Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
A reborn MIT Beaver has eagerly emerged with considerable vigor and a new look.
Sporting a shiny fake-fur coat, oversized paws and hands, and a sporty cardinal and gray vest with the MIT logo across the chest, he looked and smelled wonderful. The beaver emeritus, who has roamed the campus since 1977, will retire to the MIT Museum.
The costume for the new and improved beaver for a new generation arrived last month and made its debut at the Johnson Games on April 29. It combines elements from the designs of the co-winners of the beaver design contest announced last year (MIT Tech Talk, June 2, 1999), Jessica Wu and Solar Olugebefola, both of whom graduated last year. Each received a $400 prize. They worked with Edward McCluney, director of student art, on the final model.
Mr. Olugebefola, now a graduate student in materials science and engineering, wore the costume at its unveiling. Ms. Wu was an official at the Johnson Games.
Mr. Olugebefola had fun but does not anticipate an encore performance. "I discovered that folks like to hug me and show me to their little children as well as take pictures with me," he said. "Several of the teams took photos with me. It was unique since I had helped design the costume. I'm glad I was the first person to wear it."
Unlike its predecessor, the new beaver suit is made for comfort. The head, 64 inches in circumference, has a built-in fan to alleviate the sauna-like atmosphere that prevailed inside the earlier costume. In addition, the current model is worn over a vest that contains pockets for ice, making the experience even cooler.
After wearing the suit, Mr. Olugebefola suggested a few minor alterations. The sleeves ride up during vigorous activity and he hopes thay can be lengthened. He also proposed that a miniature amplifier be installed since people had difficulty hearing him. And despite the fan and ice vest, he found the suit hot and sticky.
"Other than that, I think the costume is very well made," he said. "It's comfortable and easy to move around in."
The new suit also smells fresh and clean, unlike the the old one, which was somewhat the worse for 23 years of wear by perspiring humans.
The new beaver's vital statistics: a 72-inch waist; a 49-inch neck; size 16 1/2 jumbo-width shoes; one-size-fits-all, 16-inch four-fingered paws; and a 26-inch vinyl tail shaped like an oversized tennis racket.
The beaver (unnamed, although some refer to him as TIM) was adopted as the MIT mascot in 1914 at the suggestion of the Technology Club of New York. In presenting two mounted beavers to MIT President Richard C. Maclaurin at the club's annual dinner, Lester D. Gardner (SB 1898) said, "We first thought of the kangaroo, which like Tech goes forward by leaps and bounds... Then we considered the elephant. He is wise, patient, strong, hard-working and like all men who graduate from Tech, has a good tough hide.
"But neither of these were American animals. We turned to William Temple Hornady's textbook, The American Natural History: A Foundation of Useful Knowledge of the Higher Animals of North America (1906) and instantly chose the beaver. As you will see, the beaver not only typifies the Tech man, but his habits are peculiarly our own. Mr. Hornaday says, 'Of all the animals in the world, the beaver is noted for his engineering and mechanical skill and habits of industry. His habits are nocturnal -- he does his best work in the dark.'"
The new outfit was custom-tailored by Pierre's Costumes of Pennsauken, NJ. To volunteer to wear it or inquire about an appearance at an event, contact Ted E. Johnson, assistant director for programs for the Campus Activities Complex, at x3-3913 or send e-mail to email@example.com.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 10, 2000.