Professors Ghoniem and Kellogg honored as Committed to Caring

MIT professors Ahmed Ghoniem and Katherine “Kate” Kellogg have been selected as the most recent honorees of the student-driven “Committed to Caring” (C2C) program. Started in the spring of 2014, Committed to Caring seeks to recognize and celebrate MIT faculty members who go above and beyond to make an impact in the lives of graduate students.

Ahmed Ghoniem, center, with graduate students. Photo by Justin Knight

Students are the heart of the Committed to Caring program. Graduate students nominate faculty who have made a difference in their lives during their time at MIT. A panel composed of a majority of graduate students reviews the nominations and selects the faculty honorees. Graduate Community Fellow Jennifer Cherone, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology, takes the leads in producing creative visuals and articles to celebrate the faculty members’ mentoring achievements with guidance from Office of the Dean for Graduate Education Communication Officer Heather Konar.

“We are delighted to be able to empower graduate students to honor the faculty members who have made a difference for them,” says Interim Dean for Graduate Education Blanche Staton. “This campaign allows us to feature stories of caring that inspire the MIT community, and highlight the ways that research supervisors value and champion students.”

Says Konar, “Celebrating acts of caring is something that lifts up every person — not just students, but faculty and staff as well.”

Ahmed Ghoniem: Putting students first

Ahmed Ghoniem, the Ronald C. Crane Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Center for Energy and Propulsion Research, is revered among his students for his understanding nature and support of their development as individuals. Encouraging his students to develop their own ideas and pursue their own research interests, he gives them “freedom to chart their own courses in grad school and develop into well-rounded researchers, as a result” in the words of one nominator. This applies to both their thesis projects as well as ventures and experiences outside of MIT, such as internships and forming new startups.

Moreover, his students say Ghoniem “has created a very supportive, family-friendly culture” in his lab. He becomes a part of a graduate parent’s support system, allowing his students to still flourish academically and professionally. One student describes his incredible support during her pregnancy with twins and how “he instilled confidence in [her] to bounce back and become an even stronger researcher as a mother.” Members of Ghoniem’s lab lightheartedly refer to their group as “the most re-productive research team at MIT,” but jokes aside, say that they believe this kind of unwavering support should be truly celebrated.

Ghoniem’s research covers computational engineering, combustion and thermochemistry, CO2 capture, and fuel production from renewable sources, and was recently elected as an American Physical Society Fellow.

Katherine Kellogg: The little things and the big things

Katherine "Kate" Kellogg, the Sloan Distinguished Professor in Management and a professor of business administration in the Work and Organization Studies Group, goes above and beyond to provide both professional and personal guidance to help her students find their own path forward. Her mentees feel that Kellogg is always watching out for them, regularly forwarding them articles and professional opportunities that fit their interests. One nominator explains that Kellogg “adds a human element to the research process” by sharing personal stories about her own experiences with challenges in her research. A student who faced serious health issues early in her studies relates how Kellogg did everything she could to help her get the resources and space to make a full recovery. This student largely credits her current success to Kellogg’s “belief in and support of me.” Her students say they feel “incredibly supported both as people and as students.”

Kellogg has also been a valuable resource to young women and new mothers. She is open to having candid conversations about being a “professional woman and mother in academia,” female researchers say they greatly appreciate. She has helped her students navigate having children in graduate school, doing both the little things like sending a baby gift and asking to see pictures, and the big things like helping students to plan their research around their pregnancy and maternity leave.

Kellogg teaches, researches, and writes about institutional change and new models of work and employment in health care. She is the author of the award-winning book "Challenging Operations: Medical Reform and Resistance in Surgery."

More information and profiles on all past recipients are available on the Committed to Caring website.