Leo Rafael Reif

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Leo Rafael Reif
L. Rafael Reif
Reif during the WEF 2013
17th President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In office
July 2, 2012 – December 31, 2022
Preceded bySusan Hockfield
Succeeded bySally Kornbluth
Personal details
Leo Rafael Reif Groisman

(1950-08-21) August 21, 1950 (age 73)
Maracaibo, Venezuela
SpouseChristine Chomiuk
ChildrenJessica and Blake
EducationUniversidad de Carabobo (BS)
Stanford University (PhD)
Scientific career
FieldsElectrical engineering
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
ThesisDoping process in silicon epitaxy: Transfer function and physicochemical model (1979)
Doctoral advisorJames D. Meindl

Leo Rafael Reif (born August 21, 1950) is a Venezuelan American electrical engineer and academic administrator. He previously served as the 17th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2012 to 2022, provost of the institute from 2005 to 2012, and dean of the institute's EECS department from 2004 to 2005.[1][2][3]

Reif sits on the boards of the World Economic Forum, the Carnegie Endowment, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Broad Institute.[4][5][6][7]


Leo Rafael Reif was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, to Eastern European Jewish parents who immigrated to Venezuela in the late 1930s through Ecuador and Colombia. His father was a photographer, and the family spoke Yiddish and Spanish at home.[8]


Reif received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the Universidad de Carabobo, Valencia, Venezuela in 1973. He then served for a year as an assistant professor at the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas. He went to the United States for graduate school, earning his doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1979.[9] He then spent a year as a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford.

Research, teaching, and administration[edit]

Reif joined the MIT faculty in January 1980 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. He was promoted to associate professor in 1983, earned tenure in 1985, and became a full professor in 1988. In 2004, he was named the Fariborz Maseeh Professor of Emerging Technology. In 2012, Reif was elected president of MIT.[10]

Before his appointment as Provost in 2005, his research centered on three-dimensional integrated circuit technologies and on environmentally benign microelectronics fabrication.

Reif was director of MIT's Microsystems Technology Laboratories, then associate department head for Electrical Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), MIT's largest academic department, and then served as EECS department head in 2004–2005.

An early champion of MIT's engagement in micro- and nanotechnologies, Dr. Reif is the inventor or co-inventor on 13 patents, has edited or co-edited five books, and has supervised 38 doctoral theses.

As MIT’s provost, he spearheaded an effort to promote online learning for both on-campus students and learners around the world. The effort paved the way for edX, a massive open online course provider that MIT and Harvard University co-founded in 2012.[11] As of 2020, 24 million unique users have taken a class on edX.[12]

Reif was named co-chair of the administration's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee "2.0," part of a continuing effort to maintain U.S. leadership in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance America's global competitiveness, on September 26, 2013.[13][14]

To promote innovation in “tough-tech”[15] science and engineering fields, in 2015 he presented an idea for an “innovation orchard,” which would provide the space, mentorship, and bridge-funding for entrepreneurs to turn new science into workable products.[16] The idea became the basis for The Engine, an accelerator aimed at fostering scientific and engineering breakthroughs.[17]

In speeches as early as 2017, Reif began describing what he saw as a need for education that pairs expertise in computing and another field to solve increasingly complex, interdisciplinary problems. In a 2019 Financial Times op-ed, he coined the term “AI bilingual,” writing, “To prepare society for the demands of the future, institutions must equip tomorrow’s leaders to be ‘AI bilingual.’ Students in every field will need to be fluent in AI strategies to advance their own work. And technologists will need equal fluency in the cultural values and ethical principles that should ground and govern the use of these tools.”[18]

In 2018, in response to the ubiquity of computing and the rise of artificial intelligence across disciplines, Reif announced the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing.[19] The College aims to prepare students to harness the power of AI while weighing its ethical and social implications.[20]

In 2019, in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein's indictment on child sex trafficking and subsequent suicide, it came to light that Epstein had contributed over $800,000 to MIT, much of it beginning in 2013 and well after he was convicted of child sex trafficking the first time. In August 2019, Reif ordered an investigation into Epstein's connections with the university.[21][22][23]

In a September 12, 2019 letter to the MIT community on the institute's website, Reif admitted he signed a 2012 thank you letter to Epstein for a gift to professor Seth Lloyd. In the open letter to the community, Reif said, "I apparently signed this letter on August 16, 2012, about six weeks into my presidency. Although I do not recall it, it does bear my signature."[24] On September 18, he explained, "Many students have asked how I could have signed that acknowledgment letter without asking questions and how I could fail to remember it. The answer is simple: I did not recognize the name, and I sign many standard thank-you letters every week. That includes several hundred letters every year thanking individuals for contributions to the Institute."[25]

In 2020, Reif announced that MIT will donate $850,000 to four nonprofits that support survivors of sexual abuse.[26]

In January 2021, Reif defended Gang Chen in an open letter following Chen's arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on wire fraud and tax violation charges.[27]

In February 2022, Reif announced his intention to step down as MIT president at the end of 2022, and return to the faculty of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science following a yearlong sabbatical. [28]

Honors and awards[edit]

Reif is a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences,[29] and a member of Tau Beta Pi and the Electrochemical Society. The Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) awarded him the 2000 Aristotle Award for "his commitment to the educational experience of SRC students and the profound and continuing impact he has had on their professional careers." For his work in developing MITx, MIT's initiative in developing free online college courses available to learners anywhere with an Internet connection, which was launched in December 2011, he received the 2012 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award. In 2015, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation honored him with the Frank E. Taplin, Jr. Public Intellectual Award,[30] he was recognized as one of the Top 20 Most Influential, Outstanding, Creative and Talented Hispanic professionals working in the US Technology Industry by @CNET @CNET-ES @CBS Interactive.[31] and elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In November 2017, Reif was elected a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.[32]

Corporate affiliations[edit]

From 2007 to January 2019, Reif served on the Board of Directors of Schlumberger,[33] where he was on the Nominating and Governance Committee and the Science and Technology Committee[34] and currently owns approximately $1,000,000 in stock.[35] He was also a member of the Board of Conservation International, a nonprofit focused on sustainability and the environment.[36]

Reif served on the Board of Directors of Alcoa from 2015-2016[37] and its public spin-off Arconic from 2016–2017.[33]

Personal life[edit]

The Reif administration at MIT played an important role in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the founder of RSS and co-founder of Reddit, who was renowned for his anti-copyright (and "knowledge for all") activism on MIT campus.[38][39]

Reif and his wife, Christine (Chomiuk),[40] live in Newton, Massachusetts. They have a daughter, Jessica, and a son, Blake. Jessica is Dr. Reif's daughter from his first marriage.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Office of the MIT President | MIT History". Retrieved 2023-03-04.
  2. ^ "L. RAFAEL REIF Full Biography" (PDF). Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2023-03-04.
  3. ^ "Departmental History – MIT EECS". www.eecs.mit.edu. Retrieved 2023-03-04.
  4. ^ "Board of Trustees", World Economic Forum
  5. ^ "Board of Trustees", Carnegie Endowment
  6. ^ "Board of Directors", Council on Foreign Relations
  7. ^ "Board of Directors", Broad Institute
  8. ^ "L. Rafael Reif selected as MIT's 17th president". MIT News Office. May 16, 2012. Archived from the original on May 18, 2012. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  9. ^ Reif, Rafael Leo (1979). Doping process in silicon epitaxy: Transfer function and physicochemical model (Ph.D.). Stanford University. OCLC 38652041 – via ProQuest.
  10. ^ "About President L. Rafael Reif | MIT Office of the President". president.mit.edu. Archived from the original on 2012-09-15. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  11. ^ Carmichael, Mary (May 2, 2012). "Harvard, MIT to partner in $60m initiative on free online classes". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on November 25, 2020. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  12. ^ "edX 2020 Impact Report" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-04-23. Retrieved 2020-03-16.
  13. ^ Rocheleau, Matt (September 27, 2013). "MIT President Reif picked by Obama to co-chair committee trying to boost US manufacturing". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on September 29, 2013. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  14. ^ "President Obama Launches Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee "2.0"". The White House (Press release). September 26, 2013. Archived from the original on 2017-01-25. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  15. ^ jmill (2020-08-05). "What is 'tough tech'? » Tough Tech Today with Meyen and Miller". Tough Tech Today with Meyen and Miller. Retrieved 2023-03-09.
  16. ^ Reif, L. Rafael (May 22, 2015). "A Better Way to Deliver Innovation to the World". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 19, 2020. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  17. ^ Reif, Rafael (October 26, 2016). "New MIT Innovation Hub Takes on World's Biggest Challenges". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on April 29, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  18. ^ Reif, L. Rafael (February 10, 2019). "Prepare Students for a Future of Artificial Intelligence". reif.mit.edu. Retrieved 2023-06-26.
  19. ^ Rosen, Andy (October 15, 2018). "MIT announces $1b outlay for study of artificial intelligence, computing". The Boston Globe.
  20. ^ Lohr, Steve (October 15, 2018). "M.I.T. Plans College for Artificial Intelligence, Backed by $1 Billion". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 7, 2019. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  21. ^ "Head of MIT Media Lab faces crisis that tears at lab he helped elevate". The Boston Globe. 2019-08-23. Archived from the original on 2020-01-14. Retrieved 2019-08-23.
  23. ^ Tiffany Hsu, David Yaffe-Bellany & Marc Tracy (Jan. 10, 2020), "Jeffrey Epstein Gave $850,000 to M.I.T., and Administrators Knew", The New York Times: "The university investigated its history with Mr. Epstein after Joichi Ito, the face of its prominent Media Lab program, acknowledged receiving money from the convicted sex offender."
  24. ^ Staff Writer (2019-09-12). "Letter regarding preliminary fact-finding about MIT and Jeffrey Epstein". MIT News. MIT News Office. Archived from the original on 2019-09-12. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  25. ^ Staff Writer (2019-09-18). "Remarks by President Reif at Institute faculty meeting". MIT News. MIT News Office. Archived from the original on 2020-03-06. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  26. ^ Gurumurthy, Ananya (February 13, 2020). "MIT to donate $850,000 to nonprofits supporting sexual abuse survivors". The Tech. Archived from the original on February 14, 2020. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  27. ^ Fernandes, Deirdre (January 22, 2021). "MIT president and faculty members defend professor arrested for China ties". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on January 24, 2021. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  28. ^ Bradt, Steve (February 10, 2022). "L. Rafael Reif to step down as MIT president". MIT News. Archived from the original on February 10, 2022. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  29. ^ "Alphabetical Index of Active Members" (PDF). Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Fall 2016. p. 197. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-10-09. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
  30. ^ "Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation | Woodrow Wilson Foundation Honors". woodrow.org. Archived from the original on 2015-10-25. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  31. ^ Martínez, Laura & Sama, Gabriel (September 17, 2015). "CNET en Español: The 20 most influential Latinos in tech". CNET. Archived from the original on June 17, 2018. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  32. ^ Xiang, Bo (27 November 2017). "Bill Gates elected to Chinese Academy of Engineering". Xinhua. Archived from the original on 17 December 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  33. ^ a b Schlumberger. "Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 2019-09-02. Retrieved 2019-10-06.,
  34. ^ Schlumberger Limited. "2014 Annual Report"., p. 106, also available as an image Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  35. ^ Saul R. Laureles, Attorney-in-Fact. "SEC Form 4 for 05/03/2019". Archived from the original on 2019-10-06. Retrieved 2019-10-06. for 31,473 shares, valued at $31.88 per Google Finance. "Schlumberger Limited. (NYSE:SLB)". Archived from the original on 2016-04-20. Retrieved 2016-11-11. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  36. ^ "Conservation International Board of Directors". Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2019-05-30. Retrieved 2020-03-16.
  37. ^ "Alcoa Elects L. Rafael Reif to Board of Directors". Alcoa. Archived from the original on 2015-03-02. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  38. ^ Ohlheiser, Abby (2013-07-19). "MIT Delays the Release of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service File". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 2021-01-22. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  39. ^ "MIT Steps In To Block A Reporter From Getting Aaron Swartz's Secret Service File". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 2021-01-22. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  40. ^ "Biega Funeral Home: Obituaries". Biega Funeral Home. October 2012. Archived from the original on 2015-09-05. Retrieved 2015-06-02.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by 17th President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2012 – 2022
Succeeded by