Yale University Provost and neuroscientist Susan Hockfield made history this week when she was chosen as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s new president. She will be the first woman to lead MIT and the first with a background in life sciences at the school which is known for its strength in engineering.

The 53 year old is expected to take office in December, replacing Charles M. Vest who announced his retirement last year.

“Dr. Hockfield is clearly the best person to lead MIT in the years ahead,” said MIT Corporation Chair Dana G. Mead in a statement. “She brings to MIT an outstanding record as teacher, scientist and inspirational leader with a reputation for bringing out the best in all the people with whom she works.”

Hockfield’s selection moves MIT one step closer to achieving its aim of gender equity amongst its faculty. The institution has publicly examined its bias against women in the past, acknowledging that it has discriminated against female faculty in areas such as pay, and setting a goal for gender equity. During Vest’s 14 years as president the number of female professors rose from 96 to 169, but women still make up only 8 percent of MIT’s faculty, according to The Associated Press.

Hockfield will be MIT’s 16th president. She has been Yale University’s Provost since December 2002; she joined the university’s medical school faculty in 1985.

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Breast Implants:


Concentrations of the metal platinum were found to be up to three times higher in women who had silicone breast implants than women who didn’t, researcher S.V.M. Maharaj revealed to the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia on Thursday.

The study also showed high concentrations of platinum in children born and breast-fed after their mothers received implants, according to The Associated Press. Some of women developed nervous tics, had faulty perception and impaired hearing and eyesight, added the researchers.

Though the study’s sample size was small, it fairly represented the hundreds of women with implants Maharaj has previously studied, the paper’s co-author Ernest Lykissa told The Associated Press.

Platinum is used in the manufacture of silicone breast implants. The type found in these women’s blood and urine differed from the small amounts of regular platinum sometimes seen in people’s bodies in that it was highly reactive. This reactive type helps turn silicon oil into the gel that gives a breast implant a more natural feel, Lykissa told The Associated Press. But it also allows platinum to easily bind in the body, short-circuiting communication with the brain.

“You see green, but you perceive a full moon,” Lykissa added. “All of a sudden, your brain system is not working right.”

Women who had breast implants the longest had the highest platinum concentrations. Their children also had problems with eyesight and hearing, but the researchers caution that those nervous disorders may be linked to another cause.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned silicone implants for most patients in 1992 due to safety concerns. In January it rejected the Inamed Corporation’s bid to reintroduce silicone breast implants, against advice given by its expert panel, asking the company to provide more information about the consequences of silicone seeping from implants.

— Juhie Bhatia.