Inaugural Patrons Circle Celebration

EAPS Development Office
June 1, 2015

This first of a kind event for EAPS brought together EAPS graduate student fellows with their respective fellowship donors for an evening of celebration and thanks.

The EAPS Patrons Circle had a splendid inaugural celebration on April 8th, 2015 – with about 36 Patrons, students and faculty in attendance. Patrons were able to meet their graduate fellows over dinner and hear Patrons Circle Chair Neil E. Rasmussen speak passionately about the importance of funding graduate students who will be able to make an impact. “The planet is facing some major challenges with changing climate, increasing pollution and rapid use of its natural resources, and society is going to need trusted advisers to help us make some difficult decisions – and what better place than MIT and EAPS to provide those trusted advisers? Fellowships provide the freedom for graduate students to focus on cutting edge research answering basic questions about how the systems of our planet work, providing understandingthat we urgently need so we can make wise decisions for the future of mankind.”

Four graduate fellows shared their personal stories, describing their path to MIT and what had inspired them to come to EAPS. Jared Atkinson, a 2nd year graduate student, described how the Whiteman fellowship had helped him to rethink his research interests and to apply his geophysical experience in a completely new context. After starting his career in the oil industry, he had been able to follow an earlier passion for planetary science and was now working with Professor Sara Seager on a project to explore future asteroid mining. Katie Castagno, a Neil and Anna Rasmussen Fellow in climate science, and a first year joint MIT-WHOI graduate student, talked about her interest in coastal policy and how her fascination with past and present climate had led to her research into multi-millennial records of changes in hurricane frequency and intensity. Niraj Inamdar, a Grayce B. Kerr Fellow, had been a student of Math and Biological Engineering before he found his niche first working on NASA’s Osiris Rex project with Professor Seager and now studying exoplanet formation with Professor Hilke Schlichting. Diamilet Betancourt, the Warren G. Klein Fellow, spoke about growing up in the Caribbean and how her experience of frequent tropical storms sparked her early fascination for meteorology. Her PhD research into hurricane rainbands with Kerry Emanuel will one day, she hopes, be put to good use back home in Puerto Rico. 

Rob van der Hilst warmly thanked all of our Patrons and Fellows and expressed his delight that, thanks to the generosity of our friends and alumni/ae over the past three years, EAPS now has five additional, fully endowed fellowships to benefit our graduate students. The more recently endowed fellowships are named in honor of Pat Callahan and David Dee, Emeritus Professor M. Nafi Toksoz and late MIT Professors Ted Madden and Norman C. Rasmussen. Rob expressed the hope that we will add more endowed fellowships in future to reach his goal to be able to offer fellowships to all first and second year EAPS graduate students. In the face of shrinking federal grants, this will be an important factor in attracting the brightest and best students to EAPS and giving them the freedom to follow their interests and fuel their passion for discovery.

To join the EAPS Patrons Circle, please contact Angela Ellis, EAPS Senior Development Officer at or 617-253-5796. more


Founding Members

We are grateful to our founding Patrons Circle members:

Roger J. &
Noreen A. Breeding*

Patricia Callahan &
David Dee

Arthur C. H. Cheng

George J. Elbaum &
Mimi Jensen

Breene Kerr

Eric Michelman

Frederick A. Middleton Jr.

Donald L. Paul*

Chengpin Peng

Neil E. Rasmussen &
Anna Winter Rasmussen 

John S. &
Cynthia L. Reed

Peter H. Stone &
Paola Rizzoli

Jie Zhang

* These members have provided for future EAPS fellows in their estate plan.