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Sir Edmund Hillary

Conqueror of Mt. Everest

When I was very young I read about it, dreamed about it and when the opportunity came to do something about it I seemed to slip into it rather easily. Even the companionship that I made with similar friends in adventurous activities, I found very, very rewarding. Nothing is better fun that sitting down with a group of your peers who've done similar sort of things and just talking about your experiences. Maybe boasting a little bit here and there too, but sharing experiences that you all appreciate, you all know have been frightening and dangerous and have been successful.
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Sir Edmund Hillary

Conqueror of Mt. Everest

Sir Edmund Hillary: I did have -- definitely -- one heroic figure who impressed me very much indeed, and that was the great Antarctic explorer, Shackleton. Shackleton I always admired because he was a tough man and a very good leader. And whenever he was in difficult circumstances, which he frequently was, he seemed to have the great ability to inspire his men and lead his party safely out of those conditions. So certainly Shackleton, I would have said, more than anything, was a role model for me. And later on, when I was down in the Antarctic myself and doing various adventures, I really felt that I tried to behave perhaps a little bit more like Shackleton, than any of the other famous Antarctic explorers.
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David Ho

AIDS Research Pioneer

There had been an old dogma in the field that HIV comes in and after this acute phase that looks like flu, there's a prolonged dormancy. The virus wasn't doing much and the person is pretty well. And, we know that because we now know that period could be about ten years. And, somehow we realized that during this period the person's immune system is gradually dwindling and I didn't necessarily like the notion that -- we knew the patient is well -- but I didn't necessarily like the notion that the virus is dormant. And, for a long period of time my research effort is to measure the virus, to quantify the virus. I would say that's a decade long effort, having been one of the first to measure how much virus there is, and then very gradually demonstrating that the old notion is incorrect.
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David Ho

AIDS Research Pioneer

The protease structure had been studied for a long time. Particularly in the late '80s we realized what it looked like three dimensionally, and there's a cavity in the middle. And inside that cavity are the enzymatic sites, or the cutting sites. And so, the big proteins could come and sit in this groove and then be cut. Well it was easy to think that if you could fill that cavity with a small chemical so the proteins could not be cut. And so many, many groups started to try to fill that cavity with small chemicals, and there were rationally designed chemicals -- as well as chemicals that were done by a more empirical screening process -- that would fill this cavity. And so, what protease inhibitors are is simply something that would gum up the chemicals. So now HIV could not cut its proteins, and so it makes that progeny, and therefore it can't spread the infection. As long as the patient is taking the drug, it can't spread the infection. So it's now kept in control.
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Susan Hockfield

President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

I got to glioma by a bit of an experimental accident and by a certain amount of luck, fortuitousness. My husband's a neuro-oncologist, and I remember one Saturday afternoon we were sitting around around lunchtime and he had been reviewing, I think, the galleys of a review paper he was writing that included some fabulous images of real gliomas in real patients, and I in the meantime, was puzzling over some work that had just come out of my lab. We were trying to get our hands on the gene for a protein that I can describe in detail, but, in any case, we had found a gene. My post-doc, Diane Jaworski, had actually found a gene that we were pretty sure wasn't the gene we were looking for, but had some very interesting properties. And one of its interesting properties was that it was expressed when the glial cells in the brain were just beginning to develop. They were dividing and beginning to move to their adult positions. And my husband was working on his glioma review paper, and I was looking at this peculiar data, and we were talking to one another in the midst of this, and he looked at me and he said, "Well, you should look at that gene in glioma." Which we then did, and discovered that this gene is expressed by every glioma, virtually every glioma sample that we tested, and we went on to provide good evidence that this particular gene is part of the mechanism that allows glioma to do this terrible thing, which is invade normal tissue. The gene produces several different protein forms, one that's expressed on the glial cells as they're developing, but in a different form that is very selective for glioma. And so the last project in my lab, while I was in the lab, was exploring this particular gene and its protein products as a possible diagnostic and therapeutic target for glioma.
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Susan Hockfield

President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The other program we started when I was Dean was a lecture series called "In the Company of Scholars." Jonathan Spence gave a lecture yesterday morning -- he's a historian of China. Arguably, certainly, the nation's best Chinese historian. So I had a thought. I was walking down the street one day. Remember, I was in the Neurobiology Department in the Medical School -- I knew the name Jonathan Spence -- and I walked by the Yale bookstore and there was a display of his most recent book. And I looked at the book and I thought, "You know, if Jonathan Spence passed me on the street, I wouldn't recognize him, because as a neurobiologist I know many of the neurobiologists. I don't know any of these historians." And it struck me that this is another necessary consequence of graduate education being narrow and deep. Necessary, but not exclusionary. And so I started -- I and my colleague started -- this program "In the Company of Scholars," where three times a semester I would invite a faculty member from science, the humanities or the social sciences to give a lecture to the graduate school community. The graduate school at Yale had 2,200 students and roughly 600, 700 faculty were affiliated with the graduate school. So these lectures were expressly for the graduate community: graduate students, faculty in the graduate school. And the charge I gave to each of the faculty speakers was, "Tell us about your topic, but in a way that an intelligent person from another discipline can understand it." Well, this became a wonderfully exciting series of lectures. Of course, the first person I invited to give the lecture "In the Company of Scholars" was Jonathan Spence, and he gave a magnificent lecture. And I don't know, there were over 100 people in the audience, and then we had a reception afterward. And as I went from group to group around the reception, they were talking about the lecture, and that continued, as I said, three times a semester. It was a wonderful way of bringing the graduate community together, and giving students and faculty an opportunity to hear from the masters outside of their own disciplines.
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Susan Hockfield

President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

My predecessor, Chuck Vest, convened a group of faculty to think about how MIT should approach distance education. So this very extraordinary group of faculty went off and thought about it and came back and the report was "Oh, we've looked at it every possible way and we've concluded that you can't make money at it, so we should give it all away for free." And so MIT embarked on what has become Open Courseware, and it is a really quite remarkable force for the democratization of education. We get emails from people all over the world who have used it and describing how it's changed their lives. Then, when I arrived, there was information coming from people who had used the site, and we discovered that there were a lot of high school students and teachers using it. And there were faculty and staff at MIT who were anxious to provide an Open Courseware opportunity that would be actually targeted to high school students and teachers, and I encouraged that development, because I think it's so important. I think that there are a lot of students who have interests in the kinds of things MIT does -- science and engineering -- and yet because of a paucity of educational materials or educational insight, while they're in high school, lose that passion. And it's very important for our nation that we help those young people understand just how wonderfully exciting and rewarding advanced science and engineering are, and how important it is for them to keep their interests focused, and graduate from high school, and then aspire to study science and engineering at the college level.
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