NEWS: Diana Dabby selected as 2024–2025 Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellow

June 17, 2024

Diana Dabby, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Music, as well as Music Program Director at Olin College, has been named Lillian Gollay Knafel Fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for the 2024–2025 academic year.

The yearlong fellowship provides the rare opportunity to intensely pursue ambitious projects in the unique environment of the Institute. Each fellowship class is drawn from some of the most thoughtful and exciting contemporary scholars in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and arts—along with writers, journalists, playwrights, and other distinguished professionals. For this year’s historic 25th anniversary class, Radcliffe accepted just 3.3 percent of applicants.

Dabby’s tripartite Radcliffe project creates musical variation engines, a “variation concert” where seat location determines what is heard, and research for a book examining artists whose knowledge and ability in science infused their artistic work.

“I deeply appreciate the time and consideration given my project proposal by the Harvard Radcliffe Institute leadership, staff, and reviewers. Anticipation of joining their community next year has moved me beyond excitement” said Dabby.

A headshot of Diana Dabby

“Since inception, Olin College has provided a home for my work as an electrical engineer, musician, and creator—both inside and outside the classroom.

Olin’s secret sauce is its resonant community of learners and doers. I’ll be forever grateful to the Olin College administration, staff, faculty, and students for working with me over many years in an incredibly creative environment.”

Diana Dabby

Faculty

“Since inception, Olin College has provided a home for my work as an electrical engineer, musician, and creator—both inside and outside the classroom. Olin’s secret sauce is its resonant community of learners and doers. I’ll be forever grateful to the Olin College administration, staff, faculty, and students for working with me over many years in an incredibly creative environment.”

At Olin, Dr. Dabby teaches courses in music (composition, performance) and electrical engineering (engineering systems, signal processing), as well as interdisciplinary courses connecting the arts and sciences. Her work as a concert pianist and composer has been heard at Boston’s Jordan Hall, Symphony Hall, Tanglewood, in New York at Carnegie-Weill Recital Hall and Merkin Concert Hall, as well as on both coasts and abroad. Her latest composition Parallel Lives - Distant Mirrors featured a “variation concert”, a form to which she now plans to return during her Radcliffe year.

As an orchestrator, she has created 147 arrangements of symphonic works for the Olin Conductorless Orchestra, ranging from 6 to 22 players.

As founder and developer of the Music Program at Olin, she has rehearsed and produced 382 concerts, performing as a pianist in 77 of them, most recently in May 2023. Her paper, “The Engineers’ Orchestra,” was selected as the 2020 Best Zone 1 Paper by the American Society for Engineering Education.

Professor Diana Dabby sits with members of the Olin Conductorless Orchestra (OCO) before a performance in December 2022.

Professor Diana Dabby sits with members of the Olin Conductorless Orchestra (OCO) before a performance in Milas Hall in December 2022.

Awarded five patents, Dabby’s musical variations project (CantoVario) melds multiple topics in electrical engineering and music. It has been featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, in Science, the Boston Globe, and at invited concert/lectures. Currently under development with the MIT Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), CantoVario was selected for MIT’s VMS Demo Day, Entrepreneurial Edge Showcase, and Innovation Corps. The National Science

Foundation awarded CantoVario an Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) Teams grant in 2019, and subsequently awarded it a Partnerships for Innovation-Technology Transfer grant that now funds research and development—R&D that forms a key part of Dabby’s “variation-focused” Radcliffe project.

“As a former fellow and dean of the Institute, I know firsthand the impact that a Radcliffe fellowship can have. In the current moment, I have never felt more certain that Radcliffe’s approach—its embrace of interdisciplinary research and discourse across difference—is crucial to generating transformative art, scholarship, and writing” said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

“This talented class of fellows promises to do great things that will deeply impact how we live in today’s world.”

This year’s Radcliffe fellows will be part of a unique interdisciplinary and creative community that will step away from routines to tackle projects that they have long wished to move forward.

Throughout the academic year, fellows convene regularly to share their work in progress with the community and public. With access to Harvard’s unparalleled resources, Radcliffe fellows develop new tools and methods, challenge artistic and scholarly conventions, and illuminate the past, present, and future. Alumni are quick to say it was the best year of their career.

View the full list of 2024–2025 fellows here.

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University—also known as Harvard Radcliffe Institute—is one of the world’s leading centers for interdisciplinary exploration. We bring students, scholars, artists, and practitioners together to pursue curiosity-driven research, expand human understanding, and grapple with questions that demand insight from across disciplines.

Founded in 1997, Olin College of Engineering instills passion and ignites innovation in its students and prepares them to envision, create and deliver products, services, and systems that transform and improve people’s lives around the world. Olin teaches students to be explorers and creators who design their own path forward. By challenging norms and sharing its unique approach to education, Olin is revolutionizing the way engineers, and all undergraduates, learn and create knowledge. Located in Needham Massachusetts, Olin is ranked among the top-three undergraduate engineering programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report.