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Road to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Study Abroad

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering.
In 1859, a proposal was submitted to the Massachusetts General Court to use newly filled lands in Back Bay, Boston for a “Conservatory of Art and Science”, but the proposal failed. A proposal by William Barton Rogers, a professor from the University of Virginia, a charter for the incorporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, signed by the governor of Massachusetts on April 10, 1861.  Two days after the charter was issued, the first battle of the Civil War broke out. After a long delay through the war years, MIT’s first classes were held in the Mercantile Building in Boston in 1865. In 1866, the proceeds from land sales went toward new buildings in the Back Bay.
Rogers wanted to establish an institution to address rapid scientific and technological advances. He did not wish to found a professional school, but a combination with elements of both professional and liberal education. The Rogers Plan reflected the German research university model, emphasizing an independent faculty engaged in research, as well as instruction oriented around seminars and laboratories.  MIT was informally called “Boston Tech”. Despite chronic financial problems, the institute saw growth in the last two decades of the 19th century under President Francis Amasa Walker. Programs in electrical, chemical, marine, and sanitary engineering were introduced, new buildings were built, and the size of the student body increased to more than one thousand.
The curriculum drifted to a vocational emphasis, with less focus on theoretical science. During these “Boston Tech” years, MIT faculty and alumni rebuffed Harvard University president (and former MIT faculty) Charles W. Eliot’s repeated attempts to merge MIT with Harvard College’s Lawrence Scientific School. There would be at least six attempts to absorb MIT into Harvard. In its cramped Back Bay location, MIT could not afford to expand its overcrowded facilities, driving a desperate search for a new campus and funding. Eventually the MIT Corporation approved a formal agreement to merge with Harvard, over the vehement objections of MIT faculty, students, and alumni. However, a 1917 decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court effectively put an end to the merger scheme.
In 1916, MIT moved to a spacious new campus largely consisting of filled land on a mile-long tract along the Cambridge side of the Charles River.  In the 1930s, President Karl Taylor Compton and Vice-President (effectively Provost) Vannevar Bush emphasized the importance of pure sciences like physics and chemistry and reduced the vocational practice required in shops and drafting studios.
The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and the MIT Sloan School of Management were formed in 1950 to compete with the powerful Schools of Science and Engineering. Previously marginalized faculties in the areas of economics, management, political science, and linguistics emerged into cohesive and assertive departments by attracting respected professors and launching competitive graduate programs.
MIT’s involvement in military research surged during World War II. Engineers and scientists from across the country gathered at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory, established in 1940 to assist the British military in developing microwave radar. The work done there significantly affected both the war and subsequent research in the area. Other defense projects included gyroscope-based and other complex control systems for gunsight, bombsight, and inertial navigation, the development of a digital computer for flight simulations, and high-speed and high-altitude photography. By the end of the war, MIT became the nation’s largest wartime R&D contractor employing nearly 4000 in the Radiation Laboratory alone and receiving in excess of $100 million ($1.2 billion in 2015 dollars) before 1946. Work on defense projects continued even after then. Post-war government-sponsored research at MIT included SAGE and guidance systems for ballistic missiles and Project Apollo.
MIT’s 168-acre (68.0 ha) campus spans approximately a mile of the north side of the Charles River basin in the city of Cambridge. The campus is divided roughly in half by Massachusetts Avenue, with most dormitories and student life facilities to the west and most academic buildings to the east. The Cambridge neighborhoods surrounding MIT are a mixture of high tech companies occupying both modern office and rehabilitated industrial buildings as well as socio-economically diverse residential neighborhoods.  MIT’s on-campus nuclear reactor is one of the most powerful university-based nuclear reactors in the United States.  Other notable campus facilities include a pressurized wind tunnel and a towing tank for testing ship and ocean structure designs. MIT’s campus-wide wireless network was completed in the fall of 2005 and consists of nearly 3,000 access points covering 9,400,000 square feet (870,000 m2) of campus.
Undergraduates are guaranteed four-year housing in one of MIT’s 12 undergraduate dormitories. Those living on campus can receive support and mentoring from live-in graduate student tutors, resident advisors, and faculty housemasters.
MIT is chartered as a non-profit organization and is owned and governed by a privately appointed board of trustees known as the MIT Corporation. The Corporation approves the budget, new programs, degrees and faculty appointments, and elects the President to serve as the chief executive officer of the university and preside over the Institute’s faculty. MIT’s endowment and other financial assets are managed through a subsidiary called MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo).
MIT has five schools (Science, Engineering, Architecture and Planning, Management, and Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences) and one college (Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology), but no schools of law or medicine. While faculty committees assert substantial control over many areas of MIT’s curriculum, research, student life, and administrative affairs, the chair of each of MIT’s 32 academic departments reports to the dean of that department’s school, who in turn reports to the Provost under the President.
MIT is a large, highly residential, research university with a majority of enrollments in graduate and professional programs. The university has been accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges since 1929.
The four-year, full-time undergraduate program maintains a balance between professional majors and those in the arts and sciences. All undergraduates are required to complete a core curriculum called the General Institute Requirements (GIRs).  Most classes rely on a combination of lectures, recitations led by associate professors or graduate students; weekly problem sets (“p-sets”), and tests.
MIT’s graduate program has high coexistence with the undergraduate program, and many courses are taken by qualified students at both levels. MIT offers a comprehensive doctoral program with degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields as well as professional degrees.  Admission to graduate programs is decentralized; applicants apply directly to the department or degree program. More than 90% of doctoral students are supported by fellowships, research assistantships (RAs), or teaching assistantships (TAs).
MIT is often cited as among the world’s top universities. For several years, U.S. News & World Report, the QS World University Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities have ranked MIT’s School of Engineering first, as did the 1995 National Research Council report.
MIT was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1934 and remains a research university with a very high level of research activity. The university historically pioneered research and training collaborations between academia, industry and government. MIT’s extensive collaboration with the federal government on research projects has led to several MIT leaders serving as presidential scientific advisers since 1940.[f] MIT established a Washington Office in 1991 to continue effective lobbying for research funding and national science policy.
MIT’s proximityto Harvard University (“the other school up the river”) has led to a substantial number of research collaborations such as the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and the Broad Institute.  In addition, students at the two schools can cross-register for credits toward their own school’s degrees without any additional fees. MIT has more modest cross-registration programs with several other universities. MIT maintains substantial research and faculty ties with independent research organizations in the Boston area.
The MIT library system consists of five subject libraries: Barker (Engineering), Dewey (Economics), Hayden (Humanities and Science), Lewis (Music), and Rotch (Arts and Architecture). There are also various specialized libraries and archives. The libraries contain more than 2.9 million printed volumes, 2.4 million microforms, 49,000 print or electronic journal subscriptions, and 670 reference databases. MIT allocates a percentage of the budget for all new construction and renovation to commission and support its extensive public art and outdoor sculpture collection.  The MIT Museum was founded in 1971 and collects, preserves, and exhibits artifacts significant to the culture and history of MIT.
The faculty and student body place a high value on meritocracy and on technical proficiency.   MIT has over 380 recognized student activity groups, including a campus radio station, The Tech student newspaper and an annual entrepreneurship competition. Less traditional activities include the “world’s largest open-shelf collection of science fiction” in English, a model railroad club, and a vibrant folk dance scene. MIT sponsors 31 varsity sports and has one of the three broadest NCAA Division III athletic programs.
As of 2013, MIT had 1,030 faculty members. Faculty is responsible for lecturing classes, advising both graduate and undergraduate students, and sitting on academic committees, as well as conducting original research.  As of 2014, 81 Nobel laureates, 52 National Medal of Science recipients, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 38 MacArthur Fellows, 34 astronauts, and 2 Fields Medalists have been affiliated with MIT. The school has a strong entrepreneurial culture, and the aggregated revenues of companies founded by MIT alumni would rank as the eleventh-largest economy in the world.
To know more about MIT please visit: http://web.mit.edu/