You are here

Testimonials for the 2016 Infinite Mile Award Winners

Jesse DeLaughter, SRS Academic/Student Administrator, MIT-SUTD Collaboration

At the MIT–SUTD Collaboration, Jesse is the administrative lead for several important programs.  These include the Postdoctoral Fellows Program, which brings postdocs for one year to MIT and one year to MIT’s partner school, the Singapore University of Technology and Design; the Teach the Teacher Program; the Dual Masters Program; and the SUTD Winter Abroad Program.  Additionally, he has redesigned the website and coordinated faculty going to Singapore for two- and four-week residencies in the MIT-SUTD co-teaching program.

Jesse’s design and implementation of the SUTD Winter Abroad Program has been exemplary.  There was no blueprint for what the Collaboration needed to do, but Jesse pursued the work efficiently and displayed a great deal of diplomatic skill.  As one SUTD colleague notes, “He is proactive and plans things well in advance, which really makes the difference when you are working with two different organizations.”

Jesse’s ability to break down complicated projects and implement them is exceptional, but even more exceptional is his ability to bring people on board.  He has a generosity of spirit and respect for others that colleagues in the Collaboration Office, across the Institute, and at the Singapore University of Technology and Design have noted time and again.

He is, as another colleague put it, “visionary, but without ever seeming to lose sight of the practicalities and real needs of the real people he works with and serves.”


Robert Dolan, Career Advisor for Postdoctoral Scholars, Global Education and Career Development

MIT’s Postdoctoral scholars have a champion in Bob Dolan, who shares his expertise in the job search and application process and provides a lifeline of clarity and reassurance.  Because the postdoctoral period is by nature temporary, postdocs must actively consider their next career steps.  Through one-on-one appointments and well-attended presentations, Bob skillfully helps postdocs determine and successfully pursue what comes after MIT.

Postdocs regularly express gratitude for Bob’s knowledge, warmth, humor, and customized approach.  One former postdoc wrote, “At MIT, I was lucky enough to meet Bob, who not only provided great advice for the whole interview process, but also gave me lots of encouragement and confidence…Looking back, the career service provided by Bob played an irreplaceable role in my long job searching journey.  I had lots of frustrations and at some stage almost gave up on my career goal…[but] the skills I learned from Bob not only helped me land my first full time job but will also benefit my career development in the future.”

For some postdocs, lifelong career goals begin to shift.  Bob combines his ever-increasing knowledge about academic and nonacademic pathways with exceptional responsiveness.  As one nominator wrote, “It is rare to find a career professional that is willing to take on such a breadth and depth of academic disciplines and be effective for each client that they meet with.” 


Peter Eimon, Research Scientist, Research Laboratory of Electronics

Peter Eimon is being recognized for his exceptional integrity, unwavering dedication to research and mentoring, and genuine concern for students.  He plays a central role in many research projects, with expertise that bridges engineering, biology and neuroscience.  In addition, he has played a key, hands-on role in training many of the students and postdocs who have been part of the Yanik lab since he joined the group in 2010.

Colleagues appreciate Peter’s candor and team spirit, and many consider him their primary source of advice.  He has patiently and enthusiastically taught the newest members of the lab – from simple laboratory handling techniques to complex matters such as genetic engineering of animals.  His lasting and profound influence on current and former lab members is abundantly clear; many of them contributed to his nomination.  As one wrote, "Two things come to mind when I consider how Peter shaped the scientist I am: First, his contagious sense of joy of discovery.  Every time we saw an interesting experiment result he would be so overwhelmed with excitement, that, unable to contain himself, he would slide off his chair at the bench, exclaim, “cool!” and pace the lab.  His excitement was contagious, and made me appreciate and love my work more.  Secondly, how he taught me to be a good coach and leader.”


Donna Gale, Administrative Assistant II, Research Laboratory of Electronics

Donna serves as the administrative assistant for the Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems in RLE.  As one faculty nominator wrote, “In this role, she has been the engine and the soul of the laboratory for five faculty members and thirty to fifty undergraduate and graduate research students.  She is a master of MIT procedures and has provided the essential foundation that makes our laboratory work.”  Many people wrote with admiration and appreciation for Donna’s efficiency, patience, people skills, and ability to learn and adapt to new systems and procedures.  She consistently takes the initiative to expand her repertoire of skills, including completing RLE’s comprehensive administrative assistance certification program.

Faculty and students alike praise Donna for her diligent, proactive approach combined with a caring nature.  She calmly sets things right and teaches proper procedures when students make purchases with the wrong account number or lose receipts, and she gracefully handles requests that faculty members admit may be vague, last-minute, or both.  As they put it, “Donna is the adult presence in the lab who solves all problems and restores sanity to the high stress environment during the term.  Donna provides the million little human grace notes throughout the days and months that make our corner of MIT a success.”  “Donna represents many of the ideals we aspire to at MIT – excellence, reliability and commitment to purpose.”


Adam Grein, Mechanical Engineer/Sr. Reactor Operator, Nuclear Reactor Laboratory

As a mechanical engineer for 12 years at the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, Adam Grein has made outstanding contributions to facility safety and reliability, greatly helping to ensure maximum reactor readiness to fulfil the research programs’ mission.  His contributions show extraordinary technical depth, and are wide in scope.  To augment his engineering duties, Adam also maintains his NRC license as a Senior Reactor Operator and Shift Supervisor.

Developing from a mechanical engineer into a highly competent project manager, Adam engages and coordinates multiple disciplines.  Through his own initiative and inventiveness, he has introduced a number of solutions and upgrades, increasing reactor reliability and personnel safety.  He is always looking for ways to make improvements to reactor systems, and can often be heard championing the Lab’s “continual improvement” initiative.  He has a unique talent for engineering solutions that are simple, yet highly cost effective and robust, often with much broader benefits, such as lowering personnel risk and environmental impact.

Adam’s hands-on nature ensures that his engineering projects are user-friendly and easily serviceable.  All NRL staff members routinely seek and receive his input into their own projects.  These attributes enable Adam to go well beyond the expectations for his position, and we are delighted to recognize him with the Infinite Mile Award. 


Elizabeth Hoy, Administrative Assistant II, Research Laboratory of Electronics

Elizabeth Hoy excels in her many responsibilities supporting RLE’s research and teaching efforts.  She serves as immediate administrative assistant to two senior faculty members who are extremely grateful for her ability to keep everything on track.  “Elizabeth’s reservoir of patience seems infinite.  In that role, Elizabeth’s most important attribute is that she anticipates needs and problems and solves them before they surface.  This is all part of her quiet competence.”  Many faculty, staff, postdocs, and students count on her for warm support and guidance.

What really sets Elizabeth apart is her ability to creatively adapt to new activities and assignments.  During Elizabeth’s tenure, RLE has embarked on two major programs and launched two new courses.  Each required considerable additional work and skillful organization.  One colleague remarked that building an administrative structure for a new program sometimes felt like building the runway as the planes were landing: “Elizabeth was in the ‘tower’ from the beginning of the program, acting as a key member of the air traffic control team.  She has cheerfully and energetically handled a huge workload at a fast pace.”

Another colleague wrote, “In a place like MIT, great ideas and important enterprises that can change the world are always emerging, yet these would not reach their fullest potential without the diligent, creative, and professional work of people like Elizabeth.  She exemplifies the combination of teamwork and initiative that makes MIT great.”


Debra Kedian, Event Planner, MIT Energy Initiative

Debi has been with MITEI since 2011.  During that time, she has made a tremendous impact on each of the Energy Initiative’s three pillars regarding energy innovation: research, education, and outreach.  Debi continuously goes above and beyond and her attention to detail is spectacular.  Working within an Institute-wide initiative, Debi navigates a broad variety of processes and constituents, managing a variety of event logistics.

Debi has worked on hundreds of meetings and events for MITEI, managing over 200 per year.  She is very conscientious, easing the stress of visitors and MITEI colleagues with empathy and intelligence.  She is responsive and aware of the needs of students, faculty, and staff, and is always available to assist, no matter how busy she is.

As one nominator wrote, “Debi is a people person to the extreme.  When we walk across campus together, I feel I am with a famous person because she knows so many people who want to say hello.  She really gets to know her colleagues, their families, and even their pets.  She connects with our students, the staff of our caterers, and the Facilities staff.”

Debi uses this ability to connect to produce a wide range of effective events, from multi-day sessions with member representatives to major conferences such as the MITEI Annual Research Conference and the Women in Clean Energy Symposium.  She attends to every detail and has a great eye for what will present well.  The Energy Initiative and MIT are fortunate to have her.


Michael Keohane, Administrative Assistant II, Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects

The COUHES office is responsible for managing the protocol review process for experiments that involve the use of human subjects.  The COUHES office is a small but integral part of the MIT research enterprise.  As a member of this team, Michael Keohane has made a positive difference in the work of the office.  Michael goes out of his way to help investigators get through the application submission process.  He treats everyone with the same degree of respect whether faculty, staff or student, and he is very patient when helping researchers navigate through the process of applying for COUHES approval.

In addition to managing a heavy workload in the office, Michael has assumed extra responsibilities, including regularly updating the COUHES website.  Another extra role he has is as a member of the Kuali Coeus Institutional Review Board Subcommittee.  Kuali Coeus is an enterprise-wide, cradle-to-grave, electronic research administration system that is the result of the partnership between the Kuali Foundation and Coeus Consortium and is based on software functionality developed at MIT and used by many of our peer institutions.  The subcommittee has representation from many of our universities and Michael’s involvement ensures that as future functionality is considered, the needs of the COUHES office will be taken into consideration.  Michael also has made significant contributions in improving the performance of the COUHES office, such as collaborating with system developers to improve the functionality of the COUHES database system.

As one of the nominations wrote of Michael, “He is always willing to assist a co-worker and is definitely a team player.  He is dedicated to his job and cares about all aspects of human subject research and the MIT community.”


Amanda Maffa, Technical Assistant, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research

Amanda is the lab manager in the Sharp lab at the Koch Institute.  She consistently goes above and beyond the scope of her job duties to assist the lab, Professor Phillip Sharp, and other members of the Koch Institute with anything they might need.  A person visiting the lab might catch her fixing the office coffee pot just as readily as they might find her categorizing cell lines.

Amanda has worked tirelessly to organize, archive and streamline processes, contracts and equipment for the lab.  She has been able to archive data and set up a system to maintain it in a more compact, accessible way.  She has spearheaded floor-wide equipment cleanings, trainings and service work, as well as implementing floor-wide coat rentals.  Amanda also maintains records and keeps invoicing on track, which is not easy to do for a lab, let alone a whole floor.

Always ready to accept and share some extra work, Amanda is the person lab members go to if they are running under a deadline or struggling to find the information they need.  Amanda is a wonderful addition to MIT and the Koch Institute.


William Parkin, Technical Supervisor, Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Bill Parkin builds electronics at PSFC, and he does it well, but he does so much more.  He is responsible for almost all the custom electronics infrastructure in C-Mod: dozens of equipment racks, miles of cable and optical fiber, and hundreds of PC Boards.  Everyone in PSFC, including staff, students, and visiting scientists, needs help with their electronics sometimes.  And because this is research, everyone needs something different.  What makes Bill so valuable to the Alcator program is the generous way he helps researchers.  C-Mod engineers have become accustomed to scratching out a design on a napkin and handing it to Bill with total confidence that he will take care of the details and get it done.

Over the past two years, Bill has taken on the additional task of coordinating and supervising the design and construction of some specialized instrumentation for the C-Mod project.  It is an extremely complex, interconnected system with 5 different types of high-performance printed circuit boards.  And Bill and his team needed to complete this project in time for Alcator C-Mod’s experimental run campaign scheduled for this past March.  Sure enough, Bill put in extra effort to make sure everything was ready.

As one nominator noted, Bill Parkin embodies the MIT spirit.  He maintains a positive, professional attitude, even during the inevitable times when designs get changed or don’t go according to plan and it becomes evident that a second, sustained effort will be required to push things along.  Bill’s character is notable for his dedication to the work, a loyalty to the profession, and the highest integrity.


Jag Patel, Director, Special Projects, Chancellor’s Office

For members of the Chancellor’s Office and other groups working on Institute-wide communications, Jag is known as “the cool, collected and calming influence at the end of the telephone line.”

Jag has recently transferred over to the Chancellor’s Office from Institutional Research, where she displayed a great attention to detail in designing and analyzing surveys.  Her role includes sending Institute-wide emails on behalf of MIT’s senior leadership.  The vast majority of these communications are generated with little notice under great pressure.  As one nominator wrote: “Knowing that Jag was in charge of the logistics of sending, allowed the rest of us to focus on the substance.  Except that very quickly it became clear that Jag was a brilliant addition to the ‘substance’ team, too!  Time after time, she called out inconsistencies, saved us from unwitting gaffes and discerned trouble on the horizon before the rest of us knew to look.”

Another nominator adds, “What impresses me most about Jag is her willingness to be there for the entire MIT community whenever, and however she is needed.”  An example of this is Jag’s additional role as a critical player in a coordinating group around MIT’s development activities, where she brings the Chancellor’s perspective and her own time-tested wisdom.

Jag is such a standout that her nominators have created a new word to describe the phenomenon: “'Jagness.  Definition: The quality of delivering brilliant, mission-critical results at all hours with exceptional judgment, perfect good humor, warm wit, disorienting humility and a palpable love for those around her.”


Mary Roderick, Human Resources Administrator, McGovern Institute for Brain Research

Mary delivers truly comprehensive, high-quality human resources services for the McGovern Institute.  Since joining McGovern in 2012, she has become an integral member of the team and an invaluable partner in determining the human resources needs of the department.  Her capacity for listening, thoughtful analysis of issues, relational leadership style, and problem-solving skills have won the respect and confidence of staff and administrators.

Mary is self-motivated.  She actively models and cultivates a culture in which staff feel valued, respected, and supported.  Having put in place HR systems, processes and procedures, Mary has now turned to systematically addressing issues of staff retention, encouraging and mobilizing professional development opportunities for staff, and framing supervision and performance evaluations as a shared responsibility between supervisors and staff.

Mary’s interactions with McGovern faculty and staff are characterized by openness, integrity, fairness, tact, and good judgment.  She strives for excellence in her role and has consistently demonstrated her commitment to MIT and to the McGovern Institute.

Nancy Stauffer, Writer and Editor, MIT Energy Initiative

Nancy’s quick mind and precision with words are perfect for science writing.  But she has an extra quality that makes all the difference: passion.  As the editor of Energy Futures, the publication of the MIT Energy Initiative, Nancy’s commitment to science has always been steadfast.  She has devoted her career to telling the stories of the makers at MIT, translating their research onto the page and sending it out into the world, informing and enticing.

When a new issue of Energy Futures is taking shape, many meetings begin with her exclaiming, “I just had the best conversation!”  Inevitably, she’s met with a professor or researcher or a student who has told her something complex and interesting, and her formidable mind is in the process of unfolding it and forming it into something for her readers.  And it isn’t just one kind of research – Nancy must jump from department to department, making the news clear and interesting to both scientific peers and the larger world alike.

This kind of dexterity is the hard-won asset of a good journalist.  Also key is the simple fact that Nancy is a superb writer and editor.  She always makes herself available as both a mentor and friend.  One nominator wrote, “As an editor, Nancy brings out the best writing in the many freelance writers she has worked with, inspiring them to develop stories that truly engage readers, with just the right mix of technical details and human interest.”

It is not just her colleagues Nancy has grown close to during her time at MIT – it is the Institute itself.  In the case of energy research in particular, the history of energy at the Institute would not be complete without Nancy’s reporting.


Jaren Wilcoxson, Counsel, Office of the General Counsel

In his role as counsel in the Office of the General Counsel, Jay brings his expertise, advice, and guidance on critical student life issues and readily makes himself available to support the Office of the Chancellor, the Division of Student Life, the Title IX Office, and others.  Many of the issues Jay addresses as counsel are complex, with outcomes that impact the life of an individual student or the wellbeing of a living community.  Jay addresses each conversation with a demonstrated professionalism and commitment to serving and advancing the best interests of our community.

With regard to sexual assault education and prevention, Jay played a central role in establishing the Title IX Office and has been instrumental to MIT’s investigatory and adjudication efforts.  His attention to detail, sharp intellect, and ability to build consensus allowed the Institute to lead by example and become a model for other colleges and universities grappling with these difficult issues.  In addition, Jay has worked tirelessly to support the mission of gender equity at MIT.  He is always available to the Title IX staff as they navigate responses to emotionally charged and potentially volatile situations.

Student mental health and wellbeing is another pressing priority for our community where Jay’s character and strong work ethic are making a difference.  Jay is a trusted member of the MindHandHeart Steering Committee and he provides valuable input during our Innovation Fund reviews.  His sound judgment, even hand, and gift for balancing legal standards and human impacts set him apart, and have made him a trusted colleague and advisor.



Kuali Coeus Support Team from the Office of Sponsored Programs
Ian Cariolo, Kara DeNutte, Amy Holden, and Kim Mann

As mentioned previously, Kuali Coeus is an enterprise wide system used to standardize research administration processes.   It is based on Coeus, software developed at MIT and is the result of a partnership between the Kuali Foundation and the Coeus Consortium.   It is used at many of our peer institutions to prepare and submit proposals and manage awards, tracking sponsor-specific terms and conditions, reporting requirements, human subjects approvals and other compliance functions.   

For nearly two years preparing for the release of Kuali Coeus, MIT’s KC-Help team has shown unwavering dedication and perseverance in the face of many frustrating challenges.  Today, we celebrate these four individuals for their outstanding contributions over the past year.  Leading up to the release, they worked with stakeholders from departments, labs, and centers to collect feedback on how the new platform could help them perform proposal-related work more efficiently.  They also contributed to training and online resources, and tested and retested software.  After the release, the team kept up with twice the prior volume of calls and emails, and extended the planned period of drop in help sessions.  Frequently, they offer one-on-one support to department administrators to meet needs that can’t be handled by normally scheduled trainings.  Survey responses reflect high usage of KC-Help, and a very high level of satisfaction.

In addition to being excellent problem-solvers, the KC-Help team is refreshingly proactive, and their Quick Reference Cards are welcome and readily accessible resources for the community.  The KC-Help team is also quick to recognize new trends and will often send out tips and reminders at specific times.  Finally, they have re-instituted “Lunch and Learn” monthly meetings to provide a helpful forum for research administrators.  We are delighted to recognize Ian Cariolo, Kara DeNutte, Amy Holden, and Kim Mann with an Infinite Mile Team Award.


The Pre-Award Team from the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
Mary Ellen Acone, Elisabeth Choi, and Emma Malbon

When it comes to grant submissions, the Koch Institute is fortunate to be able to rely on this fantastic team.  As one faculty member wrote, “They make the unpleasant task of grant submission as pleasant and painless as possible.  They are without question among the most conscientious and reliable people I interact with at MIT.”  Mary Ellen, Elisabeth, and Emma have created a system that makes the creation of budgets, and the completion of the many required forms for grants, a much simpler process.  They are also extraordinarily responsive, helpful, and available.  This is also true for those completing fellowship applications.

This team reduces workload and stress for others, and greatly contributes to Koch’s success in obtaining funding.  Their suggestions ensure that the budgets and facilities are an optimal match for the proposed research.  They also provide guidance and encouragement through one-on-one assistance and targeted workshops.  This is especially helpful for young researchers first navigating this process, but it also benefits seasoned applicants.  One faculty member said they taught him how to write a good budget justification and statement of work.  Proactive and attentive, the team catches any problems before they turn into delays or issues.  They go the extra mile to meet deadlines and complex funder requirements, ensuring that grant applications routed through the Office of Sponsored Programs to federal and non-federal sponsors have the greatest possibility of success.  


The Plasma Science and Fusion Center Team
Daniel Brunner, Theodore Golfinopoulos, Zachary Hartwig, and Robert Mumgaard

This team of postdocs has been critical in revitalizing the fusion energy research mission at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, or PSFC.  According to the Center director,

This team put together an inspiring research pathway for fusion energy based on the adaptation of rapid innovation cycles such as those found in technology startups.  Their efforts completely opened our eyes to a new way of doing and supporting our fusion energy mission in the private sector.  Their exercise culminated in designing and proposing “SPARC” (Small Privately-funded ARC) which takes some of the key magnet technological innovations found from the ARC conceptual design for a fusion pilot plant (which garnered substantial press last year), and shrink this down into a rapid, prototype to demonstrate for the first time net energy gain from controlled fusion.  They presented this work at IAP and, pun intended, sparked enormous interest in the PSFC, such that now we have several large groups independently assessing SPARC’s design.  They performed most of this work in their spare time.  The energy and dedication of this young group of scientists, who have a real passion to do something about climate change, has inspired us to new heights.  In addition, this group as a collective has been tireless in outreach; they are all highly effective communicators of our science and energy mission of the PSFC.

We are honored to recognize Bob Mumgaard, Ted Golfinopoulos, Zach Hartwig and Dan Brunner with an Infinite Mile Award.


Research Laboratory of Electronics Team
Mark Mondol, Assistant Director of the Nanostructures Laboratory
James Daley, Research Specialist

Jim Daley and Mark Mondol have managed the Nanostructures Laboratory and Scanning Electron Beam Lithography facilities at the Research Laboratory of Electronics for over 15 years.  With multiple unique users across the Institute, Mark and Jim maintain a fully operational suite of state-of-the-art nanofabrication equipment.

Mark and Jim consistently create an efficient, productive and inviting environment for students to learn, research, and innovate.  Former and current students and researchers appreciate Mark and Jim’s energy, passion, ingenuity, knowledge, and extraordinary willingness to help, including outside regular office hours.  They not only assist with troubleshooting technical problems, they model this critical problem-solving skill.  One nominator wrote, “Mark and Jim have taught hundreds of students and seen them through their studies in many ways that their professors didn't, since your advisor will rarely show you how to measure and mix chemicals, how to use equipment, etc.  If you're a student who's never held a wrench, they’ll help you take your first steps in the lab.  And if you're an advanced student they’ll give sophisticated advice, since they have gained a lot of nano-fab knowledge over the years.  People like Mark and Jim deserve to be recognized for the huge role they play in our education.”  Another wrote, “To fulfill MIT’s mission of being at the forefront of science and technology requires one to be a keen learner, to always be looking to learn about new techniques and equipment.  Mark and Jim provide a unique at-the-bench learning environment where academic theory is merged with practical experimentation.”


The Technology Licensing Office Activities Committee Team
Annette Casillas, Lauren Davis, Hyehmi Greene, Rolande Johndro, Katrina Khalil-Iannetti, Laura Koebler, Katy Lee, Grace Lindsay, Ning-Shiuan Snoeberger, and Elise Yonika

The Technology Licensing Office is an extremely busy office, processing over 800 inventions each year.  TLO has a dedicated team of staff working together to patent these inventions and to negotiate license agreements with companies to further develop these early stage ideas into a product.  While maintaining their jobs at full capacity, TLO also enjoys a very dedicated volunteer Activities Committee that works hard to keep morale high in this fast paced environment.  Their mission is to build community around a monthly activity for all TLO staff.   Working hard behind the scenes, largely on their own time, this team plans both simple and elaborate events for the enjoyment of all TLO staff.  Office events have included mini golf in the office with office plants and recycle bins, high tea, and annual early Thanksgiving dinners, while events outside MIT have included community service such as volunteering at the Boston Food Bank.  This team boosts morale and promotes collegiality, which in turn helps staff work well together.  When trying to solve problems, TLO have discovered they find common ground with fellow employees more easily.  

At MIT we increasingly hear about the importance of community at the Institute.  Community starts within each department, lab, center, and office, and this group represents community at its best.  We commend this team of dedicated individuals.