It is my pleasure to introduce the latest issue of LIDS|All.
The period covered by this issue was an extraordinary one. We began in the fall of 2019 with the very successful LIDS@80: A Celebration, an event that brought together over 400 people from around the world, to commemorate the lab’s 80th anniversary. (You can read more, and see some wonderful event photos, later in this issue.) For me, the LIDS@80 event was also a rare opportunity to see much of the LIDS community in one place — a truly special occasion that spanned disciplines and generations, and highlighted once again the warmth, energy, and intellectual depth of our community.
In January 2020, with the same forward-looking spirit showcased at our anniversary event, LIDS officially joined the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, MIT’s investment in the future of computing and AI. It is a development that keeps LIDS at the center of some of the most important current developments in the information and decision sciences, and a signal of the continued impor- tance of LIDS-style research. This idea was summed up well in remarks by Dan Huttenlocher, dean of the college, who said, “With regards to LIDS and the intellectual fabric of the world today, I think the time couldn’t be more exciting.”
The LIDS community carried this excitement even in the spring of 2020, when we saw the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. We were fortunate that we could take most of our work to the virtual world with relative ease. As events and research collaborations moved to Zoom, it was comforting to see our community meet the challenges of the pandemic together, and that its cohesion, energy, and vibrance was not diminished. Students, faculty, staff, and researchers continued their work from a distance, and many were involved in projects driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This past year, we also lost a dear friend and mentor, MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Professor Emeritus Michael Athans, who passed away in May 2020. A remarkable researcher and educator — and a transformative director of the lab — it is hard to overstate the influence Michael had on the field of systems control theory. We were honored to host his virtual memorial, celebrating his life and achievements, and sharing memories of his strength, kindness, and sharp wit.
In this issue you will read more about Michael, and the ways he laid the foundations for the LIDS of today. You will also read about graduate student Manon Revel’s work investigating the effect of online advertising on trust in journalism; LIDS Financial Coordinator Yalan Yang; faculty member Cathy Wu’s research applying signals and systems thinking to integrating autonomous vehicles in the transportation system; and graduate student Alireza Fallah’s work on personalized federated learning.
By this time, my tenure as director has come to a close, and this is my last introduction to LIDS|All. Holding this position, in a lab that has been my home for more than forty years, has been a tremendous honor and privilege. On this occasion, I would like to thank Professor Eytan Modiano who served as Associate Director, and then as Interim Director when I stepped down at the end of 2020. I am thrilled that Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Sertac Karaman, (a LIDS alum and faculty member) has taken the helm, in July of 2021. LIDS is as strong as ever, and in good hands!
I hope you enjoy this issue of the magazine and that it finds you healthy and safe.
John Tsitsiklis, Director
Clarence J. Lebel Professor of Electrical Engineering