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Testimonials for the 2015 Infinite Mile Award Winners

Janice Balzer, Administrative Assistant, Research Laboratory of Electronics

With unanimous endorsement from the RLE faculty members she works for, Janice Balzer is widely appreciated and admired for her outstanding contributions. For over 25 years, Janice has exceled in her responsibilities, and faculty members consider themselves lucky to have her working with their group.

Janice cares deeply about her job, and faculty regularly benefit from one of her key assets: her problem solving skills. Janice exhibits keen attention to detail, and is able to meet any challenge without becoming flustered. These traits are very helpful when problems come up without much warning, including outside normal business hours. High standards of excellence are deeply ingrained in Janice, and as one nominator wrote, they make her “the best Administrative Assistant my colleagues and I could hope for. Each of us believe that Janice is not only highly professional and effective, but that she consistently ‘goes the extra mile….Janice’s get it done attitude has prevented small disasters a thousand times and have been invaluable to me and my colleagues over the years.” She has also saved MIT significant sums of money by discovering cheaper or better alternatives. Janice is invaluable, and faculty members, students, and research staff are deeply grateful for unwavering dedication to her research groups and to MIT.


William Barrett, Assistant Director, Compliance and Special Projects, Office of Sponsored Programs

OSP is a high-volume, fast paced environment, and Bill Barrett has a large portfolio of responsibilities related to sponsored research proposals and awards, in addition to other projects and initiatives. Since joining OSP in 1986, Bill has played an integral role in making OSP a helpful and service-oriented organization. With his unique skillset and personal approach, Bill is always well-positioned to take on the newest and most challenging projects. His nominators’ praise included the following:

As a seasoned research administration professional, Bill contributes significantly and selflessly to the advancement of all of our work and, by extension, to OSP’s effectiveness. He is an exemplary mentor, teacher, and problem-solver, who often takes the initiative to respond to an unmet need within OSP and the wider MIT community. Bill keeps an open door, no matter what he is doing…He provides expert advice and leadership…He is generous in sharing his deep and wide-ranging knowledge of research administration, of sponsored research matters and, equally important, of MIT…And he is equally accommodating to staff outside OSP…He regularly goes beyond his regular duties as a contract administrator by taking extra steps to fill an unmet need by a DLC, or to solve problems in a quick and efficient manner…Each of us in OSP, irrespective of our experience, have achieved success in our work due to Bill’s selfless dedication of time, leadership, knowledge, his calm demeanor, and his love of MIT.


Lee Berkowitz, IT & Network Manager, Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Lee Berkowitz is being recognized for his exceptional work for the Plasma Science and Fusion Center. “In addition to vital infrastructure support - which is his primary and most technically challenging responsibility -he has gone out of his way to become an expert in every end-user application.” He is thus an invaluable resource in PSFC’s heterogeneous environment, which has a wide variety of platforms, needs, and expertise levels. Lee works whatever long hours are needed in order to keep the systems up and running, and will interrupt whatever he is doing to provide help. “His attention to detail is extraordinary and his knowledge of desktop computing is broad and deep.” Lee was instrumental in developing a strategy to avoid network disruptions that were common at the time of his arrival to PSFC. His solution provides much greater flexibility and stability and a significant saving in hardware and software costs. Always willing to pitch in to help his colleagues, Lee “never gets flustered or upset…No small feat when you realize that dozens of people may be metaphorically or literally looking over his shoulder as he works on the problem.” In his long list of projects, Lee “brings expertise, tenaciousness, and good spirits to the table.”


David Carpenter, Research Scientist, Nuclear Reactor Laboratory

David Carpenter is an exemplary researcher and a vital part of the success of NRL’s experimental program. This has been true for over a decade; David began at NRL as a UROP student in 2002, continued through his doctoral studies, and swiftly moved through a brief postdoctoral position before being promoted to research scientist. His nominators gave many examples of his exceptional contributions to NRL’s research program as a critical member of the in-core facilities team. Skilled, dedicated, and enthusiastic, David brings expertise, leadership, and fresh perspective. They wrote, “His contributions are integral to the doubling of research volume and revenue the in-core program has experienced since he became a full-time staff member…He is key to the continued success of the in-core program and the NRL as a whole, and to achieving recognition as the premier university research reactor laboratory in the world.”

David is generous in mentoring others and solving problems. Furthermore, he helps create a cohesive and productive work environment in the Nuclear Reactor Lab and promotes ties to the Department of Nuclear Science & Engineering. He is a regular at social events, and brings his characteristic energy and enthusiasm to a variety of intermural events. This includes a key role as goalie of the NSE “Atom Smashers” hockey team.


Mark Derome, Technical Assistant, Haystack Observatory

Mark Derome directly supports mechanical fabrication for a wide variety of the Haystack Observatory’s projects, including for NASA and Lincoln Lab. In fulfilling his myriad formal job responsibilities, Mark’s record is one of excellence. Today, he is being recognized for an astonishing array of ventures beyond that.

For many years, Haystack, MIT, and the wider community have benefited from Mark’s extraordinary commitment and dedication. He consistently pursues new ideas with creativity, leadership, energy, and competence. To describe just a few examples, Mark is widely respected as volunteer Hill Safety Committee chairperson. He effectively runs this committee, comprised of a broad group of stakeholders, because of his deep knowledge of the Hill's complicated and intricate facilities, and his finely tuned instincts for recognizing potential hazards. Mark is also in essence a land manager for Haystack’s 1300 acres. An avid outdoorsman, he can often be seen clearing walking trails, ensuring visibility on the access road, and directly engaging in land use issues that arise. He is passionate, proactive, and forward thinking. Currently, he is actively formulating and advocating for innovative ways to perform precision annual surveys of the property. He also plans to put back together a dismantled weather station, updating it with clever modern gadgets that he has researched. Characteristically, his efforts will have maximum relevance to other projects around Haystack. Mark regularly forges links with campus and Lincoln Lab, and he alone initiates his many ventures. He is an enthusiastic ambassador for Haystack, and is passionate about how to make it the best it can be.


Steve Dowdy, Director, Research Information & Systems, Office of Sponsored Programs

Steve Dowdy is the genius who 20 years ago visualized the creation of ‘homegrown’ electronic research administration software that would simplify MIT faculty members’ ordeals in getting funds from sponsors. To dream of a system is one thing, to actually build it is another. Since leading the team that launched MIT Coeus, he has been innovating and adapting software to benefit MIT’s needs and requirements. His successful product and enterprising approach led him to create a Coeus Consortium, attracting schools nationwide that paid licensing fees and helped inform improvements. Steve continually applies his leadership and creative problem solving abilities to OSP solutions in response to federal regulations, reporting requirements, and institutional policy needs.

Under Steve’s technical direction, in 2012 OSP delivered an MIT customized conflict of interest system. As his nominators wrote, “It was critical to have a system in place which not only helped MIT meet the enormously complex federal requirements, ensuring compliance for our multi-million dollar research enterprise, but it was equally critical to have a system that faculty and researchers could easily use, with minimum added administrative burden. Steve helped that dream become a reality.” Once again, the MIT COI module is an exemplary system. Others see MIT as a model and leader in Electronic Research Administration. “This is the result of Steve’s team successfully creating simple solutions to complex problems.” Steve is a visionary, with dedication and passion for building tools that people later wonder how they ever did without.


Joseph Foley, SRS Financial Coordinator, Research Laboratory of Electronics

Joe Foley came to MIT with a finance background in the private sector, and threw himself into learning the peculiarities of his new environment. He has consistently amazed his RLE supervisor and colleagues with his dogged determination to learn absolutely everything he could about MIT’s policies, procedures, and systems, specifically in regard to research and financial administration. With an unmatched level of dedication and energy, he went about educating himself so quickly, and on such a broad range of topics, that he himself became a resource to others, including planning and giving training sessions.

Joe thrives on finding logical and sound solutions to problems. He continually develops better methods and systems, creating efficiencies that benefit many. In particular, he has implemented ways to ease the training burden for those new to MIT’s and RLE’s financial processes. He has created a brochure on purchasing and spearheaded an online training module, with others in development. On an ongoing basis, and particularly during staffing shortages and transitions, Joe asked for and received additional responsibilities, reducing the load on others. His willingness to volunteer, including for complex projects that are well beyond his comfort zone, has endeared him to his colleagues. Now Assistant Fiscal Officer, Joe has been promoted twice in his short tenure at MIT. He contributes daily to the success of RLE in serving its faculty. Through Joe’s initiatives, along with his exemplary work ethic, wit, and charm, he has proven to be an invaluable resource.


Sylvia Hiestand, MIT International Students Office Advisor, Office of the Dean for Graduate Education

Sylvia Hiestand stands out at MIT as an exemplary, committed, knowledgeable, approachable, and caring individual, to students and staff alike. In the face of immigration regulations, Sylvia demonstrates an ability to combine compliance with the law with the use of discretion when possible to ensure that students achieve academic excellence and advance their personal goals. When a visa problem arises that sometimes seems unsolvable, Sylvia always comes up with a potential solution, appealing to federal agencies when needed. As one international student wrote, “Sylvia is one of those human beings that you just know will do everything she can to help you in a tough situation.” She is also adept at initiating improvements and spearheading plans for implementing new regulations and procedures. Widely recognized for her expertise and knowledge, Sylvia is an active contributor and voice in the field of international student advising.

Sylvia is a true interculturalist, not only because of her own multicultural background and knowledge of several languages, but also because of how she interacts with students from 115 countries, each with personal objectives to succeed at MIT and beyond. Her colleagues have deeply appreciated her cooperative work style, and her role in providing moral support and stability to the office through exceptionally trying times. Sylvia is warm, calm, generous with her time, and relentless in her support of MIT’s international students, enhancing and enriching their lives and attending to their unique needs.


Melissa Kavlakli, Data Analyst, Human Resources

Melissa Kavlakli works as the data analyst for the Learning Services Team in the Human Resources Department, a title which does not begin to do justice to the services she provides. The project Melissa worked on with the Division of Comparative Medicine centered around a new training regime for around 2,000 employees and students per year. She always seemed one step ahead of the game, often foreseeing what DCM needed to do before DCM did! Her ambitious, dedicated, and insightful nature has allowed DCM to grow the training program quickly – and perhaps more importantly, smoothly – and saved untold hours.

Melissa’s work has also helped DCM in running detailed, accurate reports from the expansive training records. Melissa regularly advised DCM on how to use the systems in place to run better and more accurate reports, but she also crafted and coded new reporting options specifically catered to DCM requests – once again going well above and beyond expectations. Melissa’s contributions have not only benefited DCM directly, but also the MIT research community as a whole.


Ronald Rosati, Project Technician, Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Along with his technical expertise, Ronald Rosati is highly regarded by everyone at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center for being hardworking, kind, reliable, and extremely generous in using his time and talent to help others. He has proven that he has the ability to simultaneously juggle several tasks on the project while unfailingly helping others with theirs. He has become the go-to person for the lab when any of a myriad of vacuum related systems needs attention. Ron inspires others with his talent, his knowledge across many skill sets, his strong work ethic, and his pride in a job well done.

Ron has been an enormous help to the engineering group in the testing of the heaters for the proposed new Hot Divertor experiment. His expertise in making custom thermocouples for the various designs has enabled accurate measurements for the engineers to model. Ron is invaluable in the fabrication, operation, and maintenance of vacuum systems and in-vessel components. Ron is extremely helpful to graduate students, scientists, and engineers, and his contributions to the operation of the Alcator C-Mod Project are numerous.


Koch Institute Core Facilities Team, Koch Institute for Integrated Cancer Research

Across the US there are 68 National Cancer Institute designated cancer centers; 7 of those are basic research centers, 1 of which is the Koch Institute. This is a distinction that MIT has held for over 40 years and one that Koch must re-compete for with a written proposal and site visit every 5 years. The last round, in 2014, resulted in an outstanding score. Needless to say, this success was largely determined by the review of the Koch Institute Core Facilities. There are 14 individuals who are part of this team award, in the following areas:

Animal Imaging and Preclinical Testing – Scott Malstrom
Bioinformatics and Computing – Charlie Whittaker
Biopolymers and Proteomics – Richard Cook and Amanda Del Rosario
ES Cell and Transgenics – Noranne Enzer and Aurora Burds Connor
Flow Cytometry – Glenn Paradis
Genomics and High Throughput Screening – Stuart Levine, Jaime Cheah, and Christian Soule
Histology – Kathy Cormier
Microscopy – Jeffrey Wyckoff and Eliza Vasile
Nanotechnology Materials – Abigail Lytton-Jean

Each of the people listed goes above and beyond to provide sophisticated technical services, instrumentation, hands-on training and customized advice to KI and MIT faculty, staff, students, and postdoctoral scholars. During the past two years, this team has made key contributions to the preparation and defense of the Cancer Center Support Grant proposal. Core Facility team members were questioned individually by the Site Visit reviewers and received overwhelming praise for the depth and breadth of their knowledge, communication, and training. The Koch Institute could not have succeeded without them.


RLE Immersion Nanotechnology Team, Research Laboratory of Electronics

The RLE Immersion Nanotechnology Team is composed of Richard Hobbs, Postdoctoral Associate, and Sam Nicaise, graduate student. Both Richie and Sam are excellent team leaders and active members of the RLE community. When RLE Headquarters launched their most recent event series “RLE Immersion,” organizers knew that when the time came to galvanize the planning committee, Richie and Sam could be counted on. They led their committee through planning to implementation and produced some of the most highly attended events in the RLE Immersion Series.

The duo also made major contributions to the RLE Fair, which involved 600 members of RLE and required extensive communication and logistical support. The RLE Fair brought together around 70 active research laboratories within RLE and organized them under seven major themes. The goal, to highlight all the major themes and showcase work within RLE in a new and engaging way, was reached in large measure because of the efforts of Richie and Sam.


TLO Team, Technology Licensing Office

The TLO Team includes Jim Freedman and Chris Noble, both Technology Licensing Officers that have undertaken extra responsibilities in addition to their respectively heavy caseloads of invention patenting and licensing and mentoring of startups.

Jim Freedman’s work with King Faud University for Petroleum and Minerals has been very important to that university’s development of technology licensing and innovation initiatives. The collaboration has resulted in more than 50 patent applications and 100 technology disclosures, all of which Jim oversees. His calm approach and focus on finding solutions that would lead to good outcomes for all parties has resulted in many mutually beneficial outcomes.

Chris Noble has been influential in getting a number of licensed startups off the ground. He is an optimist who never gives up, no matter how difficult the problem appears. Chris has been absolutely critical in setting up the Skoltech technology transfer office. One key contribution Chris has made is in the role of mentor to the Skoltech technology transfer office staff. Over the past 18 months Chris has taught three intellectual property courses to a broad audience of technology transfer staff, faculty, senior administrators and students from a number of Russian universities, and his lectures have been very well received.