L. Rafael Reif

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L. Rafael Reif
L. Rafael Reif
Reif during the WEF 2013
17th President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Assumed office
July 2, 2012
Preceded bySusan Hockfield
Personal details
Leo Rafael Reif Groisman

(1950-08-21) August 21, 1950 (age 70)
Maracaibo, Venezuela
Spouse(s)Christine Chomiuk
ChildrenJessica and Blake
EducationUniversidad de Carabobo (B.S.)
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, writer and academic administrator. He is the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, succeeding Susan Hockfield on July 2, 2012.[1][2] Reif previously served as the Institute's provost, as the head of MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and as the director of the MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories.[3]


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.[4]


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 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.[5] 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 the president of MIT.[6]

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.[7] As of 2020, 24 million unique users have taken a class on edX.[8]

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.[9][10]

To promote innovation in “tough-tech” 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.[11] The idea became the basis for The Engine, an accelerator aimed at fostering scientific and engineering breakthroughs.[12]

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.[13] The College aims to prepare students to harness the power of AI while weighing its ethical and social implications.[14]

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.[15]

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."[16] 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."[17]

In 2020, Reif announced that MIT will donate $850,000 to four nonprofits that support survivors of sexual abuse.[18]

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,[19] and is 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 October 2015, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation honored him with the Frank E. Taplin, Jr. Public Intellectual Award.[20] In 2015 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.[21] In November 2017, Reif was elected a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.[22]

Corporate affiliations[edit]

Since 2007, Reif has served on the Board of Directors of Schlumberger,[23] where he is on the Nominating and Governance Committee and the Science and Technology Committee[24] and currently owns approximately $1,000,000 in stock.[25] He is also a member of the Board of Conservation International, a nonprofit focused on sustainability and the environment.[26]

Reif served on the Board of Directors of Alcoa from 2015-2016[27] and its public spin-off Arconic from 2016-2017. [23]

Personal life[edit]

Reif and his wife, Christine (Chomiuk),[28] lived in Newton, Massachusetts prior to his appointment as MIT's 17th president, and for his first seven months; he now lives in the MIT Presidential residence, Gray House. They have a daughter, Jessica, and a son, Blake. Jessica is Dr. Reif's daughter from his first marriage.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bradt, Steve (May 16, 2012). "L. Rafael Reif selected as MIT's 17th president". MIT News Office.
  2. ^ Krasny, Ros (May 17, 2012). "Venezuelan-born academic named president of MIT". Reuters.
  3. ^ "Rafael Reif biography on MIT website".
  4. ^ "L. Rafael Reif selected as MIT's 17th president". MIT News Office. May 16, 2012.
  5. ^ Reif, Rafael Leo (1979). Doping process in silicon epitaxy: Transfer function and physicochemical model (Ph.D.). Stanford University. OCLC 38652041 – via ProQuest.
  6. ^ "About President L. Rafael Reif | MIT Office of the President". president.mit.edu.
  7. ^ Carmichael, Mary (May 2, 2012). "Harvard, MIT to partner in $60m initiative on free online classes". The Boston Globe.
  8. ^ "edX 2020 Impact Report" (PDF).
  9. ^ Rocheleau, Matt (September 27, 2013). "MIT President Reif picked by Obama to co-chair committee trying to boost US manufacturing". The Boston Globe.
  10. ^ "President Obama Launches Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee "2.0"". The White House (Press release). September 26, 2013. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  11. ^ Reif, L. Rafael (May 22, 2015). "A Better Way to Deliver Innovation to the World". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ Reif, Rafael (October 26, 2016). "New MIT Innovation Hub Takes on World's Biggest Challenges". The Boston Globe.
  13. ^ Rosen, Andy (October 15, 2018). "MIT announces $1b outlay for study of artificial intelligence, computing". The Boston Globe.
  14. ^ Lohr, Steve (October 15, 2018). "M.I.T. Plans College for Artificial Intelligence, Backed by $1 Billion". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Boston Globe article on Epstein-MIT issues
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Staff, Writer (2019-09-18). "Remarks by President Reif at Institute faculty meeting". MIT News. MIT News Office.
  18. ^ Gurumurthy, Ananya (February 13, 2020). "MIT to donate $850,000 to nonprofits supporting sexual abuse survivors". The Tech.
  19. ^ "Alphabetical Index of Active Members" (PDF). Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Fall 2016. p. 197.
  20. ^ "Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation | Woodrow Wilson Foundation Honors". woodrow.org. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  21. ^ Martínez, Laura & Sama, Gabriel (September 17, 2015). "CNET en Español: The 20 most influential Latinos in tech". CNET.
  22. ^ Xiang, Bo (27 November 2017). "Bill Gates elected to Chinese Academy of Engineering". Xinhua. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  23. ^ a b Schlumberger. "Board of Directors".,
  24. ^ Schlumberger Limited. "2014 Annual Report"., p. 106, also available as an image.
  25. ^ Saul R. Laureles, Attorney-in-Fact. "SEC Form 4 for 05/03/2019". for 31,473 shares, valued at $31.88 per Google Finance. "Schlumberger Limited. (NYSE:SLB)".
  26. ^ "Conservation International Board of Directors". Conservation International.
  27. ^ "Alcoa Elects L. Rafael Reif to Board of Directors". Alcoa. Archived from the original on 2015-03-02. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  28. ^ "Biega Funeral Home: Obituaries". Biega Funeral Home. October 2012. Retrieved 2015-06-02.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Susan Hockfield
President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2012 – present