Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
Despite the generational differences, four members of MIT's Class of 1959 found common ground with the roughly 15 current MIT students who came to the annual Class of '59 luncheon held in the Mezzanine Lounge in the student center on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
The Academic Resource Center sponsored the luncheon as part of an Independent Activities Period (IAP) series designed to help freshmen make the transition into more-rigorous sophomore year.
Class of '59 attendees included Dr. Michael Drew, Alfredo Kniazzeh, David Packer and Richard Sampson, all of whom shared stories with the students over a lunch of pasta and vegetables.
"MIT provides a very valuable background," said Kniazzeh (S.B. 1959; S.M. 1961 and Ph.D. 1966), highlighting the importance of the connections he formed at MIT.
The four men, all of whom were the best and brightest in their high school classes, spoke of feeling overwhelmed when they arrived at MIT -- a theme many of the freshmen echoed. "I may have been the smartest person in my high school, but I felt like the dumbest person" in the first course he took at MIT, Drew said. Eventually, he said, he found his niche.
Drew, an academic orthopedic surgeon whose major at MIT was management, made "a complete about face" in his career, he told the students. Still, he does not regret anything. "For me, MIT was a starting point," he said.
"I had an absolutely satisfying career," he said. "I wouldn't change a thing."
Many of the students wondered what the Institute was like 50 years ago and were surprised that among all the changes -- increased gender diversity, greater support services for freshmen -- many things have remained the same. "What hasn't changed is the sense of curiosity and the sense that you can learn whatever you want to learn," Drew said.
"It is still a great place," Packer said. "MIT has been with me all my life in some way."
"It is an inspiration to see how much is going on here that you can connect with," Kniazzeh said. "I still revere my MIT connection."