At the vanguard of an eco-minded revolution in material science, Professor Elsa Olivetti is making waves with her innovative approach to sustainability that spans the microscopic to the mass-produced. Recently named the associate dean of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Olivetti's illustrious tenure has been marked by a distinct philosophy—blending the intricacies of materials science with system-level thinking to tackle the pressing issue of climate change as MIT News reported.
Known for her rigorous quest that began as early as her childhood interactions with Greenpeace organizers, Olivetti's pursuits in materials science and environmentalism were destined to collide. “I’ve always known what questions I wanted to ask, and then set out to build the tools to help me ask those questions,” Olivetti told MIT News. Her dedication to providing a more comprehensive education to her students has earned her awards like the Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising this year.
Olivetti has set her sights on creating meaningful change in the world of materials, ensuring they're not just high-performing but also eco-friendly at their core. This transformative work has not gone unnoticed, as she recently snagged a MacVicar Faculty Fellowship in 2021 for her outstanding cross-disciplinary teaching methods. Olivetti's research at MIT encompasses formulating computational models to minimize the environmental impacts of new materials and propelling circular, sustainable supply chains forward.
Collaboration, a cornerstone of Olivetti's approach, means connecting her work directly with industries such as aluminum manufacturers and nongovernmental organizations that focus on green architecture. “I enjoy trying to ground what students are learning in the classroom with what’s happening in the world,” Olivetti said, according to MIT News.