Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
My son, the astronaut.
Only a few mothers can say that, but MIT's Joan Loria--she's the director of exhibitions at the MIT Museum--recently joined their select circle when her son, Marine Maj. Christopher J. Loria, was chosen for the astronaut corps.
"I'm really thrilled for him," Ms. Loria said, but his acceptance for training as a space shuttle pilot didn't really surprise her. Chris has crammed a lot of accomplishment into his 35 years, although some of it has given his mother sleepless nights.
Joan recalls that Chris's interest in flying led him to join the Civil Air Patrol when he was 12. "There was many a Sunday when I took him out to Hanscom Field for his meetings," she said.
Chris grew up in the 60s and was duly impressed when an American astronaut walked on the moon. His other hero, she said, was underseas explorer Jacques Cousteau, whom Ms. Loria met while doing some work with Professor Harold E. (Doc) Edgerton, a collaborator with Cousteau on several projects.
"When I told my boys I had shaken his hand," she said, "they looked at me in awe."
Chris went on to graduate from Belmont High School and, in 1983, from the US Naval Academy.
He soon realized his lifelong dream, becoming a Marine Corps pilot. He served in the Persian Gulf War, completing 42 missions in his FA-18 fighter, and after that received his first assignment to an elite group when he was chosen to be a test pilot.
He has been involved in the testing of an experimental fighter, the X-31, and is currently stationed at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, where he lives with his wife, Sandra, and daughter, Taylor.
Joan Loria's other son, Robert, 33, a 1985 Naval Academy graduate, is a Marine Corps captain stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC.
She also has two daughters. Are they in the military, she was asked. "Thank God, no," she replied, laughing.
The children's father, Robert, who was the operations manager in MIT's Laboratory for Nuclear Science, died in 1978.
Joan is retiring this summer after nearly 22 years with the museum.
And has her son's love for the outer reaches rubbed off on her? "Oh no," she answered, "I hate to fly."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 24, 1996.