MIT taps J.J. Abrams

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Joi Ito, director of MIT’s renowned Media Lab, announced the creation of a new type of fellowship, the Director’s Fellows, designed to involve individuals with “less-than-traditional backgrounds” in the innovative work the Lab is doing. And the first class has some serious star power, including the likes of chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley and director J.J. Abrams, the man behind “Lost” and the new “Star Trek” movies.

“Our new Director’s Fellows initiative creates a way for these extraordinary individuals to take part in Media Lab research alongside our faculty and students,” Ito wrote in a blog post introducing the fellows. “We’re bringing a cohort of characters from a broad range of sectors and geographies to join us in doing collaborative research and to expand our growing global community. The fellows will not only work with the Lab’s students and faculty, but also with each other.”

Here’s the full list of the first class of Director’s Fellows, in addition to Abrams and Ashley:


Fashion designer Christopher Bevans; Nairobi-based technologists/activists David Kobia and Juliana Rotich; open education advocate Philipp Schmidt; Detroit community activist Shaka Senghor; Maker movement advocate Jeff Sturges; and author and comedian Baratunde Thurston.

“What all the fellows have in common is that they’re leaders in their fields,” Ito wrote, “and that they embody the Lab’s uniqueness, impact, and magic. They’re also all passionate about collaborating with the Lab. You should never be able to guess who the next new fellow will be by looking at the current roster.” He also promised that the next batch of fellows will include more women.