Martin Schmidt, a native of Mountaintop, was recently named provost at MIT, one of the Institute’s most senior academic posts. Schmidt has served as associate provost since 2008 and as acting provost since last fall. Schmidt’s appointment as provost, MIT’s senior and academic budget officer, is on a permanent basis. The announcement was made by President L. Rafael Reif.
Schmidt, 54, is a professor of electrical engineering. As associate provost, he has played key roles in the allocation of physical space on campus; in co-leading the Institute-Wide Planning Task Force, which shaped MIT’s response to the global financial crisis; and in developing MIT’s plans for the future of Kendall Square.
Schmidt has been at MIT since 1981, when he arrived to pursue graduate studies in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). He earned his SM in 1983-largely for research conducted at Lincoln Laboratory -and his PhD in 1988.
He conducted research on sensors to detect turbulence, with a mentor from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics who ultimately co-supervised his doctoral thesis on the topic. When Schmidt joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor upon earning his PhD, his enthusiasm for interdisciplinary collaboration drew him to partner with colleagues outside EECS, and even outside MIT. He holds more than 30 issued U. S. patents.
Drawing on his extensive experience as an inventor and entrepreneur, Schmidt served on MIT’s commission on Production in the Innovation Economy; in 2011, when the White House asked MIT to help drive its Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, it was a natural next step for Schmidt to serve as faculty lead. The following year, Schmidt was appointed to oversee two of MIT’s industry-facing offices, the Technology Licensing Office and the Office of Corporate Relations. More recently, he championed and helped to shape MIT’s new Innovation Initiative
Schmidt’s entrepreneurship began in the 1990s, when he cultivated an interest in microfluidics. He began a lengthy collaboration with Klavs Jensen, a professor with joint appointments in chemical engineering and in materials science and engineering, to develop miniature chemical reactors. The effort gave rise to startup Lilliputian Systems, in 2002, one of six companies Schmidt has had a role in starting.
The provost is MIT’s senior academic and budget officer, with overall responsibility for the Institute’s educational programs, as well as for the recruitment, promotion, and tenuring of faculty. As provost, Schmidt will work closely with the deans of MIT’s five schools to establish academic priorities, and with Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz to manage the financial planning to support these priorities. The provost also oversees the Institute’s library system and works with the Vice President for Research Maria Zuber to coordinate support for research priorities.
Schmidt and his wife of 27 years, Lyn, who is active in volunteer organizations, live in Reading. They have four sons: Derek, who works for State Street Corp.; Brian, a senior at the Univ. of Connecticut; Kevin, a freshman at the Univ. of Maine; and Danny, a senior at Reading HS.