Jason Hafner MA ’96, Ph.D. ’98

Magister of Jones College
Professor of Physics and Astronomy and of Chemistry

Even as a graduate student at Rice in the mid-1990s, Jason Hafner, now a Rice professor and magister, could fully appreciate the school’s emphasis on interdisciplinary research. “It’s partly why the university is able to have such a big research footprint for a school of its size,” he says. “It gives graduate students and faculty the opportunity to work with people outside their direct area.”

Hafner also describes a freedom to innovate at Rice, and he gives some credit to current-use funding from the Rice Annual Fund for encouraging this approach. “These extra resources from the university give us the freedom to try new kinds of experiments, rather than just being tied to a research area set forth by a government agency.”

Jason appreciates that the Annual Fund not only supports research, but also provides financial aid and stipends for graduate students. “Research labs are often trying to find a balance between funding exciting research and supporting the graduate researchers who make it happen,” he notes. “As a former graduate student, I know first-hand how that extra bit of help can make an impact — it shows that the university is invested in you and your work.”

He has also seen the positive impact of philanthropy on the undergraduate student population. When the university announced the launch of The Rice Investment in late September, Jason was even prouder to call himself a Rice alumnus, professor and magister.

“I’ve seen my students and residents struggle financially. They worry about how they and their families are going to pay for their education, and it really hinders their performance,” Jason remarks. “The Rice Investment is going to relieve that burden and make sure that our students can focus on learning, discovering and creating. Rice is doing a really good thing.”

While financial aid endowments will make The Rice Investment a permanent reality, current-use scholarships from the Annual Fund play a vital role in ensuring that this important commitment to access and affordability can take effect immediately. To that end, Jason gives to the Annual Fund to support The Rice Investment and to pay back the generosity bestowed upon him during his years as a graduate student.

“Giving back is a way that we can show that we care,” Jason reflects.


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