Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

AAAS Annual Meeting Puts MIT Science and Technology on Display

Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013
Bookmark and Share
The 2013 conference, held last week in Boston, featured research presentations, hands-on demonstrations.

The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) took place Feb. 14-18 at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center. The gathering highlighted a diverse roster of MIT researchers presenting work on everything from human-robot interactions to the convergence of biology and engineering, as well as hands-on demonstrations ranging from tiny model rockets to Lego models of chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

Nearly 10,000 scientists and citizens registered for the conference, including more than 900 journalists from around the world. MIT was represented by about a dozen faculty members and other speakers who presented talks on their research, as well as by students and staffers who engaged in demonstrations at the event’s Family Science Days.

In the dark

Samuel Ting, the Thomas P. Cabot Professor of Physics, summarized 18 years of work to develop a $1.5 billion set of instruments for the International Space Station. Some in attendance had expected that he might use the occasion to present the long-awaited first results of experiments designed to search for direct signs of dark matter in the universe, but Ting said the research team, which consists of six separate groups, was still finishing its analysis of the data and expected to make an announcement in several weeks.

“Everybody has their own interpretations,” Ting said, noting that one of the six teams “has very different theories” from the others. “Certainly we are not going to publish something if it’s not worthwhile.”

Ting said the experiment has examined about 25 billion “events” — impacts by cosmic rays — to search for differences in the ratio of electrons to their antimatter counterparts, called positrons, and for any differences in emissions from different parts of the sky.

Converging on convergence

In another session, Institute Professor Phillip Sharp said that scientific convergence — the ongoing merger of the life, physical and engineering sciences — represents an important new research model for biomedicine. “Convergence will be the emerging paradigm for how medical research will be conducted in the future,” he said, but added that serious policy challenges that must be resolved in order to realize this potential.

Speaking in the same session, Tyler Jacks, the David H. Koch Professor of Biology and director of MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, added that this radically new approach holds the potential to chart a new course in cancer research by revolutionizing the disease’s diagnosis, monitoring and treatment.

On a similar theme, Institute Professor Robert Langer spoke on “Challenges and Opportunities at the Confluence of Biotechnology and Nanomaterials.” He described great progress in recent years in the development and commercialization of biomedical innovations through collaboration with materials scientists and engineers.

Hundreds of families, billions of experiments

On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of families flocked to the AAAS meeting for Family Science Days, which included a series of talks, exhibits and hands-on activities. There, Angela Belcher, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy, described her lab’s work to harness the power of biological organisms to create new technologies.

“How many of you have ever done a billion experiments?” she asked a group of parents and children, none of whom raised their hands.

In her lab, Belcher explained, it is now possible to do a billion experiments at once, using a beaker full of viruses to extract elements from water and assemble them into batteries or solar cells. She then demonstrated such a virus-built battery in action — a demonstration that she said she had also shown to President Barack Obama during his 2009 visit to MIT.

Other hands-on activities used Lego blocks to show the molecular structure of DNA; gave children a chance to launch tiny, antacid-powered “rockets” made from paper and empty film canisters; and demonstrated airplane-wing function using a miniature wind tunnel and vapor from dry ice. MIT’s D-Lab, which aims to create technologies for use in developing nations, mounted an exhibit that gave children a chance to try out some D-Lab inventions — including devices for shelling corn and for making charcoal briquettes out of charred agricultural waste.

The human side of science

Other talks at the AAAS conference explored subjects in the social sciences, or at the interface between science, technology and the arts. Michel DeGraff, an associate professor of linguistics, described his analysis of Haitian Creole, which has shown that in many ways its structures are more complex than those of related languages. Felice Frankel, a research scientist at MIT’s Center for Materials Science and Engineering, delivered a lecture in which she showed how diagrams, photographs and other research graphics could be improved through a focus on conveying only the most important information in an image.

In a keynote address before a packed auditorium, Sherry Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, described her concern at the growing trend of transferring a variety of human-centered tasks, such as the care of children and the elderly, from human caregivers to robots. People too readily act as if machines have personalities, and even feelings, she said. This “new normal,” she added, “comes with a price,” and may ultimately change human relationships for the worse.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Viruses Join Fight Against Harmful Bacteria
Engineered viruses could combat human disease and improve food safety.
Friday, September 25, 2015
Targeting DNA
Protein-based sensor could detect viral infection or kill cancer cells.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Targeting DNA
Protein-based sensor could detect viral infection or kill cancer cells.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Searching Big Data Faster
Theoretical analysis could expand applications of accelerated searching in biology, other fields.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
A Metabolic Master Switch Underlying Human Obesity
Researchers find pathway that controls metabolism by prompting fat cells to store or burn fat.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Identifying a Key Growth Factor in Cell Proliferation
Researchers discover that aspartate is a limiter of cell proliferation.
Friday, July 31, 2015
Firms “Under-invest” in Long-Term Cancer Research
Tweaks to the R&D pipeline could create new drugs and greater social benefit.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Nanoparticles Can Clean Up Environmental Pollutants
Researchers have found that nanomaterials and UV light can “trap” chemicals for easy removal from soil and water.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Researchers Develop Genetic Tools to Engineer Common Gut Bacterium
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed genetic parts that can be combined to program the commensal gut bacterium Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron.
Friday, July 10, 2015
Longstanding Problem Put to Rest
Proof that a 40-year-old algorithm for comparing genomes is the best possible will come as a relief to computer scientists.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Diagnosing Cancer with Help from Bacteria
Engineered probiotics can detect tumors in the liver.
Friday, May 29, 2015
Master Gene Regulator Could Be New Target For Schizophrenia Treatment
Researchers at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have identified a master genetic regulator that could account for faulty brain functions that contribute to schizophrenia.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Brain Tumor Weakness Identified
Discovery could offer a new target for treatment of glioblastoma.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
New Nanodevice Defeats Drug Resistance
Tiny particles embedded in gel can turn off drug-resistance genes, then release cancer drugs.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
New Nanodevice Defeats Drug Resistance
Tiny particles embedded in gel can turn off drug-resistance genes, then release cancer drugs.
Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Scientific News
Genetic Defences of Bacteria Don’t Aid Antibiotic Resistance
Genetic responses to the stresses caused by antibiotics don’t help bacteria to evolve a resistance to the medications, according to a new study by Oxford University researchers.
Tolerant Immune System Increases Cancer Risk
Researchers have found that individuals with high immunoCRIT ratios may have an increased risk of developing certain cancers.
Developing a Gel that Mimics Human Breast for Cancer Research
Scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham have been funded to develop a gel that will match many of the biological structures of human breast tissue, to advance cancer research and reduce animal testing.
Lung Repair and Regeneration Gene Discovered
New role for hedgehog gene offers better understanding of lung disease.
3 Ways Viruses Have Changed Science for the Better
Viruses are really good at what they do, and we’ve been able to harness their skills to learn about – and potentially improve – human health in several ways.
Mixed Up Cell Transportation Key Piece of ALS and Dementia Puzzle
Researchers from the University of Toronto are one step closer to solving this incredibly complex puzzle, offering hope for treatment.
New Gene Therapy for Vision Loss From a Mitochondrial Disease
NIH-funded study shows success in targeting mitochondrial DNA in mice.
Five New Genetic Variants Linked to Brain Cancer Identified
The biggest ever study of DNA from people with glioma – the most common form of brain cancer – has discovered five new genetic variants associated with the disease.
Predictive Model for Breast Cancer Progression
Biomedical engineers have demonstrated a proof-of-principle technique that could give women and their oncologists more personalized information to help them choose options for treating breast cancer.
Fatty Liver Disease and Scarring Have Strong Genetic Component
Researchers say that hepatic fibrosis, which involves scarring of the liver that can result in dysfunction and, in severe cases, cirrhosis and cancer, may be as much a consequence of genetics as environmental factors.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos