Grad Rat Redesigned for First Time Since 2003

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Grad Ring Committee chair Shahriar R. Khushrushahi G describes elements of the new Grad Rat to an audience of graduate students. The design was unveiled Wednesday evening in Walker Memorial.
Allison M. Alwan

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: In last Friday’s issue, the article “Grad Rat Redesigned for First Time Since 2003” incorrectly described some features of the new graduate student ring. The bezel of the new ring does not contain a slice of pizza or a crane. Those features did exist on the old ring, though are not present in the new design.

MIT graduate students packed into Walker Memorial on Wednesday night to celebrate the unveiling of the first new Grad Rat ring design since 2003.

The ring features a beaver holding both a diploma, symbolizing graduation, and pizza, symbolizing free food, on the bezel.

The official MIT seal is featured prominently on one shank, while the other shank contains an icon personalized based on the student’s department.

The ring may also be personalized to include students’ class years and degrees being received. These options are unique to the Grad Rat, as the undergraduate Brass Rat has a uniform design.

EECS graduate student Shahriar R. Khushrushahi, outgoing chair of the Graduate Ring Committee, which designed the ring, said that he wanted to incorporate more symbolism into the Grad Rat so that the design would relate better to the next five graduate classes. Unlike the past ring which included absolute objects like the Stata Center, Khushrushahi and the GRC focused more on abstract concepts that he believed all MIT graduate students would understand.

“One of the symbols we worked on a lot,” Khushrushahi explained, “was the ‘72’ which is found on the left side of the bezel. It represents the 72 Nobel laureates that have passed through MIT.” Khushrushahi also said that the 72 symbol is represented as a helix, in reference to MIT’s extensive efforts in studying DNA. The 72 symbol also brings to light MIT’s contributions to sustainability by incorporating the recycling-symbol-styled arrows at the ends of the numbers. The icon below the 72 symbol represents a greater-than sign in order to acknowledge the fact that many more Nobel laureates will pass through MIT in the future. Lastly, the flames between the numbers symbolize MIT’s ongoing research in energy efficiency.

Other symbols on the bezel include the moon, symbolizing late nights spent at MIT, a crane, a reference to MIT’s numerous ongoing construction projects, and the acronym IHTFP (which most commonly refers to the phrase ‘I hate this fucking place’).

Khushrushahi said that the GRC wanted the Grad Rat to reveal the journey to graduation. They accomplished this by including in the design a path that crosses the bezel which encounters all the symbols on it, including book piles and empty coffee cups. And to continue tradition, the bezel shows the MIT beaver clutching a diploma in its right hand while wearing a Grad Rat on its left. Like the Brass Rat given to undergraduates, the Grad Rat shows the Boston skylines on the sides of the ring as well as an engraving of the MIT campus map on the inner-band.

New in 2008 is a second limited-edition alternative ring. Saeed Arida G, an architecture graduate student and member of the GRC, said she helped design this new ring to appeal to those graduate students who do not like the bulkiness of the traditional Grad Rat. Unlike the large, square frame of the Grad Rat, the new ring is circular and consists of four small bands. The first band is engraved with “MIT,” and other three denote the student’s graduation year, school, and degree received. “What makes this ring unique,” said Arida, “is the fact that each ring is specially constructed for each student.”

Graduate students can order their Grad Rats through next week either online at the Graduate Student Council’s website ( or in Lobby 10. Rings come in stainless steel, silver, gold, and a silver-gold-palladium blend. Prices range from $150 to $950, depending on style and bezel size. According to Khushrushahi, approximately one-third of graduate students order the Grad Rat.

This year is the second in which a committee has redesigned the Grad Rat since a plan to redesign the ring every five years began in 2003. Throughout the past year, the GRC worked directly with Balfour, the jewelry company that is manufacturing the Grad Rat.

Initial financial and marketing plans began at the end of summer 2007, while design of the ring itself began in December 2007.

At the unveiling event on Wednesday, rows of buffet tables lined the floors. The rhythmic drumming of the Afro-Brazil band’s drums rocked the air before the ring presentation began.

Five rings were lotteried off to the students in Walker, but before names were drawn, an honorary ring was given to Tim the Beaver. After the presentation of the new ring design, a video of Tim the Beaver living the day of the average MIT graduate student was presented.

The idea of presenting rings to MIT graduates was first established in under Class of 1929 President C. Brigham Allen, who formed a committee to design the Brass Rat. The initial design of the Grad Rat remained unchanged for 73 years until when it was first updated in 2003.

A new ’08–’09 Graduate Ring Committee has already been formed and will be headed by Alessondra Springmann G.

The newly-unveiled design of the Grad Rat will be offered to the next five graduate classes. The ring will not be redesigned until 2013.