By Mark Wilson
If Willy Wonka had microchips, his factory would have been the MIT Media Lab. The 500-person facility actually houses 25 different research groups, which are known for creating some of the most wondrous marvels of our era—from computers you control with levitating orbs to architecture woven by silk worms.
In 2019, however, the MIT Media Lab’s director Joi Ito stepped down after the public learned he’d courted funding from Jeffrey Epstein. After a nearly 14-month search, Dava Newman was named his successor and started the role in July of this year.
Newman is a 28-year veteran of MIT herself, an Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics with over 300 publications to her name, who served as NASA Deputy Administrator from 2015–2017. She has been a principal investigator on four space missions, designed her own space suit, and is currently working with a combination of data visualization and AI to help regenerate the world’s oceans.