4 Days, 690 Miles, Countless Stalls: Behold the ‘World’s Longest Yard Sale’

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Everyone loves a bargain. But can anyone survive the entirety of the 127 Yard Sale, an annual four-day event that stretches from Michigan to Alabama?

Source: 4 Days, 690 Miles, Countless Stalls: Behold the ‘World’s Longest Yard Sale’

Kimberly Rose Bennett awarded HHMI Gilliam Fellowship

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Kimberly Rose Bennett, a PhD candidate in the Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) program within the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST), has been selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to be one of the 50 Gilliam Fellows for 2023. Bennett is the first HST student to receive this prestigious fellowship.

The Gilliam Fellows are outstanding doctoral students, chosen to recognize exceptional research in their respective scientific fields and their dedication to the advancement of a “more inclusive scientific ecosystem.” Bennett and her thesis advisers Paula Hammond, Institute Professor and MIT vice provost for faculty, and Joelle Straehla, a pediatric oncologist at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, will receive an annual award totaling $53,000 for up to three years.

As a Gilliam Fellow, Bennett will meet and network with other fellows and professors at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), which is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. This talented group of students, who are expected to go on to become the next generation of influential scientists, will offer one another an invaluable support network throughout their years of graduate school. In addition, the program invests not only in the students, but in their advisors as well, in recognition of the important role they play in helping their advisees realize their full potential. Gilliam advisors therefore participate in a year-long course that includes interactive webinars and in-person workshops designed to teach advisors how to listen and engage across cultures. Together, Bennett and her advisors will also receive funds to support diversity and inclusion efforts at MIT.

Bennett, a first-generation honors graduate in bioengineering from the University of California at Riverside, and a first-generation Mexican-American, says she is the first in her family to attend and complete college. She grew up in Hesperia, California, a small desert town that Bennett describes as a “low-resource, medically underserved community” with few STEM opportunities for college prep, including "lacking science camps, physics or computer science classes, or extensive AP/IB [advanced placement/international baccalaureate] curriculum.”

Bennett recalls that as a child, her exposure to science was primarily through a TV show called “MythBusters” — a science entertainment program. When her mother suffered a bout with breast cancer, Bennett recalls this health challenge as a catalyst to see science as a way to change and improve lives, so that “families don’t have to watch a loved one struggle”.

While at UC Riverside, Bennett began to see how the intersection of health sciences and engineering was where she wanted to build a career — ultimately leading her to HST, a program within MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, or IMES. She now works in the Hammond Lab (chemical engineering) and the Straehla Lab (pediatric neuro-oncology) and says that working in the two labs allows her to approach research “from two different lenses.”

Her current research focuses on tackling drug-delivery problems for treating pediatric brain tumors, including diffuse midline glioma, a disease which primarily affects children aged 2-10 years and which has a 100 percent fatality rate, with most patients succumbing to their tumors within a year of diagnosis. A major obstacle in treating these tumors is that there are currently no approved drug therapies available, such as chemotherapies — largely due to the inability of the drugs to get to the tumors in a high enough quantity to have an impact. Bennett is researching one innovative method to get these drugs to where they need to go: by using layer-by-layer nanoparticles. Layer-by-layer was pioneered in the Hammond Lab and involves the iterative adsorption of multiple layers of polymers, with each layer possessing a different task/function that, in total, creates a nanoparticle system that carries the drug cargo to a desired destination.

Bennett values this research area because she “really wanted to work on something translational and impactful … and the engineering and medicine combination (needed) to accomplish this.”

She adds that her goal is to become a professor in the medical engineering space, interfacing with clinicians in order to develop neuro-oncology technologies. A concurrent goal is to continue to do her part to enhance equity and inclusion in science and engineering, and to work on “improving the representation of Hispanic scientists in academia, primarily those who are also first-generation and low-income graduates, who have had extra barriers in pursuing higher education.”

“It’s so difficult to come from this background and to make it into a college, much less to and through graduate school, and then there is even less chance of joining academia afterwards,” Bennett says. “First-generation and low-income students face so many challenges that persist beyond our undergraduate degree — such as deeply rooted feelings of imposter syndrome with a feeling that you must ‘catch up’ to those around you.”

She cites other challenges first-generation and low-income students face, including lacking generational knowledge of how to navigate these spaces, having additional familial responsibilities or caretaking roles compared to peers, and experiencing financial insecurity, causing students to question whether they can continue their educations.

“Even now I sit in disbelief at how ‘lucky’ I’ve been to make it this far,” she says. “So, trying to make this path more accessible for others is an important goal of mine, and being able to mentor students through that journey is something I have been and want to continue doing.”

As part of this mentoring goal, she is co-founder and co-president of MIT’s First-Generation and/or Low-Income Graduate Student organization (GFLI@MIT) — which she co-founded with fellow HST students Diana Grass and Davy Deng, both MEMP PhD students. “Being able to support each other as a community is essential, as well as the ability to use our platform to advocate for resources to support these students throughout their entire graduate experience,” Bennett says. “I believe that winning the HHMI Gilliam Fellowship, along with two other national fellowships within the same year, really reaffirms that I and other first-generation students can be successful when given a supportive environment to thrive in.”

Bennett says she is “grateful to HST, and for every mentor along the way who has gotten me here” (she is particularly appreciative of her UC Riverside advisors, Victor Rodgers of the Bourns College of Engineering and Byron Ford of the School of Medicine), and she says she is excited about a future that brings together her devotion to translational research and mentorship.

Source: Kimberly Rose Bennett awarded HHMI Gilliam Fellowship

The Fight to Control Big Gay Ice Cream in New York City

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A company that rode to success with an inclusive message has shrunk to a single store, as a founder sues a partner he accuses of mismanagement and fraud.

Source: The Fight to Control Big Gay Ice Cream in New York City

Health Fair 11: Should you get screened for lung cancer?

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Find out whether you should get screened for lung cancer.

Source: Health Fair 11: Should you get screened for lung cancer?

Does Diplomacy Have a Chance of Ending War in Ukraine?

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Keith Gessen discusses whether the United States should encourage negotiations with Russia.

Source: Does Diplomacy Have a Chance of Ending War in Ukraine?

A system to keep cloud-based gamers in sync

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Cloud gaming, which involves playing a video game remotely from the cloud, witnessed unprecedented growth during the lockdowns and gaming hardware shortages that occurred during the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic. Today, the burgeoning industry encompasses a $6 billion global market and more than 23 million players worldwide.

However, interdevice synchronization remains a persistent problem in cloud gaming and the broader field of networking. In cloud gaming, video, audio, and haptic feedback are streamed from one central source to multiple devices, such as a player’s screen and controller, which typically operate on separate networks. These networks aren’t synchronized, leading to a lag between these two separate streams. A player might see something happen on the screen and then hear it on their controller a half second later.

Inspired by this problem, scientists from MIT and Microsoft Research took a unique approach to synchronizing streams transmitted to two devices. Their system, called Ekho, adds inaudible white noise sequences to the game audio streamed from the cloud server. Then it listens for those sequences in the audio recorded by the player’s controller.

Ekho uses the mismatch between these noise sequences to continuously measure and compensate for the interstream delay.

In real cloud gaming sessions, the researchers showed that Ekho is highly reliable. The system can keep streams synchronized to within less than 10 milliseconds of each other, most of the time. Other synchronization methods resulted in consistent delays of more than 50 milliseconds.

And while Ekho was designed for cloud gaming, this technique could be used more broadly to synchronize media streams traveling to different devices, such as in training situations that utilize multiple augmented or virtual reality headsets.  

“Sometimes, all it takes for a good solution to come out is to think outside what has been defined for you. The entire community has been fixed on how to solve this problem by synchronizing through the network. Synchronizing two streams by listening to the audio in the room sounded crazy, but it turned out to be a very good solution,” says Pouya Hamadanian, an electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) graduate student and lead author of a paper describing Ekho.

Hamadanian is joined on the paper by Doug Gallatin, a software developer at Microsoft; Mohammad Alizadeh, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL); and senior author Krishna Chintalapudi, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research. The paper will be presented at the ACM SIGCOMM conference.

Off the clock

At the heart of interstream delay in cloud gaming is a fundamental problem in networking known as clock synchronization.

“If the controller and the screen could look at their watches and at the same time see the same thing, then we could synchronize everything to the clock. But a lot of theoretical work on clock synchronization shows that there are certain bounds you can never overcome,” Hamadanian says.

Many approaches attempt clock synchronization by ping-pong messaging, where a device sends a ping message to the server, which sends a pong message back. The device counts how long it takes the message to return, and cuts that value in half to calculate the network delay.

But the path over the network is likely asymmetric, so it may take more time for the message to reach the server than it does for the return message. Therefore, this method is unreliable and can introduce hundreds of milliseconds of error. Humans can typically perceive interstream delay once it reaches 10 milliseconds. 

“So if something happens on the screen, we want it to happen within 10 milliseconds on the controller, as well,” Hamadanian explains.

He and his collaborators decided to try listening to game audio to synchronize these separate streams.  

In cloud gaming, the microphone on the player’s controller records audio in the room, including game audio played by the speakers on the screen, which it sends back to the server. But using this for synchronization is unreliable because the room audio contains background noise.

So they designed Ekho to add identical sequences of extremely low-volume white noise, known as pseudo noise, to the game audio before it is streamed to the player’s screen. It uses these pseudo-noise segments for synchronization.

Before building Ekho, the researchers conducted a user study to prove that players could not hear the pseudo noise in the game audio. These noise sequences are also resilient to compression, which is important because audio sent from the controller is highly compressed to speed the data transfer.

Pseudo noise, real success

The Ekho-Estimator module adds pseudo-noise sequences to the game audio. When it receives the recorded game audio from the controller, it listens for those markers and tries to line up the streams. This enables it to precisely calculate the inter-stream delay.

The Ekho-Estimator sends that information to the Ekho-Compensator module, which either skips a few milliseconds of sound or adds a few milliseconds of silence to the game audio being sent by the server, which synchronizes the streams.

They tested Ekho on real cloud streaming sessions and found that it was superior to other synchronization methods, even when the microphone quality was poor or background noise was picked up by the recording.

Ekho limited interstream delay to less than 10 milliseconds for nearly 87 percent of the time during streams. No other method the team tested was able to cut that delay to less than 50 milliseconds.

“The traditional way of doing this, which involves trying to measure the synchronization error using the underlying network, the errors are significantly larger. When we started this project, were weren’t sure whether this could even be done. But the accuracy we can get down to with Ekho, at sub-millisecond levels, it is unheard of,” says Chintalapudi.

Impressed by these results, the researchers want to see how well Ekho performs in more complex situations, such as synchronizing five controllers to the same screen device. Also, since Ekho was targeted for cloud gaming, it has range limitations. Future work could seek to enhance Ekho so it can synchronize devices at either end of a very large room, like a concert hall.

“Using inaudible white noise as a sort of ‘timekeeper’ is a great example of how out-of-the-box thinking can produce unexpected results,” says Alizadeh. “The technique could improve user experience, not just in cloud gaming but potentially in any multidevice streaming scenario.”

Source: A system to keep cloud-based gamers in sync

Ben Shelton’s Spectacular Serves

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The young American player has inherited the mantle of the big servers of the past—and it’s thrilling to watch.

Source: Ben Shelton’s Spectacular Serves

Apekshya Prasai: Up in arms

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Although women’s wartime roles and agency tend to be neglected in conventional discourses on conflict, there are times when women not only take up arms but also shape the practices and policies of insurgent groups they fight for. Apekshya Prasai, a PhD candidate in MIT’s Department of Political Science, studies how rebel groups subvert entrenched patriarchal structures, ideas, and norms, and the role women play in this process.    

“All insurgents operate in, recruit from, and depend on communities where half the population is female,” says Prasai, a member of the Security Studies Program and an International Security Program research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. “I find that when organizing rebellion, some insurgents strictly adhere to patriarchal gender norms while others challenge these norms in radical ways.”    

Prasai has conducted extensive interview-based and archival fieldwork on leftist insurgencies across South Asia, especially the People’s War that unfolded in her native country of Nepal. Her work to date has already won significant notice. Most recently, she earned a Harry Frank Guggenheim Emerging Scholars Award, which recognizes promising doctoral work investigating urgent, present-day problems of violence. She has also received a Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship from the United States Institute of Peace as well as a grant from the National Science Foundation/American Political Science Association.   

“Rebel groups often regard questions around gender roles and relations to be central to their daily operations and long-term survival,” she says. “And the different ‘gender strategies’ they adopt can have implications for various important outcomes like cohesion, post-conflict gender politics, and effectiveness of rehabilitation and peace-building programs.”    

Grounded in fieldwork   

Advised by MIT political science professors Roger Petersen, Fotini Christia, and Vipin Narang, as well as Dara Kay Cohen, a public policy professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Prasai is writing a dissertation titled “Gendered Processes of Rebellion: Understanding Strategies for Organizing Violence.” Central to this work are original interviews with men and women who participated in the People’s War in Nepal (1996-2006) led by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), which transitioned to civilian politics after laying down arms in 2006.    

“I spent nearly 17 months doing fieldwork, and it was my favorite part of the dissertation,” says Prasai. “I think I am happiest in the field, talking to people and learning from those who have first-hand experiences.”   

Born and raised in the capital city of Kathmandu, Prasai was still a child during the decade-long conflict. Although sheltered from the conflict, which largely unfolded further away from the capital in rural heartlands of country, Prasai’s academic pursuits have been shaped in important ways by her experiences growing up in Nepal.    

“The movement had a very big gender component, with CPN-M defying long-entrenched gender norms to, among other things, mobilize women as fighters and leaders,” she says. “Nepal being a patriarchal society, this was a puzzling outcome.”   

The social and political upheaval Prasai witnessed sparked her interest in the gender dimensions of conflict, first at Bowdoin College, and then at MIT.   

As she began her studies Prasai was perplexed by a contradiction: Social science scholarship that generally portrayed women in conflict as victims of violence, activists of peace, or instrumentally used to serve male rebel leaders’ interests, and the reality of the women who not only participated in the Maoist movement in Nepal but through their engagement in conflict also emerged as key leaders shaping the post-conflict politics of Nepal.   

Conversations in Kathmandu   

Determined to gain a better understanding of these complexities and contradictions, Prasai headed to Nepal to gather data, after just one semester as a graduate student. 

Over the course of her fieldwork, she conducted 184 interviews with elite as well as rank-and-file men and women who participated in the movement in various roles, including combat. Her elite interviewees included the current Prime Minister of Nepal and leader of the armed movement, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), as well as almost all surviving members of the movement leadership and high-ranking female leaders.    

“The men and women I met were incredibly generous with their time and resources, several sharing wartime diaries, magazines, training manuals, songs, and pamphlets with me,” says Prasai. Some of the women she interviewed were post-conflict political leaders, others lived as civilians away from public scrutiny; many remained fierce advocates of gender equality, compelled by a vision of a more equitable world.   

“Female activists fighting for gender equality today were also theorizing about the relationship between gender equality and revolutionary politics and advocating for women during (and even before) the war,” says Prasai. “This internal advocacy work is a very important but overlooked mechanism that shapes the gender politics of  insurgent organizations,” she explains.    

The data Prasai has collected on armed movements in Nepal and across South Asia propels her dissertation’s novel theory — that “female activists’ internal, bottom-up resistance to and advocacy against patriarchal attitudes and practices gradually pushes rebel groups to subvert patriarchal norms in increasingly radical ways.”   

But the emergence and effectiveness of such internal activism varies across contexts. Combined with the Maoist movement in Nepal, Prasai’s analysis of other leftist movements in South and Southeast Asia, especially the ongoing Maoist conflict in India, sheds light on the conditions that facilitate or obstruct such activism. In ideologically similar settings, Prasai finds, interaction among such factors as the type of rebel women’s wing, the extent of rebel dependence on traditional leaders, and the nature of violence deployed during conflict determines whether rebels conform to or radically challenge patriarchal gender norms.   

Policy should account for rebel gender strategies   

Existing research suggests that the gender strategies rebels adopt can affect key conflict and post-conflict outcomes, says Prasai. She believes that the data and insights from her work can be relevant to policymakers seeking to devise more effective conflict management, peace-building, and gender policies and programs.    

She hopes her insights might provide scholars and practitioners with “a more nuanced understanding of how rebel groups operate and how women exercise their agency to shape rebel behavior,” she says.   

“I’d like to see political science scholarship on armed groups treat gender as central to the organization of violence rather than being a peripheral concern or an afterthought, and I’d like to see policymakers develop programs that are more congruent with realities on the ground as opposed to being rooted in whatever simplistic assumptions we may have about how violence operates and who fights and who cooks.”  

As she maps out the final leg of her doctoral journey, Prasai says she looks forward to a career devoted to uncovering the complex ways in which gender, violence, and politics shape the lives of people and trajectories of societies across South Asia. “My goal is to do rigorous research, grounded in fieldwork, reflective of peoples’ lived realities, and to translate what I find to academics and policymakers at a global level.”    

Source: Apekshya Prasai: Up in arms

Autonomous innovations in an uncertain world

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MIT Professor Jonathan How’s research interests span the gamut of autonomous vehicles — from airplanes and spacecraft to unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) and cars. He is particularly focused on the design and implementation of distributed robust planning algorithms to coordinate multiple autonomous vehicles capable of navigating in dynamic environments.

For the past year or so, the Richard Cockburn Maclaurin Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a team of researchers from the Aerospace Controls Laboratory at MIT have been developing a trajectory planning system that allows a fleet of drones to operate in the same airspace without colliding with each other. Put another way, it is a multi-vehicle collision avoidance project, and it has real-world implications around cost savings and efficiency for a variety of industries including agriculture and defense.

The test facility for the project is the Kresa Center for Autonomous Systems, an 80-by-40-foot space with 25-foot ceilings, custom designed for MIT’s work with autonomous vehicles — including How’s swarm of UAVs regularly buzzing around the center’s high bay. To avoid collision, each UAV must compute its path-planning trajectory onboard and share it with the rest of the machines using a wireless communication network.

But, according to How, one of the key challenges in multi-vehicle work involves communication delays associated with the exchange of information. In this case, to address the issue, How and his researchers embedded a “perception aware” function in their system that allows a vehicle to use the onboard sensors to gather new information about the other vehicles and then alter its own planned trajectory. In testing, their algorithmic fix resulted in a 100 percent success rate, guaranteeing collision-free flights among their group of drones. The next step, says How, is to scale up the algorithms, test in bigger spaces, and eventually fly outside.

Born in England, Jonathan How’s fascination with airplanes started at a young age, thanks to ample time spent at airbases with his father, who, for many years, served in the Royal Air Force. However, as How recalls, while other children wanted to be astronauts, his curiosity had more to do with the engineering and mechanics of flight. Years later, as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, he developed an interest in applied mathematics and multi-vehicle research as it applied to aeronautical and astronautical engineering. He went on to do his graduate and postdoctoral work at MIT, where he contributed to a NASA-funded experiment on advanced control techniques for high-precision pointing and vibration control on spacecraft. And, after working on distributed space telescopes as a junior faculty member at Stanford University, he returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to join the faculty at MIT in 2000.

“One of the key challenges for any autonomous vehicle is how to address what else is in the environment around it,” he says. For autonomous cars that means, among other things, identifying and tracking pedestrians. Which is why How and his team have been collecting real-time data from autonomous cars equipped with sensors designed to track pedestrians, and then they use that information to generate models to understand their behavior — at an intersection, for example — which enables the autonomous vehicle to make short-term predictions and better decisions about how to proceed. “It's a very noisy prediction process, given the uncertainty of the world,” How admits. “The real goal is to improve knowledge. You're never going to get perfect predictions. You're just trying to understand the uncertainty and reduce it as much as you can.”

On another project, How is pushing the boundaries of real-time decision-making for aircraft. In these scenarios, the vehicles have to determine where they are located in the environment, what else is around them, and then plan an optimal path forward. Furthermore, to ensure sufficient agility, it is typically necessary to be able to regenerate these solutions at about 10-50 times per second, and as soon as new information from the sensors on the aircraft becomes available. Powerful computers exist, but their cost, size, weight, and power requirements make their deployment on small, agile, aircraft impractical. So how do you quickly perform all the necessary computation — without sacrificing performance — on computers that easily fit on an agile flying vehicle?

How’s solution is to employ, on board the aircraft, fast-to-query neural networks that are trained to “imitate” the response of the computationally expensive optimizers. Training is performed during an offline (pre-mission) phase, where he and his researchers run an optimizer repeatedly (thousands of times) that “demonstrates” how to solve a task, and then they embed that knowledge into a neural network. Once the network has been trained, they run it (instead of the optimizer) on the aircraft. In flight, the neural network makes the same decisions that the optimizer would have made, but much faster, significantly reducing the time required to make new decisions. The approach has proven to be successful with UAVs of all sizes, and it can also be used to generate neural networks that are capable of directly processing noisy sensory signals (called end-to-end learning), such as the images from an onboard camera, enabling the aircraft to quickly locate its position or to avoid an obstacle. The exciting innovations here are in the new techniques developed to enable the flying agents to be trained very efficiently – often using only a single task demonstration. One of the important next steps in this project are to ensure that these learned controllers can be certified as being safe.

Over the years, How has worked closely with companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Ford, and Amazon. He says working with industry helps focus his research on solving real-world problems. “We take industry’s hard problems, condense them down to the core issues, create solutions to specific aspects of the problem, demonstrate those algorithms in our experimental facilities, and then transition them back to the industry. It tends to be a very natural and synergistic feedback loop,” says How.

Source: Autonomous innovations in an uncertain world

School of Engineering awards for 2023

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Each year, the MIT School of Engineering honors outstanding faculty, students, and staff across its departments, labs, centers, and institutes with a number of awards. Recently, the school announced the following members of the engineering community at MIT as winners of its 2023 awards.

Faculty and teaching awards

William Tisdale, professor of chemical engineering, received the 2023 Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching, given to a faculty member whose contributions have been characterized by dedication, care, and creativity.

Jacob Andreas, the X-Window Consortium Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), and Mingda Li, the Class of 1947 Career Development Professor in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, received the Junior Bose Award, given to a junior faculty member who has made outstanding contributions as an educator.

Elsa Olivetti, Jerry McAfee (1940) Professor in Engineering in Department of Materials Science and Engineering, received the Capers (1976) and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising, presented to a faculty member in the School of Engineering who — through tireless efforts to engage minds, elevate spirits, and stimulate high-quality work — has advanced the professional and personal development of students and colleagues.

Jayant Sabnis, senior lecturer in aeronautics and astronautics, received the School of Engineering Distinguished Educator Award, presented to a faculty or teaching staff member whose teaching contributions are of significant impact and are consistently characterized by dedication, care, creativity, and inspiration to students and colleagues.

The Ruth and Joel Spira Awards for Excellence in Teaching are awarded annually to four faculty members in the areas of electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, and nuclear science and engineering to acknowledge “the tradition of high-quality engineering education at MIT.” This year’s recipients include:

  • Kevin Chen, the D. Reid Weedon, Jr. Assistant Professor in the Department of EECS;
  • Carlos Portela, the Brit (1961) and Alex (1949) d'Arbeloff Career Development Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering;
  • Daniel Sanchez, associate professor of EECS; and
  • Anne White, associate provost and associate vice president for research administration and a professor of nuclear science and engineering.

Student awards

Toluwalase Asade ’23, who graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering earlier this year, received the Henry Ford II Award, presented to a senior engineering student who has maintained a cumulative average of 5.0 at the end of their seventh term and who has exceptional potential for leadership in the profession of engineering and in society.

Audrey Xie, a rising senior majoring in mathematics and computer science, and Rupert Li, a rising senior majoring in mathematical sciences, received Barry Goldwater Scholarships, given to students who exhibit an outstanding potential and intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering disciplines that contribute significantly to technological advances in the United States.

Grace Quaratiello ’21, MEng ’23, who earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in the Department of EECS, received the Graduate Student Extraordinary Teaching and Mentoring Award, given to a graduate student in the School of Engineering who has demonstrated extraordinary teaching and mentoring as a teaching or research assistant.

Staff awards

The Ellen J. Mandigo Award for Outstanding Service, presented for the first time in 2009, was made possible by a bequest from Ellen Mandigo, a member of the engineering community for nearly five decades. The award is given annually to staff members who have demonstrated, over an extended period of time, the qualities Ellen Mandigo valued and possessed in great abundance: intelligence, skill, hard work, and dedication to MIT. The 2023 Ellen J. Mandigo Awards for Outstanding Service were given to the following staff members:

  • Heather Barry, senior administrative assistant and undergraduate administrator in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering;
  • Rolanda Dudley-Cowans, director of administration and finance in the Department of Biological Engineering;
  • Janet Fischer, graduate administrator in the Department of EECS; and
  • Melanie Kaufman, communications officer in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

The Infinite Mile Awards recognize and reward members of the MIT School of Engineering’s administrative, support, sponsored research, and, when appropriate, academic staff. The awards are presented in the categories of excellence, diversity and community, and institutional cooperation. The 2023 Infinite Mile Awards in the School of Engineering were given to the following staff members:

  • Dominique Rey Altarejos, fellowship and award administrator in the School of Engineering Dean’s Office;
  • Dianne Bickford, senior financial officer in the Department of Biological Engineering;
  • Nick Burns, SRS financial administrator in the Center for Transportation and Logistics;
  • Nancy Iappini, administrative assistant 3 in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering;
  • Abigail Ketchen, senior financial officer in the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science;
  • Jay Matthews, facilities administrator in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering;
  • Janice McCarthy, administrative assistant 2 in the Department of Mechanical Engineering;
  • Christopher Monaco, facilities manager in the Department of Chemical Engineering;
  • Andre Obin, human resources coordinator in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering;
  • Jessica Sandland, principal lecturer in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering;
  • Jarina Shrestha, director of administration and finance in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and
  • Tavish Baker, Clara Piloto, and Alexandra Y. Ramos of the Digital Plus Program Team in MIT Professional Education.

Source: School of Engineering awards for 2023

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