School of Engineering - Infinite Mile Awards

Awards Ceremonies: 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001

2006 SoE Awards Ceremony and Recipients

IMA for Excellence

Deborah Alibrandi

Lauren Clark

John Desforge

Tara Eisner

Aza Gevorkian

Kathleen Reposa

Gwen Wilcox

IMA for Sustained Excellence

Susan Cass

Gerald Hughes

Angela Mickunas

IMA for Team Excellence

Biotechnology Process Engineering Center:
Michelle Berry, Daniel Darling, Catherine Greene, Aran Parillo, Darlene Ray

Microsystems Technology Laboratories:
Samuel Crooks, Vicky Diadiuk

Pappalardo Laboratories:
Joseph Cronin, Robert Gertsen, Stephen Haberek, Robert Nuttall

May 10, 2006


This is by far my favorite time of year – for there is no joy like the joy of celebrating excellence.

I'm Tom Magnanti, Dean of Engineering, and once again it's my pleasure to welcome you to the School's Annual Infinite Mile Awards Ceremony. It doesn't seem possible, but this is our sixth! Each year seems like the first due to the unique contributions of new recipients. It's wonderful to see all of you here.

I ask all of you who have received School of Engineering Infinite Mile Awards in previous years to stand up. (Let's give them a round of applause, too.)

Thank you. I'm so pleased that you have been able to join us today as we honor more of your colleagues for their contributions of excellence." " My next pleasure is to recognize and thank the Dean's Team, all of whom helped organize today's event: Catherine Avril, Lauren Clark, Mary Anne Gowen, Donna Harding, Lisa Magnano Bleheen, Brian Tavares, and Sandy Tenorio. As you may know, Lauren Clark is an award recipient this year and due to her unique talents produced her own certificate! We take special pride and joy in Lauren's contributions to the Dean's Office, the School, and the Institute.

A very special note of thanks is to those of you who took the time to nominate your coworkers and colleagues. It is your thoughtful contributionss that make this IMA celebration possible.

Finally, we would like to thank all of you for taking the time today to share in this joyful and inspirational event.

Today we especially recognize the contributions of 10 individuals and 3 teams (including 10 team members), bringing to 98 the fellowship of School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award winners, with a total of 1,383 years of service. I like to say that MIT's School of Engineering is the best school of engineering in the galaxy, and I do not doubt for a moment that we have the best staff in the galaxy as well!

Our Infinite Mile Awards Ceremony has two intertwined themes: Excellence and Joy, for as Pearl S. Buck said,"The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence." They are indeed a powerful combination. Our Infinite Mile award winners embody joy in excellence, and we are here to celebrate their work.


Hi, I'm Sheila Kanode, and I had the pleasure of convening the selection committee for this sixth year of our IMA program. The other members of the selection committee have joined us up front. They are, of course, prior-year award recipients and stellar performers themselves. William Thackeray, English journalist and novelist, says, "next to excellence, is the appreciation of it." Having prior-year award recipients serve on a subsequent year's selection committee is, then, excellent appreciation of excellence! Please join me in thanking Marilyn Pierce, recipient of a 2002 IMA for Diversity & Community, Roni Dudley-Cowans, recipient of a 2003 IMA for Excellence, Hilary Sheldon, recipient of a 2003 IMA for Sustained Excellence, and Pete Young, recipient of a 2004 IMA for Excellence for their insights and thoughtful consideration of nominations.

I join Tom in a sincere note of thanks to those of you who took the time to submit nominations this year and in past years. Your efforts are very much appreciated and are another demonstration of the next best thing to excellence, the appreciation of it.

The Dean's Team deserves an excellence quote today. These words from an unknown author seem appropriate to describe the attention to every necessary, and often insipid, detail given by each one of them, and all of them collectively, to ensure the success of this ceremony: Teamwork, simply stated, is less me, and more we.

Many thanks to Lisa Magnano-Bleheen for scheduling the room, arranging the photographer, preparing the award letters, and ensuring the comfort of our award recipients today, and much more; to Lauren Clark for preparing all the communications pieces as well as the certificates and the awards — yes, including her own; to Mary Anne Gowen for coordinating and scheduling the reminder mailings and stuffing the program inserts; to Brian Tavares for arranging the award checks, obtaining the holders for the photos with the Dean, and of course for his wonderful and witty sense of humor throughout; to Sandy Tenorio for ordering the invitations and for sharing her sense of humor (with Brian); and to Donna Marie Harding, not only for the food and the flowers, the room setup and much more, but for keeping us on track with every detail from beginning to end as she coordinated the process; and to all of you for working together to ensure success. Your efforts are totally appreciated.

Those of you who have attended this ceremony in prior years know that Donna Savicki and I will read brief citations about each of our award winners. Each award winner will remain seated until we finish reading, then will come up to receive from Tom, a certificate, a check, and the coveted School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award paperweight. We ask that you hold your applause until we have finished reading each citation. We've done our best to accommodate the scheduling conflicts of nominators, so you will find that the citations are not necessarily in the same order as they appear in the program.

Reading your nominations and composing these citations is, for us, a very rewarding experience. We hope that these brief comments convey to you, not only how excellent our award winners are, but the depth of admiration and appreciation the letter writers have for their nominees. We also hope they will inspire you to nominate colleagues and co-workers in the future.


Before we begin, I'd like to recognize the members of the School of Engineering who received Institute Excellence Awards this year. They are: Anne Wasserman and Mara Karapetian from MTL, who received awards as part of the nine-member Working Group Recycling Committee; and Anne Hunter, Sheila Kanode, and Marilyn Pierce, all of whom received individual awards. Congratulations.

Today we celebrate the contributions of School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award winners. As Tom pointed out, this is our sixth year and I'm pleased to announce that, thanks to the good work of my assistant, Donna Harding, we will soon have a permanent plaque in the Dean's Office Conference Room, room 1-214, displaying the names of all 99 of the School's Infinite Mile Award winners to date.

Now, on to the awards.

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Deborah Alibrandi, Mechanical Engineering


Mark Twain once said, "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example." I usually agree with Mark Twain, but here I beg to differ. Or, we might say that it is our goal at MIT to be the most annoying place on earth. As I have said many times before, it is a perpetual source of joy and pride for me to be part of MIT, not only because of our extraordinary faculty and students, but also because of our exceptionally talented and dedicated staff. Reading the nominations for these awards and compiling these citations is both a humbling and an inspiring exercise.

Our next Infinite Mile Award winner, Deborah Alibrandi, is an administrative assistant in Mechanical Engineering who, according to all her letter writers, supports the work of four faculty members not only with remarkable effectiveness, but also cheerfully and with good humor. One writes that Deborah continually amazes him and, I quote, "... with her abilities, drive and commitment," Deborah, he writes, is "utterly reliable; she is extremely organized and efficient; her attention to detail is staggering; she is proactive, full of enthusiasm and energy. However, what really makes Deborah stand out is her ability and drive to learn new things, improve and develop new skills." He continues, "every time my work requires a new skill, Deborah is ready to take it on. Every year, she finds a way to completely exceed my expectations and make my and my colleagues' work easier." These sentiments are echoed by all the others. One faculty member cites Deborah's "maturity and flexibility" (a rare combination!), her "exemplary" dedication to her job with its "diverse, heavy and continuous workload." Deborah, he tells us, has a remarkable work ethic. Several of Deborah's faculty cite her initiative in acquiring new skills. She has taken training programs and classes at the Institute on Coeus, Excel, LaTex, and Dreamweaver. One of Deborah's colleagues writes that Deborah "has the capabilities of multi-tasking like no one I have ever seen." How annoying!

Deborah, it is a pleasure to recognize your wonderful contributions with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Susan Cass, Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development


We understand that Susan Cass not only divides her efforts among three different projects, including one that is based in the Sloan School, but that she juggles these different constituencies with ease and distinction while making each feel she is solely devoted to that project. Susan worked first in the Sloan School and has now for 15 years. A faculty supervisor remarks that he never ceases to be amazed and pleased with her innovativeness, dedication, and quality of work. At the time he was president of an international association and responsible for organizing its world congress in Washington, he explains that Susan won international acclaim from colleagues for single-handedly managing the event that brought over 1,000 people from 50 countries together (consider this in pre-email days!). Most recently, she helped create a Management Minor and managed it from scratch without clear direction.

Susan also serves as the Program Manager of the Labor Aerospace Research Agenda (or LARA), a research project in CTPID where she is valued for her strategic orientation, her positive outlook, and her perpetual demonstration of "going the extra mile." Most recently, Susan has been serving as the Communications Manager for CTPID. In this part-time role, she publishes a quarterly newsletter, independently arranges a series of lectures on Critical Infrastructure with external distinguished speakers, and is currently writing a booklet highlighting the intellectual milestones in the Center's history for celebration of CTPID's 20th anniversary. One nominator comments, and I quote, "her fingerprints are all over internal process improvement."

Her thoughtful focus on not only the task at hand, but the big picture, combined with her thorough engagement, give her the foresight and the opportunity to alert the team at hand of unforeseen challenges, changing circumstances, or revised performance measures, saving them time and time again from delays and other drains on resources. Whether as project manager, editor, writer, events planner, creative problem solver, or process improver, she finds a way to reduce complex problems to manageable pieces and is determined to deliver excellent output. Susan, with her extraordinary energy, commitment, and caring, takes on every opportunity to go above and beyond her job description for the benefit of all.

Booker T. Washington must have been thinking of the likes of Susan when he said, "Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way." Susan, we are pleased to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Lauren Clark, School of Engineering Development and Communications Office


It gives me special pleasure today to deliver this Infinite Mile Award citation for Lauren Clark. Lauren is the Communications Assistant in the School's Development and Communications Office.

Lauren began her MIT career in LIDS almost five years ago, where she easily caught everyone's attention with her "superb writing ability," her "fantastic organizational skills," and her "positive and upbeat attitude, particularly (when) trying to meet very short deadlines."

In '02, Lauren joined the Dean's Office and "quickly learned and mastered web publishing skills and ... augmented them by taking the initiative with ... projects that explore new approaches .... (for example) she has undertaken significant responsibility for a pilot project for a revised SoE home page that features RSS news feeds and (she) is now (heading) a working group ... that may lead us into the newer media of blogs and wikis. Lauren seems to resonate with the words of John Gardner, Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of HEW, who said, "we are continually faced with a series of great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems."

Lauren has contributed in key ways to the content and production of the School's now two-year-old electronic newsletter, especially by promoting School research and (other) activities with her writing talent, and producing several highly visible and well-received articles. If you have not already seen the School's on-line newsletter, I urge you to take a look. And of course, I cannot let this moment pass without mentioning how proud we all were of Lauren this past March when she had an article published in the New York Times.

Lauren is well-known and much in demand across the School. One nominator writes that Lauren "is a talented writer who is able to turn complex technical concepts into prose that everyone can understand. Her work is of the utmost quality. She is cheerful and smart ..."

As a member of the School's communications team, Lauren "consistently demonstrates superb communication skills, initiative, and flexibility..." While her manner is quiet and understated, her intelligence, and her commitment to quality, are unmistakable and invaluable to us.

We are indeed privileged to have her as a member of the Dean's Team, and it is with pleasure and gratitude, Lauren, that we present you with this well-deserved School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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John Desforge, Singapore-MIT Alliance


Founded in 1998, the Singapore-MIT Alliance is an innovative engineering and life science educational and research collaboration among three leading research universities in the world: the National University of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University, and, of course, MIT. John Desforge has managed and administered SMA I for six years, but we learn it is his role in the definition, development, and launching of SMA II that distinguishes him. In fact, upon the signing of the agreement for SMA II, John Desforge received a letter from our former Provost Bob Brown thanking him for his careful stewardship of SMA I and his unbelievable efforts in getting MIT to a signed document for SMA II. The Provost acknowledged the signing of the agreement as not only an important next stage in the Alliance, but in the development of international collaborations for the Institute.

The Directors of SMA II note that John's involvement in the definition and establishment of SMA II goes very far beyond what one would expect from even the most capable MIT staff at the Assistant Director level. John crafted and finalized the SMA II implementation agreement, which spells out in detail the academic, research, management, and financial structure of the program. Sounds daunting enough, but this is much more complex than it sounds due to the varying opposing forces among the stakeholders, many of them Singaporean. There are many cultural and institutional differences that challenge the collaboration. John's thorough understanding of the academic mission of MIT and how it manifests itself in various ways among our schools and DLCs not only enabled him to participate, but to participate in an innovative and instrumental way. Working creatively and relentlessly to balance the needs of the faculty and students with MIT and Singapore policies and procedures, John provided the administrative and structural framework for the SMA II education and research programs and ensured that the student package was of excellent value. Of course, the SMA student package presents challenges not faced by our standard students as demonstrated by the location issues alone.

The letter writers collectively remark that John has a fierce dedication and commitment to MIT that has greatly benefited our institution. His sense of service to MIT, the faculty, and the students has been the single most important factor in the timely launch of SMA II. As a wise man once said, "outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute sense of mission." John, there is no doubt that you had a sense of mission throughout this negotiation process. What a great achievement!

In appreciaton of your exemplary contributions to the program, the School, and the Institute, it is our special pleasure to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Tara Eisner, Learn Aerospace Initiative


Our next Infinite Mile Award goes to Tara Eisner. Tara perfectly embodies the words of the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, who said, "excellence means when a man or woman asks more of him (or her) self than others do."

A little over a year ago, Tara joined the Lean Aerospace Initiative (LAI). LAI is a five-million-dollar program and includes about 10 staff and a half a dozen faculty members. The project is supported by a consortium of 19 companies and six government agencies.

This past January, LAI's operations and communications coordinators both left the project and, as you can imagine, things became really interesting. Tara had previously exhibited all the attributes of a highly professional and hard-working individual and was recognized as a valuable member of the team. Just how valuable would soon become very clear. Letter writer after letter writer extols Tara's remarkable feat holding things together over the months when those positions remained vacant. Tara did her work, and that of the missing folks, too, and always with unfailing good cheer and a can-do attitude. And don't think for a moment that this was a down period for LAI. During this time, they coordinated and hosted a three-day short course for 30 people, an annual conference for 250 people, and several smaller day-long meetings. As one letter writer describes, Tara "has been able to fill last-minute requests, pull off what seems impossible, often working with little direction, anticipating the needs of everyone she supports. She is able to interact with students and executives alike ..." (not to mention high-ranking military officers). The writer concludes, "It is an honor and truly inspiring to work with Tara." Yet another letter writer describes how Tara "invested extra time, ensuring each vital area in LAI was covered, and worked tirelessly to help each of the LAI team .... She just assumed the responsibility and went about making the LAI office function as if it were fully staffed." Simply remarkable.

Tara, in recognition of the remarkable quality of your work, your initiative, and your dedication, we are pleased to present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Aza Gevorkian, Administrative Services Organization


The first and lasting impression of the international staff in the Departments of Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and the Division of Biological Engineering is Aza Gevorkian's warm smile and positive attitude. The Administrative Services Organization (ASO), serving these units, processes the largest annual number of visas of any DLC on campus. Just consider the complexity of this in light of the rules and regulations of visa processing since 9/11! Aza greets every visitor, a wide variety of individuals with diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, with a welcoming and gracious approach and with great patience and sensitivity. She has the reputation of going the extra mile for each visitor. An immigrant herself, Aza was born in Russia and lived in Italy as a young child.

After prior HR experience at the University of California, Aza worked for five years at that other school down the river before joining MIT in December 2004. She has only been in this role, assisting the Human Resources administrator in the ASO, for 18 months, but she has already had a significant positive and lasting impact on the reputation of these DLCs and MIT.

Aza's transactional processing tasks range far beyond visa issues. The ASO provides HR services for 400 faculty and staff at any given time. In addition to processing the monthly vacation reports for 30-plus research staff, she inputs the weekly payroll for around 60 support staff and provides backup for the payroll processing of approximately 100 students each week. Staggering!

We learn that Aza is the first to arrive in the ASO each day, and she greets all later arrivals with a big smile and positive attitude. Yet each evening, Aza asks the HR administrator if there is anything further she might do to help before she leaves for the day. Colleagues marvel at Aza's energy and resourcefulness, noting that any task assigned to her is completed thoroughly and accurately, in record time, and with all questions researched and answered.

Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit." Aza, you demonstrate this on a daily basis as you smoothly and efficiently process this myriad paperwork and other transactions and still manage to bring sunshine into the lives of others. We are pleased to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Gerald Hughes, Materials Science and Engineering


Each year when preparing for this ceremony, Sheila and I search the web for quotations about excellence. While I have yet to find one that I like better than Pearl Buck's observation on joy and excellence, this year I found a few that also made me smile. Here is one from John Gardner, whom I quoted earlier. John Gardner said, "The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy ... neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."

Now we are all well aware that MIT does not tolerate shoddiness in philosophy or in engineering, and while we sometimes complain about the plumbing, there are no complaints in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering about their Facilities Officer, Gerry Hughes.

Gerry started at MIT in Physical Plant in 1988. He moved up through the ranks, and in '01 he left Facilities to join DMSE, and we are so very grateful that he did. The timing was exquisite. During the past five years, the Department has experienced an incredibly active period of faculty renewal, adding close to a dozen junior faculty. DMSE is located in the "main group." That's code for old buildings. The task of renovating space for its new faculty as well as several major teaching laboratories would have been overwhelming if not for Gerry. The many IMA nominations we received for Gerry all cite his tireless efforts on behalf of the Department. One nominator describes Gerry's many responsibilities and goes on to say that Gerry "makes himself available on a 24-hour basis via cell phone. If one should call him after hours, he is never too busy to answer questions in a very polite and welcoming attitude. Gerry takes his place among the ranks of the very dedicated people here at MIT ... If you make a request, it always gets done almost before you leave his office."

As many of you know, DMSE is part of PDSI, the huge renovation project going on in the main group right now. This is one of the many projects on Gerry's plate. But it is only one. As one of his nominators writes, "Whether we contact him about a small issue like a key, or a huge issue, like office renovations (well, everything's relative, right Gerry?), Gerry always responds quickly and gets us what we need. He goes the infinite mile for all of us every day..." Because of the PDSI project, DMSE is split – its headquarters are temporarily housed in a remote location. One letter writer calls Gerry "the binding force which has held the department together during this challenging time."

Anyone who deals with space at MIT knows how complex and contentious it can be. With his calm demeanor and his sincere approach, Gerry routinely defuses tension in difficult situations. I have had the privilege of working with Gerry, and I am delighted to have this opportunity to second the well-deserved praise he receives from his nominators. Gerry, on behalf of the Department and the School, it is a pleasure for us to present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.

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Angela Mickunas, Mechanical Engineering


From the DH's to distinguished senior faculty to new junior faculty, the quotes on Angela Mickunas' contributions to ME research administration definitely demonstrate the joy that Angela experiences from her work. Because these quotes are the greatest tribute to her contributions, I will share several with you as follows: "She is one of the finest and most effective administrators I have had the pleasure of working with in 20 years at MIT." Another: "On multiple occasions she has bent backwards to accommodate my last-minute grant submissions, staying until late, helping me prepare the material for submission via the last DHL pickup." Another: "She has been especially helpful in dealing with one agency (which shall remain nameless) that is notorious for its cumbersome and capricious administration. She tackles these problems with gusto and a positive attitude that make her a joy to work with." And one that captures all: "There has even been talk of cloning her!"

The most notable comments are from the department heads of MechE, and again I quote: "Angela has, single-handedly, turned the research administrative office in ME around, to a point where it now is one of the best in the Institute. Angela is always available, all hours of the day and weekend, and has worked consistently to introduce innovative procedures to help out faculty and staff in the initiation and monitoring of grants." And from another: "There are three broad reasons why I value Angela so much ... She believes we are in the service industry, she always strives for more and better, and she has demonstrated great judgment in both."

We learn from another nominator that Angela's accomplishments go well beyond direct service to the faculty. Since she joined ME in a temporary capacity on special assignment in 2002, with a dedicated tenacity unique to her character she has reduced a $1M overrun problem to a relative pittance, introduced the fiscal office to a myriad of reporting capabilities and the support staff to financial review and control training, and positioned the department for the cradle-to-grave research administration the new RAS pilot will afford the faculty. Angela is obviously a key and critical player in this new venture.

Abe Lincoln said, "I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day." Angela does the same. I must say I have rarely seen an administrator with such boundless energy and contagious enthusiasm. Her energy level is staggering for a woman with two small children. Her contributions don't stop in ME – she is an active member of the MIT Credit Union board. This volunteer role provides (actually requires) ample professional development opportunity, but it also requires significant volunteer time and energy.

You demonstrate amazing energy, enthusiasm, and excellence, Angela! In recognition of your extraordinary contributions to the Department, the School, and the Institute, it is our special pleasure to present you with an IMA award for Sustained Excellence!

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Kathleen Reposa, Biological Engineering


The poet T.S. Eliot once said, "Excellence encourages one about life generally; it shows the spiritual wealth of the world." He could have been talking about our next Infinite Mile award winner, Kathleen Reposa. Kathy works with faculty, staff, and students in the Bioengineering Division. We are told that her "beaming personality brightens the office and warms the hearts of all who enter," that she has a unique patience, and that she is always kind, always helpful. Kathy continuously displays an impressive resolve to get things done right. She is "wonderful to know and work with ... a remarkable person who comes in every day to give her best."

But there's more. Kathy is, and I quote, "reliable to perfection, well-organized, versatile, adaptable, and always ready to take on new challenges and learn new things." She manages the varied administrative needs of the faculty she supports "seamlessly, even though (their) offices are on different floors and in different (although adjoining) buildings." Her administrative work is exemplary in every respect, but what really stands out about Kathy is her warm, friendly, genuinely caring nature."

Kathy's faculty supervisors consider her to be among the most accomplished of the administrative assistants they have worked with."She contributes to MIT in ways that go beyond her actual job duties. She is proactive, she has an unusually positive attitude, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to assure that important tasks are completed." One of Kathy's faculty supervisors writes, "What amazes me is that I am hardly aware of the fact that she is not just working for me." We are told that Kathy has a "wonderful impact ... on all those with whom she interacts, thanks to her positive and cheerful attitude. She brings warmth to her interactions with others and calmness in the face of tense situations." One faculty member writes, "My ability to carry out my responsibilities and my ability to maintain a positive attitude are clearly enhanced by (Kathy's) support at many levels."

To quote one of your nominators Kathy, it is a pleasure to recognize you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award "as one of the people at MIT who is responsible for its excellence, while ensuring goodness inside its walls." Congratulations.

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Gwen Wilcox, Chemical Engineering


John W. Gardner also said, "Excellence is doing ordinary things, extraordinarily well." Gwen Wilcox embodies this characterization as she serves three faculty in the department of Chemical Engineering. Serving the faculty is the "ordinary" aspect. How she does so is the "extraordinary" aspect. For Gwen's positive, proactive approach to everyday matters exceeds standard expectations.

Gwen's proactive approach crosses a spectrum of service, from finding a piece of equipment for a student or establishing a tracking system for ILP points to welcoming a new faculty member with fresh flowers or helping set up a videoconference on a Saturday in December. We hear that she is always prepared to help wherever she sees a need. In fact, before anyone has a chance to ask, she has already come forward to see how she can best help. This was demonstrated recently when a department head's assistant left unexpectedly and without notice. When they sought Gwen out to help they found she was already working to fill the void.

We learn that Gwen is always ready and willing to take on challenging tasks that others would not be willing or able to handle and that she uses them on a 24/7 basis in making sure that things get done properly and on time. Whether it is a freshman or a department head, they each receive an equal dose of her effectiveness, her positive attitude, and her wonderfully welcoming smile.

Gwen appears to be the resource that faculty, staff, and students come to for anything they need. However, more often than not, Gwen has anticipated their need and proactively finds a solution, seeking others out before they are even aware of their need. She also acts as friend and mentor to many of the graduate students in the department. One faculty member writes that "the grad students are all fond of Gwen, as is my 21-month-old daughter."

Solving logistical issues for a visitor resulted in the highest praise, as he told her, and I quote, "You made this the best university visit that I have ever had." Gwen, what a great ambassador you are for MIT! What a joy it is for us to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.

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Michelle Berry, Daniel Darling, Catherine Greene, Aran Parillo, Darlene Ray" Biotechnology Process Engineering Center


The Biotechnology Process Engineering Center, better known as BPEC, began in 1985 as one of the first national Engineering Research Centers or ERCs. It has evolved to its current core mission of fusing the practice of engineering with the science of biology to meet technological challenges in the biotechnology industry. In summary, BPEC is translating basic knowledge in stem cell biology and gene regulation to create engineered systems as new therapies for genetic disorders and cancer. BPEC graduated from NSF support in 2005 after 20 years of evolution. Concurrently and just before the final NSF site visit, the leadership experienced severe disruption with the unexpected departure of the administrative director, who had been with the program since its inception. If that wasn't disruptive enough, the director contracted a severe case of pneumonia. Today we celebrate the excellence of the BPEC headquarters team. Because, you guessed it, the support team rose to the occasion and enabled a successful site visit and smooth office operations throughout these challenges. They pulled together a coherent set of administrative tasks and timelines and successfully met the deadlines.

They then became even more cohesive and effective when, with BPEC's graduation from NSF, the program transitioned to an intradepartmental center within the Biological Engineering Division. A letter writer identifies them as a true example of the TEAM acronym – that is, Together Everyone Achieves More. Rather than let fear overtake them, this team actively embraced the change that subsequently faced them, as they took charge, offering suggestions on space use and staff responsibilities, and then making it all work effectively. They enjoy what they do and they enjoy where they do it. In fact, now that the daily operations of BPEC and BE are integrated, the need to rearrange headquarters has been agreed upon by all, including this team; however, this team doesn't want to separate. Even though the space has been defined as "horrible," there are no complaints from the team, because, they say, the group inhabiting it is great! We learn that this team has a "one for all, all for one" approach to working together that distinguishes them. This approach speaks to a quote by an unknown author: "A team with a star player is a good team, but a team without one is a great team."

The highest compliment is spoken by the director of BPEC as she says, "In summary, the BPEC staff are extraordinary in their spirit and teamwork, even by MIT standards!, and I am very honored to have them working with me." We all know MIT standards are set by our faculty and students. To have a faculty director benchmark you against them and arrive at extraordinary is indeed an honor. Aran, Catherine, Dan, Darlene, and Michelle, we are just as honored to present you with an SoE IMA for Team Excellence!

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Samuel Crooks, Vicky Diadiuk, Microsystems Technology Laboratories


Excellent teamwork is characterized by this Steven Covey quote: "Strength lies in differences, not in similarities." So it is with the team of Sam Crooks and Vicky Diadiuk, staff associate directors of the Microsystems Technology Labs. Sam is a businessman and Vicky is a principal researcher. One nominator says he cannot think of a better example of how two people with different backgrounds and skill sets can come together to make an organization run smoothly. MTL is an interdepartmental laboratory that supports microsystems research encompassing work in circuits and systems, MEMS, electronic and photonic devices, and molecular and nanotechnology. Their research is enabled by a set of shared experimental facilities, as well as a vibrant industrial consortium, and supports the research of 350+ students and staff who are sponsored by contracted research, exceeding $40M annually, much of which involves cross-campus projects and multiple university partnerships.

For the past seven years, Sam and Vicky together have served as ambassadors for MTL, both inside and outside MIT, where they add significant value to MTL industrial relations. In fact, the leadership acknowledges that several million dollars worth of donations and savings can be attributed directly to the productivity of this working team. Along with the faculty associate directors, they engage in strategic planning, and then Sam and Vicky take the collective vision, develop it into reality, and see to the daily execution. Vicky is characterized as having exceptional technical depth and a driving energy that inspires her technical team to achieve excellent performance. She manages to balance the needs of over 400 students using the facility and is always engaged in upgrading and expanding the capabilities of the not one, but three, labs she operates with her technical staff of around 20.

Sam is characterized as having an uncanny ability to maximize the utilization of MTL resources by identifying funding opportunities and finding new money where faculty never even thought of looking. We learn that Sam uses his deep understanding of Institute policies, procedures, and finances to think creatively about how to effectively manage the administrative and financial matters of the Lab. Together, Sam and Vicky stay abreast of the competition, visiting peer organizations and returning with a multitude of ideas for improvement as they continuously, in partnership, seek ways to maintain MTL's premier status as one of the most complex, versatile, and productive micro-fabrication facilities of any university in the world. Sam and Vicky, we are pleased to present you with this SoE Infinite Mile Award for Team Excellence.

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Joseph Cronin, Robert Gertsen, Stephen Haberek, Robert Nuttall, Pappalardo Laboratories


Every Course 2 student knows the next team we are honoring today, the Pappalardo Lab team of Joe Cronin, Bob Gertsen, Steve Habarek, Bob Nuttall, and Joe Cronin, because every Course 2 major spends time (often a lot of time) under their collective wing, building a Sterling engine, a 2.007 contest robot, and, ultimately, completing a senior design project.

This team has been called "the unsung heroes of Mechanical Engineering," and while I will spare you the pain of hearing me sing this citation, I will happily, figuratively, sing their praises. Every August the team helps introduce about 30 incoming freshmen to the department through Discover Mechanical Engineering (DME), a hands-on introduction to Mechanical Engineering at MIT. Through DME, really fresh freshmen gain proficiency in using a machine shop by building robots. Students' comments on this experience include:

The staff and mentors were fantastic. I've never felt so comfortable with people in only five days of knowing them.

DME changed my whole perspective of MIT. Besides learning about Mechanical Engineering and building soccer bots, I realized that MIT is a friendly place.

Having done their part to boost enrollment in Course 2, our team spends the fall semester assisting about 80 ME seniors with their senior design projects for 2.009. These are complicated, hands-on projects, and in many cases it is the first time the students have faced these kinds of open-ended problems. The skill and care our team brings to 2.009 are invaluable.

Over IAP, the team teaches 160 students in two two-week sessions on how to build an engine (in two weeks!), and in both spring and fall they help about 50 students each semester set up experiments for 2.671 (Measurement and Instrumentation).

Spring brings about 150 ME sophomores and other MIT students to the lab for MIT's famous design competition, 2.007. Most of you are familiar with the design competition, having seen it on TV, either on PBS or the evening news. What goes on in front of the camera is chaotic enough; imagine what goes on behind the scenes, where our team, always calm, cool, and collected, repeatedly pulls rabbits out of hats.

We, and most importantly our students, are truly blessed to have this wonderful team to guide, train and advise them, and to watch over their safety. They are knowledgeable, talented, and, when it counts most, they are remarkably resourceful. They are devoted to the students, and they work together towards a common goal, like a well-oiled machine (do we still oil machines?). They are the ideal team. It is clear that they truly enjoy their work. It shows in the results and it shows in their friendly, caring approach. I hope no one here will ever consider a machine shop to be a cold, inhuman place again.

Joe, Bob, Steve, and Bob, please accept these School of Engineering Infinite Mile Awards for Excellence as tokens of our deep respect and gratitude.

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