Portrait of mentoring excellence: Eytan Modiano

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Joseph Lee

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“From the moment I start working with a new student, I try to understand what their goals are,” says Professor Eytan Modiano. “This helps me guide their research, and also mentor them toward their goals.”

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July 22, 2019

LIDS Associate Director Eytan Modiano has been recognized by MIT’s Office of Graduate Education (OGE) with a Committed to Caring (C2C) award, given to faculty for providing exceptional mentoring, advising, and support to graduate students.

In their profile piece, OGE details the many ways Eytan demonstrates this commitment to caring:

Eytan Modiano: listening and advocating

Eytan Modiano is professor of aeronautics and astronautics and the associate director of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS). His work addresses communication networks and protocols with application to satellite, wireless, and optical networks. The primary goal of his research is the design of network architectures that are cost-effective, scalable, and robust. His research group crosses disciplinary boundaries by combining techniques from network optimization; queueing theory; graph theory; network protocols and algorithms; machine learning; and physical layer communications.

When students reach out to Modiano for advice, he makes time in his schedule to meet with them, usually the same day or the next. In doing so, students say that Modiano offers invaluable support and shows students that he prioritizes them.

Modiano provides his students with channels to express their difficulties (a Mentoring Guidepost identified by the C2C program). For example, he allots unstructured time during individual and group meetings for student feedback. “These weekly meetings are mainly focused on research,” Modiano says, “but I always make sure to leave time at the end to talk about anything else that is on a student's mind, such as concerns about their career plans, coursework, or anything else.”

He also reaches out to student groups about how the department and lab could better serve them. As associate director of LIDS, Modiano has responded to such feedback in a number of ways, including working alongside the LIDS Social Committee to organize graduate student events. He has advocated for funding of MIT Graduate Women in Aerospace Engineering, and was a key proponent of the Exploring Aerospace Day, an event the group hosted for interested high school students.

Modiano does not think in binary terms about success and failure: “No single event, or even a series of events, is likely to define a career.” Rather, a career should be seen as a path “with ups and downs and whose trajectory we try to shape.”

Modiano advises, “If you persist, you are likely to find a path that you are happy with, and meet your goals.”

To read about other awardees being recognized this month, please see the write-up on MIT News: http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-portraits-mentoring-excellence-0718

To learn more about the Committed to Caring program, please visit: https://oge.mit.edu/community/committed-to-caring-c2c/