Cynthia Breazeal named Media Lab associate director

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Cynthia Breazeal has been promoted to full professor and named associate director of the Media Lab, joining the two other associate directors: Hiroshi Ishii and Andrew Lippman. Both appointments are effective July 1.

In her new associate director role, Breazeal will work with lab faculty and researchers to develop new strategic research initiatives. She will also play a key role in exploring new funding mechanisms to support broad Media Lab needs, including multi-faculty research efforts, collaborations with other labs and departments across the MIT campus, and experimental executive education opportunities. 

“I am excited that Cynthia will be applying her tremendous energy, creativity, and intellect to rally the community in defining new opportunities for funding and research directions,” says Pattie Maes, chair of the lab’s executive committee. “As a first step, she has already organized a series of informal charrettes, where all members of the lab community can participate in brainstorming collaborations that range from tele-creativity, to resilient communities, to sustainability and climate change.” 

Most recently, Breazeal has led an MIT collaboration between the Media Lab, MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, and MIT Open Learning to develop, an online learning site for grades K-12, which shares a variety of online activities for students to learn about artificial intelligence, with a focus on how to design and use AI responsibly. 

While assuming these new responsibilities, Breazeal will continue to head the lab’s Personal Robots research group, which focuses on developing personal social robots and their potential for meaningful impact on everyday life — from educational aids for children, to pediatric use in hospitals, to at-home assistants for the elderly.

Breazeal is globally recognized as a pioneer in human-robot interaction. Her book, “Designing Sociable Robots” (MIT Press, 2002), is considered pivotal in launching the field. In 2019 she was named an AAAI fellow. Previously, she received numerous awards including the National Academy of Engineering’s Gilbreth Lecture Award and MIT Technology Review’s TR100/35 Award. Her robot Jibo was on the cover of TIME magazine in its Best Inventions list of 2017, and in 2003 she was a finalist for the National Design Awards in Communications Design. In 2014, Fortune magazine recognized her as one of the Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs. The following year, she was named one of Entrepreneur magazine’s Women to Watch.

Breazeal earned a BS in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and MS and ScD degrees from MIT in electrical engineering and computer science.

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