Giving Stories

GIVE TO THE ENGINEERING
VISIONARY SCHOLARSHIP.

“The relief of financial burden this scholarship has lifted from my family’s shoulders is truly a priceless gift, and the generosity of donors that have made this possible inspires me to want to give others this same gift of relief, security, and most of all educational opportunity, as it has done for me.”
Sarah Shadid, Engineering Physics Class of '22
EVS Scholarship recipient

  • “We did not have the time to write external grants and could not rely on traditional and slow funding vehicles. Instead we are supported by philanthropic funds that enable us to use necessary supercomputer resources, which would otherwise not be accessible.” notes Swanlund Professor of Physics Nigel Goldenfeld.

    Gifts from alumni and friends to The Grainger College of Engineering and to the Excellence in Physics fund enabled Illinois Physics faculty to nimbly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “We did not have the time to write external grants and could not rely on traditional and slow funding vehicles. Instead we are supported by philanthropic funds that enable us to use necessary supercomputer resources, which would otherwise not be accessible.” notes Swanlund Professor of Physics Nigel Goldenfeld.

    In the spring of 2020, Goldenfeld paused his research to focus on developing mathematical models of COVID-19 for the Governor of Illinois and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Goldenfeld and his research team were able to develop a model to predict the course of the epidemic, predict hospital utilization, and were able to quickly respond to requests from the State’s medical teams using the tools of computational epidemiology.

    Additionally, Goldenfeld has helped develop and lead the SHIELD program that has enabled the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to remain open in a hybrid teaching mode and swiftly respond to test results from the campus community.

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  • “Women are often underrecognized for their contributions in the work that they've done,” Illinois Professor Nadya Mason said. “So it's an honor to be able to celebrate Rosalyn Sussman Yalow and the things that she did through this award, and also to just have and share the professorship that is named after a woman and recognize that although this is the first, hopefully it won’t be the last.”

    In September of 1941, late nuclear physicist Rosalyn Sussman Yalow arrived at the University of Illinois to receive her PhD in nuclear physics. A graduate student during the World War II era, Yalow was the only woman among a campus-wide faculty of 400 when she accepted her teaching assistantship in 1941 and became the second woman to receive a PhD in Physics in University history.

    100 years after her birth, The Grainger College of Engineering alumna and Nobel Prize Laureate will be honored for her legacy as a pioneer for women in STEM, thanks to funding from the Heising-Simons Foundation. This professorship is the first in the college’s history to be named in honor of a female alumna.

    The Rosalyn S. Yalow Professorship is the first award in the college’s history to be named in honor of a female alumna. This prestigious, inaugural appointment has been awarded to Nadya Mason, physics professor, award-winning physicist, and champion for diversity in STEM.

    Illinois Physics Professor Nadya Mason
    Illinois Physics Professor Nadya Mason
    Mason said she admires Yalow for the strength she possessed to “push through” the hardships she faced as the only woman in her graduating class, then to earn her degree and later be awarded the Nobel Prize.

    “Women are often underrecognized for their contributions in the work that they've done,” Mason said. “So it's an honor to be able to celebrate Rosalyn Sussman Yalow and the things that she did through this award, and also to just have and share the professorship that is named after a woman and recognize that although this is the first, hopefully it won’t be the last.”

    “It means a lot on many different levels,” Mason said. “For me personally, it’s really wonderful to be recognized for the work that I’ve done and the contributions I’ve made to the department and the field. I very much appreciate this as a recognition by the University and by my department.”

    Matthias Grosse Perdekamp, department head of physics, said Mason was the top choice for the professorship among the college’s faculty awards committee.

    “I am hoping that holding the professorship will [enhance] her ability to acquire the resources and the talent that she needs to succeed in her research, and by giving her this professorship, I think we put her in a stronger position to do so,” Grosse Perdekamp said.

     

    Rosalyn’s Legacy

    When the United States entered World War II, the University of Illinois experienced a significant decline in enrollment when the male students were drafted into the military. In a manner that was “almost overnight,” the once predominantly male student body’s men-women ratio changed from 3-1 to 1-4. As women entered the workforce to sustain the country during the war, female students at the University also assumed greater roles in student organizations and academic studies.

    Rosalyn Yalow
    Rosalyn Yalow
    After graduating from the University in 1945, she worked as an assistant engineer at the Federal Telecommunications Laboratory, a consultant at New York City’s Bronx VA, and as a professor at Hunter College, a constituent college of the City University of New York. As a consultant, Rosalyn collaborated with Dr. Bernard Roswit to develop the radioisotope service, which can be used for radiation therapy and imaging tests.

    In 1959, Rosalyn worked with Dr. Solomon A Berson, to discover radioimmunoassay (RIA), a technique which measures antibodies using radioactive material. RIA enables doctors to provide quicker diagnoses, safer blood transfusions, and easier detection of gestational complications during pregnancy. For this discovery, she became the first American woman to earn the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Ten years later, she received the National Medal of Science and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

    Benjamin, computer scientist and Rosalyn’s son, remembers his mother as someone who encouraged personal advancement and was also a great role model for the next generations of women to know they could become scientists, he said.

    “The key thing to her was everybody could become a scientist if you work hard and were smart and worked hard,” Benjamin said. “Smart helps, working hard is vital.”

    Elanna Yalow, the daughter of Rosalyn and the chief academic officer of KinderCare Education, said she benefitted from her mother’s “incredible drive and commitment, and will to accomplish despite all odds.”

    “I think having such an impressive representative of that, and then that tie-in with my mom's legacy can help create and inspire people to believe in themselves and to know what they are capable of if they give it their all and use their skill,” she said. “Education and the next generation were so important to her, and I think seeing a woman step into the role is such an honor and inspiration, and I hope it does so for others.”

    “For all the honors that have been bestowed and the recognition that has been bestowed on my mom, something like this has a special place because it is not only a recognition of the work that she has done but an opportunity to inspire future generations,” Elanna said.” I just truly feel honored that this opportunity was created in my mom's name. I'm very, very proud of her and grateful for the recognition.”

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  • “We deeply appreciate Gary Kelly’s generosity and his investment in our department’s core missions of research, teaching, and outreach,” comments Head of Department and Professor Matthias Grosse Perdekamp. “Unrestricted funds such as these are applied where they will make the greatest impact. Through his generosity, Gary Kelly’s legacy at Illinois will include his support of important new opportunities directly in line with our core missions. A large portion of Gary’s gift will support the research of exceptional women faculty early in their careers, enabling Illinois Physics to attract and retain promising women physicists.”

    The Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has realized a substantial estate gift from the late Gary Kelly, an Illinois Physics alumnus from Slidell, Louisiana. Gary earned a master’s degree in physics from Illinois in 1974, which prepared him for a successful career at Shell and later in the defense industry in Washington, D.C. Gary maintained a lifelong interest in the department and its success. In early 2018 Gary met with a member of the Physics staff to discuss how he could support Illinois Physics in a substantial way.

    “We deeply appreciate Gary Kelly’s generosity and his investment in our department’s core missions of research, teaching, and outreach,” comments Head of Department and Professor Matthias Grosse Perdekamp. “Unrestricted funds such as these are applied where they will make the greatest impact. Through his generosity, Gary Kelly’s legacy at Illinois will include his support of important new opportunities directly in line with our core missions. A large portion of Gary’s gift will support the research of exceptional women faculty early in their careers, enabling Illinois Physics to attract and retain promising women physicists.”

    Women comprise a small minority internationally in the field of physics, and this is evident at all levels, including undergraduate and graduate enrollments. At Illinois Physics, progress toward more balanced numbers is underway, but is slow, despite the commitment to equality demonstrated by administrators, faculty, postdocs, staff, and students. Between 2012 and 2014, only about ten percent of physics bachelor's degrees at Illinois were awarded to women. Current enrollment of women undergraduates is at 18 percent. Through multiple initiatives, Illinois Physics is working as a community to improve the numbers and maintain a supportive, welcoming climate for underrepresented groups in the department.

    Gary’s gift will also support several other departmental initiatives, including establishing two annual staff awards, to be presented each Fall in recognition of exceptional dedication and outstanding work.

    Perdekamp adds, “We couldn’t do what we do without our hardworking staff, and this award will both recognize and motivate the people who make our programs go."

    Illinois Physics Director of External Affairs Celia Elliott met Kelly about 12 years ago. She recalls, “I was very fortunate to meet Gary at a Physics alumni reception held in conjunction with the American Physical Society’s March meeting when it was in New Orleans in 2007. Although he had not ‘done physics’ for a number of years, Gary still had a lively interest in current research and really valued his physics training. He had not been back to Urbana since he graduated, but he still seemed to feel a strong connection to and affection for the department. His generous gift was in some ways a wonderful surprise, and in others, no surprise at all.”

    This legacy gift is a reminder of the incredible impact that we have on our students in the time they are on campus. Gary’s desire to invest in the department, ensuring its continued success, is a wonderful legacy to leave behind. We know that he would be proud of how we are using this gift to support women in physics, our innovative faculty, and our dedicated staff.

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Alumni and Advancement Contacts

Ross Williams
Ross Williams
Associate Director of Advancement
310 Engineering Hall

 

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