Dear MIT Alumni and Friends,
Every major research discovery in history, no matter the discipline or area of study, is united by one common theme: patience.
There is no more gratifying illustration of the virtue of patience than the story of MIT Professor Li-Huei Tsai. Last year, Professor Tsai, director of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and of the MIT Aging Brain Initiative, and her colleagues made headlines around the globe with the announcement of a research milestone that offered tangible hope to the 46 million people worldwide who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
By using a novel form of noninvasive therapy in which LED lights flicker at a specific frequency, Professor Tsai and her team found that they could substantially reduce the plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease in the visual cortex of mice. This is the first technique that has ever been shown to treat the underlying mechanism that causes this form of dementia. While the impact on humans is yet to be determined, the discovery represents a very exciting step toward helping millions of families that deal with the effects of this debilitating disease.
It also marks a culmination of decades of Professor Tsai’s dedication to researching how the brain works. When she joined our faculty in 2006, she found at MIT the same dynamic, problem-solving, entrepreneurial community that you know it to be — an institution rooted equally in education, research, and innovation. MIT enabled Professor Tsai, like it has so many others, to establish those links between fundamental and applied science, to make a world-changing societal impact — and to make a better world for all of us.
Know, though, that when I say that MIT supported Professor Tsai’s journey, I mean that you supported her work, as well.
It is through the generosity of spirit of our community of alumni and friends that breakthroughs like Professor Tsai’s can be achieved. Your annual gift represents your confidence in the collective power of MIT’s researchers to stay the course in working toward discoveries that may be painstaking, but that have the potential to improve lives.
In fact, it is the strength and brilliance of the entire MIT community that pushes us to find solutions to complex problems. Education, research, and innovation are collaborative efforts on our campus, with student engagement critical to discovery in labs across MIT, including Professor Tsai’s. For our researchers to continue to reap the benefits of our students’ talents, we must equip students with the resources they need to thrive — from scholarships and fellowships, to housing and other facilities. Again, your annual gift is invaluable.
Throughout MIT’s history, the advances we have achieved as an institution and as a community can be tied in some way to the financial resources — especially gifts toward unrestricted funding — provided by our alumni and friends.
Your patience, support, and confidence in our community, year after year, are critical to advancing our mission to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.
I am grateful for your partnership.
L. Rafael Reif