About President Hockfield

“I want MIT to be the dream of every child who wants to grow up to make the world a better place. We need to reach those young explorers and bring them with us on the great adventure of discovery and innovation.”                                                                                              - Susan Hockfield


Susan Hockfield has distinguished herself in a career that has spanned advanced scientific research and the presidency of one of the premier institutions of science and engineering in the world.

After earning a B.A. in biology from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. from Georgetown University at the School of Medicine, Dr. Hockfield was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at San Francisco. She then joined the scientific staff at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Joining the faculty of Yale University in 1985, Dr. Hockfield focused her research on the development of the brain and on glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer, and pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research. She gained tenure in 1994 and was later named the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology.

At Yale, Dr. Hockfield emerged as a strong, innovative university leader, first as dean of its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, with oversight of more than 70 graduate programs, and then as provost, Yale’s chief academic and administrative officer.

From December 2004 through June 2012, Dr. Hockfield served as the sixteenth president of MIT, where she continues to hold a faculty appointment as professor of neuroscience.

  • In response to her leadership as president, in 2006 MIT launched the MIT Energy Initiative, known as MITEI (“mighty”), a $359 million effort to accelerate research, policy and education to achieve a clean energy future. In recognition of MITEI’s momentum, in October 2009 US President Barack Obama spoke at MIT and visited its research laboratories, the first American President ever to do so.
  • As the first life scientist to lead MIT, she championed the breakthroughs emerging from the historic convergence of the life sciences with the engineering and physical sciences, in fields from clean energy to cancer, including the founding of MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard.
  • Long an advocate for the research university as an engine of innovation and economic growth, Dr. Hockfield also worked to shape emerging national policy on energy technology and next-generation manufacturing. In June 2011, President Obama asked her to co-chair the steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.
  • In keeping with MIT’s entrepreneurial spirit and signature strength in working with industry, she actively fostered the burgeoning Kendall Square innovation cluster, which features both global giants and biotech, IT and energy start-ups with roots at MIT.
  • Dr. Hockfield argued forcefully for the value of MIT’s global engagement. She actively expanded the Institute’s existing engagements with nations from Abu Dhabi to China and built new relationships, in some cases incubating wholly new institutions, from the Singapore University of Technology and Design to the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology.
  • Building on the striking success of MIT OpenCourseWare, in early 2012, Dr. Hockfield’s administration helped to change the conversation around cost, quality and access in higher education with the launch of MITx. This online learning initiative offers a laboratory for experimenting with the use of technology and will offer a portfolio of MIT courses, free, to a virtual community of learners around the world, allowing those who can prove mastery to earn a certificate of completion at a very low cost. Amplifying the impact, in May 2012, MIT joined forces with Harvard University to launch edX, a partnership in online education that will revolutionize learning on campus, offer first-rate teaching to learners around the globe and open unprecedented paths to learning about learning itself.
  • Dr. Hockfield was also the first woman to lead MIT, a development welcome at an Institute where nearly half the undergraduates are women. A signature of her presidency was her vocal commitment to making MIT a leader in building diversity all along the pipeline of talent. In November 2008, she convened MIT’s first-ever Diversity Leadership Congress, a gathering of 300 leaders from across the Institute committed to cultivating a culture of inclusion that allows everyone to contribute at the peak of their ability.


Before returning to MIT following her presidency, Dr. Hockfield held the Marie Curie Visiting Professorship at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.  She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where she is the president-elect.  She also serves as a director of the General Electric Company, Council on Foreign Affairs, Partners HealthCare System, and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a member of the board of trustees of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a member of the World Economic Forum Foundation Board.  She recently served as a U.S. Science Envoy to Turkey with the U.S. Department of State.

Dr. Hockfield holds honorary degrees from many institutions, including Brown University, Duke University, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Tsinghua University (Beijing), Université Pierre et Marie Curie, University of Edinburgh, University of Massachusetts Medical School, University of Rochester, and the Watson School of Biological Sciences at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  Her accomplishments have also been recognized by the Charles Judson Herrick Award from the American Association of Anatomists, the Wilbur Lucius Cross Award from the Yale University Graduate School, the Meliora Citation from the University of Rochester, the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement, the Amelia Earhart Award from the Women’s Union, the Edison Achievement Award, and the Pinnacle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Hockfield lives in Cambridge with her husband, Thomas N. Byrne, M.D.  They have a grown daughter, Elizabeth.