CSAIL students are clever, colorful, collaborative and slightly crazy! There's a vibrant student life at the lab, with events ranging from the CSAIL Olympics to Friday Game Nights.
(Oh, and make sure to sign up for the free-food listserv.)
Student groups play a big role in the life of both graduate and undergraduate students. Visit their pages to get involved!
- CSAIL Student Committee
- EECS Graduate Student Association
- Graduate Women
- Women in EECS (for undergrads)
- Eta Kappa Nu (HKN), MIT's chapter of the national honor society for CS & EE
- MIT IEEE/ACM Club, the student branch for two professional international organizations (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery)
- MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team
- EECS REFs for peer mediation
Dear CSAIL community,
Welcome to the 2020-2021 academic year! And a special welcome to all the new students, postdocs, faculty, and staff joining the CSAIL community this Fall. While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made this an unusual year, we are as committed as ever to supporting your learning objectives, making your research dreams come true, and ensuring that you have a great experience here at MIT.
Five months ago, we made the difficult decision to shut down the MIT campus in an effort to ensure the safety and health of our students, staff, and faculty. Since that time, I’ve witnessed the MIT CSAIL community come together in so many ways even while physically separated. The continued strength and compassion of our students, faculty, and staff, and the thoughtful ways in which MIT has approached our response to the pandemic give me hope, even while the news reminds us of the struggles confronting so many people around the world.
I know these past months have been hard. Whether you’re coping with a difficult situation at home, worried about your visa, separated from your family and friends, struggling to focus on your work, grieving the loss of a loved one or all of the above, COVID-19 has taken a very human toll on all of us. For me, adding the pandemic-related work to my regular activities has been an exercise in endurance. I also continue to help my parents who are in the vulnerable category and I see the struggles that my college-age daughters have with social isolation and working on their studies online, away from their professors and classmates. I am reminded every day that the restrictions and uncertainty are affecting all of you and I am inspired by how you are facing the challenge and how you continue to move forward and contribute.
So it’s with that context in mind that I want to reach out and assure you of a few important things.
First—and always foremost in my mind—we care deeply about this community of students, faculty, and staff. Every decision we make starts from a pretty simple place: what can we do to provide you with the best learning, growth, and work experiences we can, while also ensuring your health and well-being? While there are no easy answers, we are working hard to create a safe campus for the Fall semester. For students, an important part of that equation is ensuring safety while allowing everyone to make progress towards their degrees and in their thesis research. To do that, we have restricted campus access for research, initially at 25% in June. Things went well and campus access has gone up to 50% capacity for the time being. We have also developed access protocols for those who need access to special equipment as well as those who need campus access to be productive. While we will have to continue with aspects of our work and studies online, a variety of factors can also inhibit learning in home environments, and we are striving to accommodate requests like these as best we can. To ensure these accommodations can continue, we are monitoring the health of everyone who accesses campus daily. We have had positive results for keeping the community safe during the summer and we will apply the lessons learned to the Fall. As President Reif said, we need to continue to get our COVID-19 response right.
Second, our community will continue to rise to this moment and challenge. While I could easily look at my calendar and feel regret for all the cancelled events and delayed projects, I choose instead to focus on the incredible work being done by the MIT community in response to COVID-19. I’ve heard people say that the greatest creativity happens within constraints and I’ve seen endless examples of this over the last few months. Personally, I’ve had the opportunity to work on projects to create emergency ventilation and UVC disinfecting robots, in addition to our existing projects that aim to advance the science and engineering of autonomy. The broader CSAIL community has contributed to privacy preserving contact tracing, a critical tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19; machine learning for therapeutics, which is important for helping those who fall ill; machine learning for drug design, which is critical for eradicating the disease; and contact-free sensors for measuring vitals, important for helping the front line healthcare workers, and so much more. We have already seen encouraging strides to develop effective therapeutics and vaccines, and I feel more confident than ever that the war against COVID-19 will be won.
We’ve applied the same creativity to bringing our academic programs to life—for example, summer UROP cohort opportunities and cohort internship opportunities for the Fall allow some level of social learning. We are also working on new research programs for the Schwarzman College of Computing that stimulate collaborations. For the international students facing additional uncertainty, MIT is working hard to get clarity on evolving policies and develop the best possible options. We’ve done things that we never could have imagined six months ago and I’m sure that trend will only accelerate.
I want to invite you to participate in this innovation as we start the 2020-2021 academic year. I welcome your ideas and suggestions for what we can do to better support you and how to improve. With strength and imagination, we’ll be able to make the most out of the next academic year—even if it looks different than what we pictured.
Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” While we’ve all suffered so many losses during this particular crisis—and some of those losses can never be remedied—I believe that good will also emerge. This may include a deeper understanding of the spread of the disease that will allow us to be more prepared to address the next crisis. Some of the learning might even spread into our everyday lives, from advancements in privacy-preserving technologies to a wider network of food delivery (which you will all appreciate when we’re able to welcome you to Cambridge).
Although I can’t welcome all of you to campus in person today, I look forward to the day when we can greet each other with our traditional September Ice Cream Social and many smiles in the corridors of the lab. In the meantime, I extend a warm virtual welcome to the new academic year and wish each of you continued great success in the year ahead!