Here and there


The Boston Herald told the story of a 14-year-old schoolgirl from rural Maine, Maggie Nerney, who turned to Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Dr. Mario Molina, to help her write a report for her eighth-grade science class.

After she left a message with Professor Molina's secretary, he called her back at Phillips Middle School in Phillips, ME, a town of about 1,500 which is 50 miles northwest of Augusta. He also sent her some scientific papers to read, which she used as the basis for her science report, according to Herald reporter Joseph Mallia.

Maggie told Mallia, "He was really polite, and he didn't treat me like a child." She said he described his work, in which he explained how certain man-made chemicals can rise into the atmosphere and harm the ozone layer that shields us from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun.

"I basically asked him how he got started in science, and I asked him how he got started on the ozone project," Ms. Nerney said.

Dr. Molina, who shared the prize with two other scientists, told the Herald he hopes Maggie, and her classmates at the 70-student school, will continue to try to excel.

"I hope that it gives her motivation and inspiration to keep studying, and perhaps to become a scientist-or to do well in whatever endeavor she chooses."

Actually, Ms. Nerney wants to be a lawyer. But she was thrilled nevertheless to get an A for her science paper.

A recently published poetry book of Dr. John Hildebidle, professor of literature, is being made available in the US by Wyndham Hall Press, which acquired the inventory of the book from the original Irish publisher.

The publisher describes the book, priced at $5, as a "beautifully bound paperback edition" suitable for personal use, libraries and gifts. It adds, that the book "embodies the vitality and scope of Dr. Hildebidle's poetic skill of expression and imagery."

Dr. Hildebidle has just returned from a year in Ireland at University College, Galway, under sponsorship of the Fulbright Foundation.

The Boston Globe gave feature display to Felice Frankel. Officially she's a visiting lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and computer science, but as the story by David L. Chandler makes clear, she's an "artist in residence" who is "out to create a whole new profession: science photographer." The story continues:

"At MIT, she has been working closely with scientists to help them find ways to communicate their work visually to the public, much as science writers work in words.

"So far, she's having great success. Her photographs of research in progress have made it onto the covers of major magazines. In one particularly satisfying coup, her work graced the covers of August issues of both of the major scientific journals, Science and Nature."

Dr. J. Kim Vandiver, professor of ocean engineering and director of the Edgerton Center, Frankel's home base at the Institute, called Ms. Frankel's work "really quite unusual for science and engineering."

Normally, he said, "scientists are trained to do their thing. They don't bring highly refined photographic skills to it. They're really amateurs."

Ms. Frankel had a successful 20-year career as a landscape and architectural photographer when three years ago she found herself drawn back to where she began-the sciences-after winning a Loeb fellowship to study at Harvard.

Ms. Frankel, who has an undergraduate degree in biology, told the Globe that part of what makes her interactions with scientists work is the combination of her photographic skills and the fact that "I can communicate in their language."

Writes Chandler: "She has already strayed far from the biological sciences, and found that the connection still works. Some of her recent photos at MIT have involved chemical reactions, the manufacture of microchips and fluorescent solutions photographed under ultraviolet light. She has teamed with chemists, engineers, physicists and educators."

One of these was Dr. Toyoichi Tanaka, professor of physics.

He described working with Ms. Frankel as "a complete collaboration-it's not just taking a photo." In recognition of the importance of her contribution to the work, he said, "I put her name as a collaborator when I give a lecture."

Professor Tanaka said he thinks that "the artistic presence can sometimes get to the essence of science. My belief is that science has to be beautiful, and has to be simple."

The story concludes by reporting that Ms. Frankel is now teaching MIT students how to take better pictures of their own research projects. It quotes Dr. Vandiver as saying that a keener photographic eye "has to be part of the skills that the next generation of scientists and engineers bring with them."

MIT freshman Jeremy L. Warner of Sharon recently put on a burst of speed while sitting in his dorm room-and reaped a rich reward.

According to the Patriot Ledger of Quincy, the 18-year-old Warner won the individual speed award in the first round of the "Cybersurfari 95" contest held by the Software Publishers Association.

"Warner spent 12 straight hours on his dorm room computer October 24 and 25, and won by locating 90 of 100 Cybersurfari treasure codes," the newspaper reported. "For that he gets $5,000, plus a $5,000 certificate that the school of his choice can spend on computers and software."

Warner told the Ledger the contest was "was really neat and well done. I had no idea there was so much interesting stuff on the Web."

Among the hundreds of thousands who gathered in New York's Central Park last month for the Mass by Pope John Paul II was MIT doctoral candidate Nicanor R. (Nick) Austriaco Jr., of Somerville.

According to The Boston Herald, he and about 160 other Catholic young people from the Boston area boarded buses at 11pm the night before, arrived in New York City in the dark, grabbed a couple of doughnuts, then stood in line, waiting for day to dawn and the gates to open.

It was a rainy morning. The ground was muddy and the air chilly. There was nowhere to sit and nothing to lean on. It meant standing for hours.

But that was no deterrent to Nick, for whom God and the church are an essential part of his life.

As the Herald pointed out, Nick is a scientist, a cancer biologist who is also a youth minister at Sacred Heart Parish in East Boston.

"As a scientist," he explains, "my faith fills a void."

A Filipino who grew up in Thailand, Nick was a Christian in a land of Buddhists.

"People were always asking me about my faith," he says, adding that he got used to the questions and now can talk easily about things most people, especially young men, seldom discuss.

"`Why do you believe in God? Where's the evidence?' my friends ask me."

He tells them this story: If you toss a nickel in the air 10 times and 10 times it comes up heads, one of two things is going on - either the nickel's fixed or someone is controlling the coin.

Nick doesn't doubt that someone is controlling his life.

"As a scientist you're made to believe that what you do is the most important thing in the world. And that you do it. But you can't do anything without God and though what you do is important, it isn't who you are.

"There are so many people looking for something but they won't talk about it. They're afraid of it. They're studying math but they're looking for God in their lives."

Nick told the Herald he found God "10 years ago at two in the morning on a wet, rainy night" and that he's been "right here beside me" ever since.

"There are days in the lab and I'm working and I'm singing," he says, adding that he sings because he's so full of God. "I'm not embarrassed. When you know that something wonderful is going on you can't be embarrassed by it. Sometimes people hear, but they just say, `Hey that's just Nick singing.'"

Next year, Nick will be at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in London. "I've got a church already," he told Tech Talk, "and a choir, and hopefully God will lead me to a ministry there."

Before he left New York, Nick was rewarded with words of encouragement from the Pope. "You young people will live most of your lives in the next millennium," the Pope said. "You must help the Holy Spirit to shape its social, moral and spiritual character."

Ellen T. Harris, associate provost for the arts and professor of music, discussed "Teaching and the Arts" at the 1995 John C. Zacharis Forum recently at the Boston Public Library. The forum is a function of the Professional Arts Consortium, an association of six Boston institutions of higher education specializing in the arts. Last year's speaker was Jane Alexander, chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts. This year's forum was co-sponsored by the International Network of Performing and Visual Arts Schools, an organization of teachers, administrators and artists from all over the world who were meeting in Boston.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 8, 1995.


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