Skip Navigation LinksHome > Speakers > Susan Hockfield

Susan Hockfield

Susan Hockfield is the sixteenth president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been a strong advocate of the vital role that science, technology, and the research university play in the world.

A noted neuroscientist whose research has focused on the development of the brain, Hockfield is the first life scientist to lead MIT. Before assuming the presidency of the Institute, she was the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology and Provost at Yale University. At MIT, she holds a faculty appointment as Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Hockfield seeks to encourage collaborative work among MIT's schools, departments, and interdisciplinary laboratories and centers to keep the Institute at the forefront of innovation. She believes that MIT's strength in engineering uniquely positions the Institute to pioneer newly evolving, interdisciplinary areas, and to translate them into practice.

Hockfield believes strongly in the value that international students and scholars bring to the educational and research programs of American universities, and in the importance of American universities working closely with leading academic centers around the world. She also hopes to accelerate the national discussion on improving K-12 education in math and science.

Hockfield joined the Yale faculty in 1985 and was named full professor in 1994. While at Yale, she played a central role in the university's leadership, first as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1998-2002), with oversight of over 70 graduate programs, and then as Provost, the university's chief academic and administrative officer.

During her tenure as graduate school dean, she effectively and creatively revitalized the administration of the school, and addressed longstanding problems in academic, extracurricular, and financial support for graduate students. As Provost, she advanced Yale's major initiatives in science, medicine and engineering, including a $500-million investment in new and renovated facilities for the sciences. She encouraged collaborative work throughout the university, bringing the humanities and the arts into new relationships, and encouraging interactions between the humanities, social sciences and the sciences.

Hockfield has focused her research on the development of the mammalian brain, and she is particularly interested in gaining an understanding of glioma, a deadly kind of brain cancer. She pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research, leading to her discovery of a protein that regulates changes in neuronal structure as a result of an animal's experience in early life. More recently she discovered a gene and its family of protein products that play a critical role in the spread of cancer in the brain and may represent new therapeutic targets for glioma.

Hockfield earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester, and she completed a Ph.D. from the Georgetown University School of Medicine while carrying out her dissertation research in neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health. She was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at San Francisco in 1979-80, and then joined the scientific staff at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York in 1980. She served as Director of the Laboratory's Summer Neurobiology Program from 1985 to 1997, concurrent with her teaching post at Yale, and, more recently, as a trustee of the laboratory.

Her honors include election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal from the Yale University Graduate School, the Meliora Citation for Career Achievement from the University of Rochester, and the Charles Judson Herrick Award from the American Association of Anatomists for outstanding contributions by a young scientist.

She has served on the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council of the NIH, as well as a number of other advisory boards. Her memberships in professional societies include the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society for Neuroscience.