Neuroscientist Susan Hockfield, the first woman and first biologist to run the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), announced today that she is stepping down as president after 7 years. "The Institute is now moving forward on a new set of ambitious goals, and I have concluded that the powerful momentum we have built makes this an opportune moment for a leadership transition," she wrote in a statement to the university community. The university, she added, is planning a new fundraising campaign that will require the "full focus" of MIT's president for years, and she decided the time had come to pass the mantle to a new leader. Hockfield will stay on until the next president takes office.
Hockfield came to MIT from Yale University, where she spent 20 years studying brain development and brain tumors and served as provost. MIT recruited her after a damning report several years before, in 1999, charged that women at MIT often faced career roadblocks. Hockfield's appointment was also noteworthy because the engineering powerhouse had traditionally looked to engineers to lead it.
During her MIT tenure, Hockfield oversaw the most successful fundraising stretch in the university's history, helping raise almost $3 billion. She also worked to get engineers and life scientists to collaborate, and helped launch the MIT Energy Initiative in 2006. It has raised more than $350 million and conducts research into alternative energy sources and better ways to use existing ones. She also focused on increasing diversity at MIT, from the undergraduate level to the faculty.
A more detailed look at Hockfield's tenure is here.