2009 SoE Awards Ceremony and Recipients
IMA for Excellence
IMA for Sustained Excellence
IMA for Diversity and Community
April 29, 2009
WELCOME BY DEAN Subra Suresh:
Hello. I'm Subra Suresh, Dean of the School of Engineering, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the School's Ninth Annual Infinite Mile Awards Celebration.
There are currently 136 members of what we call the fellowship of School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award winners. Today another 13 people, with a combined total of 173 years of MIT service, will receive individual Infinite Mile Awards. We will also present one team award to 3 people with a total of 36 years of MIT service.
I ask all of you who have received School of Engineering Infinite Mile Awards in previous years to stand up. Thank you. I am very pleased that you have been able to join us today.
We are grateful to the SoE department heads and center and laboratory directors for their help in coordinating the nomination process, and to those of you who took the time to nominate your coworkers and colleagues. Your thoughtful contributions make this celebration possible.
This is truly a team effort for your Dean's Office. The selection committee this year was comprised of our two Associate Deans, Professor Cindy Barnhart and Professor Karen Gleason; and our three Assistant Deans, Dedric Carter, Eileen Ng-Ghavidel and Donna Savicki. Thank you. I would also like to recognize and thank the members of the Dean’s Office staff who helped organize this event. They are Chad Galts, Mary Anne Gowen, Lisa Magnano Bleheen, Katie Smakula and Brian Tavares. Thank you.
This year, we have added a very special award, the Ellen J. Mandigo Award for Outstanding Service, which is funded by a bequest from Ms. Mandigo, who was a member of the MIT community from 1942 until her retirement in 1991. Donna will tell you more about Ellen later. It is a privilege for us to honor Ellen's memory with this award. Thanks to Ellen's generosity, we have created an endowed account in her name and plan to make this award an annual event.
Finally, my thanks to all of you for taking the time to share in this joyful and inspirational event. I hope you will be able to stay for conversation and refreshments after the awards have been presented.
WELCOME BY ASSISTANT DEAN DONNA SAVICKI
Hello, for those of you who are new to the School and to this awards ceremony, I am Donna Savicki, assistant dean for administration. Welcome.
Eileen Ng-Ghavidel, my fellow assistant dean, and I will read brief citations about each of our award winners. They will remain seated until we finish reading, then will come up to receive their awards from Subra. We ask that you hold your applause until we have finished reading each citation.
We will begin with Infinite Mile Awards for Diversity and Community, of which we have two this year.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY
Our first award recipient is Dr. Alvar Saenz-Otero of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Alvar joined the MIT community in the 1990's, first as an undergraduate student. In 2005 he received his PhD. Following two years as a postdoc, Alvar was appointed to the research staff.
Alvar's commitment to diversity and community has been recognized in the past by MIT with a 2003 Compton award and by the City of Boston with 2002 award for which he was nominated by the Mexican Consulate for having run the Mexican Independence Day Celebration for multiple years, which he still sometimes does. Alvar is a regular and active participant in MIT's Minority Summer Research Program, helping with admissions as well as supervising visiting students. He is also active in the MIT Sailing Club, the Model Railroad Club and the Ski Club. In addition, he is a regular participant in MIT's Academic Expo and in UROP office tours.
Over the past several years, Alvar has endeavored to make it possible for as broad a cross section of students as possible to participate in the SPHERES satellite formation flight facility on the International Space Station. SPHERES (all caps) stands for Synchonized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites. The SPHERES facility consists of three small satellites (20 centimeters in diameter) that have flown inside the International Space Station since May 2006. They are used to test advanced control software in support of future space missions that require autonomous inspection, docking, assembly and precision formation flight. Alvar has developed an interface that facilitates participation by UROPs, MIT graduate students, visiting international students and students at other universities in programming the SPHERES hardware in space, providing them with a unique and inspiring educational opportunity. Alvar is currently in discussion with NASA and other space enthusiasts about broadening the educational impact by making the MIT-developed SPHERES facility available to support an international robotics competition focused on high schools and universities.
Alvar, in recognition of your commitment to diversity and tireless efforts to share the excitement of space exploration with so many, including the most junior members of our community, it is our pleasure to present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Diversity and Community.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY
As I mentioned, this year we are presenting two Infinite Mile Awards for Diversity and Community and our next award winner, in alphabetical order, is Barbara Smith, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
It is a personal pleasure for me to be able to present this award to Barbara today having spent many thoroughly enjoyable hours with Barbara volunteering at Commencement. We are both regulars in the Information Tent and much of what I read in Barbara's IMA nominations resonated with my own observations of her efficiency, her graciousness and her commitment to the MIT community.
For many years, Barbara has been active in MIT's Working Group on Support Staff Issues, serving as the Group's co-convener and as a co-chair of its membership committee, in which capacity she was responsible for the group's annual luncheon for 1600+ people. We are told that "Barbara is usually at the forefront of the coordination effort. . ." but can also be found "just helping out wherever she is needed." Her colleagues praise her "charisma and eloquence", her "forward-thinking attitude" and her "unshakable support for MIT Support Staff members."
As co-convener of the Working Group during President Hockfield's inauguration, Barbara made sure members of the support staff were included in the festivities, working closely with the President's Office to organize the Support Staff Inauguration Reception, for 700 attendees. Also in connection with the Working Group, Barbara helped organize a collection drive for CASPAR, a local shelter and drug rehabilitation center. In addition, every year during IAP Barbara teaches "Effective Speaking". Reading that really made me nervous about making this presentation today – how am I doing, Barbara?
I will end with a particularly apt quotation from one of Barbara's many supporters. She writes, "what impresses me most about Barbara, is that she does ALL of these things with no thought of expecting recognition in return, but purely for the JOY OF GIVING! She is content to stay behind the scenes, to support her team members, to help THEM shine, and for this we are truly appreciative. . . "
And so are we. Barbara, it is indeed a pleasure to present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Diversity and Community.
INFINITE MILE AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
Denise Brehm has been an Institute employee for the last 16 years. She joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2006 as Senior Communications Officer. During her tenure in the department she has taken the communication role to a whole new level by publishing a monthly newsletter, revamping the department's website (which recently won a Webby award), and raising the public's awareness of the department, school, and ultimately the Institute.
Her thorough approach to translating technical language into understandable and fascinating stories has created wonderful exposure for the field. She has the unique ability to communicate complex ideas in a simple understandable way, thereby bridging a potential gap between faculty researchers and the general public. One nominator writes "the exposure our work gets benefits crucially from her ability to not only write captivating pieces, but (she) also works extremely hard to get them to the right people. I've experienced this at least three times now, and our latest Science paper got amazing coverage - in good part thanks to Denise, being featured on Science News, Discovery Channel News, the Boston Globe and the New York Times."
Denise, your hard work and masterful approach to projects and writing has not gone unnoticed. You have become an invaluable resource to the faculty and staff. The overwhelming positive responses to your numerous accomplishments are frequent and consistently prove that your efforts to renew and enhance the image of the department have been enormously successful.
Congratulations Denise! Today we recognize you for your superb efforts and your commitment to raising awareness of the wonderful work happening in the School. It is a pleasure to present you with an Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE
Our next Infinite Mile Award winner is Jack Costanza. Jack is the Assistant Director for Infrastructure for CSAIL, a community of over 800 people. He oversees installation, updating and maintenance of the information infrastructure for CSAIL, LIDS and the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. Jack is also responsible for maintaining CSAIL's space and for managing CSAIL's communications and outreach activities; a daunting position description, to say the least.
We are told that if you need something done in CSAIL, Jack is the person to see. He is effective and efficient, thoughtful and persevering. He finds creative solutions to even the most complex challenges. For example, Jack was the point person for CSAIL's move from Tech Square to Stata - imagine - the research equipment and furniture needed to be moved; the networking infrastructure for CSAIL, LIDS and Linguistics and Philosophy had to be designed, purchased, installed and debugged – and all of this had to be done while keeping the existing infrastructure in Tech Square working up to the day of the move. Jack and his team pulled it off with extraordinary efficiency and even more extraordinary calm.
While handling a constant barrage of urgent tasks, Jack still finds time to improve CSAIL operations. Over the last nine months, working with the CSAIL space committee Jack has demonstrated an amazing talent for reconfiguring CSAIL space to meet lab members' needs.
Of course, Jack cannot do all of this alone. To his further credit he has created a team that is as effective and as service-oriented as he is. Everyday they make things work for the members of CSAIL.
Jack is also committed to public service on behalf of CSAIL. He works with the CommuniTech program that provides local under-served families with refurbished computers and training in the use of modern computer technology. Jack has also played a pivotal role in pulling together several similar CSAIL outreach programs to remote villages in Africa and Fiji.
Jack has worked minor, and sometimes not so minor, miracles in service to the CSAIL community for 23 years. He is extraordinarily capable and dedicated and fiercely committed to making both CSAIL and MIT better.
In recognition of all you do and the remarkable and reassuring calm with which you do it, Jack, it is a pleasure and an honor to present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
The Administrative Services Organization provides administrative support to the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE), and the Center for Biomedical Engineering (CBE). As financial coordinator in the ASO, Sara Darcy analyzes the requirements of each funding agency, prepares proposal budgets, coordinates the technical contributions and sees the proposals through funding. She then, of course, monitors the major milestones and coordinates financial reporting and reviews.
Our nominator tells us "Everyone who works with Sara has been very impressed by her technical skills, intelligent problem-solving skills, and diligent work ethic. However, Sara's most glowing praise is reserved for her professionalism. Sara's work is not necessarily conspicuous, and often times is behind the scenes. Nevertheless, she is always ready to help others with complicated problems, and is willing to share her knowledge and time with whoever needs it. Sara is unassuming, kind and very empathetic. Her calm demeanor often helps defuse tension with difficult situations."
I can attest to the fact that during peak proposal submission times, stress levels can be very high with the incredible number of tasks that must be completed on any given proposal submission. When the proposal volume is significant, like in the ASO, managing under pressure and being organized are fundamental requirements. To give you an idea, last year the ASO submitted 164 proposals and Sara played a key role in many of those submissions.
An example of Sara willingness to help others is evidenced by her taking the initiative to develop training materials. We understand that Sara spent long days, nights and weekends gathering and packaging a myriad of materials into a highly effective manual. She also took on the very difficult task of condensing various research sponsor guidelines in order to streamline the proposal development process. Her training materials continue to serve as references and resources for the ASO financial team and the three units that it supports.
Not only did Sara develop the training materials, but she has been a patient teacher for the new hires. She often devotes a large part of her day fielding their questions and helping them get comfortable with their new job functions.
Sara, your dedication to work, extraordinary technical abilities, and remarkably competent professionalism, combined with your refreshing modesty and your attentive concern for others have earned you the strong admiration of the faculty and staff.
Your contributions in less than three years at MIT are extraordinary and it is our pleasure to present you with a SOE Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
I had the personal pleasure of working with this next recipient for six years. Lynne Dell is an administrative assistant in LIDS, the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems. Over the last eight years, Lynne has consistently supported five faculty members. Through her initiative, effort, and warm personality she has grown to be an invaluable member of the LIDS administrative staff. She is a wonderful resource and invaluable contributor to the Lab and to all whom she serves.
Even while providing administrative support for five faculty members, which consumes most of her days, Lynne still has the energy to assist with the weekly colloquia, the LIDS annual student conference and Student Socials. These events generally require arranging for the caterers, helping with setting up, cleaning up, making hotel arrangements, interfacing with guest speakers, and coordinating with student organizers. She is reliable and always willing to help with a smile. A nominator describes her as "that busy person who can always take one more thing on, do it well, and make life easier for those around her."
While in LIDS, I was amazed at Lynne's ability and willingness to take on additional responsibilities and help when another assistant was out sick or on vacation. We would at times joke that Lynne should have a pair of roller skates in her desk because she was always juggling a multitude of tasks some of which would take her to numerous places across the campus. Most importantly, Lynne was and still is very conscientious about ensuring that her top priorities, the five faculty members, have all of their administrative needs met. In fact one of her faculty members tells us "Lynne is the best assistant I have had at MIT over a period of 30 years. She is loyal, responsible and responsive, and over time has shown a great capability to learn, and to be an invaluable aid to me."
Lynne, your positive can-do attitude is an inspiration. It is my personal pleasure to present you with a SOE Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Our next award winner is Suzanne Easterly. Suzanne is the academic administrator for the Department of Chemical Engineering.
Suzanne combines professional excellence, in-depth knowledge of her position and the workings of her department and enviable flexibility with a genuine concern for the department's students: past, present, and prospective.
MIT's Chemical Engineering department is highly successful in recruiting the world's best graduate students, for whom the competition is very stiff. We are told that, "the department's unparalleled success in recruiting these students would not be possible without Suzanne's extraordinary efforts that go well beyond the call of duty."
Suzanne has a wonderful sense of humor and "just the right amount of quirk for her position." Even at the most stressful times, she manages to get people to crack a smile and see the lighter side of things – always a valuable quality among MIT workaholics. Recently, she coordinated a visitors' weekend for prospective students. In preparation for the weekend, Suzanne spent a lot of time doing what she calls, "Faculty Sudoku", her name for trying to schedule one-on-one meetings between prospective graduate students and their potential faculty advisors. Anyone involved in faculty scheduling knows it is a daunting task for which a sense of humor is an essential survival skill.
Suzanne intuitively knows when to be firm and when to be flexible. Her office is a model of good organization, but she also has a fine sense of when someone is in distress and needs special attention. We are told that in all she does, "she is guided by a very genuine concern for the students' welfare, a wealth of experience and a strong loyalty to the Department and Institute. That is a powerful combination."
Suzanne, we are so very grateful not only for your efficiency, your knowledge and your professionalism, but also for the human and humorous touch you bring to your work. It is a great pleasure to present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE
Our next award winner is Dick Fenner of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dick wears many hats, including Director of Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories, Facilities Manager, Lecturer and Student Mentor. Dick is ME's "secret ingredient" in all major projects. Every faculty member and every student in Mechanical Engineering has benefited from Dick's extensive knowledge of the department and his remarkable enthusiasm and dedication.
Dick has managed and shepherded every recent large (and small) renovation in MechE including the Pappalardo I Undergraduate Laboratory, the d'Arbeloff Information Systems and Technology Laboratory, the Hatsopoulos Microfluidics Laboratory and, most recently, the Papparlardo II Micro/Nanomechanical Engineering Laboratories, all of which provide the department with wonderful spaces for teaching and research. These are functional showplaces that are used by hundreds of students every day.
Building the labs is just the first step. Dick's passion for teaching and his dedication to ensuring that each student has the best possible learning experience are invaluable in his role as Director of the Department's Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories. Dick is incredibly generous with his knowledge, his time and his energy working late into the night side by side with faculty members developing new laboratory experiences or with students finishing up their projects. Dick's laboratories are warm and welcoming places where students can always find a helping hand, where they can acquire new skills and explore new concepts in a forgiving but always safe and professional environment. Dick knows when pizza is called for, or conversation to build up the camaraderie and the spirits of the students. Dick approaches every task with a can-do spirit that is infectious.
I can't resist interjecting my own favorite Dick Fenner story. One day Dick and I were chatting in the hallway outside Mechanical Engineering headquarters. As I recall, we were talking about the need to spruce up the entrance at 33 Mass Ave. Dick said to me, "I love this place so much, sometimes I just want to hug the walls" and he went over to the corner and stretched his arms across the walls. It was perfect – heartwarming and inspirational.
Dick is a creative force in the ME Department whose impact is felt by all. He implements complex ideas and achieves significant results.
Dick, in proud recognition of your remarkable service to the Department and the MIT Community, we present you with your second School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Sustained Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Our next award winner is Joanne Hanley. For almost 20 years, Joanne has served as the administrative assistant for CSAIL's Theory of Computation group. Joanne's faculty supervisors consider her to be, in a word, invaluable; no, let's make that two words: invaluable and extraordinary.
We are told that Joanne's efficiency and excellence make the group incredibly more productive. For example, Joanne handles, conservatively, a couple of hundred letters of recommendation each year. She prods the faculty to get her drafts on time then deals with the complex web interfaces on her own. She prepares progress reports for most of their grants, collecting and classifying information into the proper subcategories, preparing bibliographic material and all of the other necessary data, allowing the faculty to concentrate on the high level substance of the reports.
Joanne attacks new tasks, no matter how complex or how tedious with "infinite energy and exuberance." For example, Joanne is helping to design the new Theory of Computation group website. She maintains the individual group publications for one of her faculty supervisors, keeping up with new work and maintaining it in an accessible form on the web. She has been invaluable in helping faculty with journal editorial activities and book writing. In addition, for the past several years, Joanne has handled space allocation for the Theory Group. This is an often contentious and always undesirable task. But Joanne is really good at it, because she really cares about finding good space for the students, visitors and postdocs and she is resourceful in coming up with small changes to their space that make it more usable.
Joanne's faculty supervisors consider her a "formidable force" when it comes to organizing large projects. For example, she organized the Theory of Cryptography Conference the first two times it was held, including making local arrangements for 150 attendees.
Last but not least, Joanne worries about the members of the theory group as though they were members of her own family, acknowledging their personal losses and celebrating their personal joys.
Joanne, it is with gratitude and pleasure that we present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Our next recipient is Laura Koller the Academic Administrator for the Computation for Design and Optimization (CDO) Program. Laura was originally hired in summer of 2005 with a part-time temporary job to write and produce a brochure for the nascent CDO program. Week after week, the faculty co-Directors discovered more and more of her talents and capabilities, from writing, to working with students and faculty, navigating the administrative web, doing accounting and financials, planning, research on computational engineering issues, and the list goes on. By the summer of 2007, Laura's job had become full-time, with overall responsibility for just about everything having to do with CDO.
Laura takes initiative in everything, from admissions organization to moving offices, planning social events for students, and communicating to faculty about important matters. She is the ultimate self-starter. Laura’s performance has been outstanding and has a significant and positive impact on the interests of CDO at MIT. She is the core of the Program's operations.
Our nominator tells us that Laura is a great writer and communicator. "She writes policy-perfect emails and letters to appropriate personnel at MIT and elsewhere in support of CDO activities. Laura has excellent judgment in complicated situations. She is an able trouble shooter who anticipates problems and either prevents them from surfacing at all or handles them appropriately by herself; or knows when it is appropriate to seek guidance from the co-directors."
In addition to CDO, when the $100K Competition was in need of part-time assistance with their finances, Laura was willing to take on this additional task. This involved meeting with the lead student organizers and working on a budget, developing a reimbursement system, and managing all of the donations and expenses. As you may imagine, coordinating with a student-run organization may have its own challenge but the rotating nature of the student lead organizers is an added complexity because there is a continuous amount of training and guidance which must be provided. Laura manages the frequent changes with a positive attitude and responsible eye to detail.
Laura, we in the School of Engineering are very fortunate to have you in CDO. Your commitment and contributions to the Program are impressive. I am delighted to present you with an Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Kris Lantheaume, works as a Fiscal Officer, in CSAIL, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She has been described as the glue which keeps the CSAIL fiscal team together. The lab employs a financial team of nine to support 94 Principal Investigators, a $44M annual operating budget, 150 grant and contract annual proposal submissions, and management of the financial activity of over 640 accounts. The work of this office as described by the Lab Director, Victor Zue, "never stops or even slows down."
Over the past year, the fiscal team experienced significant transition with four of the nine positions turning over and new staff hired. During this time, Kris maintained an exceptional level of service to the 20 faculty that she is specifically assigned to support, but she willingly took on work that needed to be done while each vacant position was filled. Additionally, she participated in the search and interview processes to hire new staff and trained them once they were on board.
One of the faculty members Kris supports states that "Needless to say, her position is critical to my success as a professor at MIT. She responds immediately to any crisis. If I say I have a proposal due soon and I need a budget, she gets back a budget to me, usually within several hours, always in less than a day. Once a forwarded e-mail from a sponsor invited me to submit a proposal for follow-on funding, yet I had overlooked it. In plenty of time for me to write the proposal, Kris reminded me, 'Have you addressed this e-mail yet?' That prompting led to a $150,000 award to my group."
We are told that Kris' dedication and commitment reaches beyond the lab. Last fall, CSAIL participated in a multi-unit, cross school proposal submission to the Office of Naval Research. This was a $20 million, 10-year project. Although the project was led by a Department outside of the School of Engineering, when Kris found that their administrative office needed assistance with this complex submission, she stepped in and spent countless hours, working nights and weekends to ensure the collaborative proposal made it to the agency on time. We recently heard that this project was selected for funding.
Finally, Kris is an incredible support to CSAIL's Assistant Director, providing thoughtful feedback about how to improve administrative processes for lab operations.
Kris, we are very grateful for all you do. It is a pleasure to present you with a School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Our next winner is Beth Marois, the administrative assistant in the Aero/Astro Student Services Office.
Beth joined Aero/Astro four years ago and her many wonderful qualities became immediately evident: her intelligence and capacity for learning new programs, for designing and improving processes and her ability to make the students feel welcome and cared for.
Beth has exemplified excellence in everything she has accomplished – and she has accomplished a great deal. For example, Beth took the lead to work with the department's Director of Communications to redesign the Aero/Astro website. She did an outstanding job figuring out what information was critical to prospective students and wrote the content about student services and academic programs. She also participated in the complete overhaul of the department's graduate admissions process. Her supervisor says the process has never operated so smoothly, thanks to Beth. In addition, over the past year, Beth was instrumental in implementing a new on-line system for course evaluations. We are told that Beth even undertook to "crack the code" for a sophisticated and difficult software program.
Beth's personnel file is filled with notes from faculty who praise her attitude and her ability, and who are grateful for her excellent work and for the quick and accurate information that she can be relied upon to provide. One faculty member writes, "working with Beth in support of our academic programs is a pleasure. She has many roles and performs all of them at an extraordinarily high level while maintaining a friendly and caring personality to everyone: faculty, staff, and most importantly, students."
Beth is also responsible for coordinating the annual open house for prospective graduate students and has become important to the department's efforts to recruit the very best. One student wrote, "I just wanted to tell you (Beth) how great was the open house day. You did a really good job and it will definitely help in the decision process. In fact, I've chosen to come to MIT next year . . . One more thing . . . you and MIT completely kicked Stanford’s !*x!* on the level of trying to make the student feel like home."
Beth, it is with pleasure and gratitude that we present you with this School of Engineering Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
Davicia Neves, Financial Assistant in ESD, the Engineering Systems Division, is coming upon her fifth year anniversary in the Division. During this time, the position has changed dramatically as a result of her abilities. Initially, Davicia played a support role to the fiscal officer but as time went on and her skills and knowledge grew, she steadily took on more responsibilities and presently she has assumed a primary role in many of the day-to-day financial processes.
Her enthusiasm to learn and willingness to expand her role has provided significant benefits to the Division and the LFM/SDM programs. A nominator notes "A position like Davicia's is often taken for granted, but her extraordinarily effective cutomer service attitude and rapid response to emergent requirements is truly exemplary. SDM owes her a debt of gratitude for her extra effort and constant professionalism."
Her masterful approach to understanding the complex financial model which includes reporting to the School of Engineering and the Sloan School is an admirable feat. Her hands-on approach to the LFM and SDM budgets has been critical for their internship travel and relocation components. Each year, Davicia handles more than 150 international and domestic trips totaling over $320,000. In this role, she works closely with students to explain the travel policies and provides helpful tips on how to maximize their travel budgets.
Her financial expertise is put to the test in managing LFM's $5M billing system. This involves handling and coordinating joining fees, annual fees, internship support, and housing support to name just a few of the types of transactions that are involved. She took the initiative to learn this complex system and has been the ultimate professional in working with industry partners on billing inquiries or problems. Her superior customer service skills and positive attitude are refreshing and inspirational. One nominator states "Davicia is a key member of the ESD and LFM/SDM administrative team. We simply could not function as efficiently as we do without her."
Davicia, it is our pleasure to present you with this well deserved SoE Infinite Mile Award for Excellence.
INFINITE MILE AWARD FOR TEAM EXCELLENCE
The Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL) at MIT is an interdepartmental laboratory supporting research and education in micro- and nano- systems. The MTL nano-micro fabrication facilities serves as a resource providing researchers access to a broad array of technologies that can be employed across an enormous breadth of investigation. Annual users of these facilities exceed 550.
The team of Dan Adams, Ryan O'Keefe and Tim Turner provide support for the operational aspects of these facilities. This team brings together a combined total of 34 years of experience to ensure smooth operations of the facilities and to assist in the training of approximately 500 student users. Since many of the students have limited or no experience with fabrication, the task of training the students requires enormous care and patience. One nominator writes "Our students seek their help for many aspects of the chip fabrication process. They work extremely well as a team and are an excellent resource to our students." We are told that on many occasions, students will come in feeling very stressed about meeting a deadline and this team has always provided exceptional customer service. Whether it required them to stay late or make changes to the tool sets or allow the user to provide accounting information after the fact, they do it all.
In addition to their operational responsibilities, this team goes the extra mile to assist in activities that are important to the success of the MTL community. Some examples of their support include assisting with the deliveries, moving and set up logistics for the annual EECS Open House, the MARCO Materials Structures and Devices Annual Review, and the MARCO Focus Center Research Program Graphene Workshop which boasts hundreds of attendees. A nominator writes "It sometimes feels as though tasks are accomplished by magic when working with this team as they go about their business so matter of factly, thoroughly, and efficiently and then return to their regularly scheduled jobs often before we've had a chance to thank them."
We, and most importantly our students, are fortunate to have this wonderful team to train, assist, and advise them. They are knowledgeable, creative, and they are extraordinarily resourceful. They are devoted to the students and work together to provide excellent service to all of the facilities' users. They are an ideal team as evidenced by their cooperative and seamless approach towards their work. It is clear that they enjoy their work and being in the MTL. It shows in the results and it shows in their responsive, thoughtful approach.
Dan, Tim, and Ryan, please accept these School of Engineering Infinite Mile Awards for Excellence as tokens of our deep respect and gratitude.
ELLEN J. MANDIGO AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING SERVICE
As Subra told you, we are privileged to add a new award to our Infinite Mile Awards celebration this year, an award made possible by a bequest from Ellen J. Mandigo.
Ellen was a secretary and later an administrative assistant at MIT for almost 50 years, from 1942 until her retirement in 1991. Unfortunately, Archives cannot locate her file, but we know from our own files that from 1952 until 1971 Ellen was the “personal secretary” to Professor Manson Benedict, who in 1958 became the first head of the newly created Department of Nuclear Engineering. We are told that in 1971 when Ellen left Nuclear for Aero/Astro she was presented with a "diploma" in nuclear engineering for having "served with distinction as the first Departmental Secretary."
In Aero/Astro Ellen served as the administrative assistant to the Department Head, Professor Rene Miller. According to Professor Miller, Ellen corrected errors, not only in grammar, but in meaning and content, as she typed. (Ellen never used to learn a word processor – probably because she didn't need one. Her typing skills, her speed and her accuracy are legendary.) Besides her remarkable professional accomplishments, Ellen took a strong and friendly interest in the activities and the welfare of students and faculty alike. She was wholly dedicated to MIT and its goals and objectives, the final and lasting proof of which is her magnificent gift to the School of Engineering.
The Ellen J. Mandigo Award for Outstanding Service, which we have created in her honor, will be given to a member of the School's staff who has demonstrated over an extended period of time, the qualities Ellen valued and possessed in such abundance herself: intelligence, skill, hard work and dedication to MIT.
We are extremely pleased to be able to make two awards this year. One of the recipients, Valerie Censabella of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering is unable to be with us today because she is working at a conference, out of town. Valerie’s citation will be posted on the School’s website – along with all of today’s award citations. Happily, our other award winner is able to be here and it is our great pleasure to present the Ellen J. Mandigo Award for Outstanding Service to Ping Lee, of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Valerie joined MIT in 1989 working for Professor Ian Hutchinson who was at the time head of the Alcator project. Alcator was (and might still be) the largest single research group on campus with about 100 people. Valerie was hired to take charge of the many administrative activities, and take charge she did. Besides the usual secretarial duties, Valerie was able to satisfy the seemingly insatiable needs of the project’s DOE sponsors for documentation and reports. She set up a spreadsheet system, paralleling the MIT financial system, to track essentially every purchase of the $15M/year project, and she took on the organization of the public outreach activities of Alcator, which, as a major national research facility, had dozens of visiting groups each year. Valerie also participates in the Educational Outreach Exhibits run by the PSFC every year at the American Physical Society’s Meeting. Her warmth and energy make her an immediate hit with the elementary, middle, and high school children.
Over the years, Valerie developed into a much sought after conference organizer. Her superlative organizational skills, ability to communicate clearly and effectively and her knack for dealing with all types of people have turned several major fusion conferences and many workshops into major successes.
In 2003, when Professor Hutchinson was named Head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, and Valerie became Personnel Coordinator and Assistant to the Head of the Department, it rapidly became clear that the folks at Alcator were more upset about losing Valerie than they were about losing Professor Hutchinson. A compromise was struck and Valerie continues to devote about one fifth of her time to Alcator.
In Nuclear Science and Engineering, Valerie is similarly indispensible. She’s razor sharp in cross checking numbers, spelling, grammar and content in important correspondence. She is able, metaphorically, to sweet-talk the birds from the trees when it comes to negotiating the Department’s needs with suppliers or outside people. And she has organized some of the most memorable events in recent department history with incredible attention to detail and effective management. Her hard work and dedication make her someone to go to not only for figuring out how to get things done, but also when you need a sympathetic ear and wise counsel. She is always looking for appropriate ways to reward the hard work of others, to recognize people for their successes and to help them through tough times or difficult problems.
It is clear that Valerie follows in the splendid tradition set by Ellen Mandigo and it is with great pleasure that we present her with the Ellen J. Mandigo Award for Outstanding Service.
Ping joined MIT in 1972, in Aeronautics and Astronautics Headquarters, with Ellen. Ellen and Ping were kindred spirits – talented, hardworking and dedicated to the Department and MIT. And as my mother used to say, I know whereof I speak, because in 1977 I joined Ellen and Ping in Headquarters. Ellen was proud of Ping. She also found Ping very entertaining and I recall Ellen laughing heartily at Ping’s commentaries on life and work.
As one would expect of someone with her exceptional ability, Ping moved steadily up through the ranks, and in 1982 she became Assistant to the Directors of the Space Systems Laboratory and the Technology Laboratory for Advanced Composites, launching her career in research administration.
Ping is a truly gifted individual. She is incredibly smart, alert and quick. Quicker than anyone I have ever worked with. Ping combines her wonderful inherent gifts with an all-encompassing sense of responsibility and a seemingly unlimited capacity for work. Her many admirers tell us that she is a "creative manager," "respected by the faculty and by her colleagues because she is firm, fair, and exhibits good judgment." Her work is "outstanding." "She responds instantaneously and accurately to any request for information, budgeting and projections."
Ping is known throughout MIT as an outstanding research administrator. In 2001, in the first year of the program, Ping received an Infinite Mile Award not only from the School of Engineering but also from the Financial Group. I'm not sure what it means to go two infinite miles, but if anyone can do it, Ping can. OSP has tapped her to help with its training programs, and she was recently asked to participate in the Research Administration Improvement Initiative not only because she is incredibly knowledgeable about all aspects of sponsored research administration but also because she is a clear thinker and problem solver and a valuable contributor to discussions of process improvements. Indeed, watching Ping solve problems is like watching an Olympic athlete, and a gold medalist at that.
We heartily second the sentiments of Ping’s nominators who wrote, and I quote, "Ping is an extraordinary individual whose intelligence, creativity, hard work, knowledge, and dedication have earned her the gratitude and respect of all who work with her. For 37 years, Ping has sustained a high level of excellence that very few achieve. We believe she should be named the first winner of the Ellen J. Mandigo Award for Outstanding Service. We believe Ellen Mandigo would be pleased."
I know she would. Congratulations, Ping.