Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
Commencement 2005 was particularly poignant for 20-year MIT Professor John Guttag of electrical engineering and computer science; Guttag's son David graduated with a degree in economics at the June 3 ceremony.
"This will be a special one," Professor Guttag said before graduation. He added that watching his son's four-year journey at MIT had opened his eyes to another side of the Institute. "It gave me extra insight into life as a student."
The Guttag family was in good company. Many of the guests who attended the sun-soaked 139th Commencement last week have deep roots at MIT.
Alvin Lin of Vienna, Va., a graduate in electrical engineering and computer science, became the third in his family to process through Killian Court. Older sisters Vicki (S.B. 2001) and Sandi (S.M. 2003) both attended MIT.
"We have always been interested in science and math," said Alvin. "I guess I was drawn to MIT because even if you change your mind about what to study, you are still in the best place."
When he entered MIT four years ago, he said he felt he had a head start thanks to his sisters. "I knew the area and some people," he said.
Janet Lieberman of New Jersey, an MIT sophomore, said she decided to attend MIT based on her older sister Sarah's experience. Sarah received her degree Friday in mathematics and computer science.
"I really liked the culture here," said Janet, who was sitting with her aunt Kathleen Joint.
"There is a lot of ceremony in the MIT graduation," said Joint, whose sister-in-law and brother-in-law also graduated from MIT. "It is a very nice celebration."
For others in the crowd, Friday's Commencement was a first. Corinne Connally of Austin, Texas, came with her mother, mother-in-law and daughter to watch her husband earn a master's in both management and mechanical engineering.
"It has been a nice day," said Connally. The Connally family planned to return to Texas this week. "I have really enjoyed Boston," she said.
After four years spent close to his family, David Guttag will move to Manhattan next month to start a job with Merrill Lynch. Though they were thrilled with his success, his family is sad to see him leave.
"We saw more of David than he or we expected," said his father. The proximity was especially nice for David's two younger brothers who were able to spend time with their older sibling--"I was able to go to their baseball games," said David. Last Friday, both of his younger brothers sat on Killian Court cheering for David.
David is the first brass rat in the family, but his father hopes he will not be the last. "Maybe one of my other children will go," he said, smiling.