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Life Scientist Takes Helm at MIT

Biologist Susan Hockfield will tackle funding priorities, student concerns, and enrollment issues

3 min read

On 26 August, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, announced that Susan Hockfield, provost and former dean of the graduate school of arts and sciences at Yale University, New Haven, Conn., will be its next president. She succeeds Charles M. Vest [see photo, " Guard Changes"]. Though well received, the decision packed a couple of surprises: Hockfield, 53, will be the first woman to lead MIT, long a bastion of male-dominated engineering and physical science. She is also the first biologist to head the school.

"Clearly, the fact that I'm a life scientist is a shift," Hockfield commented in an interview with IEEE Spectrum, "but it really [reflects] an evolution of the life sciences into a position equal to MIT's more traditional strengths."

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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