Linguist Jessie Little Doe Baird SM ’00, head of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project in Mashpee, MA, is working to revive the language starting with her own daughter, who is fluent. Wôpanâak, an Algonquian language, was once spoken on Cape Cod, where Baird is deeply involved in affairs of the Mashpee tribe, part of the Wampanoag nation. Each summer Baird leads a weeklong language immersion camp. She is developing educational materials including children’s books and she and MIT Prof. Norvin Richards PhD ‘97 are writing a dictionary, now up to about 10, 000 words.
Emmanuel Saez PhD ’99, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of its Center for Equitable Growth, focuses his research on wealth and income inequality, capital income taxation, and retirement. He and colleagues worldwide have designed high-resolution methods for measuring changes in income patterns through time and determining how taxation affects income and savings. His recent honors include the American Economic Association’s John Bates Clark Medal, which is given annually to America’s most outstanding economist under 40.
MIT Professor of Physics Nergis Mavalvala PhD ’97, a quantum astrophysicist, focuses on detecting gravitational waves created in the violent collisions of stars and in the earliest moments of the universe. “Everything we know about the universe, both nearby and distant, comes from measuring light,” said Mavalvala. “Gravitational waves are another messenger. Being able to look into the universe with that completely new tool, we should learn new and enormously interesting things.
MIT also scored big last year with four MacArthur fellows out of 24 total. MIT economist Esther Duflo PhD ’99, director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, won for research that has helped change the way governments and aid organizations address global poverty.
Other 2009 winners included Peter Huybers PhD ’04 for research that helps explain changes in the earth's climate over the past 1.8 million years; John A. Rogers PhD ’95 for his work developing flexible semiconductors; and Daniel Sigman PhD ’97 whose research illuminates the effects of oceanic biomass on the earth's climate over the past two million years.