ISR Special Seminar: Steve Senturia, The Academic Life: How Fiction Can Teach Us about the Realities

Thursday, September 28, 2017
2:00 p.m.
2460 A.V. Williams Building

ISR Special Seminar

The Academic Life: How Fiction Can Teach Us about the Realities

Stephen Senturia
Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Senturia will be talking about his new book, One Man's Purpose, which explores life in academia.

Those of us who aspire to careers in academia know that the pathway up to and through promotion and tenure can be daunting. Not only does the faculty candidate face a gauntlet of stresses both at work and at home, but colleagues, Department Heads, Deans, and Provosts get their share of anxiety as well. Every individual’s experience, however, is wrapped in confidentiality, making it hard to uncover what really goes on. That’s one reason I decided to write a novel, One Man's Purpose, a story with an earnest, well-meaning protagonist at a top-flight technical university who is called on to serve as Case Manager for a knife-edge tenure case, one that turns out to be too close to call.

This presentation is in three parts, followed by an opportunity for questions and discussion:

• How is it that fiction can inform us about reality?  And how could I write a realistic and engaging book about an MIT look-alike without compromising my own obligations for institutional confidentiality?

• A brief reading of excerpts to introduce the key characters as they confront the tenure process.

• Finally, what advice would I give to aspiring academics about the pathway to success and the pitfalls one might encounter?  It’s the advice I gave to dozens of junior faculty when I served as their mentor and it’s still valid.

Stephen D. Senturia spent 36 years on the MIT faculty, retiring in 2003 as the Barton L. Weller Professor of Electrical Engineering.  He has been honored by election to the National Academy of Engineering based on his pioneering work in MEMS (microelectromechanical systems). One Man's Purpose (FriesenPress, 2015) is his first novel. Details about the book and reprints of his ‘advice’ articles can be found at

Audience: Graduate  Undergraduate  Faculty  Post-Docs 

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