John Belcher

Physics
Supporting mental health 

John BelcherProfessor John Belcher is serious about mental health. Very open about his own battle with clinical depression, he is able to speak from experience when relating to students under stress. One of his aims as the current Associate Chair of the MIT Faculty is to help decrease the stigma associated with mental health treatment. Inspired by students who were speaking out, he wrote a letter to the Tech called “In Good Company: With tenure but not without troubles” about his struggle and his ongoing treatment with anti-depressants. “The more open people like Grace and I are about our experiences in dealing with depression,” Belcher writes, “the more acceptance of those treatments there will be.”

The path to health will vary for each student, but Belcher consistently encourages students to seek help when faced with challenges. Belcher’s nominator writes of his letter, “It was one of the main reasons why I decided to look for help myself and, as a result, am now planning to graduate.”

Born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, Belcher was the Principal Investigator on the Voyager Plasma Science Experiment during the Voyager Neptune Encounter (“the end of the Grand Tour”), and is now a Co-Investigator on the Plasma Science Experiment onboard the Voyager Interstellar Mission. The Voyager 1 spacecraft has broken through the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles given off by the sun, and is still traveling and sending back data about interstellar space, where no man or machine has gone before. Alongside research, Belcher’s nominator praises him for being “encouraging and very relatable,” always validating questions and replying to invitations to attend student events.

Because he prioritizes his own welfare and also that of students, Prof. Belcher is a valued presence in our community.