Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
Mention Michele Micheletti to the legions of people who knew her on and off campus and they remember her smile, her love and insight, and the way she considered life a constant adventure. They'll miss her terribly.
Ms. Micheletti, a sophomore from Milbrae, CA, died Friday night after an automobile accident on Memorial Drive near New House in which she was struck by two cars.
Ms. Micheletti, 19, was going to dinner with several other students from New House when she was hit by a Porsche while crossing from the island toward the river. Campus Police administered CPR at the scene before the Cambridge Fire Dept. Rescue Squad brought her to Massachusetts General Hospital. She was pronounced dead at 7:39pm.
State police said alcohol or speeding did not appear to be factors in the accident and indicated that no charges would be filed against the driver of the Porsche. They were seeking help in identifying the second car, which did not stop. Witnesses may call 727-4812, or (508) 820-2121.
Ms. Micheletti, who was majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, was a member of Alpha Phi and a New House resident. She was a counselor in the Freshman Leadership Program last August and vice president of New House 3. She also was on the student advisory group to the Task Force on Student Life and Learning. She was planning to organize an Italian Club and had compiled a list of all graduate students and undergraduates from Italy.
Michele Micheletti touched the lives of everyone around her. Here are the recollections of some of her fellow students at MIT:
Quintin Louie, a freshman: "Michele could brighten up my day even when I discovered that I bombed my first two math tests, lost my wallet and was told for crew to run up and down the Green Building stairs 10 times. Being from California, I can relate to her continuous optimism. She always wore a warm smile even when there was rain. She was someone I could talk to about anything and she would sit there, interested in everything I had to say. In the words of a Californian, Michele was a totally chilling dudette. I'm totally down with that."
Jennifer Grewen, a junior in mechanical engineering and a member of Alpha Phi: "Michele lived for today every minute of her life. Wherever she was, whatever she was doing, she found a way to be happy and people to make happy. It is so incredibly sad that her life was so short, but for the time she lived, she lived a fuller life than anyone I know. We'll miss her. Her presence really changed this school. There is no replacement for her."
Karina Claudio, a junior in EECS: "I had the honor of being one of her closest friends -- her work colleague, her classmate, sorority sister, just about everything -- and she just filled my heart with joy. She is one of those people that walks into a room and will just talk to anyone -- no distinction, not superficial at all, something very hard to find nowadays. I can't express in words how much I love this girl and how much I'll miss her."
Ricci Rivera, a sophomore in biology: "She always greeted her friends with a hug and almost always with a kiss. She also had an understanding of people, and her empathy was boundless for anyone whom she knew was hurting. She was lively, lovely, so filled with love for others. She did well in school and was able to balance her life; she wasn't just a book dud."
Danielle Hinton, a sophomore in EECS: "Any sadness you had that day could be erased by just seeing her, and talking to her and feeling the love that emanated from her alwaysï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ She worked hard in her schoolwork, worked hard to help you if you needed help, worked hard in her extracurriculars, and worked hard at building lasting friendships. You knew she was busy and she knew she was busy, but she never seemed or made you feel that she was ever too busy for you."
Damon Lewis, a junior in EECS and a resident of New House 4: "Michele was one of the warmest and funniest people I've ever met. Just seeing her was enough to make everyone around her smile. She insisted on having a lot of fun and making sure everyone around her was having as much fun as she was. She reached out to as many people as she possibly could. She will be truly missed around here."
Marcus Baynes, a sophomore in mathematics: "When I think of Michele, I remember that she was one of the most loving people that I've ever met. She cared so much about her friends, and even those who weren't her friends. She was just an all-around great person and I'm going to miss her a lot."
Melissa Barbagelata, a sophomore in mechanical engineering: "She had such a great attitude towards life. I never heard her complain about the usual things that everyone else would complain about. She loved her friends, she loved her classes and she gave 110 percent of herself to everything she did."
Michele, adopted when she was a few days old by Elmer and Shirley Micheletti, browsed the dictionary at age 4 and was valedictorian at St. Dunstan Elementary School. She went on to maintain a 4.0 average at Notre Dame High School in Belmont, CA, where she played basketball and joined the Junior Statesmen of America. The valedictorian of her high school graduating class, she received awards for academic achievement from the US Navy and Coca Cola. She was attending MIT on a full scholarship from the National Security Agency.
"I am deeply saddened by the tragic and completely senseless death of Michele Micheletti," said President Charles Vest, who spoke with her father on Friday night. "Several who knew her well have commented on what an engaging and gregarious young woman she was, and on what a positive influence she had on those around herï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ My heart goes out to her family and to her many friends here at MIT. Becky and I are grateful to John and Ellen Essigmann [New House housemasters], the New House resident tutors, Dean Leo Osgood and his colleagues in the Dean's Office, and the staff of the MIT Medical Department for their strong, caring actions over the weekend."
Ms. Micheletti's freshman advisor, Paul Parravano of the Government and Community Relations Office, Professor Essigmann and 31 students (including all those quoted above) attended the memorial service and funeral at St. Dunstan's Church in Millbrae. "She was a great best friend, making each person feel as if they were special," said Dr. Essigmann, a professor of chemistry and toxicology and a MacVicar Fellow. "It is the individuals within our community who will miss her most deeply."
Erika Perez, a senior who lives in New House, wrote a poem to express her feelings about Michele. The final verse could speak for many others in the MIT community:
We will remember you
For always and a day
For no one can forget
The light you brought into a dark room,
The burst of laughter in midst of silence,
And the love you gave
To each and everyone of us.
The Michele Micheletti Scholarship Fund has been established by the Junior Statesmen's Foundation of America. Donations may be sent to the family at 1310 Ridgewood Drive, Millbrae, CA 94030.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 5, 1997.