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An Asteroid of Their Own

This past June Thomas Burbine PhD ‘00 named an asteroid after former Ashdown House housemasters Vernon and Beth Ingram to thank them for helping make MIT “the best place to go to graduate school.” Vernon Ingram, an MIT biology professor who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in April 2002, has received considerable recognition for his work on neurodegenerative diseases. But Burbine, now a postdoc in planetary sciences at the National Museum of Natural History, says the Ingrams deserve acknowledgment for their 16 years at Ashdown House, from 1985 to 2001.

Burbine wasn’t sure how he would fit in when he arrived at MIT in 1993, but he made friends at an Ashdown orientation dinner the Ingrams had organized. Soon he became a regular at the Ingrams’ dorm events. “They interacted with thousands of graduate students,” says Burbine. “They really cared.”

While at MIT, Burbine’s friend and planetary sciences classmate Schelte “Bobby” Bus PhD ‘99 named an asteroid he had discovered after Burbine. “Vernon was always impressed,” Burbine says. So when Bus gave Burbine naming rights to another asteroid, he chose to honor the Ingrams by naming it after them. The process took more than a year, but the new name, 6825 Ingram, became official June 24. The Ingrams learned of the honor only when it made the front page of MIT’s Tech Talk newspaper on July 17. “We were totally surprised and very happy,” Vernon Ingram says.

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