Here and there


Dr. Robert C. Reid, professor emeritus of chemical engineering, is justly proud of one of his former students, Dr. Albert Sacco Jr., who completed a 16-day mission as a payload specialist aboard the Columbia space shuttle this fall.

Professor Reid recalls Dr. Sacco as an outstanding student with an outgoing personality who completed an excellent doctoral thesis, receiving his PhD from MIT in 1977.

Dr. Sacco, now head of the chemical engineering department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, returns the compliment. "I owe most of what I've done to Bob Reid," he said. "Of all the teachers I've had in my lifetime, he taught me what it takes to do high-quality work."

Professor Sacco, a former Belmont resident who was captain of his high school football team, said the space mission was the culmination of a dream he has had "since I was a kid." When it came time to decide on a major in college, he chose chemical engineering partly on the basis of his belief that it would be a key element in the space program. As it turned out, he said, nearly all the experiments aboard the Columbia "had a chemical engineering aspect to them."

It also appears, he said, on the basis of preliminary results, that the flight will prove to be "one of the most successful science lab missions in the history of the program, both in terms of the quantity and quality of data."

The mission, which lasted from October 20 to November 5, missed by six hours being the longest US space flight. On the down side, it tied the record for most delays on liftoff because of weather conditions and other complications.

"It was just a tremendous experience, one of the greatest of my life," Professor Sacco said.

The MIT Department of Chemical Engineering flew a certificate on the shuttle to commemorate Dr. Sacco's flight.

And it will have a chance to hear from him personally next fall-date to be announced-when he returns to MIT as a speaker in the department's 1996 seminar series.
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The awarding of the Nobel Prize in physics this year to Professor Martin Perl of Stanford University and Professor Emeritus Frederick Reines of the University of California, Irvine, completed a triad that involves Professor Samuel C.C. Ting of MIT.

As Perl told Science magazine, he got his PhD at Columbia as a student of I.I. Rabi, who won the Nobel Prize in 1944, and Rabi's students included Professor Ting, who shared the prize in 1976 with Burton Richter, an MIT alumnus, for discovering the J particle, a heavy elementary particle of subatomic matter.

"So, there are three generations," said Professor Perl.

CLIPS

In a lengthy article in The Boston Globe about the large number of recent MIT graduates who have started computer companies, writer Nathan Cobb wondered why almost no women were represented, even though their numbers have been growing dramatically. For an answer, he turned to Professor Sherry R. Turkle in the Program in Science, Technology and Society.

He writes: "Sherry Turkle thinks women expect-and are expected- to play by the rules, a decidedly anti-entrepreneurial mode. A professor of the sociology of science. who teaches a course called Gender, Technology, and Computer Culture, Turkle contends that women are often uncomfortable with the lone-wolf concept that the university espouses.

"`When you're in an environment created by men for men, you try to figure out what the rules are and play by them,' Turkle says. `And it doesn't put you in an idiosyncratic, entrepreneurial frame of mind. It socializes you into behavior that won't get you to the creative top.

"`To go out and start your own company is to not play by the rules.'

"Both [Kristina] Holly, [an MIT graduate who did start her own company, Stylus Innovation] and Turkle point out that there are no female role models among the computurks. And if the likes of Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft Corp.) and Steven Jobs (founder of Apple Computer) were female, would they be as admired as they are as men? Argues Turkle: "`Their eccentricities-their laser-beam focus, for example-simply wouldn't play well if they were women.'"

A few days later, Mr. Cobb took the occasion of her latest book, Life on the Screen, to do a feature story on Professor Turkle headlined "Inside Our Cyber-Psyches," and subtitled, "MIT's Sherry Turkle explores how we reinvent ourselves when we go on line."

He writes: "Turkle's new book, six years in the making, deals with her contention that computer networks have created a culture of simulation that permits people to take on different characters and even different genders. `For 20 years people have been talking about the computer revolution,' she says. `And after 20 years of hype, we now find that using a computer to interact in new and different ways with other people is what the revolution really is.'"

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 13, 1995.


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