43rd Annual MLK Celebration Leadership Award Recipient: Kristala Jones Prather ’94

Kristala Jones Prather ’94

Arthur D. Little Professor of Chemical Engineering, Department Executive Officer, MIT

43rd Annual MLK Leadership Award

Turning bacteria into chemical factories: Kristala Jones Prather engineers cells to produce useful compounds such as drugs and biofuels. Photo: M. Scott Brauer, MIT News, 2013

Prof. Kristala Jones Prather '94 is Professor, Chemical Engineering, MacVicar Faculty Fellow and Graduate Admissions Chair.

As stated in the nomination submitted on behalf of the Dean’s Office for Graduate Education, “Professor Prather is the embodiment of MIT’s mind, hand, heart motto. She has earned MIT’s highest recognition for her energetic and enthusiastic teaching style, serves as PI for a multi-institutional research center sponsored by the NSF, and impressively advises a large research group, in addition to mentoring undergraduates from MIT and beyond.”

In her short tenure at MIT, Professor Prather has served as a faculty mentor for 13 research interns in the MIT Summer Research Program (a level of involvement unmatched except for one other MIT faculty member), and her mentorship played a part in 9 out of the 13 alumni moving on to pursue and earn graduate degrees.

Professor Prather is also a key collaborator of the Institute-wide K-20 diversity programs coordinated by the Office of Education Outreach Programs (OEOP), Office of Minority Education (OME) and ODGE Diversity Initiatives.

And she brings her work home, too! For the last 12 years, Professor Prather and her family have organized and hosted an annual summer BBQ event to encourage the Black community members to gather socially to connect and to fellowship with each other. The first BBQ was held in June 25, 2005 and grew from just a few alumni in the first few years to an annual tradition of gathering for alumni, current students, admitted students, faculty, postdocs, MLK scholars, staff and their families. Each year, the event highlights and celebrates a member of the community who has achieved some milestone over the year, or to welcome new members, and sometimes to farewell some who move out of the area. The Prathers generosity in opening their hearts to the community, offering their home as a place to gather, their incredible leadership in encouraging people to be enthusiastic attendees and being role models for younger generations, highlight their deep commitment to building community and being of service to this community.