you want, is the first thing to keep in mind. So that's the first part. I'm not sure I can tell you totally how to get rid of gasoline. There are, of course, many ideas that you can hear about. But thank you.
SCHAEFER: Bill, we have time for one more question.
GSCHWEND: Oh, OK.
AUDIENCE: Hi, just one is a quick suggestion. I teach at a medical school. And when I want to bring environmental things into the clinical things, I add them to their problems. So if you put a environmental factor or contingency in the engineering projects you're doing, it's a way you could get a lot of people exposed to it. And maybe a small number would get interested in it.
The other question is more difficult is in this country, our regulation is not like in many countries, where it's proactive. Or they know there's a problem. And they implement regulations. Here the regulation, as in the Johns Manville's case, follows the litigation. How do you foresee changing it? It's a fundamental political problem.
In 30 seconds.
[LAUGHTER] That's an engineering approach-- to be short, right?
GSCHWEND: I'm trying to start solving the problem from the grassroots level. I'm trying to convince the kids to engineer new things and invent new things in the future-- the [? Ajay ?] Somanis who are going to do the 3D IC circuits-- I'm trying to convince them to talk to people like me to get it right at the beginning. I don't want to wait for regulators and Johns Manville litigation cases to solve the problem. That's too late. I want to hit it right at the beginning before it even gets started.
And that means that we have to change the way we design. We have to add to technical need-- accomplishing a technical need and cost effectiveness environmental consequences-- that has to be in the textbooks. Like you said, when the designs of the projects come forward, that has to be a piece of the calculation at the beginning.
Unfortunately, I don't think the expert EE or Mechy or Chemy is going to be in a good position to do a very good job of that third step, unless they're in teams of 20 like Woodie's putting together. And you have a part of that team being responsible for that step. So maybe our failure to date has been not to force our environmental engineering majors to take Woodie's class and be parts of those teams.
They'd get a notion of what the Mechies need to want to do. But mostly, they would see what the materials are and be in a position to respond at the beginning of those designs. And maybe then the graders have to pay attention to that. I'm hesitant to get into the political realm.
SCHAEFER: Thank you, Phil. Those are tough questions for tough challenges.
We will now take a 25-minute break. And there are snacks, water, tea out there for you to enjoy and to continue this discussion out in the lobby. We'll reconvene in 25 minutes. We are ready to continue our program. But I have one announcement before we get started. If someone has parked a red Isuzu Rodeo in the West Parking Lot on the second floor with license plates 42RN24, your lights are on.
So we'll see you when you get back. We are ready to continue our look at how MIT is tackling tough global issues and as the previous two discussions have prompted some tough questions, as well. Next, we have Professor Esther Duflo. Professor Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics. She is a leading member of a group of scholars committed to applying rigorous evaluation standards to development issues.
She co-founded the MIT Poverty Action Lab. This lab is the only research center in the world devoted to combating global poverty by rigorously testing the effectiveness of poverty programs through the use of randomized evaluations. She is a passionate researcher, who is interested in, as she says, making the life of poor people better. And to her, that is the most interesting and important question in economics. She will speak to us on Fighting Poverty, What Works. Esther.
DUFLO: Good morning. Oops. Good morning. Welcome back to MIT. I'm a little bit intimidated to speak in front of all of you and in particular, after these two great presentation earlier today as a short, brown hair French girl after these two very eloquent people.
I'm also a little bit intimidated, because I'm not an engineer whatsoever. And in particular, I want to welcome the 50th class who already were subjected to economics during commencement and were subjected to-- which must be a little bit unusual to be subjected to two economics during the same visit back to MIT and to what economists do.
What I want to do today is too try to tell you how economics has changed and economics is trying to change the world in one particular way. Since the 50th class was graduated, there have been 11 edition of Samuelson textbooks about other things that have happened.
And in particular, I think economics may be taking lessons from engineering has tried to become more and more involved in very practical way to think about fighting very important problem. I'm not going to describe all of what economists do. I think the fact that Ben Bernanke took to us at commencement yesterday is very relevant. As you mentioned, there are today four of the major central bank in the world are headed by economists who are MIT alumni. That should give you a sense of how the economics department at MIT, as the rest of the faculty at MIT, is committed to be active in the world.
What I want to talk about today is to take one simple little piece, which is this the fight against poverty. I'm, of course, talking a little piece slightly ironically. And in particular, I describe the walk of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT, which is where I work. This used to work.
What's the Jameel Poverty Action Lab? So it was established fairly recently in 2002 by three economics professor at MIT. It's actually now a network of researchers toward the country involving Harvard, believe it or not. Many of these people are our former students. But it keeps a strong MIT center identity.
The goal of the Poverty Action Lab is to do our best to fight poverty. And the way we do that is by ensuring that policy decisions are based on scientific evidence. That would seems like a sound principle to start from. So how do we do that? Well, we do that in three main ways. The first is by running randomized evaluations to [? anti-poverty ?] programs. And I'm going to explain what is randomized evolution of anti-poverty programs and why we do that and how we do it.
The second is by encouraging and training others. That includes undergraduate students, graduate students, and people in the policy world to executive education to rigorously evaluate the impact of the program. And the third-- and I think that has been mentioned several times today-- is to disseminate the results to the decision makers and work together with them to set up evaluation of [? their ?] programs.
So we are going fast. We are currently at [? 30 ?] ongoing randomized evaluation programs. And you will see that those projects are big projects that are in a number of countries-- India, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Indonesia, Morocco, Peru, and Philippines, and the United States.
Here's what I want to do today. I want to spend some time trying to explain to you why we think that evaluating what works is so important in the fight against poverty. Then I'm going to try to discuss why measuring impact is difficult and how we go about solving those difficulties. And finally, I'll give some example of our work in the area of women empowerment, in the area of education in India [INAUDIBLE] corruption. And I conclude with discussing some of the policy impacts we're having.
So why is evaluation important? Well, evaluation is important in the world of fighting poverty, because we do not know what works. So in that sense, I am-- we are in the world in the fight against poverty in a very different position that we are for environment. You know, I cannot predict most things. I cannot predict pretty much anything.
And in particular, I do not have-- as a policy world-- that's not on the Earth-- but as a policy world, we have very little idea, a very spotty and scatterbrained idea of what are the most effective ways to deliver social impact. If you want to get children in school, how do you do that? If you want to get-- we know that children should be immunized. Scientists have shown that. We do not know how we go about getting children immunized. The immunization rates in the area where we are working in Kazakhstan is 2 and 1/2%. How do you go from 2 and 1/2% to 100%, which is where it should be?
We have very little evidence on what works. However, they are very, very many ideas, bright ideas, the next new bright idea of what works, that are floating around in the policy world. And often these ideas is conventional, which sometimes forms into conventional wisdoms. [INAUDIBLE].
Even if they start from perfectly good intention, even if this start from pretty decent intuition of the problem, they missed one big important piece and therefore, get it completely wrong. Evaluation programs, evaluating projects where those ideas are put into practice can demonstrate that this conventional wisdom is wrong. Sometimes it can demonstrate that it is right, which is nice, too, and give some guidance about how it needs to be rethought.
So that's it. Of course, critical for maximizing the impact of limited resources, all of the world, all of the budget for fighting poverty is extremely limited. It's going to remain limited, whatever happens. So we need to think about maximizing those resources.
Moreover, by demonstrating effectiveness, showing what works, showing what doesn't work, and in demonstrating seriousness about being committed to do the work, programs that are effective, not on easy programs that catch your fancy, evaluations can actually make these limited budget bigger by improving the support for social programs. The waves of generosity, for example, that have followed the tsunami, or that followed the Hurricane Katrina in the US have shown that people are extremely generous if they have a sense that their dollar is going to have a relatively [? short route ?] from their purse to some effectiveness.
When you have something like the tsunami, where the tsunami breaks houses and so you need to go and construct the houses, that seems pretty clear. And people are very willing to give money for that. For a lot of problems, we don't have such clarity. And therefore, there is this mesh of things that might or might not be effective. And that's one reason why people are pretty suspicious about whether or not they should give them money for that.
What does all these things taken together imply? What they imply is that once you take a project, which might be a relatively limited project, covering maybe 200, 300 communities somewhere in the world, if you just do this program where you've had 200 [INAUDIBLE] maybe, if you try and evaluate this program, irrespective of what you find, if you find that this program was used less, always you'll find that this program was useful. No matter what the impact that you're getting from this program, the [? leverage ?] is manifold.
Because [? quantity ?] of evolution of this program, we are gathering a lesson that can help inform any future program, that can help increase the effectiveness of existing resources, and that can help mobilize additional resources. So every [INAUDIBLE] program is important, not for academic pursuit, though I have nothing against academic pursuit. But evaluating program is a practical step necessary in order to make progress for fighting poverty at many levels.
Now what is evaluating program? I was purposefully slightly vague until now. But you want to know what is evaluating program. The right way to think about it is to think about it in two ways.
There's one type of evolution that goes under the bucket process evaluation. What's process evaluation is simply evaluating that you have done what you purported to do. So imagine that the program involves sending textbooks to schools in rural Africa. The process evaluation is about was the money disbursed, were the books purchased, did the books reach the school, did the teacher use them.
All of this is the process evaluation. It's a description. Well, did we do what we planned to do? Of course, all programs need to have that. This is basic accountability.
What I'm talking about, and it's not very difficult conceptually. It requires some effort. But it's not very difficult conceptually. You just need to follow what happened in reality.
What we are talking about today is something slightly different that needs to be done in addition, at least in some cases. That's the impact evaluation. And when you're doing impact evaluation, you're asking yourself, well, now that the textbook reached the school, what effect did they have?
In other words, if the kids that didn't get the textbook got textbooks, would they be able to read better? [INAUDIBLE], take all the kids that actually got the textbook. If, in fact, they had not gotten the textbook, would they have had lower reading level? That's the question you're asking.
So you can see immediately, from the fact, that it's a bit convoluted to even ask the question. What the main problem with this question is? The main problem with impact evaluation is that the impact evaluation question is counterfactual. Contrary to just process evaluation, where you just go and describe what is there, the impact evaluation is asking you to compare what is there to what would have been in another state of the world.
And that's the problem is, that, well, it would have been, but it wasn't. So how do we create this would have been? How do we create the best measure possible of that counterfactual?
So you're asking yourself how would the kids have done without the textbook? Are you asking yourself how would the kids who didn't get the textbook would have done with them? And the difficulty is that you never observe the same individual, the same communities [? within ?] a country with and without the program at the same times.
So you cannot answer that question for one particular child, for example. Because either he when that [? branch ?] or he went that [? branch. ?] Either he got the textbook, or he didn't get the textbook.
So what you need is to create a comparison group, which is a group that will somehow help you recreate that counterfactual. So what you need is a group of kids who, except for the fact that they did not get the textbook, are otherwise entirely comparable to those who didn't get the textbook. And you need to be able-- and then you want to compare those kids, their reading level, to the kids who actually got the textbook.
So what is the right comparison group? Well, what most of the world does is funding the program. And then after the fact, sinking back, scratching their head and thinking, well, now how are we going to evaluate our program?
Well, we got those kids in those 50 schools who got textbooks. Let's find another 50 schools that didn't get textbooks. And we are going to compare the kids in those schools.
Well, that's not great. Because the 50 schools that got the textbooks typically get chosen in some ways. So for example, you choose the poorer school in the countries. You choose school that are particular needy.
Alternatively, once you've picked these needy schools, you want the headmaster to be cooperative with you. Maybe you request applications, so it's only the very dynamic headmasters who are going to come in and say, oh, I want the textbooks. And maybe something else-- maybe the community is particularly [INAUDIBLE] in that place or maybe their particularly [INAUDIBLE]. Who knows?
So a host of factor goes into the decision of giving the textbook to those 50 schools. And usually, we don't fully understand it's a combination of things. Which means that when I tried to [? ex post, ?] recreate my group of 50 comparison schools, well, I have no way to do that. Because while it may be the 50 comparison schools are richer, maybe they are poorer, maybe they are not such a good headmasters, maybe they are a different type of community.
A lot of those factors I can't even observe, let alone control for them. So that when I compare the 50 schools that got the textbook and the 50 that don't, what I'm really doing is to compare apples and oranges in a fundamental sense and in a way that nothing can fix. I cannot control for this, control for that.
Because there are too many things going on. And most of these things, I don't know what they are. So that's the problem with comparing people who got the program to people who didn't get the program, which is something people do very often.
Another thing people do is instead compare the same children before and after they got the textbooks. So with children, it's a very easy example to think about. Because one of the things that happens with children is that they grow. And their brain is developing. And therefore they get better at learning, no matter what.
So after a year with or without textbook, a kid will do better. And if you attribute the entire progress to your program, that's probably good for a funder's report. But that's not a very accurate answer of what the textbook do.
And that's true in most programs. I was at a conference where some people from the World Bank were very sad because they were describing one of these before-after evaluation of their social adjustment program in Pakistan-- very ambitious, very expensive program. And then they said that after the program, all of the indicators were worse than before. So that their program really was not working very well.
But what they didn't really insist on, surprisingly, is that in the same time, in the same period, Pakistan had gone through three coups and a very unstable political situation. So you know, it was unfair and hard on themselves to attribute the entire deterioration of the social indicators to their social program. And in fact, it's impossible to know what would have happened in the absence of the program. Things might have been much worse.
So what do we do instead of those two approaches, which are fundamentally flawed? What we do is to create social program the way we treat drugs. We test them in the same way that you test a drug.
We determine the treatment and the control group randomly, just through throwing a coin, or a computer [INAUDIBLE] coin. So what do we do there is that if we want to evaluate a program, we start working with the people who implement the program from the beginning, obviously.
And suppose they want to work for a [INAUDIBLE] in those 50 schools who give textbooks. We start by narrowing down which type of schools they want to give textbooks to. So they might want to give textbooks to particularly poor schools with effective headmasters. That usually leaves us with a number of school, which is, in any case, much, much larger than the budget of the program.
So there what you do is that you take 100 of the schools. And out of this hundred, select 50 randomly. And you would you give the textbook to those 50 schools.
So because this treatment and comparison groups, the schools that got the textbook and the school that didn't, now got selected randomly by construction. And by the beauty of the law of large number, there is now nothing systematically different among beneficiaries and among non-beneficiaries. Now we know that the beneficiaries are no reason to be more motivated [INAUDIBLE] are more educated [INAUDIBLE] the non-beneficiary. And now, if we collect data from the two groups, we can, at the end of the day, know where the learning level are different because of the program.
So this has a number of advantages. First, it gives you something which is closer to the truth, whether that program has worked or not. Secondly, it gives nice clean results that everyone can understand. You don't need fancy economic tricks to extract those results. You just need to compare means. Sometimes you're interested in, maybe, distributions, as well.
So it is an approach that combines rigor and transparency. Well, of course, it implies that you need to plan the evaluation ex-ante to ensure the evaluation. You can not show up after the fact and try to evaluate this project. So these are projects where the partnership between the research team and the implementing team has to be very, very organic, and from the very beginning.
So in order to give you some sense of how this can be done in practice, I thought I would go through some examples of how we go about and apply these results in the Jameel Poverty Action Lab. So the first example is a topic that's dear to my heart. It's the topic of woman empowerment, in particular, woman empowerment in India. So here's the question we are asking-- is whether having a woman leader makes a difference. In a sense, whether women make different political decisions than men in rural area of developing countries.
So you have reasons to think that it might be the case, and you have reasons to think that it might not be the case. For example, the fact that those villages have democracy. And after all, maybe it's the voters who make decisions.
So in 1992, the government of India decided that probably it was going to make a difference. It was important to have woman. And they devolved power-- they had a big change, a very important constitutional amendment, which devolved power of local expenditure to the local governments that are called the Panchyats. So the Panchyats is a local government that takes care of about 10,000 people in a rural area.
And at the same time, they decided that 1/3 of those local governments needed to be headed by a woman. And because they were worried about risk of manipulation, or the woman getting the far away places that nobody wants to walk in, anyway, they decided that those villages that need to elect women would be randomly selected. So every election 1/3 of the councils are randomly selected. And they have to elect a woman. Only a woman can be [INAUDIBLE] for the position of leader.
Many believe that this policy had little impact. In particular, many in India said that this policy would have little impact because the woman would be under the pressure of their husband. So what we did is we went ahead and collected data. Because the [INAUDIBLE] policy was such that it was randomly assigned who had to be run by a woman and who didn't have to, and therefore, de facto, was always led by a man.
We went and collected data in one district, in all the villages in the district. We collected data on first, what woman and men want, what do they desire as public good, and second, what has been done in the village? What has the village council invested on?
Have they done drinking water? Have they done education? Have they done roads? Have they done irrigation?
And what we found is that having a woman leader makes a huge difference. In particular, women invest much more in goods that are preferred by woman than in goods that are preferred by men. And in particular, the consequence that it has is that in places [INAUDIBLE] by woman, the quality and the quantity of the drinking water infrastructure is about twice as good.
However, the perception surveys suggest that even when women do a better job, for example, in the quality of water, and even though woman, by the way, takes fewer bribes, both the citizens, both men and women tend to be more dissatisfied by woman as leader than by men as leader. So despite the reality, the objective reality on the ground that women do make better-- invest more in water and that the quality of the drinking water infrastructure is better, people in villages that [INAUDIBLE] by a woman think that water is worse in their village. So this also showed a very important part of distinguishing-- another way that you do evaluation in developing world is forget about all these comparisons and just ask people what they think.
And this suggests that asking people what they think is important. Asking people what they think is important because it does shed some light on why women are not elected in the first place. But in this case, asking people is not the only-- it's definitely not where you want to stop in order to know the effectiveness of the program.
Here is another example-- education. So the Millennium Development Goals that have been set by the United Nations for the world seek to get 100% participation in primary school and gender equality in education participation, both in primary school and [INAUDIBLE]. So the question is, how do you get there?
Many different approaches have been tried. People have tried all sorts of things, like reducing the cost of education, improving the quality of education, and trying to get more woman teacher into the schools. [INAUDIBLE]. So the question is, now where should we put the money? What's the best way to get it? What's the most effective way?
In this maze of approaches, we need to be pragmatic. We need to put the dollars where they make a difference. But for that, we need to know what works and what doesn't. So what do we know?
So this is an area where the Lab and other people associated with the Lab have been doing a lot of projects. So it's an area where-- it's one of the few areas where I would say, well, I think I know something about how do we get kids into school. Because we have a lot of different projects.
Reducing the cost of education is clearly effective. The progressive program in Mexico, which is a conditional cash transfer which gives money to families that send their children to schools has had an important impact. Providing free uniforms to schoolchildren gets them into school. Feeding school meals to preschoolers get them into school.
One thing that people have not necessarily thought about very much is that maybe to improve education attendance, the intervention you need is not at all education-- it's in health. Because sick children don't go to school. That's something which is often overlooked when we think about education, because we are focused on education. So we are not thinking on the health piece.
And in fact, the most cost effective intervention to get children into school is actually to cure them of worms. Worms affect a quarter of the world's population, most of them children. A worm infection will not kill you, so they are not very fancy. But they make you eat less, they make you anemic, the children are more skinnier, more feeble. And therefore, they miss school a lot.
So this program-- the deworming program-- the deworming costs half a dollar, [INAUDIBLE]. And you need two per year. So that's an extremely cheap program.
So an NGO with some researchers from the Lab, including [? Michael Cramer ?] and [? Ted Miguel ?] from Harvard and Berkeley, respectively, just tested a program of universal deworming in schools. And what they found there is the following. So what I'm going to do is-- in this course, if you bear with me for a second-- we are going to compare the cost effectiveness of a bunch of programs-- free uniform, second teacher, paying to children to go to school, et cetera. And what this course gives you is the cost per extra year of education induced. Note that it's not the cost of the program per unit of children, because you want to compare the cost that you actually spend on the program to the extra years of education that you get because of the program.
So the cost of extra year of education induced, you have these [INAUDIBLE] programs. And you can see that the deworming program is by far the most cost effective. It costs $3 per additional years of school induced. The progressive program, which is probably the most talked about social program-- incidentally, I think, because it had [? a randomized evaluation-- ?] is a nice program. It has some impact on education. But it costs $6,000 per extra year of education.
So you can see we are just not there in some sense. And that's something, that's a picture that people do not have, policymakers do not have in their mind. Well, now I hope they do. Because we've been diffusing it a lot. But they certainly didn't when this [? whole ?] started. $6,000-- pay people to come to school, $6,000 per extra year of education induced.
Fix worms for children in Kenya, $3 per years of education induced. That's what the Lab is about. The Lab is about finding graphs like that for education, for health, for corruption, et cetera, being pragmatic about what works and what doesn't, and putting some dollar figures on it.
I'll give you one more example just to change topic. The work of Ben Olken, who is a postdoc visiting the Lab is doing unearthing corruption. So you can see here it's a road. I [? thought that ?] [INAUDIBLE] in Germany-- very, very base engineering. It's a local road [INAUDIBLE].
And what they are doing is that they are digging it. Why are they digging a hole in it? Because they want to know how much material went into building it.
So how should we fight corruption? So the conventional wisdom, in economics, anyway, is that to fight corruption you have to audit people, and you have to fire them if they are corrupt. That seems to be a sensible approach. However, the big worry in developing countries is that the auditors might be corrupt, as well.
So if the auditors are corrupt, as well, it's not clear that an auditing system is the best way to go. So a very popular alternative is the idea that, instead, you should get the community to try to monitor the corruption instead. And if you read the World Development Report, which is the World Bank flagship publication, which sort of is the state of the [INAUDIBLE] the world development, the community participation is really what is being talked about a lot, as an alternative to this standard auditing system.
So what Ben Olken did is that he said, well, let's test those two approaches. Let's run a horse race. We are going to see what works.
And he selected a program. The entire evaluation was financed by the World Bank, as well as the project. And the program took place in Indonesia on local roads construction. So you saw those roads.
So the way the program works is that the villages apply. And once they apply, they get money to build a stretch of roads in their village. So the first thing that he needed to do is to have a good measure of corruption. So what they did is that he had people dig these holes and measure how much material went into the roads.
And then he compared how much material actually went into the road to how much material was reported to have gone into the road. So the amount of missing material is the measure of corruption, which, in itself, is very innovative. Then he picked up 477 communities which have which had 477 local roads to build and selected randomly 1/2 where he told people, well, we are going to audit you.
You're going to be audited twice-- three times, sorry. Once throughout the beginning of the project, once in the middle, and once at the very end. That was for half of the village.
And another half, so cut again, and you imagine the left half goes to the auditing, right half doesn't get auditing. And then cut again in half that way, the top half gets community monitoring and the second one doesn't. What's community monitoring?
Well, that's an intervention where they manage to improve the attendance at community meetings. The community meetings already existed. But they tended to be loaded with the friends of the people who build the roads. So instead, what they did is that they went ahead and sent invitation to everybody in the village to come-- to the school children.
So the participation at the community meeting increased many folds. And the interactiveness of these meetings was very good. And people discussed all the problems. And corruption could be, therefore, discussed.
So what were the results? Well, the results were exactly the opposite of what you would have expected, given what is the conventional wisdom now. The audits are very effective. You discuss corruption dramatically.
The community, meeting made people happy. The corruption was discussed. However it didn't lead to a reduction in corruption whatsoever. It led to a change in the form of corruption. Instead of stealing people's wages, people started stealing more materials.
Now that we know this, we can think about why it's like that. Maybe in the community, it's a community-- there are, maybe, 2,000 people in the village-- why should I be running around the road to check that nobody steals the material?
Why can't my neighbor do it? So there is a public good problem in the community monitoring. You know, after the fact, when we have the reason, we can start thinking about them.
What's important is that these results really completely turned the current wisdom upside down. So does this matter? Well, I will try to argue that this matters. Rigorous evaluation have an impact.
But the result of the evaluation directly affect the action of the partner, in many cases. For example, we work with the idea of implementation partners. In this case, it was the government. In other case, like in the case of the worms, it was an NGO.
And what we have found is that when we work with a partner, when something doesn't work, they just abandon it. And when something works, they tend to scale it up. For example, the deworming, which was really not very high on anybody's agenda, after those results came about, was really picked up and is now implemented nationwide in Uganda, in fact, in response to this result. And it is about to be implementing nationwide in Kenya, as well.
The progressive program, which is one of the few programs before the [INAUDIBLE] to existence the [INAUDIBLE] randomized [? evaluation ?] was adopted all over Latin American, as well. And the threat of audits experiment that we just discussed led to a step up of audits, both in [? all ?] World Bank project Indonesia, but also, perhaps more importantly, in all of government funded projects. So how are we trying to play a role in that?
So what do we do-- we train NGO leaders, government official, international agency in this methodology. So what we have is a five day course that we run both in Cambridge-- we just finished the second edition in Cambridge-- and in the developing world. We are going to have one in India this summer.
We contribute to further the evaluation agenda. When people try to get more people to insist on the evaluation, we participate to those meetings. We play an advisory role. So we are advisors for the UNDP, for the Gates Foundation, for the Rajasthan Police Department, who came to us to ask us to develop and evaluate measures to fight corruption and improve police efficiency in Rajasthan-- that's a state in India-- et cetera.
We also train a large number of students. So we have about six graduate students who do that every year, who are spreading the method as they go along. And of course, we do, you know, programs. That's, after all, what we are most passionate about is to conduct evaluation on innovating programs to fight poverty with a lot of different partners-- that are NGOs, governments, international agencies, corporations.
What do we do [INAUDIBLE] where we try to publish them. That's our job. But we also make an effort in, as well-- the Lab, I think, goes one step farther than just every one of us doing our research-- we make a big effort to defuse them to policymakers in a form that's accessible, so in the form of policy briefs. I'd be happy to share those with you. And we do a lot of effort to diffuse results in the press.
Let me conclude. We are passionate about fighting poverty. We believe that the best quality research must be the basis for good policy. I guess many of you must agree with that.
But we recognize that for this to happen, researchers must be taking a step beyond the lab. Researchers [? must be ?] taking a step throughout the policy world. Both walk hand-in-hand in the partnership to evaluate program and then to diffuse the result of what works and what doesn't.
So we are proud to be at the forefront of this movement. We are not alone anymore. So we think that there are more people who recognize the importance of that. And we hope that it might change the way that we think both about foreign aid and about government policies. Thank you very much.
SCHAEFER: We have time for one question.
DUFLO: Sorry. [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: Thank you for the remarks. I'm wondering if you find much resistance from the supposed beneficiaries of the policies and programs. And if so, what steps can be taken to reduce resistance to the sort of evaluation techniques that you're proposing. Thank you.
DUFLO: Thank you. We actually do not find resistance from the beneficiaries. In fact, we find resistance from people who are used to evaluate programs in other way. But the beneficiaries are usually-- perfectly understand what is going on.
And I should point out one thing. It's that people are used to things being-- to process being very [? strange ?] in developing countries, why are you getting something or not. And I think that being selected randomly is actually pretty fair. So we haven't had many resistance.
SCHAEFER: I said at the beginning that my job was easy. But the tough part is really cutting off discussion when we want to keep going. Next we turn our lens to public health with Subra Suresh, who is the Ford Professor of Engineering.
Professor Suresh has had a long and distinguished teaching career at MIT. He is a recipient of numerous honors and awards. And he was the head of the Department of Material Science and Engineering for the past six years. Subra is also the director of GEM4, The Global Enterprise for Micro-Mechanics and Molecular Medicine. This is a new endeavor that links leading scientists, engineers, and health professionals from around the world to work together on such medical challenges as cardiovascular diseases and cancer and environmental health. Please welcome Subra Suresh.
SURESH: Good afternoon. I always come between people and their dinner. For a change, I'm coming between you and your lunch. I want to talk a little bit about using nanotechnology in the context of studying a few human diseases. Nanotechnology is a topic that I worked on for many years in different contexts.
And this is something that goes right to the core of what President Hartfield mentioned earlier in the remarks. It brings engineering in contact, in very intimate contact, with life sciences and medicine, potentially with a lot of implications for society. These are [RECORDING GLITCH] examples where you could not have been done five years ago. It's really at the cutting edge of technology.
It remains to be seen how this will evolve over time. Our hope is that it will make a difference, a big difference. And it's with that objective and with that hope that we started this project a few years ago.
There is also a lesson here in how to leverage resources across institutions from around the globe. So it's definitely multidisciplinary. It's definitely multi-institutional. It's also multinational and multicultural, in ways in which we hope to do some of this research and translate into practical situations.
So what we aspire to do is right at the intersection of engineering, life sciences, and medicine, in this particular context with a focus on nanoscience and nanotechnology. And within that, a particular focus on really tiny things and small things, cellular and molecular level experiments and computational simulations. So why is this new? Why is this exciting? And what promise does it hold?
So in the last 10 years or so, we have developed experimental tools in a bulk material and put it in a different location. We can take interfaces between two materials, engineer them in such a way that atom by atom, we can manipulate the properties. We can take a single DNA molecule. We can pull on it, measure extremely tiny forces.
We can study protein folding, for example, and its links to many diseases by doing reverse engineering. We can unfold the protein, measure the way engineers measure things, force as a function of displacement, and try to see what consequences that may have in the way we understand diseases so that we can develop cures for them. So these are all different aspects of the problem that we hope to study, or we study now, at the very small of lens scales at very fast to very slow timescales, and also very, very small [? for ?] scales. So this is really at the cutting edge of our experimental capabilities, our intellectual capabilities.
There is another revolution that happened in parallel, in addition to this technology, which is part of technology. But it's explosion in computer hardware and software. So many of the tools that we can buy today commercially enable us to look at things really, really small, visualize them, and interpret them. But we don't know what they really mean.
To do that, we have to do full, three dimensional computer simulations. And that something, fortunately, happened in parallel with respect to the revolution in hardcore physical technology. So it's the combination of the two that I would like to highlight.
So the theme of what I would like to talk about is nanotechnology at the crossroads of engineering, life sciences, and medicine. And this is something that Phil Gschwend mentioned earlier, there are a lot of potentially bad aspects of nanoscale technology. What I'm going to talk to you about is hopefully the good aspect of it and what can we do with it.
I'm going to take examples from three different broad disease classes. I'll focus a lot on malaria and infectious disease. Malaria-- about 400 million people a year today get infected with one form or another of malaria. That's 8% of world population.
And 2.7 to 3 million people a year today die from malaria, mostly children in developing countries. It's one of the major, major health crises in the world today. Now infectious diseases, one often thinks that it's somebody else's problem, not our problem, especially in developing countries. That's partially true, but no longer.
Because of global travel, infectious diseases can spread very quickly. Two recent examples are SARS and avian flu. It can nucleate in some remote part of China. But it can move to Toronto within a week because the passenger traveled there. So these are kinds of things where infusion of technology with medicine offers us ways of doing things that we couldn't do otherwise. So I'll show some examples for malaria.
The other is a genetic disease, a process of genetic diseases involving a human red blood cell. I'll go through that in some detail. And also different types of cancer-- so these are the three areas that I would like to highlight. All of these invariably involve collaborations between engineers, physical and life scientists, and medical doctors and public health experts.
So that's the reason why we have put together an international consortium that initially involved three or four institutions from different parts of the world-- MIT; the National University of Singapore, because of MIT's engagement with that institution, as well as its strategic geographical location; Institute Pasteur in Paris, which has 150 or so year rich history in dealing with infectious diseases. And this group has now expanded through a consortium that I'll talk about, called GEM4, at the end of my presentation.
So let me start with the first case, malaria. The pathogenic basis of malaria in the human body involves the red blood cell. So 40%, roughly 40% of our blood is made up of the red cell. That's why the color of the blood is red.
Every second our bone marrow produces three million red blood cells. The cell lives in our body for 120 days. Then it's programmed to undergo natural death.
The red blood cell is the most amazing engineering device ever created. It's a fatigue machine. So why? Here is a picture-- sorry-- on your left-hand side is a three dimensional picture of the red blood cell. It's about eight micrometers in diameter, which is about 1/10 of the thickness of a human hair.
The small blood vessels in our brain, for example, have an inner opening of two to three micrometers. So an eight micrometer cell has to squeeze through a two to three micrometer opening during its life of 120 days over which it traverses the body over half a million or more circulations. So it has to stretch by more than 100% percent, contract, stretch, contract, while performing biochemical and biological functions, mainly to transport oxygen to remote corners of the body, undertake carbon dioxide back to the lungs. It's amazing. We cannot produce a human a made contraption that can do this today.
So what nanotechnology helps us to do is at the single cell level and going inside the red blood cell to look at the spectra and molecular structure, we can try to measure things that give us potentially insights into diseases that we cannot get any other way. For example, we can quantify how cells stretch, how they stick to other cells, especially in the infected state, how they move through the blood vessels, how they affect the functioning of organs, and how they affect disease states.
So one of the scientific goals, which I'll show can have impact on a large scale, even at a population scale, is to do things that engineers do well. To take a single cell, take any disease you want, any broad disease class that you want-- as the disease progresses in the body, how do the properties of the cells change, how do the properties of the molecules change, and how to quantify that, how does the motility of the cells change, and how does that affect the functioning of the organs. This is an approach that, in the last 10 years, has, in combination with advances in genetic engineering and advances in genomics, offers a lot of potential. Let me walk you through some of those examples.
So the first example I going to show is this video clip. What you see in the center, the big circle, is a live, freshly extracted, human red blood cell. That's attached to two glass beads. It's tightly attached.
The beads merely serve as handles. So we use a technique called laser tweezer, or optical tweezer. And there was a Nobel Prize given just 10 years ago, and the technique came into existence less than 15 years ago or so.
And what we do here is we have two beads. The shiny bead at the bottom is one on which you shine a laser beam. The top bead, you can either hold it steady, or you can move it in a controlled way by attaching it to a microslide. So it's tightly bound to the surface of the red blood cell.
So in this particular video clip, what we do is we shine the laser beam on the lower bead. The laser exerts a pressure, or it traps the bead. It holds it in position.
Then you move the top one. You essentially stretch the cell. Why do we want to do this? We want to do this so that we can mimic, and at the same time, quantitatively measure how single cells stretch in the body?
The forces that are required for a human red blood cell to do this are a piconewton. Many of you have technical background. For those who may not have a technical background, let me define what a piconewton is.
You take an average size apple, hold it in your hand right here on the stage. The gravitational force on your hand due to the weight of the apple is roughly one newton. If you take one trillionth of that weight, that's one piconewton.
We want to be able to measure the force to a resolution of one piconewton reproducibility and reliably. That's what this technique enables us to do. So we can go from a one piconewton to 500 piconewtons. And I'll show you how that can translate into blood flow through small capillaries in the brain. So what you're going to see is a real time video clip of measuring that force in a live, freshly extracted, healthy human red blood cell.
So this is how the cell stretches to a level of strain that it would typically experience. Of course, the way it goes through the capillary is different from this experiment. But it quantitatively shows you how to measure this. Then when you let the force go, the cell goes back to its initial shape.
Except that in the body, the cell does this millions and millions of times. And we can mimic this using a variety of techniques. And this is one of the techniques that we have developed for this.
So now it's easy, relatively. It's not easy to do the experiment. But after three years of struggling, we have done the experiment. The next most difficult thing is what does it mean? How do you interpret it?
For that, we need to go to three dimensional computer simulations. So what we do is to take an entire red blood cell and do the experiment in the computer. And do that with multiple different experimental techniques. And then you match your computer prediction with your experiment. And then try to see how they compare, and then you validate your model. It's not that different from the kinds of models that Phil talked about earlier.
So here is computer simulation of half of a red blood cell. And this is the cytosol inside. You see the folding? So this leads to a question-- why did nature make the red blood cell donut shaped without the hole going through?
The reason for this is that the cell can fold. And if you go to the New York Blood Center and ask them to show pictures of red blood cells with diseases, lots of them have these folds. So this is something that we can measure systematically. In fact, one of the groups we work with is the New Blood center.
So then you compare your experiments on the left with your computer simulations for a healthy cell. You match them. And then out of that, you try to extract different kinds of properties and responses of the cell without a disease first. Then you go to the next question.
As a particular disease agent, either due to a biochemical effect or a foreign organism develops in the cell, how do the various properties of the cells systematically change? If you understand them, then you can have a biochemical route or a genetic route to target the disease. So that's our eventual objective, which I'll come to.
So let's start with malaria. We've talked about healthy cells. Now let's go to a disease state. So the way that malaria spreads in the human body is that female Anopheles mosquitoes, when they feed on the human skin, the female mosquitoes when they are pregnant, they need protein to nurture the eggs. So they draw blood.
If the person being bitten has been exposed to the gametes for malaria, it gets processed in the gut of the mosquito. When the mosquito feeds again on the human skin, it injects something called sporozoites, these little particle-like things, along with anticoagulants. They get to the human liver. The liver processes it for a period of 7 to 10 days.
Then it sends out these tiny little things, about one micron in size, into the bloodstream. That's when the disease process begins. So these tiny little things, about the size one micrometer across, are roughly 1/100 of the thickness of a human hair, they have a sharp tip.
They poke into the red blood cell. They get inside. And they have 48 hours to completely destroy the cell.
So what they do is they have their proteins on the surface of the cell. They transport the protein to the cell itself. And very quickly, within a few hours, start to change the entire structure of the cell. The cell gets destroyed in 48 hours.
There are two major consequences of this. Within 48 hours, the cell becomes very stiff. Within 48 hours the cell, becomes very sticky. These two factors have a lot of consequences.
So because of the stiffness and the stickiness, the infected cells either stick to one another, or they stick to uninfected cells. And therefore, the blood is not able to float through small openings in the body. So organs like the spleen, whose job it is to clear any abnormality or inclusion in the blood, aren't able to do their job properly.
And as a result, the spleen cannot remove the parasite from the invaded red blood cell. And as a result, the disease state can progress. So because of the sequestration of the red blood cell in the microvasculature of the small blood vessels, the advanced stages-- cerebral malaria-- because of cerebral malaria, people may not get oxygen to the brain. Placental malaria in pregnant women can lead to fatality, as well. So these are factors that the engineering community can try to contribute to and understand and that can potentially lead to different diagnostic tools, drug efficacy assays, and so forth.
So let's see. You saw the example of how a healthy cell behaves. Now let's see an example of what infection does to the cell. So you have these cells in a saline solution. And you have a malaria parasite inside.
Starting with zero time, going to 24 hours, 36 hours, 48 hours. You can see the cell can-- a single parasite inside the cell can undergo nuclear division, and it can multiply to up to 20. It can destroy the cell, puncture out of the cell, spill out. And each of those 20 subdivided ones can go infect a new red blood cell.
So eventually the number of these-- in one microliter of blood, you can have something like 160,000 infected red blood cells. It's a huge number. So that's how the disease progresses. So what nanotechnology enables us to do is to quantify this with unprecedented precision.
You saw the video clip of how a healthy cell behaves. So here is an infected cell just after about 30 hours or so of the parasite being inside the cell. In the middle, you have the red blood cell. And then you have two beads attached to that. And if you do the same experiment, the cell has completely lost its ability to stretch. This happens within 36 hours.
Now why do we need engineers to do this? The fact that stiffness and stickiness are important did not come from engineers. It came from microbiologists in the last 15 years. Using the tools that they have used, they claimed in the literature until last year that the extent of stickiness or a extent of stiffness stiffening, was a factor of 2 to 3. Using tools like this, what you find is more like a factor of 15.
That affects drug dosage. It affects treatment methods. So this is why nanotechnology should meet biology and medicine, according to the biologists, not according to the engineers. And this is why organizations, such as Institute Pasteur, are very interested in bringing engineering into contact with human diseases.
Here is a clear example of the role of this. The top row is a healthy cell. We are putting forces as small as 60 piconewtons in a very controlled manner, 150 piconewtons.
A healthy cell can stretch like this. After 30 hours of invasion, you see the parasite inside the cell, this completely loses its ability to stretch. We can use that in many different ways.
It's not just engineering. Now we can bring in biochemistry. We can bring in genomics. And I'll give you some examples of that in the next few slides.
This is a healthy red blood cell. That's an infected red blood cell after about 36 to 48 hours. That's the parasite inside. This is what happens to the cell.
So now, nanotechnology meets biochemistry and [INAUDIBLE] activation. About two years ago, a group of geneticists, working at Institute Pasteur, came up with a technique to knock out specific proteins from the parasite. So the currently understood mechanism is that a parasite invades the red blood cell, it transports protein from its surface to the molecular structure of the red blood cell inside, and that's the molecular reason why the cell becomes stiff and why it becomes sticky.
So the Institute Pasteur group, through work done in Africa in monkeys, they figured out that there is a particular protein called RESA, which stands for Ring-Infected Erythrocyte Surface Antigen, which is suspected to be a major culprit in the early stages of the disease. So they found out a way, using latest gene disruption techniques, to knock out just that particular protein. And as Esther pointed out, whenever you do these assessments, you have to have a very good control condition.
Control condition is a knock in condition. You can not only knock it out. You can knock it in. So you take a parasite, you knock out one protein. and then you take the parasite minus that one protein inside the cell, you culture it, and you do the same experiments as the one that I described before. Then you can quantify the factors that are responsible for the progression of the disease because of that one missing protein. You can knock it in, and re-measure it.
So what this figure shows-- this is a bioimaging technique superimposing three different colors in immuno [INAUDIBLE] microscopy. So what you see here is a healthy red blood cell, which is then color coded in red for a particular protein. Wherever you see a blue or a purple color inside, there is a parasite inside.
When a parasite gets inside the cell, it transports a protein. That protein, called RESA, is color coded green. So whenever there is a parasite inside the cell, and it transports a protein, the infected cell of the invader cell becomes green in color. So that's the control condition.
You take the same parasite, genetically clone it, knock out one particular protein, put it inside the cell, culture it, and do the experiment. You see the purple color here. But there is no green color here. That means you have successfully knocked it out.
Now you do these experiments. And what it now shows you is that if you do the experiment here versus the experiment here, you find that in this case, the stiffness is reduced by a factor of four because of one protein-- significant effect, really significant effect. And remarkably, you find [? RESA ?] number two for engineers to get into these kinds of problems.
Until now, every data ever measured in the literature anywhere in the world by any group on malaria parasite-infected cells is at room temperature with the exception of one data point, which is at a physiological temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. Most of these patients get high fever when they get malaria. The physiologically relevant temperature is 41 degrees Celsius.
And yet there is not a single data point by anybody up to this point. It's a simple engineering problem to fix, to put a heating stage in your experiment. When you do that, you find that this experiment, this effect, happens only at 41 degrees Celsius. So that's reason number two for engineers to get into this problem in collaboration with microbiologists.
Now let's go from a laboratory level with a single cell to population level. There is a beautiful experiment done by a group from Australia and Oxford University in northern region of Thailand. There's a part of Thailand where several hundred thousand people every year contract malaria.
There are four different types of malaria parasites. Two are most common. Plasmodium falciparum is a type of malaria parasite that's responsible for essentially all the mortality in the world. There is another one called Plasmodium vivax, which is equally common. But far fewer people die from Plasmodium vivax.
So in the region of Thailand, hundreds of thousands of people a year contract malaria, roughly half of them from P. vivax, half of them from P. falciparum. Almost nobody dies from P. vivax. Everybody dies from P. falciparum. The question is why.
So this group of microbiologists and some engineers went into Thailand. And they took blood samples from the patients from remote hospitals. And they tried to see how this stiffness and stickiness change.
In the case of P. falciparum, the cell becomes very stiff and very sticky. In the case of P. vivax, it doesn't happen. It neither becomes stiff, nor does it become sticky for molecular reasons that are not understood.
So the current hypothesis is that, in the case of P. vivax invaded patients, the spleen can take care of the problem. Because a cell doesn't become stiff, it can squeeze through small openings in the spleen. The spleen takes the parasite out.
And how do we know it's right? Many of these patients require spleenectomy. You can take the spleen out. It's not a vital organ. The next time they get malaria, they're in trouble.
And you can do the analysis on the spleen. So my collaborators at Institut Pasteur do human spleen studies. And this is shedding a lot of new light into this problem.
So this is the connection between a single cell experiment and potential consequences for a large population. And we can quantify this in a way that could not have been done just a few years ago. So this is still scientific research. How do we make it useful for practical purposes?
Can we learn from all the wonderful things that we have done in microfabrication in the semiconductor industry, nanofabrication, and try to make it useful for diseases, human diseases? For example, can we make in remote parts of the world-- especially in developing countries where they cannot afford very expensive tools-- can we make inexpensive, portable, and disposable diagnostic kits that we can take to a remote hospital in northern Thailand? Draw a blood sample from a patient, and run it through this little device? Diagnose much better than we do now, and then throw it out-- very small price?
So we fabricated something in the laboratory to try to, as an initial step, to do this. So it's too early for the cocktails, but it's our cocktail glass experiment. So what you have here is a long stem of this glass that has an inner diameter exactly the same as a small blood vessel in our brain. It's about two to three micrometers.
Here it's a much larger opening. At the mouth to this long stem is a healthy human red blood cell infected with the malaria parasite,