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Testimonials for the 2013 Infinite Mile Award Winners

Edward Block, Nuclear Reactor Lab
As a longstanding engineer at the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, Edward Block has used his considerable expertise to make countless improvements. He is quick to suggest changes and is willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. And whenever any problems occur, Ed always pushes to find a way forward. His long-term forward thinking in engineering and information systems design has greatly improved NRL’s operations while reducing maintenance requirements. Recently, Ed’s initiative saved the Institute $178,000 by conserving energy used by the coolant systems. Ed’s advice, initiative, and expertise are valued among all NRL staff. There are very few items in the reactor that don’t have his fingerprints on them, both literally and figuratively!


Zineta Borogovac, Technology Licensing Office
Zineta Borogovac worked for the TLO for several years as a staff accountant. During that time, her work was exemplary: knowledgeable, careful, diligent and cooperative. Upon being promoted to the Financial Manager position, Zineta leaped into the job, demonstrating a deep knowledge of accounting and finance. Zineta has recently taken on an additional difficult responsibility: leading a task group to transition management of the TLO stock portfolio. This involves diligence, persuasion, and detective work, communicating with outside banks and our companies to rationalize over one hundred holdings and working closely with an outside investment group. Zineta has made an enormous difference to the smooth running of the TLO.


Ellen Buckley, Division of Comparative Medicine
Researchers at MIT know Ellen Buckley best from their interactions with the diagnostic laboratory and for her knowledge of diagnostic methods. Her ability to juggle a huge workload and a firm but gentle manner earned Ellen the admiration, respect, and trust of her colleagues at MIT. Ellen is always willing to go out of her way to help explain a diagnostic procedure or assist in interpreting test results. In addition, she has also recently assumed the critically important duties of EHS Representative for DCM. As an integral part of the NIH-supported postdoctoral training program, Ellen enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others. DCM is sincerely grateful for Ellen’s dedication, genuine concern for others, and warm smile.


Sophea Chan Diaz, Center for Environmental Health Sciences
Sophea Chan Diaz, Financial Administrator in the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, is a forward thinker and a wizard with numbers.  She is the best at what she does: as a financial manager, good citizen to CEHS, teacher of hard things, and a wonderfully friendly, warm person who provides exceptional service to faculty, staff, and students. Sophea is an innovator who has no fear of tackling new systems, software, or processes to improve efficiency and productivity.  She is as much an educator as a manager, preparing training materials and teaching others all the helpful tricks she figures out. She moves fast, accurately, and leaves behind a legacy of having taught others how she achieves her low wind resistance so that we can stress less over the same job when we do it again next year.


Joseph Crowley, Haystack Observatory
Joe brings a 24/7 kind of dedication to his key role in the Lincoln Laboratory space surveillance systems at the Haystack Observatory. During a recent, complicated upgrade, Joe willingly took on a much greater workload in order to keep the Haystack Auxiliary Antenna operational and able to bear the load of the HUSIR, the Satellite Imaging Radar system, while the HUSIR antenna was upgraded.  He also built additional receivers to accommodate the newly upgraded HUSIR.  He is eager to share his knowledge with others and is a natural leader, helping his team find solutions and meet deadlines.  Joe meets every challenge with unflagging loyalty and his trademark thoughtfulness, patience and humor.


Cynthia “Cindy” Gibbs, McGovern Institute
Cindy Gibbs is an administrator in the MEG lab in the McGovern Institute, one of MIT’s large labs with over 50 researchers.  She does everything to keep this very busy lab functioning, from processing paperwork for visiting students to travel to managing research grants.  According to one nominator, “she is extremely resourceful, creative, and certainly very cordial and friendly.”  She is also proactive in such helpful areas as providing information regarding new potential recruits to the lab and implementing cost-saving measures.  In short, “MIT needs more people like Cindy.’’


Jessica Landry, Office of the Dean for Graduate Education
Jessica wears a couple of hats – assistant to the Dean for Gradate Education and Coordinator of Graduate Education Initiatives.  Jessica personifies excellence in every aspect of her work and consistently goes above and beyond her responsibilities in her service to the graduate student community.  She has been pivotal in the success of a number of graduate fellowship programs, both international and domestic.  She has also streamlined the processes related to the Graduate Academic Performance Group.  Even when faced with tight deadlines, Jessica manages projects flawlessly.  She is very capable of stepping in and doing what needs to be done, no matter what the situation.


Stephanie Lendall, MIT-SUTD Collaboration
Stephanie Lendall, Assistant Financial Officer in the MIT-SUTD Collaboration, is known for her initiative and follow-through, as well as her availability to listen and help whenever and wherever necessary.  Described as having a take-charge attitude and being a team player, Stephanie keeps budgets on track and uses her extensive knowledge of MIT in helping to problem-solve.  She has willingly and very capably taken on ever increasing financial and other responsibilities. With unflappable cheer and a friendly smile, Stephanie is an ambassador and travel agent of sorts, helping faculty with a myriad of logistics for their travel between Cambridge and Singapore.


Susanne Patterson, Research Laboratory of Electronics
Susanne Patterson is a crown jewel, with Research Laboratory of Electronics’ faculty members among the many singing this Fiscal Officer’s praises. One faculty member (who, as it happens, just received one of the government's oldest and most prestigious awards for scientific achievement) wrote that after over four decades working at MIT, she joined RLE, met Sue Patterson, and “found out what I had been missing all these years, extraordinary help with managing my financial accounts. She takes a great interest in optimizing the productivity of my grants through her financial forecasts and her suggestions about optimal strategies for my monthly spending… By doing such an outstanding job….she gives me more time to do my academic work…” With intelligence, patience, and signature good nature, Susanne is a problem solver who not only helps the many who come to her for assistance, but who teaches them at the same time.


Corey Schenck, Office of the Vice President for Research
Working as a Senior Administrative Assistant in the Office of the Vice President for Research, Corey Schenck’s competence, commitment, broad knowledge, and willingness to exceed expectations make him an ideal staff member and Infinite Mile Award winner. In addition to his array of technical, analytical, and organizational skills, Corey’s discretion, judgment, calm, and wry sense of humor have come through time and time again during critically important projects. The ultimate team player, Corey is resourceful and able to work through complicated problems with a wonderful can do attitude. No matter how large or small the project, he is always willing to help out, doing whatever is needed to support the office. Whether he is taking on additional responsibilities during a colleague’s leave, or voluntarily coming in on a snow day to help his supervisor meet a critically important federal deadline, Corey integrates extra work with total transparency and is a delightful person to work with.


Scott Speakman, Center for Materials Science and Engineering
As a Research Specialist at MIT’s Center for Materials Science and Engineering, Scott has the specific task of running the x-ray diffraction facility. Scott is credited with transforming the facility from one that was working poorly, and waning in popularity, to an excellent facility used extensively by the MIT community. Scott is an energetic, consummate collaborator and problem solver whose nomination included letters from faculty members, doctoral students, and lecturers. In addition to Scott’s technical knowledge and excellence as a researcher, he has carved out a highly acclaimed role as a mentor and educator. Scott works tirelessly to train students and researchers and assist them in overcoming substantial scientific challenges in their quest to obtain and analyze reliable data. Through his personal interactions and development of a vast repertoire of online and other training materials, including online tutorials that are internationally praised, Scott has a far-ranging and long term impact.



International Students Office Team: Maria Brennan, Antoinette Browne, Aurora Brule, Emily Cheng, Carlene Green-Paul, Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook, Sylvia Hiestand, Janka Moss, Mayoka Takemori, Joycelyn Thompson
The ISO team continuously shows above-and-beyond dedication, expertise, commitment, and excellence in their support and service to MIT students. In addition to navigating the complex and sometimes burdensome collection of governmental regulations, the ISO is always available to provide caring and specialized personal support. They provide support during challenging situations and crises related to the student’s immigration status, English language and writing proficiency, homesickness, financial issues, and cultural acclimation. This quote from a student illustrates how important the ISO is to the international student experience:
“I’m really honored with your attendance in my defense yesterday, and I greatly appreciate your warm encouragement and kind help during the past few years. As one of the many international students, the ISO will always be our lovely home and safe harbor.”
Each ISO staff member is deeply committed to the job and to supporting MIT students. The ISO eases the stress and anxiety of international students to help them integrate smoothly into the MIT community and to promote and celebrate rich cultures of the countries where they come from.


The McGovern Institute’s Financial Team: Donna Wells and Emily Wilkoff
Donna Wells, McGovern Institute’s Financial Officer, and Emily Wilkoff, Financial Coordinator, work as a spectacularly efficient team. Faculty members can rely on them to track financial situations, alert them to developments, and proactively solve problems. Ensuring that grant applications are submitted in record time unburdens faculty members so that they can focus on their science and teaching. Donna and Emily’s roles have evolved as McGovern’s faculty and research volume have dramatically increased over the last several years. They have always kept abreast of current policy and eagerly learn and expand on their many skills. Faculty members, Research Scientists, and Postdocs rave about this powerful team for their commitment, positive attitude, and willingness to help others. As one wrote, “Even when we screw up and leave something to the last minute, they always come to the rescue and make everything happen.”


MIT Energy Initiative Team: Natalie Liang and Christine Malnati
The MIT Energy Initiative is a complex organization that relies heavily on its financial office, and has a top-notch team with Christine Malnati and Natalie Liang. Both continually perform at the highest level and demonstrate the commitment and teamwork that are vital to MITei’s success. As Senior Fiscal Officer, Chris Malnati has taken the MITei finance office from an organization managing a very small volume of research to one that manages over $50 million a year. With incredible professionalism and knowledge about institutional requirements, Chris manages these agreements and a large and growing staff, implementing a clear vision about how the office should run. Natalie Liang, Fiscal Officer, is another model of efficiency, dedication and accommodation, giving 200% to satisfy the significant demands that are placed on her. Natalie accommodates faculty members’ requests for assistance in budget and proposal preparation, even at the most awkward of times, with aplomb and good humor. During crunch times in the office, she is the first to volunteer, rallying staff to help as well. 


Plasma Science and Fusion Center Team Loki: Ted Baker, Darin Ernst, and John Wright
The team of Ted Baker (Systems Analyst), Darin Ernst (Research Scientist) and John Wright (Research Scientist) was nominated for their tireless contributions to the design, acquisition, assembly, and maintenance of the 600 core Loki computing cluster at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. Ted, John, and Darin worked together to come up with an extensible, state-of-the-art design that has proven to be highly reliable and attractive to users. The team has devoted endless hours and days preparing documentation on the cluster, upgrading software, and helping students and research staff to interpret results of gyro-kinetic codes, magneto-hydrodynamic codes, and electromagnetic field solvers in the complex parallel computing environment of Loki.