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Testimonials for the 2014 Infinite Mile Award Winners

Ross Barman, Laboratory Technician, Koch Institute
Ross Barman is a passionate and dedicated researcher whose thirst for knowledge is inspiring and infectious.  As a laboratory technician in the Langer Lab, he is thorough, diligent and extremely dependable. He loves helping out others, staying on top of dozens of requests and then going several steps further. Ross is resourceful and independent at finding ways to solve problems. He redefines going above and beyond by doing research completely on his own initiative and learning all he can in order to make the greatest contribution possible to the research project.  For example, during a recent visit to a collaborator’s lab, Ross used his independent research on malaria to add a significant dimension to the discussion.

Exemplary in his professionalism and optimistic outlook, Ross is always planning, preparing, and educating himself for what lies around the corner. He is an outstanding member of the team and is an ambassador for the Institute.


Catherine Bourgeois, Center Administrator for the Center for Excitonics, Research Laboratory of Electronics
Catherine Bourgeois maintains tight financial control of the Center for Excitonics. But her role goes far beyond that already very substantial and complex set of responsibilities.  Cathy maintains the Center’s website, organizes numerous seminars and large events, and hosts an internal blog that serves as an informational database for the Center. She has also created a program that trains a fleet of graduate student ambassadors for Department of Energy reviews, conferences, and other public events. This benefits the Center and offers students a wonderful teambuilding and career development opportunity.

Cathy has also developed a training curriculum, monthly sessions, and a series of best practices for all assistants in RLE. Through her hard work and dedication, she is striving to raise the level of all administrative assistants within RLE.  In doing so, she has a huge impact on the community of assistants within RLE. Cathy is a tremendous resource at MIT, and we commend and thank her for her exceptional service.


Patricia Christie, Lecturer, Experimental Study Group
Already highly valued at MIT for her years of exemplary service as a Lecturer in the Experimental Study Group, since 2012 Patricia Christie has played a critical role in the new MIT-Singapore University of Technology and Design collaboration.  As one nominator remarked, “Sometimes in the big picture, success in a huge project… …is the result not just of decisions made by leaders, but by commitments made by individuals like Patti, who choose to take responsibility far beyond what is asked of them.” A skilled educator, Patti saved the day for Chemistry instruction in the first crucial semester at SUTD.  She bridged the cultural differences and divergent teaching methods, and reformatted the Chemistry curriculum so as to better engage the students. In addition, Patti has been instrumental in providing direction and guidance to the team of instructors at SUTD, and in teaching and modeling active learning. In all  her roles at MIT, Patti is commended for consistently going beyond the already high expectations we have of a dedicated teacher, and for pouring her heart and soul into teaching students not only the subject matter, but how to be lifelong learners.


John Desforge, Executive Director of the Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology
As the founding faculty member of SMART stated, “We are fortunate to attract simply superb staff at MIT – people who not only have superb talent, but who also are exceptionally committed to the Institute and its students. John stands squarely in that exemplary cohort. He knows Singapore better, I believe, than anyone in the MIT community, and, as an exceptional administrator, has become ‘Mr. Singapore.’ The MIT programs there have been an enormous success, due in large part to John’s extraordinary contributions.”

John has played key roles in all MIT programs in Singapore and has been involved in SMART since before its infancy. He has expertly fulfilled many of the complex responsibilities inherent in the role of lead administrator of the Singapore-MIT Alliance and SMART. But he has also   used exceptional foresight, skill, and personal commitment, not to mention frequent back-and-forth travel between Boston and Singapore, to expand on his role and make SMART even better. As another faculty member wrote, “From the beginning, John Desforge has been at the very center of these engagements that span a decade and a half, …engage some hundred MIT faculty from across the Institute, produce a thousand students/alumni and researchers, and impact many more… …John has been truly indispensable to our success in Singapore.”


Tina Gilman, Senior Administrative Assistant, Research Laboratory of Electronics
Occasionally, we are fortunate enough to encounter a person like Tina Gilman whose energy, devotion to her job, and unrelenting dedication to serve others from behind the scenes transcends an organization and makes life easier for co-workers. Tina is always willing to take on additional duties, which was particularly evident when the HR Administrator was out on maternity leave.

With an uncanny ability to anticipate the needs of others, Tina arranges complex meetings and high-level visits with outside funders and dignitaries. As Senior Administrative Assistant to the RLE Director, she also demonstrates a profound understanding of RLE when preparing presentations for the RLE Board and the MIT Corporation. Tina has a strategic view of her role, is invested in the lab’s success, and is highly proactive in initiating improvements. The results of her work often provide a foundation for the success of others and contribute to the positive image of RLE.

As one nominator put it, “Few people possess the organizational, analytical and logistic skills she has mastered.  Beyond this, her perception of and interest in the humanistic needs of our organization is remarkable.”


Elizabeth Granese and Imani Ivery: The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education’s Graduate Student Council Team
MIT’s highly active Graduate Student Council benefits tremendously from this team’s expertise, dedication, and attention. Imani Ivery, Financial and Event Assistant for the GSC, and Betsy Granese, Administrative Assistant, are being recognized both for their exceptional individual contributions to the GSC and as a collaborative team.

For the past 8 years, Imani has handled and managed all of GSC’s finances and led the coordination of multiple major events, with Betsy providing invaluable support during the last two years. Whether it is elaborate galas, three-day ski trips or the annual orientation involving  60 events  over 4 weeks, Imani and Betsy  provide top-notch planning, exquisite attention to detail, and support at all hours. As one GSC officer noted, they “work closely as a strong team with a careful eye to detail and with experience that is critical in an environment where the student leadership changes over on a yearly basis. They have often been accessible even when not convenient or at times outside normal working hours, and demonstrate a sincere desire and invested interest in making the activities of the GSC succeed.” Imani and Betsy care deeply about the overall wellness of the Graduate Student Council and the larger MIT graduate community, and represent an outstanding and crucial resource.


Michele Hudak, Grant/Contract Administrator, Office of Sponsored Programs
From developing training materials for her fellow administrators to pitching in on special projects, Michele takes a proactive and inspiring approach to her already demanding position in the Office of Sponsored Programs. This year, Michele created a much-needed resource on avoiding unintentional cost sharing. This tool proved to be invaluable for helping to communicate about this important topic.

Michele also volunteered to appear in a video segment representing OSP for the online version of the “Fundamentals of Financial Management” course presented by OSP and the Office of the Vice President for Finance. In addition, she made important improvements to the “Fundamentals of Closeout” course. We honor Michele for her initiative and her commitment to improvement, collaboration, training, and outreach. Of Michele’s efforts, one colleague remarked: “She’s awesome. She took this bull by the horns and this thing is not pretty or easy to do!”


Lee Keating, Fiscal Officer, Plasma Science and Fusion Center
Lee is a top-notch Fiscal Officer for this world-class research facility, overseeing the financial management of millions of dollars in annual funding from multiple federal and private research grants, primarily the 26 million dollar Alcator C-Mod fusion reactor project. Lee’s considerable fiscal and technical expertise, keen desire to master new technologies, eagerness to take on additional responsibility, and decisive approach to challenges were especially put to the test over the past two years. With the Alcator C-Mod program slated for shutdown, the potentially enormous loss in federal funding for this very important research project meant that multiple scenarios, sometimes changing daily, were generated to give leadership accurate fiscal information. During the long, stressful wait, Lee prepared budget after budget, with the goal of protecting as many staff as possible until Congress gave definitive word. Lee is credited for providing an invaluable service by getting the Research Division through the uncertainty. With her capable management of expenses, swift responsiveness, and willingness to take on the work of multiple new proposals, Lee has been going the extra mile for MIT for nearly two decades, and the past two years have only shown her talents more brightly.


Jason McKnight, Assistant Dean for Graduate Education, Office of the Dean for Graduate Education
Throughout his tenure as Assistant Dean for Graduate Education, Jason’s contributions can be most precisely described as “game changing.” His many accomplishments include working with a team to design and build a database used by staff to provide a holistic presentation of the myriad ways MIT graduate students use the ODGE support channels. Additionally, Jason spearheaded a needs assessment over the course of a year to help the Institute understand the support needs of graduate students and used the data to set strategic priorities that addressed the gaps.

Jason has distinguished himself within ODGE as one who always steps forward to facilitate discussion, assist in planning staff professional development, serve on committees, and engage faculty and graduate students. His special efforts to support the LBGT community and other under-represented or marginalized students include volunteering to serve as a panelist or presenter at retreats and conferences. These commitments often require additional work, which Jason has done willingly because he cares so much.


Kathleen O’Connell, Senior Administrative Assistant, Nuclear Reactor Laboratory
Kathy’s dedication to the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory and her pride in the safe, productive operation of the research reactor are reflected in her work and in turn generate an enthusiasm that motivates others. She approaches her job with a positive, can-do, friendly attitude that makes visitors, students, and MIT faculty feel welcome at the NRL. In addition to her normal duties as Senior Administrative Assistant, she has assumed extra responsibilities, including creating and maintaining NRL’s website and determining all the logistics for major conferences hosted by the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory. During the last time NRL hosted the annual meeting of the National Organization of Test, Research, and Training Reactors, Kathy found meeting space, organized programs, and, in her most impressive display of skill, secured funding!

Kathy has served as an outstanding Senior Administrative Assistant in NRL’s Headquarters since 1996. She is always professional, committed, calm, and productive – all well-balanced with a nice sense of humor.


Thomas O’Keefe, Associate Officer, Technology Licensing Office
Tom O’Keefe has been an exceptional contributor to the Technology Licensing Office for more than four years, with his role progressing to one with responsibility for a broad array of legal matters. His work includes outstanding support of litigation settlement negotiations that have brought in significant funds to MIT. Tom performs a critical advisory role for TLO staff, particularly valued given his detailed knowledge of the law coupled with a hearty dose of common sense. He also takes responsibility for difficult negotiations, in which he is persistent, sensible, and gets results. His education and skill set are continually expanding; he recently earned a master’s degree at night to supplement his degrees in mathematics and law. Fortunately for the TLO, he has been a good sport in taking on additional assignments and drawing on his newly-acquired knowledge of biotechnology. Tom embodies the dedication recognized by an Infinite Mile Award.


Herber Villanueva, Assistant Animal Technician, Division of Comparative Medicine
Herber is beloved by all the Investigators, graduate students, postdocs, and technicians he works with in the McGovern Institute. Nearly every day he goes well above his assigned duties to ensure the animals receive the best possible care. Even minor disruptions can ruin studies, but Herber always keeps environmental controls constant and maintains a steady routine. For example, he’ll notify Facilities if the humidity in the room becomes excessive, but more importantly he will notify the researchers so they can determine the impact on data.

Every time a postdoc or student joins a research group, Herber offers a friendly greeting and gets to know the new person’s daily schedule and special needs. He puts tremendous effort into his work and contributes a distinct and critical function to the research.


Laura von Bosau, Administrative Assistant II, Research Laboratory of Electronics
Laura von Bosau is Administrative Assistant to three RLE faculty members in three different buildings. Without exception, all speak enthusiastically to her energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to excel in her job and to grow and learn at every opportunity. Dedicated, conscientious, and a great problem-solver, Laura eagerly learns, uses, and updates skills that are enormously helpful to RLE. For example, when the need emerged, she reignited her skills working with LaTeX, a challenging technical markup language for scientific books and theses that few administrative assistants know anymore. She not only regained her fluency, but worked to make this skill more broadly available within RLE, including training and providing resources to others.  In faculty, administrator, and student circles alike, Laura is appreciated not only for her professionalism and superb office skills, but also for her wit, consistent good cheer, and care and concern for others.