Nearly three years ago, through circumstances none of us will ever forget, Officer Sean Collier gave his life protecting our campus. He was distinguished by his passionate curiosity and his generosity of spirit. He immersed himself in our community, and he built bridges that made all of us stronger. The 2016 Collier Medal recognizes two members of our community who have demonstrated a commitment to those same virtues…and whose actions, I believe, would make Sean proud.
Their names are Yoel Fink and Neri Oxman.
Professor Fink, Director of the Research Lab of Electronics, leads cutting-edge research in multi-material and multifunctional fibers. Professor Oxman, of the MIT Media Lab, pushes the limits of design, digital fabrication and architecture. Both are wildly successful and highly respected in their fields. But it is their humanity and selflessness that we celebrate this afternoon.
When Professor Oxman learned that one of her doctoral students was diagnosed with brain cancer, she sprang into action. She reached out to colleagues across MIT and asked for help to identify treatment options. Professor Fink answered the call. Together, they joined the student at all of his medical appointments. They sent his MRI results to experts across the country, and ultimately connected him with a top neurosurgeon in Boston. They even sat with his family throughout the entire 10-hour surgery.
The student and nominator writes, “We fought my brain tumor MIT-style, with genome sequencing, video of the entire surgery, even 3D printing of my brain. Neri and Yoel are dreamers, and they encourage their students to dream, to live and to smile. In an academic setting, we cannot ask for more.”
I agree, wholeheartedly. Congratulations to the 2016 Collier Medal winners: Professors Yoel Fink and Neri Oxman.