Professor Jeffrey Steinfeld and Dr. Ramachandra Dasari Achieve 50 Year Status in the MIT Quarter Century Club

Danielle Randall
March 17, 2017

Image (from left): Professor Jeffrey I. Steinfeld and Dr. Ramachandra Dasari

There's an exclusive club at MIT, with one sole requirement for entry: To complete twenty-five years of service within the Institute. The concept of rewarding this type of career longevity was first introduced in 1946, when a social group called The Silver Club was founded for female employees, both faculty and staff, who had reached twenty-five years of service within MIT. In 1950, a group of men from among the hourly personnel began to feel excluded from this social circle, and as a result, The Quarter Century Club was born, providing men who had served the Institute for twenty-five years with similar opportunities to meet and socialize. In 1970, the group expanded to include all male faculty and staff, and then, finally, in 1974, the two groups merged to form the co-ed Quarter Century Club, open to the entire Institute community, that exists to this day. To date, there are 4,374 members of the Club. The Quarter Century Club celebrates a handful of events annually, including a Summer Gathering, a high tea in the fall, a Winter Holiday Gathering in December, and an induction luncheon each spring. On Monday, March 13, 2017, 98 faculty and members of the academic, administrative, research, support, and service staffs celebrated their twenty-five-year achievement at the 2017 induction luncheon at the Samberg Conference Center. In addition to the luncheon, new members of the Quarter Century Club were invited to select a recognition gift - an MIT rocker, a university chair, wristwatch, or treasure clock - to commemorate their service to the Institute. 

The years keep coming, and as a result, within the Quarter Century Club, there exists a group of even higher achievement - those who have reached the illustrious 50-year benchmark with the Institute. This year, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry Jeffrey I. Steinfeld and Principal Research Scientist Ramachandara Rao Dasari joined their ranks and officially achieved 50-year status within the Club.

Professor Jeffrey I. Steinfeld came to MIT as an undergraduate in the 1950's, and received his S.B. in 1962. He went on to achieve his PhD from Harvard in 1965, and, following a National Science Foundation Research Fellowship at the University of Sheffield, Professor Steinfeld joined the faculty at his undergraduate alma mater in July of 1966, where he remained an active and influential member of the Department until his retirement in 2007. Over the course of his independent career, Professor Steinfeld's research interests evolved from focusing on obtaining kinetic data for physical and chemical systems using time-resolved spectroscopy, to ultimately studying gigaseconds (i.e., years), and large, interconnected systems: specifically, the Earth System, in which we all live and which is, in fact, the basis of all the social, technological and economic systems on which humanity depends. Today, Professor Steinfeld's principal activities focus on Education for Sustainable Development, both within MIT and externally through collaborations such as the Youth Encounter for Sustainability intensive short courses and Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light. He has experienced the Institute from nearly every possible vantage point, and has commemorated this accomplishment with a thoughtful statement on the past half-century (and beyond!) at MIT:

During the past fifty – odd years (and some of them have been very odd, indeed), I have been a student at MIT, a faculty member in the Chemistry Department, an affiliate of the Quarter Century (and now Half Century) Club, and now a retired alumnus.

MIT has changed in many ways during this time. The gender and ethnic diversity of both students and faculty has improved markedly. In the 1960s a $1200 tuition fee was "Too Damn Much"; now it is north of $45,000 a year. MIT's course materials are now available to the world at large without paying tuition, through OpenCourseWare, MITx, and all sorts of MOOCs.

A change that just might have the most significant and lasting impact is the growing focus on energy, the environment, and sustainability. This emphasis is on the scale of MIT's efforts to develop workable radar systems in the 1940s, an air defense system in the 1950s, and the Internet in the 1970s and 1980s. The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) was launched in November of 2006, and our folks have populated many of the top positions in the US Department of Energy and EPA – at least until sound science started to become unwelcome in Washington. The Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI) got started in 2014; both MITEI and ESI offer new interdisciplinary minors, and Chemistry students, faculty and alumni/æ are active research and teaching participants in these initiatives.

Just as MIT addressed and solved critical problems facing previous generations, I am confident that we will succeed in this as well. In fact, we must succeed – we have no other option. For all of our sakes, and especially for the students now in our classrooms and laboratories who will be living their lives, starting families, and embarking on their careers in the coming years, we owe them no less.

The Department's second 50-Year status achiever, Dr. Ramachandra Rao Dasari, received his B.Sc. in 1954 from Andhra University, his M.Sc. in 1956 from Benares Hindu University, and his Ph.D. in 1960 from Aligarh Muslim University. He joined the faculty of the Department of Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 1962 and became a full professor in 1973. During this period, he spent two years at MIT (1966-68) as a visiting scientist and gained valuable experience in the fabrication of lasers and research in laser physics. He left IIT Kanpur in 1978 and spent a year as a visiting Senior Research Officer at the National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa (1978-79), and another year as a visiting scientist at the Department of Physics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver (1979-80) before coming to MIT full time in 1980. AT MIT, Dr. Dasari was a visiting Professor of Physics for a year in 1980. He has been a Principal Research Scientist at MIT’s Spectroscopy Laboratory since 1981. He was appointed as an Assistant Director of the Spectroscopy Laboratory in 1984 and later was promoted to Associate Director in 1992. He oversees project coordination and facility developments of the MIT Laser Biomedical Research Center, supported by the National Institutes of Health, and also coordinate research programs associated with the NSF Supported Laser Research Facility.

The Department of Chemistry is proud to have two of its members be welcomed into this elite group of MIT employees.