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Testimonials for the 2018 Infinite Mile Award Winners

Leigh Edwards
Compliance Administrator, Technology Licensing Office

In April 2017, the Technology Licensing Office experienced a crisis with the unexpected passing of their beloved colleague, Rolande Johndro. While the entire office coped with grief and loss, Leigh Edwards consistently stepped up.  During this and other staffing transitions, she filled new roles with remarkable aplomb. It is never easy to follow in the footsteps of someone who is well respected, but it is hard to think of a better person for this situation than Leigh Edwards.

Thoughtful, approachable, and friendly, Leigh meets challenges with a cheerful, can-do attitude. She has brought a remarkably responsive, professional and problem-solving attitude to a key TLO position and in TLO’s interactions with other parts of MIT. She has exuded calm, efficiency and thoroughness when times were highly turbulent around her, bringing stability to her role and TLO. Leigh asks questions, networks with staff and outside compliance colleagues, and finds answers in order to address quickly any problems as they arise.

The operations of the TLO are essential and complicated. Staff members are talented and dedicated, and each position has a different set of responsibilities. Leigh capably learned highly complex information and the tasks of more than two positions. She redeveloped processes that were lost, and always found ways to ensure that TLO continued to meet faculty and other needs. Moreover, she provided leadership and support for others. Leigh Edwards is a magnificent team player, and her heroic efforts merit an Infinite Mile Award.


Randall Field
Executive Director, Mobility of the Future Program, MIT Energy Initiative

The MIT Energy Initiative’s mission is to link science, innovation, and policy to transform the world’s energy systems. MITEI and member companies pursue research on challenging and important topics to address global energy challenges.  Randy Field supports this by successfully managing these programs and the interrelated complex sponsor relationships. He combines sharp analytical skills, a command of the operational details, good humor, and a team-player style of leadership.

Randy is not only a brilliant researcher, but also a model for others on managing an important sponsor’s research portfolio and navigating a consortium with many different stakeholders. About 18 months ago, Randy launched the MIT Energy Initiative’s Mobility of the Future Study, which addresses an issue of critical importance to the global clean energy transition. He recognized the need and value for an analysis on the sector’s transition to low and zero carbon fuels. Randy invested many months recruiting faculty and working with them to define the scope of the study. Then, he recruited a consortium of companies to fund the study. It is a testament to Randy’s management capabilities that the study is on track for release, and the consortium members are deeply engaged and enthusiastic about their experience.

Randy has exhibited consistent hard work and perseverance managing or leading several of the largest and most challenging industry-MIT projects. Through his efforts and extraordinary skills, Randy Field has made MITEI much more effective and has set the example for how other industry-MIT projects should be led and managed.


Kara A. Flyg
Senior Director of Development, McGovern Institute

Self-motivated, industrious, and persistent – these qualities make Kara Flyg extremely successful in fundraising for the McGovern Institute. Kara is a true professional who takes her position as an ambassador of MIT seriously and works every day to further the mission of MIT and the McGovern Institute.

Kara continues to work closely with McGovern Institute co-founder Lore McGovern. She was instrumental in closing a gift from Lore of the sculpture “Scientia” that is now part of the LIST collection. This sculpture is currently a beacon on Main Street and a source of pride and enjoyment by many faculty, students, and visitors.

Kara works collaboratively with the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences on their Brains on Brains program. She works tirelessly to communicate the impact of faculty research to the public and to forge relationships with potential donors. She has a knack for relating the science to everyone interested in making a positive difference. This approach is the same whether someone is considering a small gift, a large gift determined over many years, or an annual gift as part of the Alumni Fund. Kara is also the first to help at McGovern Institute events that have nothing to do with fundraising. She is there to assist at the annual symposium, staff retreats, large seminars, and other events where an “all hands on deck” attitude is needed.


Molly Helene Kruko
Administrative Assistant II, Research Laboratory of Electronics

Molly Kruko supports three faculty members and their lab groups, never missing a beat. Her initiative, professionalism, leadership, and good character, together with her dedication and skill, have been abundantly evident. In under a year in this position, Molly has already shown tremendous capacity at navigating MIT’s complex administrative landscape, to the benefit of her faculty members, students, postdocs, and Martin Luther King Visiting Professor Anita Hill. Molly’s flair for organization and process improvement has quickly become an MIT asset that benefits many people. She excels at making connections and bringing people together.

Molly’s nomination included words of praise from faculty members, administrators, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars. Molly’s skill set truly came to the fore while managing the Gender/Race Imperative speaker series led by Professor Hill and Professor Medard. This series brings national leaders on issues of diversity and inclusion in STEM to MIT. Molly went beyond extensive logistical arrangements, communications, and advertising.  She investigated MIT organizations whose interests overlapped. As one faculty leader wrote, “She connected with the substance of the work. She attended campus events and shared information…with audiences in topic-related programs…I have no doubt that her efforts increased the number of participants and their level of participation in our talks.”


Rick Leccacorvi
Mechanical Designer and Fabric Specialist, Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Rick Leccacorvi is an amazingly talented mechanical designer who has been an essential member of the Alcator C-Mod team for 14 years, and more recently an essential contributor to a diverse set of projects at the Plasma Fusion and Science Center. Nominators went beyond the concept of an infinite mile spirit to showcase Rick’s infinite marathon spirit. They described numerous complex challenges for which Rick developed innovative hardware designs, often on extremely demanding timelines. In more than one case, his elegant solution was the first of its kind in the world, and it has stood the test of time.

Rick’s work has been instrumental in all the C-Mod machine upgrade projects, adding greatly to PSFC’s success as a world-leading tokamak facility. A supervisor described Rick working beautifully with engineers, scientists, and technicians as he completed detailed designs and helped with fabrication and installation. Regarding a recent endeavor in the area of fusion energy research, a colleague wrote: “As a result of his work, we are now able to obtain experimental data supporting two graduate student PhD theses and the work of one postdoc, and have an operational system that is the centerpiece of a key collaboration. His professionalism and skill are matched only by his energy and enthusiasm, making Rick a pleasure to work with and making him someone who strengthens the morale of the entire lab. Rick Leccacorvi truly represents the ideals of the Institute – excellence in education, research, and service – and his contributions enable us to fulfill the MIT mission.”


Mark S. Miller
Lab Manager, David H Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research

Mark Miller is the quintessential lab manager, known for a combination of finely tuned scientific, management, and people skills. Along with his professionalism and responsiveness, Mark is lauded for being highly organized, infinitely reliable, and keenly attentive to detail. Since 2013, he has consistently gone beyond the lab’s expectations to keep Professor Darrell Irvine’s group running safely, efficiently, and at top performance. Mark is the cornerstone of a large research lab of over 32 graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and technical staff.  Here is how some of those researchers describe him:

“Mark is always willing to take the time to solve any problems that may arise, despite his already large number of responsibilities.”

Mark takes “care of the lab behind the scenes. He strives for perfection and runs a tight ship. Most strikingly, Mark has a keen awareness of the needs of every single lab member. Without his ability to understand the projects taking place in the lab and willingness to go above and beyond, the Irvine lab would cease to be the well-oiled machine it is today.”

He “is the most dedicated, organized, patient, and kind person I have ever worked with, despite always being under pressure from a huge work load of thankless duties. He is one of the reasons [we all] get along so well.”

Mark regularly interacts with people in other offices and at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where these impressions were echoed. Mark represents the best of MIT every day.


Flor Gonzalez Nawara
Senior Human Resources Representative, Research Laboratory of Electronics

Flor Gonzalez Nawara maneuvers difficult human resources situations and consistently provides the highest quality service to the MIT community, going out of her way to be supportive. Faculty, scholars, and colleagues across the Institute all benefit from Flor’s helpful demeanor and keen professionalism. The RLE HR Team could not function without her!

Joining RLE in 2013, Flor has mastered skills necessary for success all while facing an increased workload and taking on new responsibilities. The postdoc headcount alone has grown from about 90 postdocs to 135, with at least 90% needing visas. Over the past year, Flor stepped up by assuming primary responsibility for RLE’s daily HR activities for nearly three months while the Human Resources Administrator was on family leave. She frequently faced the unexpected. RLE counted on Flor to embrace the challenge without hesitation. How did she do it? Flor meticulously gathers the facts, weighs them in the context of possible outcomes, and fully considers each option while keeping key objectives in mind. When faced with unusually complex matters, her consistent good judgment contributes to a successful outcome.

RLE is fortunate and extremely appreciative of Flor’s natural ability to deliver results. She never hesitates to lend a helping hand, welcome a new colleague, or take on an extra assignment. Flor is a star!


Deborah Payson
Director of Strategy and Outreach, MIT International Design Center, MIT-SUTD Collaboration

Deb Payson has the most public-facing role at the MIT International Design Center. IDC supports the exploration of design research across all five MIT schools, with a sister center located at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Deb is responsible for establishing contacts with people in industry, raising the Center’s public profile, and managing communications and outreach.  

With her positive energy and outgoing nature, Deb acts as a gracious host to all who come through IDC’s doors. Among her other responsibilities, she offers tours that leave people with a sense of excitement about the classes, research and IDC activities and programs.

Deb continues to go well beyond her job description, doing her work without bringing a lot of attention to herself.  She takes the time to get to know people and learn about their work.  In doing so, she has established herself as the “ears on the ground,” helping to head off problems early on. Since Deb has been at IDC, her colleagues have seen the space and its community thrive -- due in large part to Deb's commitment and dedication.

Deb is the glue that holds the IDC together. She is a huge part of what makes the IDC a great place to work by fostering a sense of community and providing mentoring to other staff members. She is someone that people feel comfortable going to for advice.   She has a genuine care for others and is a pleasure to work with and be around.  She helps everyone exhibit the same professionalism and commitment she brings to IDC. 


Katie Porter
Assistant to the Director and Collections, MIT Museum

Katie Porter joined the MIT Museum as Receptionist in 2007, during a period when the museum had begun to grow significantly.  From her first months in that role, and in her current role as Administrative Assistant to the Director, she proved to be an invaluable professional, working quietly, thoughtfully and efficiently to identify, plan and implement systems to support three departments as well as the museum as a whole.

Katie is the “go-to” person for accomplishing so much of the museum’s work, helping to navigate the Institute and to put in place the resources and administrative structure to carry out the many special projects they are engaged in, from exhibitions, to education and public programs, to various collections initiatives.

Katie volunteered to help with a big move of the museum’s collection from a storage facility. Her leadership benefited the project and the museum significantly.  She has taken on other special projects, for example assisting the Registrar & Collections Manager in the care, processing and cataloging of individual collections to make them accessible to the community and public. She has a knack with registration and the ability to juggle all her other work.

Katie is a highly competent and a dedicated member of the administrative team. She is an integral partner who is widely respected by both management and staff for her contributions.  The description “Infinite Mile Award Winner” is apt for Katie, who has given so much of herself these past three years to do not one job, but two for the museum.


Melissa Sheehan
Manager for Fiscal Administration, Research Laboratory of Electronics

Melissa Sheehan is extraordinary!  She sets the standard for all professional research administrators and is an inspirational role model for everyone.  She brings passion to everything she does while demonstrating a rare dedication to her craft.  Melissa operates with the highest standards and defines the term integrity.  She unfailingly earns the trust of others, and gets results.  With vigor and determination, she manages, coaches, advises and steers her colleagues in the direction that best achieves results that support the Institute’s larger mission. 

Melissa has been a key contributor to the efficient and effective support that the RLE fiscal team offers its principal investigators. PIs have benefitted from her ability to take on their complex portfolios and to provide a first class customer service experience with regard to the oversight of their funds.  She helps PIs successfully navigate the increasing challenges in the current research funding environment and cost structure at MIT.  She has an exceptional level of commitment to the research groups that she works with and is a genuine advocate for investigators in RLE.

With more than 20 years of Institute service, Melissa is one of the most knowledgeable, skilled and multi-faceted fiscal professionals in the Institute’s research administration domain.  Her professionalism, passion for the mission, collaborative spirit and advocacy for faculty, students and staff are beyond reproach. 


Laura von Bosau
Administrative Assistant II in the Research Laboratory of Electronics

Laura von Bosau is phenomenal at keeping her faculty supervisor’s research group running smoothly. Today, however, we are recognizing Laura for her extraordinary work as the Course administrator for 3.091, Introduction to Solid State Chemistry.  She does everything from coordinating the recitation schedules and tests, to maintaining the Stellar site and running staff meetings for the teaching assistants.  She also assembles hands-on learning kits for all the students and prepares what Professor Grossman needs for his lectures.

For Laura, it is not enough for her to work extraordinarily hard at making the class successful.  She does all this and more while supporting the students in a very personal and compassionate way – by addressing scheduling conflicts, illness, or any other personal issues that might arise.  She is genuinely invested in each student’s success in this class.

One student struck by illness wrote, “From the day she knew I would not be able to go to lectures, (Laura) had carefully and tirelessly made the most accommodating arrangements for me so that I would get full access to the full extent of the class materials.”

One teaching assistant summed up Laura’s contributions this way: “While she could have stopped at a strictly administrative relationship with the students, she has constantly proven how much she cares for their experience and well-being… It is noteworthy that she was even acknowledged by students in the class evaluations, though no question explicitly asks about the course administration. Her commitment to her role as course administrator…, far above what was required of her, has been essential to the class’s success with both the students and the teaching staff.”


Detlamphone (Dan) Vongphayboun
Financial Administrator, David H Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research

Dan manages the finances of multiple labs and facilities at the Koch Institute, including all billing activities for Koch’s Core Facilities. In addition, he handles all post award financial activities for six very busy principal investigators with large and complex contracts. These include contracts with major government agencies and multiple subcontracts and participants. His supervisor and a wide range of others at Koch praise him for his exceptional responsiveness and outstanding job performance. They benefit from his cheerfulness, positive attitude, stellar technical acumen, and impeccable accuracy. Dan excels at addressing questions and requests for complicated financial analysis.  He is gifted at coming up with innovative solutions to problems and clever approaches for analyzing and visualizing projections.

Even with his large portfolio of projects, Dan is also the first to step up to help others. He also works with labs to identify ways to meet their financial goals cost-effectively and to provide accurate projections on expected spending.  His supervisor in the finance division wrote, “Dan is always looking for ways to make our jobs more efficient. He has created many reports…, which assist in providing timely information to the headquarters and his PIs. He is a team player who consistently asks other members of the Post Award team if help is needed…Dan is a go-to contact for the Post Award group, and I am lucky to have him as part of my team.”


Committee on Animal Care Administrative Team:
Nicole Cardona, Program Coordinator
Kristofer Cundari, Administrative Assistant I
Robin Kramer, Veterinarian
Abigail Powell, Program Manager

MIT’s Committee on Animal Care, or CAC, ensures that all animal related work on campus complies with federal, state, local, and institutional regulations. This includes inspecting animals, facilities, and laboratories, and reviewing all research involving vertebrate animals. The administrative team of three staff members and a veterinarian is responsible for the daily operation of the Committee on Animal Care. Together, Nicole, Kristofer, Robin, and Abigail show extraordinary commitment to the animals while making possible important research and teaching. This effective and dedicated team enables the CAC to meet its mission.

The CAC administrative staff is a blend of four dedicated, skilled people who admirably complement each other. Through their team effort, the CAC performs its duties at a very high level. This team does all it can to communicate clearly and process animal use protocols expeditiously. They strive to assist investigators and their staff in any way they can, and believe firmly that a partnership with investigators, their staff and students is mutually beneficial. As one faculty member explains, “In our years here at MIT we have yet to have an instance where our research program has stalled as a result of the CAC being unable to process or advise our requests. They have proven to be fair to the researchers who rely on this resource, while never disregarding their responsibility to ensure humane animal care.  We continue to be deeply appreciative of their prompt and thoughtful responses to our questions and concerns.”

The conscientiousness of Nicole, Kristofer, Robin, and Abigail benefits everyone utilizing animal models at MIT. We wish to recognize and applaud them for assuming and successfully performing a not always appreciated array of responsibilities that are essential for the successful conduct of biomedical research at MIT.