Graduate students play a central role in the pathbreaking research that creates knowledge and transforms the world.

At MIT our more than 6,000 graduate students constitute 60 percent of the total student population.

These extraordinary young men and women contribute great ideas and insights in nearly every field of study. Whether they collaborate with faculty on research or teach and mentor undergraduates, they are key to the strength and vitality of this great institution. The amazing advances they make in their respective fields greatly amplify MIT’s reputation as a world leader in education and scientific research.

Graduate students are well known for developing new interdisciplinary ideas. They are often the ones who cross the boundaries between faculty in various fields, between scholars in other countries, and between faculty and undergraduates.

Often serving as teaching assistants, graduate students make remarkable contributions to undergraduate education. Undergraduates say that their most intense and exciting learning often happens while working with these scholars. Graduate students also serve as mentors in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Eighty-five percent of all undergraduates participate in UROP, and a great deal of their research occurs in lab teams with graduate students.

MIT’s graduate students are enormously gifted. Timothy Lu recently won the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventing a new way to destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria and biofilms through bacteriophages that will keep medical, industrial, and food-processing equipment sterile.

Nathan Ball, last year’s Lemelson-MIT student winner, devised the ATLAS Powered Rope Ascender, which he is now in the process of commercializing. The Ascender makes it possible for a firefighter carrying 100 pounds of equipment to reach the top of a 30-story building in just 30 seconds, instead of the six minutes it would take to climb the stairs.

MIT graduate students have designed robots that might one day provide the first step toward patrolling landmines, sifting through earthquake rubble, or exploring other planets; they have developed low-cost vision-testing and lens-manufacturing inventions that could dramatically improve life for billions of people in developing countries who cannot afford prescription eyeglasses; and they have developed revolutionary approaches to treating stroke and cancer.

Private fellowship support makes it possible for graduate students to continue their discovery and innovation in all fields of study, and it also guarantees that MIT will continue to draw these students — who are among the most talented people on the planet — to work with world-class faculty.

Since the start of this great institution, with highly ranked programs in every field, MIT has attracted the world’s best and brightest students, but it is becoming an increasing challenge. While government funding for research continues to shrink, competition with other universities for the best graduate students continues to grow. At the same time, housing and education costs are on the rise. Other top-tier schools are presenting students with attractive offers of tuition, housing, and stipends, and MIT must compete.

Making it possible for these scholars to focus on their research and reach their potential can help them to change the world, but it often is a big step to delay a well-paying job for five or more years to attend graduate school. It is also more and more difficult to keep top students at MIT if they also need to work long hours to support themselves while they study here.

Graduate education may be under pressure just now, but the solution lies in an investment in graduate fellowships. Danielle Issa, who now receives an MIT Presidential Fellowship, is quoted on the following pages as saying, “The MIT fellowship made a world of difference. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have it, because with the high costs of tuition and living in Boston, there’s no way I could afford to attend the Institute. I’m extremely grateful and extremely blessed. If the donor were sitting right here, I would hug them.”

Our students have big ideas, gigantic talent, and remarkable potential. Graduate fellowships make it possible for them to fulfill their dreams.

Susan Hockfield

Susan Hockfield