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Unveiling the New Grad Rat

Tiny symbols bear witness to past five years.

Graduate students and graduate-degree holders are taking part in a ritual long enjoyed by MIT undergraduates—the release of a new version of MIT’s signature ring. The latest design for the grad rat, the first in five years, was introduced in September, and it’s packed with symbols that evoke contemporary MIT life.

new brass rat ring

Until about a decade ago, the grad rat was in little demand and rarely redesigned. In contrast, more than 90 percent of undergraduates purchase brass rats each year. Since graduate students formed a ring committee in 2002, annual sales have more than doubled to 843 in 2013, making MIT’s the largest graduate ring program in the country.

The new design was developed by doctoral student and ring committee chair Katia Shtyrkova, SM ’13, and six team members who surveyed graduate students and worked with a graphic designer at Balfour.
“MIT has an iconic ring,” Shtyrkova says. Officially called the Standard Technology Ring, the brass rat and grad rat are widely recognized. Tony Stark, after all, sports one in the Iron Man movies. They are effective in person, too. “I can’t tell you how many people I meet because I wear my ring,” she says.

What symbols were chosen? The students surveyed wanted to commemorate the Higgs boson discovery, so a portion of the CERN logo is reproduced on one shank. In the bezel, pictured here, are “buddy beavers”—three small beavers swimming just behind the traditional beaver, representing the importance of friendships. What’s essential to MIT students? A coffee cup and an open box represent the number one and two most-cited items in the survey: coffee and Dropbox, the free online storage system founded by Drew Houston ’05. On a more somber note, “4-15,” the date of the Boston Marathon bombings, is carved into the traditional tree stump, which bears an MIT police officer’s badge to honor Officer Sean Collier.

Current MIT graduate students and all alumni who have earned graduate degrees can order the new design in a variety of metals; it will be customized to include graduation year, department, and degree. View the ring and order one at http://gradrat.mit.edu/.

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