You are here

Testimonials for the 2019 Infinite Mile Award Winners

Rachel Barry, Koch Institute

As a lab technician in the Love lab and the Nanowell Core Facility at the Koch Institute, Rachel Barry provides the kind of support that makes MIT a place where cutting edge science happens within a community that is both supportive and fun. Rachel is critical to many collaborative projects that require a high degree of proficiency and dependability. In addition, she is one of the most uplifting and delightful people at MIT.

Rachel’s ability to be flexible and always adapt quickly to new protocols always make projects in the lab go more smoothly and generate high-quality data. For example, the Love lab recently developed a single-cell sequencing protocol that requires the production of highly specialized nanowell arrays. They are time-consuming to make and require attention to detail to ensure reproducibility across batches. Rachel has single-handedly made thousands of the arrays and shared them with collaborators, thereby enable dozens of high-impact projects at MIT and beyond.

In addition, Rachel has also trained dozens of personnel and written many clear protocols for the lab. Plus, she is hilariously honest – even in the midst of stressful and long experiments, she will have a funny or snarky remark that makes it so fun to work with her in the lab. Rachel is the rare kind of person that makes MIT truly great.


Jamie Batholomay, MIT Energy Initiative

Jamie is the Communications Coordinator at the MIT Energy Initiative, but that hardly describes the role. Among other things, Jamie designs and maintains multiple websites, produces various aspects of research publications, and contributes to material for feature events. Throughout the daily routine, Jamie exhibits a habitually positive attitude that is contagious. Instinctively striving for increased efficiency and keeping the big picture in mind allows they to repeatedly exceed expectations. It is remarkable for a person to employ a calm and methodical approach during crunch times; Jamie has an uncanny ability to keep a focus on details while fielding an onslaught of requests.

Two examples portray Jamie taking on extra assignments and delivering on time. In 2015, an Institute Committee was tasked with producing a report on the MIT Climate Change Conversation. Despite knowing it would be an intense job to coalesce committee input and manage a very quick turnaround, they accepted the task and excelled at it, impressing the full committee and chair with the quality of the finished product, which was delivered within days of the content being finalized.

Similarly, in 2018, Jamie asked to undertake a special project with a strict deadline, despite being fully extended on other assignments. The MIT Joint Program, the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, and the MIT Energy Initiative produced two lengthy reports called “Pathways to Paris” that were recently presented at the UN COP-24 meeting in Katowice, Poland. The reports required input from numerous organizations and required many edits before completion. Jamie’s contribution to the success of the reports was extraordinary.

Always willing to help, Jamie is an outstanding, very talented professional who goes the extra mile to deliver sharp work.


Thomas Bork, Nuclear Reactor Laboratory

As the Reactor Utilization Manager, Tom is the first point of contact for internal and external users of the MIT Reactor. He is an exemplary staff member who is strongly committed to his work and goes above and beyond his responsibilities. Tom is exceptionally effective in facilitating user inquiries and integrating expertise from colleagues at NRL to address technical questions. Once an experiment has been approved, Tom is involved in all phases of the work from scheduling, safety review approval, sample preparation, radioactive sample shipment, and reporting.

Tom is always calm, patient, and devoted to meet the demands and deadlines of his assignments and collaborate seamlessly with other members of NRL. He is adept at balancing the needs of all the irradiation projects, from large, complex in-core irradiations to short, routine exposures.

Tom is also an integral part of many of the education and outreach activities at the laboratory. He helps coordinate reactor activities for professional courses, give tours of the reactor for outside groups, and coordinates visits for research sponsors and collaborators who come to meet or work at the Nuclear Reactor Lab. Tom’s knowledge of the NRL and his ability to bring the necessary resources together are invaluable.

A natural bridge builder and team player, Tom is always thoughtful and helpful when meeting the needs of the research community. His energy and contributions are intrinsic to the continued success of the NRL as a premier university reactor laboratory.


Rachel Drake, Research Laboratory of Electronics

Rachel is a human resources manager within the Research Laboratory of Electronics. She fulfills her role with initiative, tact, and skill, and is broadly appreciated by the lab’s PIs, postdocs, staff, and colleagues around the Institute. She is passionate about the work and understands how to balance service excellence, policy requirements, and the needs of individuals or groups.

A particular focus of Rachel’s is support for postdoctoral scholars in RLE. Rachel uses her position to understand the needs and advocate for postdocs. One method she uses is to organize a regular postdoc event in RLE that attracts many others from across the Institute. Another is to more formally implement annual mentor plans for postdocs. Because Rachel is a great relationship builder, she is able to work successfully with a diverse array of PIs and their particular concerns and leadership styles.

Rachel always puts values into action and sets an example. She is welcoming, open, inclusive, and unfailingly has time to listen to concerns both personal and professional. Rachel makes RLE, as well as MIT, a brighter and better place.


Samantha Farrell, Research Laboratory of Electronics

Samantha Farrell is an Administrative Assistant II at MIT.nano and supports Professor Vladimir Bulovic.  All who know Samantha agree that she is extraordinary.  She is exceedingly helpful, remarkably kind and dedicated to the wellbeing of those she works with. She consistently goes beyond her regular responsibilities, ensuring success in whatever she does. She is an expert at juggling a myriad of responsibilities, handling tasks that could easily overwhelm others, and efficiently responding to a nonstop influx of requests for her time. Samantha’s willingness to help and her proven record of excellence is reflected in the high level of trust and respect that she has earned from everyone who works with her.

Samantha takes on every assignment with her positive ‘can do’ spirit, and her colleagues agree that she is “Super-human.”  She has a fondness for quoting science fiction and has admiration of new science advances. She loves the dynamics of MIT and marvels at the people around her.  She was beside herself with excitement when in preparation for the October 2018 opening of MIT.nano. a voice talent was needed to record a virtual tour of the facility. With her remarkable voice (Samantha is a renowned singer/composer in Cambridge/ Boston music circles) she was the first choice, but before there was a chance to ask, she volunteered. To paraphrase her giddy statement: “Being a voice of MIT.nano is like being a voice of the Starship Enterprise. That is a dream come true!”

Samantha’s colleagues, students and postdocs she works with, feel there is no doubt that Samantha has made MIT a better place to be.


Joe Figueiredo, Division of Comparative Medicine

Joe Figueiredo joined the Division of Comparative Medicine (DCM) as an Animal Care Technician approximately 9 years ago. From day one, it was obvious that Joe is a leader amongst his peers. He’s reliable, hardworking and dedicated to doing his absolute best every day, while maintaining a positive attitude towards his co-workers, veterinary and research staff.

DCM is responsible for animal health and husbandry activities at MIT.  A day’s work can vary unexpectedly because of unforeseen circumstances involving the animals.  There is always a lot of work to be done and consistent teamwork is essential.  Joe is the “glue” that keeps the care staff together and the work flowing smoothly.  When immediate supervision is not available, veterinary staff members direct all special requests to Joe and trust him to allocate responsibilities as necessary.  He has proposed ideas to streamline activities which have been beneficial facility-wide.  Joe has an affable personality and easy-going demeanor, and it is clear that he enjoys doing his job and wants others around him to do so also.  A smile is always on his face for colleagues, and he offers upbeat greetings for individual nonhuman primates under his care – which is very important for their psychological well-being.

Joe’s concern for the animals under his care, willingness to deal with any situation, and ability to motivate others are unmatched at DCM.  He is respected and liked by everyone; his peers have even voted him “Tech of the Year” on numerous occasions.  Joe reflects the best parts of the MIT research community.


Carmen Finn, Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab

Carmen Finn is the Administrative Officer in CSAIL, the largest intra-department lab on campus.  With over 1200 faculty, staff, students, and a research volume of $63M a year, Carmen’s role is often challenging and complex.  Carmen is described as hardworking, common-sensical, and is quick to master new responsibilities.  She displays integrity and empathy in all her dealings.  Carmen knows how to get things done and is often lending a hand beyond the call of duty.  She has been swift to take care of routine issues and has been resourceful in the face of unusual situations.

Over the past two years, Carmen has truly gone the extra mile.  She reorganized the CSAIL Financial Office, creating a new level of middle management and opportunities for staff.  She became the Acting Administrative Officer, taking on human resource responsibilities, as well as managing 25 administrative assistants.  She did this all without a complaint, although she could often be seen working long hours.  She was promoted to Assistant Director for Administration in 2018 and continues to bring her dedication to the lab.

CSAIL is fortunate to have Carmen.  She works side by side with her staff, often stepping in to help in their tasks.  She makes time to provide her staff with advice on career growth and opportunities.  Carmen provides leadership and invaluable guidance and insight into all the major decisions of the lab.  For embracing change and promoting a harmonious, efficient CSAIL headquarters, Carmen deserves to be recognized with an Infinite Mile Award.


Lauren Foster, Technology Licensing Office

Lauren Foster is an Associate Director in the Technology Licensing Office.  She serves a number of constituents within MIT, and builds relationships with entrepreneurs and business leaders in Boston and beyond.  She seeks to enable the transfer of MIT technology to the world all while managing licensing staff and overseeing a portfolio of more than 600 active technologies.  With all of this, Lauren brings a keen intellect, a gracious spirit, emotional intelligence and a wonderful personality to her work.  Always willing to go above and beyond her responsibilities, Lauren has negotiated through the night to benefit MIT.

One thing that stands out about Lauren is her desire to mentor and develop her colleagues.  This extends to everyone she interacts with at the TLO.  She always encourages the junior staff to, “take the seat at the table,” and to share their thoughts and ideas.  Lauren sees great potential in her colleagues and does all she can to help develop TLO staff members.

Lauren is also very adept at her work and brings a gracious spirit and win-win mindset to even the most challenging business deals.  She is a consummate problem-solver and focuses her energy on resolving the problem at hand. She has been described as strategic, passionate, driven, optimistic and collaborative.  She truly cares about people and business relationships, which has brought her much success in her work.  To quote one nominator, “Lauren is the best technology licensing person I have ever seen anywhere in the world and I’ve seen a lot!  And she is also a great human being.”


Brad Francis, Fiscal Officer, MIT Innovation Initiative

Brad consistently exemplifies hard work, a positive attitude, intrinsic self-motivation and an unwavering respect for this community. On top of that, he’s also really good at his job!  Due to unforeseen personnel changes, Brad began his role as Fiscal Officer at the Innovation Initiative with a larger job description than originally anticipated.  If he was intimidated or overwhelmed, he never let on.  Instead Brad rolled up his sleeves, asked a lot of questions, and continued to learn and excel.  He set the standard for stepping up and in doing so made the Innovation Initiative a better place to work.

Brad has made a number of improvements in processes, among them restructuring MITii fund centers and putting the staff into a single HR group for efficiency and in order better to align with best practices.  In fact, he has also provided HR administrative help along with the financial administration.  In short, he has injected a great deal of organization into a fast-growing program at a crucial time.

Another example of Brad’s resourcefulness appeared during the Initiative’s sponsorship of InCube, a multi-day hackathon event in partnership with ETH Zurich.  In addition to the many logistical details involved with bringing a large glass cube across the Atlantic and setting it up on the lawn in front of Stata, there were a host of financial and administrative tasks that needed to be navigated prior to the cube’s arrival. Brad’s attention to detail, diligence in following up, and ability to anticipate issues before they arose saved the Initiative time and headache.

True to its name, no two days at the Innovation Initiative are alike.  As MIT designs, develops, and delivers new programs, Brad’s creativity, knowledge, and can-do spirit will continue to be a hugely positive asset.


Chris Haynes, Shop Manager, IDC

Chris became the full-time shop manager of the International Design Center in the Spring of 2017.  Since then, he has been a driving force in transforming IDC into one of the most desirable places for people from across campus to hold hands-on classes.  IDC has gone from hosting three to four classes per semester to about eight per semester. With a diversity of IDC users, there is a corresponding wide variety of shop equipment.  No single person could possibly be an expert in all of it, but Chris comes pretty close!  The Center has saved tens of thousands of dollars in servicing and equipment replacement costs by Chris’s ability to fix machines.

At the start of each semester, Chris takes time to meet with every instructor to better understand their needs, making sure to adjust equipment, change the shop layout, and rethink storage needs.  He also personally provides basic training to every student who uses the shop and follows up with timely advice as they get further into their work.  During end of semester crunch times, Chris is often in on late evenings and weekends, always with a positive attitude and his sense of humor intact.

And his generosity with his time extends beyond the International Design Center.  For example, he consulted with students in setting up a student-run shop in Building E60. He has frequently printed 3D parts for others and the Central Machine Shop, and he has given many hours to help student clubs and team members from the Edgerton Shops.  Chris can talk knowledgably with vendors and MIT Facilities about everything from printers to mills to electric work to security systems.  Chris combines technical expertise, approachability, and a mentoring spirit with total dedication to helping students and instructors succeed in the projects they undertake in the IDC makerspace.  He is a true asset to the both the IDC and the larger MIT community.


Julie Kukharenko, Fiscal Officer SUTD/IDC

In her position, Julie Kukharenko is responsible for all things financial, including budgeting, reconciling multiple accounts, preparing and analyzing internal budgets, as well as procurement.  Julie has mastered MIT systems and finds creative solutions to the inevitable challenges that arise.

She has always exhibited the utmost integrity in handling the finances of the Collaboration.  When dealing with yearly budgets of several million dollars, Julie is always keenly attentive to making sure that spending is in the best interests of both MIT and program sponsors.  An excellent listener and advocate for the needs of others, Julie is also very attentive to the interpersonal dynamics of the office.  

Julie joined the team during a time of transition; two major staff roles had recently been vacated and consolidated into one position, and Julie had to learn how to run the finances of both the educational and research components of MIT’s collaboration with the Singapore University of Technology and Design.  Julie was invigorated by this daunting challenge and she tackled each task with careful dedication and creative problem-solving.

Possessing a unique and rare combination of financial mastery and superb people skills, Julie’s contributions to MIT are extraordinary.


Stephanie Muto, Research Lab of Electronics

RLE and the Institute are very fortunate to have Stephanie’s touch.  As an Assistant Fiscal Officer she brilliantly manages research accounts including monthly research account projections, research proposal renewals, assisting with the submission of new research proposals, and working with others to assist the appointments of postdocs, students and visitors.  Always looking into problem areas and seeking solutions to resolve them, Stephanie is amazing in her role as Assistant Financial Administrator.

But this is only the half of it.  Seeing a need and on her own initiative, Stephanie developed a tool with the MIT Data Warehouse so she could pull data relevant to RLE and present it to PIs more efficiently and with less manual work each month.  As a direct resolve of her efforts, administrators and PIs within RLE benefitted by having a more robust, concise, and user-friendly report that facilitates PI decision-making.

Stephanie has created several other financial tools to improve best practices and efficiency at RLE.  And she is always willing to share her expertise with everyone on the team and across the Institute.  Stephanie Muto stands out for her commitment to excellence in research administration.


Vimala Palaniswamy, Open Learning

As Associate Director of Bootcamps in Open Learning, Vimala epitomizes the spirit of Mens et Manus – she brings great ideas to real impact.  She joined MIT Bootcamps when it was in start-up mode.  She successfully created a revenue and cost structure that allowed them to run financially sustainable Bootcamps. Her skill and creativity brought an innovative mindset to the cost structure and how it could be shared with sponsors and collaborators helping to make it a truly global organization.

Under Vimala’s leadership the program has grown from attracting 800 applicants per boot camp to attracting more than 3000.   In addition to her leadership qualities, she engages and motivates learners allowing them to apply entrepreneurship from a framework to their own ventures.  Her work in Entrepreneurship 101, 102, and 103 has greatly influenced more than 1000 entrepreneurs in over 90 countries.  Those entrepreneurs have raised an aggregate of $70 million in funding.

Vimala is a person of highest integrity, honesty and collaboration and capable of personal sacrifices and perseverance in the name of the greater good.  She collaborated with the MIT Refugee Action Hub for its inaugural program in Amman Jordan at the last minute, as the program saw great value in offering an entrepreneurship program to the refugees.  With approximately 2 months to create the program and having to make significant changes to her travel for other bootcamps, she made time for this program due to her deep affiliation with the cause on a personal level and seeing the importance of refugee education to the mission of MIT.   She is a great mentor to her staff and to others and goes above and beyond in all aspects of her work.


Haley Tidd, Venture Mentoring Services

“Going the extra mile” is an understatement in describing the contributions of Haley Tidd to the MIT Venture Mentoring Service and to the MIT entrepreneurial community.  As the Operations Manager she has proven to be an extremely effective leader who is driven to provide exceptional service and support to both VMS participants and volunteer mentors who work with them.  Haley takes initiative to add needed tasks and executes them with excellence.  As a result we are now hosting more ventures and have expanded our VMS offerings at a lower internal cost.

Haley and her team are responsible for monthly mentor meetings, bootcamps, seminars and networking and social events.  Her leadership of the team and her dedication to uphold program standards requires a mix of diplomacy, patience and firmness all the while playing a critical role in providing a trusted and nurturing environment for our mentees.

The MIT VMS Outreach Training Program has benefitted from Haley’s commitment to excellence and the mission of VMS.  She has helped lead a change within the organization to blend outreach more formally to VMS, making both parts of the organization more effective.  Managing our group of primarily volunteer leaders, a large cadre of volunteer mentors and hundreds of mentees is challenging.  She does this by always striving to do what’s right while being careful, thoughtful and considerate of others and earning the deep respect of all VMS participants.


Kathleen Vandiver, Center for Environmental Health Sciences 

Dr. Vandiver is the Director of Community Engagement for both the Center for Environmental Health Sciences and the MIT Superfund Research Program.  Her role as a relationship builder with the MIT community and beyond has helped dozens of ongoing initiatives help solve real world problems.

Kathleen was the primary mentor for two Masters of Engineering students on an outreach project that involved Citizen Science.  Her guidance and mentorship of the students helped a Maine community to obtain safer water from other sources or filters that removed toxic agents from their water for 20% of households that participated from 3 towns.  This study and its impact was described in multiple publications and one of the students was featured on the MIT Homepage for her outstanding service to the community.

She has also developed tactile learning opportunities by creating hands on kits to teach about DNA, RNA and proteins.  These kits have been broadly disseminated and celebrated by teachers across the country and as far away as Cambodia.

She is truly an endless font of new ideas for creating ways to make a difference for our community and beyond.  She goes far beyond her responsibilities and demonstrates leadership that has made significant impact to the programs.  Her work has been recognized by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences as well as other non-government agencies such as the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation.  Generous in spirit and full of energy, Kathleen cares deeply about those whom she helps to engage and teach, as well as students, postdocs, faculty and staff at MIT.