Faculty, Instructors, & Staff

Teaching Staff

Analia Barrantes (Physics) analiab@mit.edu

Analia teaches physics (8.01 and 8.02) at ESG. She is working on the development of pedagogical content for the first-year physics courses on edX and does research in physics education. She is interested in how students learn and how to improve the teaching of physics.  Analia holds a master’s degree in physics from the University of Buenos Aires and a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from MIT. Apart from teaching first-year students, she loves to paint, travel, and read.

Nicholas Boekelheide (Chemistry) boekel@mit.edu

Nick grew up in Tigard, Oregon. He got his B.A. in chemistry from Carleton College in 2004 and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. He joined the Colby Chemistry Department in 2013 where he taught Physical Chemistry and General Chemistry.  Nick came to MIT in 2017 where his primary appointment is in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science.  At ESG, Nick teaches 5.111 and 5.112.  From 2005 to 2007 he served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali.

Patricia Christie (Biology, Chemistry) patti@mit.edu

Patti Christie has been teaching full-time at ESG since 1999, after completing her Ph.D. in MIT’s chemistry department (1996) and a postdoctoral fellowship in the biology department. She is also known around MIT as the course manager for 5.111 and 5.112 in the chemistry department and for teaching in Interphase Project in the OME. Since at ESG, Patti has developed two very popular seminars, Kitchen Chemistry (ES.011) and Chemistry of Sports (ES.010). Patti also helps train the undergraduate instructors with the ESG undergraduate teaching seminar (ES.200) every fall. Patti has a passion for her family, cooking, swimming, and biking and, since she does triathlons, a reluctant passion for running.

Dave Custer (Writing, Physics) custer@mit.edu

Dave Custer has been teaching hands-on, interdisciplinary subjects for MITs Experimental Study Group and Writing Program for 30 years. His research is the testing and evaluation of equipment used in rock climbing and mountaineering. Dave spends his free time in the vertical world.

Jeremy Orloff (Math) jorloff@mit.edu

Jeremy Orloff studied math as an undergraduate at Brown and as a graduate student at MIT. He wrote his doctoral thesis under Sigurdur Helgason on harmonic analysis on symmetric spaces, finishing in 1985. He then spent five years teaching and doing mathematics research, including stints at Tufts and Northeastern universities. The birth of his son coincided with a decision to leave academia, after which he spent 10 years studying speech recognition as a principal research scientist at Dragon Systems. As a mathematician, he was used to an infinity of data. The transition to speech scientist was difficult, but he learned how to draw useful conclusions from a handful of noisy data points. In 2003 he returned to MIT to teach, although he continues a slow-motion research project on speech processing and some hearing-related learning disabilities. He plays fast-pitch softball, runs and, like many of his colleagues, loves to hike. He is also a firm believer in the value of commuting by bicycle and a big fan of Krazy Kat, Calvin and Hobbes, and Gurbo the rat.

Lee Perlman (Humanities) lperlman@mit.edu

Lee Perlman earned his B.A. from St. John’s College (Annapolis), and then pursued graduate work in philosophy at the Catholic University of America. He completed an M.A. in political philosophy at Georgetown University.  Before earning his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Perlman spent eight years working in the political arena as a public interest lobbyist and political organizer.  In 1978 Baltimore Magazine named him ‘the most feared lobbyist in Maryland’. He has taught at Harvard University, Brown University, Swarthmore College, Phillips Academy (Andover), and, for the past 20 years, at MIT. Dr. Perlman considers himself to be primarily an educator, and prides himself on designing and teaching a number of courses at MIT which offer students an integrated view of the humanities and sciences in the western tradition. Among these are his current courses “Ancient Greek Mathematics and Philosophy” and a course jointly listed in the Philosophy Department, “A Philosophical History of Energy.” His other signature course is Philosophy of Love.  He has twice been awarded the Irwin Sizer Award for Most Significant Improvement to MIT Education (1997, 2015). Lee is also a composer and musician, and the Music Director of the Deborah Abel Dance Company, which has toured in the US and India.

Paola Rebusco (Academic Administrator, Physics) pao@mit.edu

Paola Rebusco was born in Italy, near Lake Garda. She earned her master’s degree in theoretical physics from the University of Trieste (Italy) in 2003. She received her Ph.D. in astronomy from the Ludwig Maximillian University (Munich, Germany) and the International Max Planck Research School for Astrophysics in 2007. She then crossed the Atlantic and spent three years as a Pappalardo Post-Doctoral Fellow in physics at MIT. Paola is not only interested in teaching and theoretical astrophysics but also in how specialized knowledge is made publicly accessible. Apart from being the European Southern Observatory Network representative in the United States, Paola comments on scientific news for the Italian radio program Moebius and contributes to the Italian science magazine Newton. Paola loves traveling (especially to warm places), sailing, writing and reading, cooking and eating, and playing basketball with her husband. Read Paola’s webpage, http://space.mit.edu/home/pao, and her blog for the spring seminar Speak Italian with Your Mouth Full at http://speakcookitalian.blogspot.com.

Gabrielle Stoy (Math) gstoy@mit.edu

Dr. Gabrielle Stoy did her undergraduate degree at Manchester University in the UK and her graduate studies at Oxford University, where she earned her doctorate. She worked in the mathematics department at Oxford University as a faculty member, and at Lady Margaret Hall (one of Oxford University’s colleges) for many years before relocating to Boston with her husband, who also works in the area. Her mathematical interests and specialism are in group theory, and she has co-authored a book, Groups and Geometry. Her principal role in Oxford was as a tenured faculty member in the department of mathematics, but during the years she held many administrative positions in conjunction with this, in both the University and the College. For five years she was her College’s academic coordinator for its “Junior Year Abroad” Visiting Students’ Program. Since coming to ESG, she has enjoyed being able to concentrate on her main interest and enthusiasm: teaching mathematics. In her spare time, she enjoys swimming, music, and reading.

Administrative Staff

Bettina McGimsey (Outreach and Communications Director) mcgimsey@mit.edu

Bettina McGimsey joined ESG in June, 2015, as a Development Associate concentrating on alumni engagement and fundraising. With a degree from the University of Virginia in German and an MBA from Simmons, she has focused on helping organizations function and work in a healthy way. She has lived and worked in Boston, Detroit, northern Virginia, and Yokohama, Japan, where she immersed herself in Japanese culture, language, and art.  Back in Boston since 2009, Bettina has continued to work on both organizational issues and in community development and fundraising as a highly engaged civic volunteer and PTA leader in the town of Lexington. She is the parent of two teenagers with Michael Sortor, Course 16, ’84.  In her free time she loves to cook, bake, read, and walk – and someday she would love to get back to writing.

Graham Gordon Ramsay (Associate Director, Lecturer) ramsay@mit.edu

Graham Ramsay has worked at ESG since 2002. In addition to his role as associate director, he is in charge of introducing video components into the core GIR teaching and learning experience at ESG. He did his undergraduate studies at Boston University in music composition, and has studied in music programs at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and at the Fountainebleau School in France. In his life outside of MIT, he works as professional photographer, videographer, and musician. As photographer, his work has appeared in national and international publications, including the Atlantic Monthly, TIME, and Figaro (France). As a musician, he is a regularly commissioned composer whose works are performed regularly in the US and abroad. His has two CDs out on Albany Records: The Sacred Voice (2011) and Compendium (2013). He taught classes in photography from 1990-2012 at the MIT Student Art Association, and has developed and taught numerous humanities-based seminars through the Experimental Study Group since 2003. He is co-author of A Creative Guide to Exploring Your Life with former staff member Holly Sweet (Jessica Kingsley, 2009).

Leigh Royden (Director, Physics Staff) lhroyden@mit.edu

Prof. Leigh Royden grew up in California, where she spent most of her time in the swimming pool. She studied physics at Harvard and then received her Ph.D. from MIT in geology and geophysics. At Harvard she competed in crew, both in the single and the eight, winning the U.S. women’s single sculls championships and, with the U.S. National team, a silver medal in the eights in the world championships. Disheartened by the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games, Leigh returned to graduate school full-time. She survived a two-year post-doctoral appointment at Harvard and then returned to MIT, where she has been on the faculty ever since. She has two children, ages 18 and 21, and a horse.

Faculty Mentors

John Belcher (Physics) jbelcher@mit.edu

John Belcher is a Professor in the Astrophysics Division of the Department of Physics at MIT, and a MacVicar Teaching Fellow at the Institute.  He has been the Principal Investigator on the Voyager Plasma Science Experiment on the Voyager Mission to the Outer Planets and the Interstellar Medium.   In August of 2012, Voyager 1 crossed into the interstellar medium and in the next two or three years Voyager 2 is expected to follow. Professor Belcher has been heavily involved in education in introductory physics since 2001, and was one of the leads in the initial three years of the Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) Project at MIT. Professor Belcher was raised in Odessa, Texas, attended Rice University as an undergraduate, and Cal Tech as a graduate student.

John Essigmann (Chemistry) jessig@mit.edu

John Essigmann is the William R. (1956) and Betsy P. Leitch Professor in Residence of Chemistry in the MIT Department of Chemistry and Professor of Toxicology and Biological Engineering in the MIT Department of Biological Engineering.  He was the Associate Head of the Department of Chemistry until 2012, responsible for graduate and undergraduate education, and since that time he has been the Director of the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences.   The work of his laboratory addresses the biochemical mechanisms by which cells respond to specific forms of DNA damage. The rationale of John’s work stems from the fact that chemical damage to DNA nucleotides by drugs, environmental chemicals and radiation  is either mutagenic or cytotoxic, or both.  Although most outcomes of DNA damage are bad (e.g., cancer), sometimes we intentionally build that property into antitumor drugs and antiviral agents.  His work spans environmental and clinical science. John was brought up in Medford, MA, a suburb of Boston and is a lifelong resident of the Boston area. He went to Northeastern University for his undergraduate studies and subsequently earned his Ph.D. from MIT with Professor Gerald Wogan, a noted toxicologist.  Much of his past and present work involves fungal toxins found in Asia and he spends part of each summer in Thailand doing research and teaching.  He usually brings five MIT undergraduates with him in a UROP-derived program called ThaiROP.  John and his wife, Ellen, are the Housemasters of Simmons Hall and very much enjoy the company of undergraduates.  In his day job John typically teaches “Biological Chemistry” (5.07) and “Biological Engineering Design” (20.380).

Taylor Perron (EAPS) perron@mit.edu

Taylor Perron is an Associate Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Originally from Vermont, he holds an AB in Earth and Planetary Sciences and Archaeology from Harvard University and a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He studies the processes that shape landscapes, both on Earth and on other planets and moons. His group’s efforts currently follow three themes: the development of organized patterns in landscapes, especially river networks; the influence of climate on erosion; and the surfaces of Mars and Titan (Saturn’s largest moon). Outside of science, Prof. Perron enjoys music, bicycling, skiing,
hiking, and spending time with his 2 daughters.

Alex Slocum (Mechanical Engineering, on sabbatical 2014-2015) slocum@mit.edu

Alexander Slocum is the Papplardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, a MacVicar Faculty Teaching Fellow, and a Fellow of the ASME.   He has seven dozen U.S. patents and has helped develop 12 products that have been given R&D 100 awards.  Alex was the Massachusetts Professor of the Year in 2000 and is the recipient of the Society of Manufacturing Engineer’s Frederick W. Taylor Research Medal, and the ASME Leonardo daVinci and Machine Design Awards.  His current interests focus on the development of precision machines from medical devices and instruments to renewable energy harvesting and storage machines.  Recently he served on the DoE Science Team working on the Gulf Oil Spill.  His greatest passion is working with students, from first-year to Ph.D., they are the future of everything. Since high school days, Alex has had a passion for furniture making and carpentry.  Alex also loves sports from SCUBA to snowboarding to iron-distance triathlons and marathons.

Prof. David Vogan (Math) dav@math.mit.edu

I grew up in central Pennsylvania. I’ve been doing math at MIT since 1974. My specialty is representation theory, which is about making all kinds of difficult problems into linear algebra. I have one wife (my reason for living), two adult kids (to whom I am deeply devoted), and two cats (no reasonable offer refused).