Elsa Olivetti, the Jerry McAfee (1940) Professor in Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been appointed as associate dean of engineering, effective Sept. 1.
As associate dean, Olivetti will oversee a number of strategically important programs and initiatives across MIT’s School of Engineering. She will help lead and shape school-wide efforts related to climate and sustainability. In close collaboration with Nandi Bynoe, the assistant dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion; the school’s DEI faculty lead; and various program faculty leads, Olivetti will oversee the school’s DEI activities and programs. She will also assist with the faculty promotion process and will support both faculty and students across the school with regards fellowships, awards, and honors.
“Professor Olivetti has demonstrated tremendous leadership abilities, particularly as co-director of the MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium. Her contributions as a researcher, educator, and leader at MIT have been substantial,” says Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “I am thrilled to welcome her to the School of Engineering leadership team and look forward to closely with her in this new role.”
Olivetti first joined MIT as a graduate student after receiving her bachelor’s degree in engineering science from the University of Virginia. As a PhD student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE), her research focused on electrochemistry in inorganic materials for use in lithium-ion batteries. Through postdoctoral research and a staff scientist position with the MIT Materials System Laboratory beginning in 2009, Olivetti developed methods for streamlined carbon footprinting of electronics, a method that is still used widely by the electronics industry.
In 2014, Olivetti joined the DMSE faculty, where her team works in sustainable and scalable design, processing, and manufacturing of materials use across industries. The Olivetti Group develops experimental and analytical methods for efficient use of industrial waste and recycled materials in concrete, metals, and plastic guiding decisions on a plant floor to policy makers.
Olivetti’s team has also developed methods to automatically learn from texts within materials ranging from inorganic materials synthesis, zeolites, solid state batteries, and cement. Her work uses an interdisciplinary approach combining industrial ecology with materials science and engineering to inform and then mitigate the environmental and economic impact of materials.
Olivetti has lead climate and sustainability efforts across the Institute. She serves as the co-director of the MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium (MCSC). Launched in 2021, the MCSC fosters collaboration between academia and industry in an effort to accelerate real-world solutions for the climate crisis at scale. Under Olivetti’s leadership alongside co-director Jeffrey Grossman, the Morton and Claire Goulder and Family Professor in Environmental Systems, and executive director Jeremy Gregory, the consortium has grown to 18 member companies and has provided 20 research projects with seed funding. It has also launched programs such as the MCSC Climate and Sustainability Scholars Program for undergraduate students and the MCSC Impact Fellows Program for postdocs.
In addition to her leadership at the MCSC, Olivetti is a member of the MIT Climate Nucleus, a faculty committee responsible for the implementation of “Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade.”
A dedicated educator, Olivetti has made significant contributions to MIT’s material science and engineering education. She was instrumental in the development of a refined DMSE undergraduate curriculum. She also launched a new class 3.081 (Industrial Ecology of Materials) and served as a founding thread lead for MIT New Engineering Education Transformation’s Advanced Materials Machines program. Olivetti launched “Course 3 Industry Seminars,” which provide undergraduate students an opportunity to learn from industry leaders in fields like manufacturing and environmental consulting.
Throughout her career, Olivetti has received numerous awards and honors for both her commitment to students and her research contributions. She is the recipient of the 2017 Earll M. Murman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising, a 2020 Paul Gray Award for Public Service, the 2021 Bose Teaching Award, 2021 MacVicar Faculty Fellowship, and the 2023 Capers (1976) and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising. She also received an Early Career Faculty Fellowship from the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society as well as a National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award.
Olivetti joins Dean Chandrakasan and Deputy Dean Maria Yang, the Gail E. Kendall (1978) Professor, on the School of Engineering faculty leadership team.