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Alumni Letters

Letters from our readers
June 23, 2009

Radio History

I read with interest your article on the evolution of MIT amateur radio (“MIT Ham,” May/June 2009). It reminded me of a story about MIT’s FM radio station.

It seems that in the late 1970s a brash up-and-­coming entertainment mogul from Atlanta desired for his media empire the call letters already in use by MIT’s station. In return for a substantial donation–I believe the sum was $50,000–the station switched its identifier to WMBR, and the right to use WTBS was granted to Ted Turner.

Peter Griffith ‘79, SM ‘80
Peachtree City, GA

A Thrilling Contact

In about 1937, when I was a 16-year-old high-school student and a ham known as W2KTO, I responded to a CQ from W1MX. I had a two-tube receiver and a one-tube transmitter operating at 3610 kilohertz. I was thrilled to be in contact with MIT.

I went on to receive my ScD from MIT and serve on the faculty. I also served as a U.S. Navy electronics officer during World War II at a shore naval radio facility in the Philippines. The ham radio background was helpful.

Alexander Kusko ‘44, ScD ‘51
Westwood, MA

Memories of Food Tech

David Mark’s letter “Course XX Lives” in the May/June 2009 issue stirred many recollections of my Tech days. When I entered in 1939, Bernie Proctor was the department head, Sam Prescott was teaching, and there were excellent food engineering courses. World War II pretty well scotched my plan to attend med school. So after serving in the navy, I studied food technology at UC Berkeley.

I spent my entire career in the food industry, ending up as vice president of food manufacturing at the Greyhound Corporation, which included Greyhound Food Management, Armour Food, and Dial. When I managed the construction of an Armour/Dial research laboratory in Scottsdale, Sam ­Goldblith visited frequently as a consultant. Because of Sam, I served on the department visiting committee.

I want to thank Dr. Mark for the letter that brought back so many memories, including riding the subway to Kendall Square and walking to school in the freezing cold just in time for our Friday-morning math and physics quizzes.

Hal Rosoff ‘43
Scottsdale, AZ


Professor Daniela Rus and I taught CSAIL’s Distributed Robot Garden class to give undergraduates hands-on experience with networked autonomous systems that interact in the real world (“Seen on Campus,” May/June 2009). We started by growing cherry tomatoes, which we considered to be “low-hanging fruit” for object recognition and manipulation purposes. Now the garden is also growing strawberries, oregano, and cubanelle peppers, and poses novel challenges for the undergraduates working on the project this summer. Although we’re still a long way from autonomous precision agriculture, implementing a system with distributed sensing, computation, and actuation has the potential to create novel kinds of networked autonomous systems for industry or home automation.

Nikolaus Correll
Postdoctoral associate, CSAIL

Part-Time Without Scorn

As a woman working in nanotechnology who is married and hoping for a family one day, I was drawn to “Why Women Leave Science” in the January/February 2009 issue. It presented a compelling argument: that to remain competitive in today’s world, we must retain trained scientists. The argument goes that since it costs roughly $500,000 to earn a PhD, the 3,000 PhD women who leave science every year cost us “$1.5 billion per year”! Although I fully support efforts to encourage women to remain in science, I think that this number fails to represent the true economic value of these women’s decisions.

Women who leave their current jobs most certainly continue to contribute to society. Some start businesses, others teach part time. Most important, they change their allocation of time to better raise their children. What would be the cost of a motherless, or simply mother-deficient, society? Consider the life of Barack Obama: without his mother and grandmother, would he be President Obama?

Adding funds to help women continue to aspire to male-defined roles of “success” won’t solve the problem. To pretend it’s a game-changing formula to help a woman pay others to care for her family is naïve, because many women want and need to participate equally with family and career. The answer, then, lies in a different definition of “contribution”–thinking beyond the gloried professor path, which demands a priestlike devotion to the sciences. Why should women be treated with scorn if they want well-paid, 25-hour-a-week scientific jobs that allow them to teach, do research part time, and have a say in what goes on in the department? And why shouldn’t such jobs offer advancement opportunities? We must expand our definition of a career and let it grow beyond the male-dominated world in which it was created. Then, and only then, will women choose the academic path. Because for many women, no career is worth more than family.

Emma Tevaarwerk DeCosta ‘00
Skokie, IL

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