Charles Vest is a professor and President Emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Vest earned his BS in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University and his MS and PhD from the University of Michigan. His academic work focused on thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. Vest joined Michigan's faculty in 1968, became a full professor in 1977, and was promoted to Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs in 1989. In 1990, he was appointed President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a position he held until 2004. Vest has served on both the Bush and Clinton Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and has been a director of DuPoint and IBM. In July 2007 he was elected to serve as president of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for six years. He has authored a book on holographic interferometry, and two books on higher education. He has received honorary doctoral degrees from ten universities, and was awarded the 2006 National Medal of Technology by President Bush.
Question: Which presidential candidate is the most science-minded?
Vest: Well I’m sorry to say that, particularly at this point in the process, our presidential campaigns focus a lot more on the sideshows than they do on the main event. It’s quite disappointing. I do know that many of the candidates in both parties more quietly behind the scenes are beginning to consult with people who understand these issues to try to ultimately develop their policies. Senator Clinton gave a rather powerful speech and statement on . . . on science and research and its role. My disappointment is that in neither party did any other candidate sort of pick that up and say well, yes, this is really important. I don’t agree with you. We should do it this way. That’s the debate they have to get in. I’m always an optimist, so I’m hoping as we get a little further into the campaign and it becomes a little clearer who the ultimate . . . the ultimate candidates from the two parties will be, that maybe this will become more of the dialogue. Because it’s just critically important to our future. Recorded on: 12/5/07