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FGP Faculty and Teaching Staff Stories

The first generation faculty and teaching staff profiled in this section have kindly shared their stories with us and look forward to connecting with you.

T.L. Taylor

T.L. Taylor

Program: Comparative Media Studies and Writing
Professor, Comparative Media Studies and Writing

Professor Taylor grew up in a working class family and eventually ended up in academia by way of the community college system in California. Though her family always abstractly valued education, in practice her path to university was not the most traditional.

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Phillip Sharp

Phillip Sharp

Program: Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
Institute Professor, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Nobel Laureate

As a youth hoeing tobacco in rural Kentucky, undergraduate life on a college campus appealed to Professor Sharp as a greener, more social alternative. Prof. Sharp decided to save money and attend college. While studying at Union College in the mountains of Kentucky, Prof. Sharp’s interest in chemistry and math “grew exponentially.”

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Leona Samson

Leona Samson

Program: Biological Engineering and Biology
Professor of Biological Engineering and Professor of Biology

After numerous mid-semester moves, Professor Samson dropped out of high school at the age of 15. "This didn't alarm anyone in my family," Samson says. When Samson discovered biology "was surprisingly interesting", she decided she would go to university and work in a lab.

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Sean Patrick Robinson

Sean Patrick Robinson

Program: Physics
Lecturer, Department of Physics

For Dr. Robinson growing up on the Massachusetts "South Shore", hard work, family, and toughness were central values to Irish Catholic immigrant life. Until he came to MIT, the only scientists Dr. Robinson knew were on TV .

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Scott Hughes

Scott Hughes

Program: Physics
Professor of Physics, Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow, Division Head for Astrophysics

Professor Hughes' parents, both high school educated, made sure he got a library card and supported his interests in dinosaurs, Tolkienian linguistics, and World War II airplanes, he never heard "What's the point of that?" The question of college attendance, however, raised more issues, "Places like that don't help people like us," his mother contended.

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Joseph Formaggio

Joseph Formaggio

Program: Physics
Professor of Physics Division Head, Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics

Professor Formaggio spent a good portion of his childhood living in Catania, Sicily—a city with no public libraries and a school where teachers spent hours smoking in the teachers' lounge. Nonetheless, "going to college wasn't really a question for me," Prof. Formaggio says.

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Bill Dalzell

Bill Dalzell

Program: Chemical Engineering
Lecturer

When applying to college as a senior in rural Chatham, NY, Professor Dalzell perused college catalogs and thought about becoming an engineer. He discovered MIT when a friend told him it was the best engineering school. The admissions deadline had passed two weeks ago, Prof. Dalzell applied anyway.

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Karen Boiko

Karen Boiko

Program: CMS/Writing
Lecturer II, CMS/Writing

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, California Dr. Karen Boiko always had her nose in a book. "My parents had no advice to offer about schooling, but they encouraged me to do well in school," Boiko says. After completing her undergraduate degree and working in trade publishing, Dr. Boiko began her PhD in English Literature at the age of 40.

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Ed Bertschinger

Ed Bertschinger

Program: Physics
Professor

It takes sisu. Sisu, Finnish for grit or perseverance, guided Professor Bertschinger from a misfit childhood in Oakland, California to college in southern California where, Bertschinger says, “A rocky start in college led to an instructor advising me not to pursue theoretical physics.

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John Winston Belcher

John Winston Belcher

Program: Professor of Physics
Professor of Physics

From the Odessa County Public Library in Texas to MIT, Professor Belcher navigated a path to space plasma physics as a part of the Space Plasma Group. Shortly after his arrival as a post Doc at MIT, the group wrote a proposal for the Voyager mission to Jupiter and Saturn. "That is a long way from Earth, and a really long way from the West Texas oilfields where I started out." Belcher says.

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