Celebrating graduate achievement at the 2013 MIT Awards Convocation

May 28, 2013


The 2013 MIT Awards Convocation was held on April 25th, where students and faculty were recognized for their accomplishments on behalf of graduate students with nine different awards for entrepreneurship, visual arts, excellence in teaching, mentoring, and contribution to the MIT community.





Idan Asher BlankJohn S.W. Kellet ’47 Award

John S.W. Kellett '47 AwardThe John S. W. Kellett Award recognizes an MIT individual or group for creating a more welcoming environment at MIT, including improving the experience of lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and queer individuals, otherwise known as LBGTQ.  In both actions and words, this year’s recipient, Idan Blank, exemplifies the spirit of this award.  A graduate student in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, he coordinated this year’s LGBTQ Welcome Event.  His efforts led to an event where students could meet and connect with each other in a friendly, open, and safe environment.  Idan is also a member of the Committee on Race and Diversity (CRD) and the GSC’s Orientation Committee as well as the GSC Activities Committee. He contributes unique perspectives to the groups, presenting issues that LGBTQ students face and providing ideas on how to create a more welcoming environment.  In all of his involvement, Idan always makes sure to represent the LGBTQ community, speaking up and advocating for this often overlooked group.

Matthew HaberlandThe William L. Stewart, Jr. Award

William L. Stewart, Jr. AwardsThe William L. Stewart, Jr. Award recognizes outstanding contributions by an individual student or student organization to extracurricular activities and events during the preceding year.  The graduate recipient, Matthew Haberland, is in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and has dedicated himself to improving the lives of MIT graduate students.  Matthew is former Chairman of the Ashdown House Executive Committee, and maintained a high level of involvement even after leaving his leadership position.  He was an advisor to the committee retreat, coordinated purchases for the house, volunteered at events, and assisted with government.  He also served on the search committee for Ashdown Housemasters.  Matt also served as chairman of the Thirsty Ear Executive Committee, where he helped organize comedy nights, sports events, and orientation barbeques.  His commitment to graduate student life has benefited the entire Institute.  As one nominator wrote, “Matt has truly given much of himself to the MIT community.  He continually goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

Jie Qi – The Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts

Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual ArtsThe Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts is presented annually by the Council for the Arts at MIT to three students who demonstrate excellence in creating a body of work in the visual arts.  This year’s first prize recipient, Jie Qi, is a PhD candidate at the Media Lab whose research and art practice are centered on merging traditional craft with newer technologies.  She creates works that are enlivened with batteries and LED lights to explore new ways of expression and storytelling.  She receives the first place Schnitzer Prize this year for artfully blending ancient practices such as origami and Chinese brush painting with modern interactive capabilities, resulting in beauty and wonder.  Her work lets the viewer, with a touch or a breath, be a catalyst for metamorphosis as a seemingly static piece of paper turns into a narrative and tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Elliot Cohen, Allen Chen, and Allison Yost, Hacking Medicine – The Patrick J. McGovern ’59 Entrepreneurship Award

Patrick J. McGovern '59 Entrepreneurship AwardThe Patrick J. McGovern, Jr. ’59 Entrepreneurship Award is presented annually to an individual student or student team that has made a significant impact on the quality, visibility, and overall spirit of entrepreneurship education and support across the Institute.  The team award went to Hacking Medicine, whose passion and work has significantly impacted healthcare entrepreneurship at MIT.  Team members include Eliot Cohen, Allen Chen, and Allison Yost.  Allen Cheng is an MD-PhD student in Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST), and a co-founder of Hacking Medicine.  He invented a patent-pending genetic screening technology, currently being applied to stem cell engineering and biopharmaceuticals.  Allison Yost is a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering at MIT currently researching nanoporous elements in microfluidic devices for bioparticle manipulation.  She is a member of Hacking Medicine and slated to become the managing director in the upcoming year.  She is also one of two managing directors of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. Allison holds an SM in mechanical engineering from MIT where her research focused on the design of a new military combat helmet for protection against traumatic brain injury.


Darya Amin-ShahidiThe Graduate Student Council Teaching Award

Graduate Student Council Teaching AwardThe Graduate Student Council Teaching Award is awarded to a professor or teaching assistant for excellence in teaching a graduate-level course.  For this year’s recipient, Darya Amin-Shahidi, there is no other word to describe his efforts and quality of teaching than “superhuman.”  A graduate student in Mechanical Engineering, his nominators wrote that he did the work of at least two, and probably more like three people, all with a smile and pride in his task. He also took a personal interest in students’ lives and their learning, which created a positive class environment.  One nominator wrote, “We were a mix-and-match collection of undergraduates, graduates, outspoken personalities, introverts … and Darya managed to connect with us all.”

Joseph Steinmeyer and Tony TaoThe Goodwin Medal

Goodwin MedalThe Goodwin Medal is presented to a graduate student whose performance of teaching duties are “conspicuously effective over and above ordinary excellence.”  The first recipient, Joe Steinmeyer, places a high priority in making sure that each student he encounters has the best learning experience possible.  A graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Joe is highly regarded as an outstanding teacher by both his peers and his students.  One nominator wrote, “So many times in courses at MIT, we find ourselves in a routine where we simply do P-sets and attend lectures without taking a step back to look at the overall beauty of the subject at hand. Joe shook us out of that routine and helped us realize the real privilege we had to be learning such wonderful material.”  Goodwin MedalThe second recipient, Tony Tao, is a born teacher in the eyes of all who observe and interact with him.  A graduate student in the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Tony’s passion for mentoring students is unmatched.  One nominator wrote, “In my 30 years of teaching at MIT, Tony is, by far, the most effective and committed Teaching Assistant that I have encountered.”




Professor Martin PolzThe Frank E. Perkins Award

Professor Martin PolzThe Frank E. Perkins Award is given each year to a professor who has served as an excellent advisor and mentor for graduate students.  This year’s recipient, Professor Martin Polz, provides just enough guidance to get them on the right path, but not so much that it stifles their own creativity and thoughtfulness.  One nominator wrote, “His kindness and generosity taught me that high-energy science and personal well-being must not be mutually exclusive, and that by treating students with care and respect, you inspire them to work with greater dedication.”



Professor Terry Orlando and Ann T. Orlando The Edward J. Horton Fellowship Award

Edward L. Horton Fellowship AwardThe Edward L. Horton Fellowship Award is given to individuals who foster fellowship within the graduate student community.  This year’s recipients, Professor Terry P. Orlando, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Ann T. Orlando, have served as Housemasters at Ashdown House for over a decade.  Their nominators credit their warmth and approachability in making them such excellent mentors and advisors for graduate students.  One nominator wrote, “Terry and Ann helped me determine my own answers rather than laying out potential solutions. They are true mentors who not only helped me address the issue at hand, but helped me develop as a person and prepare for future challenges.”

Ellan SperoThe Karl Taylor Compton Prize

Karl Taylor Compton PrizeThe Compton Prize is the one of highest distinctions given by MIT to students or student organizations.  One recipient is always serving others, from her fellow graduate students to the undergraduates whom she serves as a GRT.  In the penultimate year of her doctoral program in History, Anthropology and Society, Ellan Spero has built a wonderful record of leadership, integrity, and service.  Described as “an incredibly creative and original thinker,” Ellan has made a place for herself in the hearts of those around her.  As one nominator observed, “Perhaps it is a little strange to consider your GRT as one of your closest friends, but it is true…whenever I had a problem or if I was pondering a ‘life thought,’ Ellan was my go-to person.”  As another student explained, “When invited to a study break in her apartment, I marveled at her artistry and enthusiasm and thought, ‘Wow, I want to be like her.’”

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