Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
The Board of Chaplains reached out to MIT students, faculty, administrators and staff with a project called "Building Self: Building Community" and more than 300 reached back--some with one hand, others with both.
Plaster casts were made of the hands on September 3 and 8 on Kresge Oval, and each participant was encouraged to etch a message on his or her casting. Some also painted their mold. The hands were joined together in a sculpture under the guidance of artist Sasha Bergman Lichtenstein. The completed work will be displayed at various sites on campus starting with Lobby 7 on October 1.
In a statement announcing the project, the Board of Chaplains said, in part:
"We invite you to envision what your ideal community would look like. First visualize MIT's community and the upcoming year. What is the purpose of a community? What do you want? What can you give? Think of a previous time when you were part of a community and had a positive experience. What aspects did you like?
"Now embrace the world community. How do you envision it to be? Use your hand and your voice to make a statement--create a vision about your community and how you will help create and be a part of it this year.
"This project involves a very diverse community, representatives of the diversity of this planet. How may we set an example of how many people of different beliefs can live together peaceably?"
The project was conceived and coordinated by Jewish chaplain Miriam Rosenblum, director of MIT Hillel, and Episcopal chaplain Jane Gould. Funds were provided by the MIT Council for the Arts and the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 23, 1998.